Watch Live on WhiteHouse.gov: President Obama and President Calderon deliver toasts May 19, 7:10 p.m. EDT.About the Author: Suzanne Hall serves as New Media Advisor in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.
It's not every day that the President of Mexico comes to Washington, DC for a state visit.
In fact, President Felipe Calderon is only the second world leader to make a state visit during the Obama presidency.
At midday today, C Street was filled with approaching motorcades as President Calderon made his way from the White House to the State Department. Mexican flags hung side-by-side with American flags on the light poles on 21st and 23rd streets, as they did on other major DC streets. Vice President Biden and Secretary Hillary Clinton co-hosted a lunch to honor President Calderon with about 200 attendees in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms on the 8th floor of the State Department. Lunch guests came from around the country and included private sector representatives, government officials, media and civil society.
Mexican Ambassador to the United States Arturo Sarukhan participated every step of the way and tweeted insights over the course of the morning. Andrew Selee, Director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center, noted President Calderon's call for a new era between Mexico and the United States. Mike Evans, Founder of Full Court Peace, shared the potential of sports diplomacy for at-risk youth in violence-ridden communities like Ciudad Juarez.
Of course, along with the pomp and circumstance, the substantive work of diplomacy is underway.
Earlier this morning, President and Mrs. Obama greeted President Calderon and First Lady Margarita Zavela upon their arrival at the White House to kick off the state visit. Secretary Clinton and Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa joined President Obama for a bilateral meeting with President Calderon, after which the two presidents held a press conference.
The United States enjoys a close partnership with our neighbor Mexico, and the state visit has a broad agenda. Over the course of the day, the Presidents and Foreign Ministers discussed increasing economic competitiveness, enhancing security along our shared border, trade, immigration, energy and climate change. They also discussed the critical issue of our ongoing partnership forged under the Merida Initiative to fight drug trafficking, organized crime, and their effects on both of our societies. Given the direct impact of narcotics driven violence in the United States, we are working collaboratively with our Mexican partners to disrupt narco-trafficking networks, strengthen the security and justice sectors, modernize our shared border, and promote the rule of law by strengthening communities and civil society.
The two Presidents also discussed the Arizona immigration law, which has elicited strong reactions from the Mexican government and people. Immigration is always a subject of conversation between the United States and Mexico. Our two countries are connected by family and cultural ties and increasingly integrated economies. President Obama has made it clear that comprehensive immigration reform is a priority for his Administration, and the Administration is committed to working with the U.S. Congress to find a solution that respects the rule of law and respects our immigrant heritage. We want to ensure that those who come to fill needs in the U.S. labor market do so through regulated, legal mechanisms- that they are not exploited and are aware of their rights.
President Calderon's visit to Washington also offers President Obama, Secretary Clinton and others the opportunity to recognize Mexican assistance to mitigate the effects of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Later this evening, President Obama will host President Calderon for a state dinner at the White House. Tune in for the livestream of the toasts at 7:10 p.m. EDT tonight. President Calderon's state visit continues on Thursday, May 20, when he will address a Joint Session of Congress and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.
As Secretary Clinton said in her welcome remarks at the lunch: “There is a lot of work ahead of us, but today is also a time to celebrate, to celebrate all of the ties that bind us together by history and family, by business and all sorts of relationships.”
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