Live blog from President Obama's address to British Parliament
May 25th, 2011
10:08 AM ET
3 years ago

Live blog from President Obama's address to British Parliament

(CNN) - President Obama addressed both houses of Britain's Parliament Wednesday, the second day of a state visit blending pomp, ceremony and diplomacy. Obama's speech was described by a top aide as an anchor for his European trip.

12:15 p.m ET - The president's motorcade arrived back at Buckingham Palace.

11:58 a.m. ET
– From CNN's Shubert: Outside by parliament square, a smattering of protesters that Obama must have passed, including two guys in orange jumpsuits with banners to close Guantanamo Bay Prison.

Meanwhile, a tourist stopped me and asked breathlessly "do you have a spare program?"

11:46 a.m. ET – From CNN's Shubert: Overheard from woman in audience say "OMG! Did you totally get to shake his hand?!" And not "oh my god" she really said "omg."

11:43 a.m. ET – From CNN's Shubert: Doorkeepers attempting to stop photo taking, unsuccessfully. Every other person seems to have whipped out a phone for pictures, even some jaded journalists. A final wave, a big cheer and Obama's off.


11:36 a.m. ET – From CNN's Shubert: British press seems less than impressed with the speech. "Not particularly memorable," one reporter said next to me.

"I think I preferred Dublin," another said behind me.

All members of the press are standing on seats to get a good view as Obama makes his way out of the Hall, shaking hands as he leaves.

11:28 a.m. ET - CNN’s Zane Verjee responds to the speech: “It was orate, it was rhetorical, it was eloquent."

11:27 a.m. ET - "Politicians campaign in poetry, govern in prose," the Lords speaker quotes. "But in your address you remind us of the need to maintain the poetry," he said.

11:25 a.m. ET - CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley said: "This is the Obama campaign for re-election"

11:24 a.m. ET
- From CNN's Shubert: Lords speaker calls speech "memorable and inspiring." Spontaneous applause shows audience agrees.

11:23 a.m. ET - From CNN's Shubert: Standing ovation and sustained applause for the president's speech.

11:21 a.m. ET - @AWMooneyCNN: No speech to British parliament is complete without Churchill quote

11:20 a.m. ET - Obama closes with a Churchill quote: “In the long years to come, not only will the people of this island but of the world, wherever the bird of freedom chirps in human hearts, look back to what we’ve done, and they will say ‘do not despair, do not yield…march straightforward.’”

11:18 a.m. ET - Obama said the example set by the United States and Britain make it possible for "the sons and daughters of former colonies to sit here as members of this great Parliament, and for the grandson of a Kenyan who served as a cook in the British Army to stand before you as President of the United States. That is what defines us." He then received a round of applause.

11:17 a.m. ET
- @BryanMonroeCNN: From Obama Parliament speech: "Power rarely gives up without a fight" as Obama paraphrases Frederick Douglass.

11:15 a.m. ET - From CNN's Shubert: Medical emergency to audience member. Medic rushed in with first aid kit. Pulled out mask and oxygen tank. Man taken out in wheelchair

11:13 a.m. ET – Obama said the United States and United Kingdom "will not relent until the people of Libya are protected, and the shadow of tyranny is lifted."

11:11 a.m. ET - Obama: "...what we saw in Tehran, Tunis and Tahrir Square is a longing for the same freedoms that we take for granted at home ... So let there be no doubt: the United States and United Kingdom stand squarely on the side of those who long to be free. Now we must show that we will back up these words with deeds."

Obama said that action includes expanding trade and commerce with Tunisia and Egypt and "standing up for universal rights."

11:08 a.m. ET - When discussing human suffering around the world, Obama said "In the Middle East, we stand united in our support for a secure Israel and a sovereign Palestine."

11:06 a.m. ET - @AWMooneyCNN: 2nd OBL mention - we will not relent, as Osama bin Laden and his followers have learned.

11:05 a.m. ET
– Obama frames the fight to end terrorism: "Terrorists have taken the lives of our citizens in New York and in London. And while al Qaeda seeks a religious war with the West, let’s remember that they have killed thousands of Muslims – men, women and children – around the globe. Our nations will never be at war with Islam. Our fight is focused on defeating al Qaeda and its extremist allies. In that effort, we will not relent, as Osama bin Laden and his followers have learned."

11:00 a.m. ET - @AWMooneyCNN: polite laughter from parliament after Obama says sometimes he could use a stiff drink

10:57 a.m. ET - Jokes that the days are gone when Roosevelt and Churchill sat in a room and solved problems over a glass of brandy, "though I’m sure Prime Minister Cameron would agree that some days we could both use a stiff drink."

10:54 a.m. ET – Obama talks about the growth of countries like "China, India and Brazil." He said the two countries should welcome their development that has "lifted hundreds of millions from poverty around the globe, and created new markets and opportunities for our own nations."

But adds: "As this rapid change has taken place, it has become fashionable in some quarters to question whether the rise of these nations will accompany the decline of American and European influence around the world. Perhaps, the argument goes, these nations represent the future, and the time for our leadership has passed. That argument is wrong."

10:51 a.m. ET - Obama: "Our relationship is special because of the values and beliefs that have united our people through the ages ... As Winston Churchill said, the 'Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Habeas Corpus, trial by jury, and English common law find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence.'"

10:49 a.m. ET - Obama: "I’m told the last three speakers here have been The Pope, Her Majesty the Queen, and Nelson Mandela, which is either a very high bar or the beginning of a very funny joke." CNN's Shubert: Genuine laughs from the opening joke.

10:48 a.m. ET - CNN's Shubert: Standing ovation for the president. And quite an impressive welcome from Speaker Bercow.

10:45 a.m. ET – John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons introduces the president.

10:42 a.m. ET - Obama enters Westminster Hall. White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett, White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, White House Senior Adviser David Plouffe and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon are among those on stage a few feet from the podium.

10:36 a.m. ET - CNN's Shubert: Trumpet players so still they look like toy pieces!

10:33 a.m. ET
- CNN's Shubert: Dead silence in anticipation

10:31 a.m. ET - CNN's Shubert: Buzz as trumpets come out. Lots of giggling.

10:25 a.m. ET - From CNN Correspondent Atika Shubert: Lots of twitter comments on the grandeur of Westminster Hall. It is beautiful. Light is pouring through the stained glass and there are wooden beams with carved angels. A sense of history and majesty. Traveling photographers just arrived. Prime Minister Brown and former Prime Minister Blair seem to be having a good chat while they wait.

10:21 a.m. ET - Obama is the first American president to speak before both chambers, the House of Lords and House of Commons, at Westminster Hall.

10:20 a.m. ET - From CNN Correspondent Atika Shubert: Can hear the helicopters hovering above the Hall – must be near. Definite buzz of anticipation as the president enters the Hall.

10:10 a.m. ET – Obama is in the presidential motorcade en route to Parliament.

10:07 a.m. ET – 1,600 people were invited to the address, 1,400 of whom are MPS and Peers. The other 200 are invited guests from each side, according to the White House.

10:07 a.m. ET – From CNN Correspondent Atika Shubert: The doors are now closed and the Hall is just about full. Another bit of historical color: During maintenance work on the roof of the Hall in the 1920's, they found several ancient tennis balls. King Henry VIII was a keen player, of course. But there is no firm evidence that the Hall was used for tennis.

10:01 a.m. ET – From CNN Correspondent Atika Shubert: We've moved into the "marching" section of the music program – definitely priming the audience for the main event. Enthusiastic rounds of applause.

I believe former Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife, Cherie are seated in front.

9:55 a.m. ET – From CNN Correspondent Atika Shubert: Seems like well over 1000 ppl seated for the speech now. Most of the attending MPs and Lords are seated.

One Tory MP has tweeted that he's hoping for a "clear new vision of foreign policy in North Africa."

Interestingly, all mobiles are supposed to be off. Hasn't stopped some rather excited MPs, and press, from tweeting their anticipation.

9:29 a.m. ET – From CNN Correspondent Atika Shubert: Sniffer dogs just walked in to do a final check of the Hall, which is about half full now. The Doorkeepers are all wearing formal court dress, which is essentially white tie with tails. Westminster Hall is officially a palace.

In fact, it was originally built as a palace by William II, before becoming at various times a banqueting hall for coronations and a courthouse for the trials of King Charles I, Sir Thomas More and William Wallace (of Braveheart fame). All were tried for treason, found guilty and executed.

However, there is a visible hierarchy amongst Westminster Hall staff. Higher ups have a more elaborate uniform of a ruffled white collar, black tights and a black ribbon at the back of the jacket collar originally used to keep their powdered wigs in order.

All of this was kindly explained to me by a friendly Doorkeeper.

When I asked a member of the British press about it, the answer was: "We just call them Men in Tights."

9:06 a.m. ET - From CNN Correspondent Atika Shubert seated in the press section of Westminster Hall: There is a queue to get in and several members of parliament have entered to take their seats while the Band of the Welsh Guards plays.

According to the order of proceedings, President Obama will enter from the Sovereign's Entrance and be greeted by the Lord Great Chamberlain and the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, the Speaker of the House of Commons, Rt. Hon. John Bercow MP, the Lord Speaker Rt. Hon. Baroness Hayman and the Speaker of the House of Commons.

Obama will then make his address and eventually leave through Westminster Hall's North Door.


Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. Ibrahim Idirs

    No matter you agree with him or not, indeed he was eloquent beyond the norm!

    May 25, 2011 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  2. Lynda/Minnesota

    @Levi: When I look at how other countries treat my President, I am ashamed of our own behavior towards him.

    As am I. Quite an honor (41 gun salute with the Queen AND being asked to address British Parliament) was given to the President of the United States - and - by extension, America.

    May 25, 2011 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  3. Joe

    Yes, Candy Crowley, he is beginning running for President again at the perfect US spot, London. They seriously pay this person?

    May 25, 2011 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  4. Infinity31

    Lets waste American Tax dolars so we can talk to Europeans about their issues. Wow this may be a good reason we have a debt that will never go away. I love the hypocrisy of our President who preaches change. The only change any politician wants is the change from my pocket, and that is the way it will always be. The only way to have real change is to have a new REVOLUTION!!!!!

    May 25, 2011 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  5. The Day of Financial Reckoning is HERE - The Great Democrat Welfare Society Ends

    When all else at home is failing and floundering, load up the luggage and head abroad to look Presidential. A tried and true political manuever.

    Meanwhile back home, unemployment remains far too high, millions are losing their homes, food and fuel prices are sky rocketing because he's printing money to pay for insane spending and debt levels, our country is being invaded by illegals, ...

    nice speech... but where's the beef???

    May 25, 2011 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  6. comeon

    John
    He should be addressing our houses and working with them on debt reduction and bringing the troops home. He is one lost puppy.
    ------
    You don't think he has staff and elected officials working on that as he speaks. Get a clue. What he is doing is an honor and for him to turn it down would be foolish and disrespectful. You people act like he is just ignoring these issues. You can't solve these problems over night. Unless you work in the government offices in Washington, don't make statements saying what he should and shouldn't be doing when you know absolutely nothing about what is actually going on.

    May 25, 2011 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  7. Joan

    The popularity and genuine respect that President Obama has earned around the world is so obvious. He is admired by so many civilized countries around the world and many would give anything to have him as their leader. What is also obvious, but puzzling, is how mean and disrespectful his opposition and press treat him in his own country. A small case in point. He is being criticized for not aborting this important, historical trip to go home because of the tornadoes. The victims in those states have his support and concern and he has made sure the federal government 's aid was there immediately. He gets constant briefings and has responded to them appropriately. If he had gone home what more could he do? Also, there have been dozens of wonderful, inspiring moments during his trip already and what has some of the press focussed on? They have done story after story about the Beast getting stuck and an over-eager band starting to play the national anthem too soon. Also, he is being criticized for not getting raucous applause during his speech just now but that is not proper protocol in a speech like this in England. Really now, get a life and put stories in perspective and importance. please. Your country does not really deserve President Obama.

    May 25, 2011 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  8. Elisa A. Martinez

    It made me proud to be an American!!!!!

    May 25, 2011 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  9. Q

    I agree with Jacque.........Great Speech Mr. President!!!! Comments like Johns is frustrating to say the least. People like John just DON"T GET IT! What our President does it so much "bigger" than his small brain can comprehend I guess.

    May 25, 2011 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  10. Felix1877

    It was a huge success!

    May 25, 2011 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  11. Michael Ayton

    I love your President, I live in Canada and was born in England.

    May 25, 2011 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  12. Shiranee Dassanayake

    I would agree that Candy Crowley, Suzanne Malveaux and to a lesser extent Wolf Blitzer are stupidand non analytical. Add to that Jack Cafferty who expects the President to have second sight and stay at home in expectation of tornados which did not arrive until after he left. CNN I am ashamed of you and your stupid anchors.
    As far as I am concerned, the only ones on your staff worth listiening to are Fareed Zacharia and Eliot Spitzer.

    May 25, 2011 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  13. Marry

    @ opinion8it, me, Abed Bibi, Levi, Obama Wins, Anonymous, joan, Natalie, Jacque,
    You all seem to be able to look at what the President does and listen to what he says! He does a GREAT job and is respected because of his class, his intelligence, his good character and also his strength.
    Hart to understand why there are people in the US that do not like to have open and good discussions on what is good for the country in these difficult times but rather just say unbelievably hateful, outranges stupid and slanderous things. What is the matter?

    May 25, 2011 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  14. Ken

    Mr. President and First Lady, thank you for representing us very well on the world stage. To see other nations react to you with such passion and hope is simply amazing. Since your time in office, my view of people from other countries has been off the charts.

    May 25, 2011 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  15. w l jones

    We all should be pride of our president who can communicate with the whole world. For the fisrt time in our short history we have a president is connect to world by birth. Bless.

    May 25, 2011 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  16. BB

    What a president! My 3 hours waiting in line to vote for him in '08 was so well worth it. Godspeed, Obama!

    May 25, 2011 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
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