Obama lavishes praise on Britain for its post-9/11 support

In an address at a state banquet last night, President Obama highlighted the strength and substance of the bond the US and the Britain share.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II spoke with President Obama during a state banquet in Buckingham Palace, London, on Tuesday . President Obama immersed himself in the grandeur of Britain's royal family Tuesday, as Queen Elizabeth II welcomed him to Buckingham Palace for the first day of a state visit.

Less than a month after Buckingham Palace celebrated the royal wedding of William and Kate, another rather different union was commemorated at the Queen’s London residence last night.

At a sumptuous state banquet held in his honor, US President Obama extolled the virtues of the special relationship between the United States and Britain, an association that might lack some of the glamour of last month’s nuptials but continues to endure far longer than most royal marriages do.

In a striking address, Mr. Obama highlighted the strength and substance of the bond the two nations share.

“I’m particularly grateful for the solidarity that the UK has shown to America over the past decade,” Obama said at the dinner. “From that day to this you have been our closest partner in the struggle to protect our people from terrorist attacks and violent extremism around the world despite the very heavy sacrifices here. Allow me to pay tribute to your military forces that have stood shoulder to shoulder with us for decades.”

Around 170 guests attended the event, including members of the monarchy; top-ranking politicians; and Hollywood movie stars such as Kevin Spacey, Tom Hanks, and Helena Bonham-Carter.

The lavish affair in the palace’s opulent ballroom was clearly designed to leave an impression on America’s head of state. But it was Obama’s skills as an orator and the warmth of his message that made the most impact to observers.

In his four-minute speech before the meal, he quoted both Winston Churchill and William Shakespeare. And this is supposed to be the least Anglophile of all American presidents? He didn’t sound it last night.

“As we confront the challenges of the 21st century together we can have confidence in the partnership our two countries share, based on a rock-solid foundation built during Queen Elizabeth’s lifetime of extraordinary service to her nation and to the world,” he said.

Obama continues to display an amazing rapport with the Queen, who was seated next to him last night. He began his short address by telling her he brought greetings from his daughters Malia and Sasha, “who adored you even before you let them ride on a carriage in the palace grounds.” This even elicited a laugh from the Queen. She never normally laughs in public.

There was just one moment of awkwardness when the band began playing the British national anthem before Obama had finished toasting the monarch. He continued to speak over the anthem, a breach of protocol that might have got him sent to the Tower a few centuries ago but which warranted nothing more than a few uncomfortable looks last night. In any case, it’s not as if the Queen hasn’t heard the piece of music before.

After the pageantry and royal splendor of yesterday, Obama gets down to the serious business of politics today, with one-on-one talks with Prime Minister Cameron and a keynote speech to the Houses of Parliament, the first time ever a US president has addressed both houses in the hallowed Westminster Hall.

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