Live blog from President Obama's address to British Parliament
May 25th, 2011
10:08 AM ET
11 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. Rudy NYC

    I love watching the animated (town hall like for lack of a clearer description) sessions the British have with the PM and the members of Parliament going at it on the issues. We have no equivalent in the US. Nothing compares. The closest thing we have is the State of the Union address, which is a one way street without a question and answer session. The British conduct these sessions frequently. Margaret "Iron Lady" Thatcher earned her nickname in these sessions.

    May 25, 2011 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  2. opinion8it

    An honor that has never been bestowed to a US president - WOW!!! GO OBAMA!!!!

    May 25, 2011 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  3. John

    He should be addressing our houses and working with them on debt reduction and bringing the troops home. He is one lost puppy.

    May 25, 2011 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  4. me

    A real leader, good for you Obama.

    May 25, 2011 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  5. JMissal

    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.'"

    Funny, those examples are what I would use as Rights that have been removed from American Citizens.

    May 25, 2011 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  6. Mark Williams

    Yesterday Bibi Netanyahu had the US Congress on its feet in 57 standing ovations... today I am watching Obama compare himself to the Pope as he addresses a stone-faced, silent British Parliament as applause line after applause line falls flat.

    May 25, 2011 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  7. leona

    The Brits have more serious fiscal problems than we do. Why does Obama need to deliberate with them? Is he trying to tell us we are heading in their direction? Obama should spend time with the US Congress to fix our own problems !

    May 25, 2011 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  8. Abed Bibi

    He is man of vision, peace, a man of the world.

    May 25, 2011 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  9. Levi

    When Obama speaks to people outside of our own country, I am reminded of the inherent failings of our two-party system. Our divisiveness does not do us credit.

    When I look at how other countries treat my President, I am ashamed of our own behavior towards them. There is a time and place for passionate debate, but when it comes to supporting the NATIONAL unifying aspects (the military being one example) we shouldn't stoop to the level of hatred.

    May 25, 2011 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  10. tonyl

    It's amazing to see that Netanyahu is cheered more by US lawmakers for scaring Americans for another middle east conflict by refusing to return the occupied territories of Palestinians taken forcefully and illegally then a US president is in the British parliament for talking peace, friendship and and alliance. This shows the world, who controls the world's only super power. America stands for peace and fairness as a honest broker in the middle east. REALLY?

    May 25, 2011 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  11. Obama Wins

    President Obama is majestic. How proud we all can be of this president. He represents our country very well. I am so proud today.

    May 25, 2011 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  12. allens

    what is he thinking, visiting europe when things have gone to hell in the u.s. i am a democrat and cannot believe how ignorent this is. he should be flying home faster than tornados spin! if there was a viable repub or dem running next year, i would take a serious look. so far he is the lesser of the evils. i really had hope this last election.

    May 25, 2011 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  13. Anonymous

    In Britain, they don't cheer after every sentence of a speech. Don't confuse a lack of applause every 30 seconds as anything negative towards Obama.

    May 25, 2011 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  14. Blackman in the know

    WOW.............."the 1st U.S. President" to speak before both UK Houses..........what does this say about my GREAT President........the man is GOOD!

    May 25, 2011 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  15. joan

    We in American has treated our President with such disdain, hate and disrespect. History will show that because of bigotry, hatred, ingnorance we have tried to ignore the presence of this extremely hard working President. The World is laughing at us and we must stop this. Yes, things are not good in the economy and the country but is this President all to
    blame for this. I think he has worked very, very hard and diligilence with no help from the Replublican to put this
    country back. I pray that we can come together and face the truth and enjoy this Historical President and his family. I know he love his people, his country and really truly want to see progress but he alone cannot do it. If the Republican did really love the people and the country and put PoWER on the side and work with the President in the last 2 years of the near depression more would have been accomplished. But they choose to oppose and batter him in every stop of the way. He needed them inthe first 2 years to get the country back, but they were not there for us the people.; They wanted their rich friends to have taxbreak and they were afraid Mr. obama would take fromt he rich and give to the poor. They spread progananda, after progranda... he is s socialist, he is the one he is heaping up the debt on our children etc.,
    Lets pray for the President to have continuous wisdom and will power had he contiune to lead this great nation.

    May 25, 2011 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  16. Levi

    When Obama speaks, he gets a standing ovation from the entire British government. It is extremely refreshing to see our country represented so well received.

    May 25, 2011 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  17. Abed Bibi

    I am hoping that he will achieve his vision and I am sure he will, especially for the Middle east conflict between Israel and Palestine ... Simply he is a leader.

    May 25, 2011 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  18. abdullah al nahdi

    what a difference between the reaction from the parliamentaries to Obama's speech and the reaction from congress and the senate to Netanyahu's speech. Although Obama's speech was way way up in the echelons of the high minded people, the British reponded with the same high mindedness and respect.
    Netanyahu speech was met with, sorry for this, but you can feel it in the air, a bunch of hypocists.

    May 25, 2011 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  19. Natalie

    Your newscasters are portraying Obama's speech as his first foundation for his next campaign. This is why our world is full of cynics. Can a great leader not give a great speech purely for the fact for world peace, and the end to a terrible past few decades of hatred and betrayal? the media needs to stop reading in to the deeper meaning, and realize that without the acceptance of Obama's words, the citizens of the world will never truly begin to attain peace.

    May 25, 2011 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  20. aletuss

    We Ethiopians are demanding that freedom Mr.President has talked about! Ethiopia Ethiopia Ethiopia is hurting by seeking that freedom! I cry when I heard you Mr. OBAMA. What about us ? we need that mentality desperately ...who is blocking that ? MR. Meles Zenawi the one you will be shaking in G8 or G20 ! What a shame ! what a phony your speech will be ,if you allow to continue Ethiopia's tyrant "GOV" . I still cry for my beloved country Ethiopia .Please HELP us

    May 25, 2011 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  21. jacque

    What a disappointment in the coverage when your network decided to cut away from the speech and not cover the after comments where the Parliament expressed glowing comments not covered by your network. Instead we get to hear from the clowns you refer to as analysts. Let's see Candi Crowley, who does not have the intellect to respond truthfully or analytically to such a profound and intelligent speech and then you have Malveaux, who w/o the election of Pres. Obama would not have a job front an center as an anchor... she appears more anxious and zealous about sitting in this position rather than getting insightful and truthful comments. Wolf Blitzer is the only panelist that I would listen to, but only, marginally. The Baroness in London gave a glowing review of our President... it continues to be a shame that we would highlight and elevate the likes of a Netanayhu with undying and nauseating coverage wherein he insulted the american taxpayer, the office of the presidency and our esteemed, democratically elected President.... I will stay with C-span until the program ends.... your network would have done well to have done the same!

    May 25, 2011 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  22. ETW

    Thank you to the British (and before them the Irish) for welcoming us back into our history. For reminding us of the deep roots and special bonds we share. Thank you, Mr. President, for rising to the occasion and, together with the British, showing the world what our two wonderful countries bring to the world stage!

    May 25, 2011 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  23. ATG

    @Rudy NYC : It sounds like you're talking about Question Time or Question Period, which is usually a daily session in Westminster system parliaments (like those found in the UK, Canada, Australia etc.) and is helpful at keeping Prime Ministers and Cabinet ministers accountable, but is also often (at least here in Canada) a stage for partisan theatrics.

    May 25, 2011 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  24. The Day of Financial Reckoning is HERE - The Great Democrat Welfare Society Ends

    If only giving good speeches was all it took to be a leader and a President, we'd have it made. Unfortuantely the results are dismal once his policies are implemented. The country is WORSE OFF than it was when he took office. Even worse, he has shown what can only be called dictatorial tendencies. Look no further than Obamacare for that. Jammed down our throats, behind closed doors, unconstitutional and now his friends get waivers. Horrendous from start to finish.

    May 25, 2011 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  25. Dragonflies

    Also why americans so surprised their president makes presidental visits? Its a state visit and a week of talks etc- Isn't that 100% normal for world leaders? And why people saying he's on holiday. He's in Europe to attend the G8 (haven't you all heard of that major event?) Its very sad about the tornados, but is any state leader going to miss G8 to go home just to make condolences (he's already done that throughout this visit since the news broke &not much else he can do is there?). Why all this hating? He's making good impression of your country and you guys nitpicking about such little things, so what if he is not white and still happy to celebrate his British-Irish roots? Why is that even an issue for you guys – its great he can be proud of all his roots why he has to choose be one or the other so you can put him in a little box and stick a label on it.

    May 25, 2011 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
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