The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

Remarks by President Obama and President Juan Manuel Santos Calderón of Colombia Before Bilateral Meeting

Waldorf Astoria Hotel
New York, New York

12:26 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, I want to welcome President Santos here.  This is the first time that we’ve met face to face, although we had a wonderful conversation on the phone. 

He has already, I think, in the short time that he’s been in office shown remarkable leadership.  Yesterday was a big day for the people of Colombia and those who are seeking peace in the region; because of outstanding work by Colombian security forces, they were able to embark on a mission that resulted in the death of the leader of FARC. 

The people of Colombia have been plagued by this terrorist insurgency for a very long time, and as a consequence of the success of Colombian security forces, I think we now have the chance to see continued stability in Colombia and in the region. And that will create the prospects for peace and development under President Santos’s leadership.  So I congratulate him. 

The friendship between our two countries is extraordinarily important to us.  We are working not just in dealing with things like drug interdiction, but we’re also interested in figuring out how we can continually improve our economic cooperation, our political cooperation, and our people-to-people exchanges so that we continually deepen these bilateral ties.

I think that President Santos also likes to boast about the fact that his Kansas Jayhawks have won a number of championships in basketball.  And I was a little disappointed with them last year because I bet on them winning it all, but they lost.  (Laughter.)  But he’s already apologized to me for that.

So I want to welcome the President.  Again, congratulations on a great start.  We are confident that we will -- we’ll be able to strengthen the cooperation between our two nations.

PRESIDENT SANTOS:  Thank you.  I want to thank President Obama for his warm welcome and his generous words.  We value in Colombia very much our very special relations with the United States.  We're coming, ourselves, into a new era.  Now that the security problem is more or less solved, we can now turn to a more progressive agenda.  Social development, the prosperity of our people, climate change, the environment -- those are the type of issues that we can now include in our agenda.  And we want to enhance our relation to a true partnership where Colombia and the U.S. can work together in the region and outside the region for our mutual benefit.

I am proud of being a graduate from the University of Kansas.  As President Obama knows, we are very good in basketball.  But I told him when he called me what the Republicans say about my education.  I was -- afterwards I went to Harvard.  And they say I was educated in Kansas and corrupted in Harvard.  (Laughter.)  I don't think that -- you also graduated from Harvard and I'm sure that only the Republicans think that -- not the Democrats.  (Laughter.)  

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, actually, they all -- they think I was corrupted somewhere.  (Laughter.) 

Welcome.  Thank you so much. 

END
12:30 P.M. EDT

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