News

Obama makes an unexpected appearance at Joe Biden’s state dinner for Kenyan President

Former President Barack Obama made a surprise appearance at President Joe Biden’s state dinner for Kenyan President William Ruto. Dressed in a tuxedo, Obama was attending a VIP reception in the White House’s Blue Room for the president of Kenya when he unexpectedly joined the state dinner in the glass pavilion on the South Lawn, mingling with guests for about 10 minutes before quietly leaving as President Biden began his toast, according to Daily Mail.

“He dropped into the dinner area to say hello,” an Obama official said. Biden acknowledged his predecessor’s drop-in.

“Jill and I are honored to have you here and represented including many members, the African diaspora. One just left – Barack,” the president said at the top of his toast. “He very briefly met President this morning and just here a little while ago.”

Earlier Thursday, former President Obama, whose late father was Kenyan, met with Kenyan President Ruto at Blair House, the guest house for foreign dignitaries near the White House. Ruto confirmed the meeting on social media. The day also included a South Lawn ceremony, an Oval Office meeting, and a press conference.

“How have you been? Welcome to Washington. I hope everything is going well,” Obama told Ruto at the top of the Blair House meeting.

In a Facebook post, Kenyan President Ruto shared that he and former President Obama discussed opportunities for Africa’s youth as well as democratic developments, climate issues, and security challenges on the continent.

The Bidens hosted the Rutos for their administration’s sixth and largest state dinner, with 500 guests in attendance. Ruto expressed gratitude to the Bidens for their warm welcome.

“It is now my honor to ask you ladies and gentlemen to raise your glasses and join me in a toast to the continued well being and long life of President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill, to the continued security and prosperity of the people of the United States, and to the enduring bonds of friendship, partnership and solidarity between Kenya and the United States,” Ruto said.

Former presidents typically aren’t invited to White House state dinners to avoid overshadowing the current president. However, the Bidens recently broke this tradition by inviting former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to a dinner honoring Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

This precedent paved the way for former President Obama’s attendance at Thursday night’s state dinner for Kenya, given his familial ties.

Obama and Kenyan President Ruto had previously met in 2015 when Obama visited Kenya and Ruto was deputy president.

Obama made history as the first Black U.S. president when elected in 2008. His mother was a white woman from Kansas, and his father was from Kenya.

Obama Sr. did not play an active role in his son’s life, returning to Kenya when Barack was a few years old. They met only once more when Barack was 10.

Obama Sr. died in a car crash at age 48 in 1982.

Stephen Nartey

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