Prime Minister's remarks at State dinner; Official visit to the United States

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau toasts President Obama during the State Dinner in Washington.

Washington, D.C., United States of America
March 10, 2016

(Introduction)

Mr. President, First Lady, ladies and gentlemen. What an extraordinary honour it is to be here with you tonight.

Thank you so much for the warm welcome you have extended to Canada and the Canadian delegation, and to Sophie and me personally.

Your hospitality, and your friendship, means the world to us.

In thinking about what I wanted to say this evening, I came across a quote from President Truman, who shared these words with the Canadian parliament nearly 70 years ago.

He said that Canada’s relationship with the United States “did not develop spontaneously ... (It) did not come about merely through the happy circumstance of geography,” but was “compounded of one part proximity and nine parts good will and common sense.”

It’s that enduring good will and common sense that I believe defines our relationship to this day.

It’s what makes our constructive partnership possible.

It’s what allows us to respectfully disagree, and remain friends and allies on the few occasions we do  

For example, I would argue that it’s better to be the leader of a country that consistently wins Olympic gold medals in hockey. President Obama would likely disagree.

(To President) And yet you still invite us over for dinner. Because that’s what friends do.

But you know, now that I think of it, we’re actually closer than friends. We’re more like siblings, really. Born of the same parents, though we took different paths in our later years. We became the stay at home type. You grew to be a little more… rebellious.

I think the reason that good will and common sense come so easily is because we are – Canadians and Americans alike – guided by the same core values.

Values like cooperation and respect. Cooperation, because it keeps us safe and prosperous. And respect, because it’s the surest path to both safeguarding the world that we share and honouring the diverse people with whom we share it.

(Security)

When it comes to security, for example, we agree that our countries are stronger – and the world is safer – when we work together. For more than half a century, we’ve joined forces to protect our continent. And we’ve been the closest of allies overseas for even longer, fighting together on the beaches of France, standing shoulder to shoulder with our European partners in NATO, and  now confronting violent extremism in the Middle East.

In every instance, we realized that our concerns were better addressed together than alone. And together, we have realized the longest, most peaceful, and most mutually beneficial relationship of any two countries since the birth of the nation-state.

It’s a relationship that doesn’t just serve our own interests – it serves the entire world.

(Trade)

Canadians and Americans also value economic interdependence, because we know that it brings greater prosperity to all of us.

Over $2.4 billion worth of goods and services cross the border every day – evidence of one of the largest and most mutually beneficial trading relationships in the world.

One of our most popular exports to the United States has been another Justin – Justin Bieber. Now, this kid’s had a great year. And of course, leave it to a Canadian to reach international fame with a song called “Sorry”.

Together, Canada and the US negotiated trade agreements that have expanded opportunities for our businesses, created millions of good, well-paying jobs for our workers, and made more products more affordable for more Canadian and American families.

We must never take that partnership for granted. I can promise you that my government never will.

(Climate)

Nor should we forget that our responsibilities extend beyond our own borders, and across generations.

That means getting rid of the outdated notion that a healthy environment and a strong economy stand in opposition to each other.

And it means that when it comes to issues like climate change, we need to acknowledge that we are all in this together. Our children and grandchildren will judge us not by the words that we said but by the actions that we took, or failed to take.

If we truly wish to leave to them a better world than the one we inherited from our own parents – and I know, Mr. President, that you and the First Lady want this as strongly as Sophie and I do – we cannot deny the science.  We cannot pretend that climate change is still up for debate.

And that’s why I’m so proud of the continental strategy we’ve negotiated to help take on this most serious challenge. It’s a blueprint for real progress. One that respects science and scientists. That takes meaningful, measurable steps to protect our environment and combat climate change. And it’s a plan that allows us to grow our economies as we do it.

Thank you, Mr. President, for your leadership and your partnership in this.

(Diversity)

And finally, we believe – Canadians and Americans – in the fundamental truth that diversity is a source of strength.  That we are thriving and prosperous countries not in spite of our differences, but because of them.

Canadians know this. It’s why communities across the country welcomed more than 25,000 Syrian refugees over the past four months.  Not as visitors or temporary citizens, but as Canadians. And Americans understand this, too.  It’s why each generation has welcomed newcomers seeking liberty and the promise of a better life.

We know that if we seek to be greater, we must do greater things. Be more compassionate. Be more accepting.  Be more open to those who dress differently, or eat different foods, or speak different languages.  Our identities as Canadians and Americans are enriched by these differences, not threatened by them.

(Conclusion)

On our own, we make progress. But together, we make history. Duty-bound, loyal, and forever linked. Whatever the future holds, we will face it together. Neighbours, friends, partners, and allies. That is our experience, and our example to the world.

Mr. President, thank you for all you have done these past seven years to preserve this most important relationship.  May the special connection between our two countries continue to flourish in the years to come. And may my grey hair come in at a much slower rate than yours has.

And with that, on behalf of 36 million Canadians, I propose a toast: to the President, to the First Lady, and to the people of the United States of America. Cheers.