(WASHINGTON) — The National Governors Association’s winter meeting is under way in the nation’s capital and on Sunday night, the state executives descended on the White House for their annual black-tie dinner.
President Obama hosted the governors for the social affair, remaining mainly apolitical in his brief remarks to the leaders. He thanked each one for the accomplishments of their states, commenting on how he had seen it firsthand during cross-country travel.
“I saw some accomplishments in some states more than others,” he joked, mentioning the battleground states he frequented during the campaign.
Turning serious, he praised the leaders for steering their states through hard times, both economic and from recent natural disasters.
“That work is paying off,” he said. “Companies are bringing jobs back to our shores, new homes are popping up in our neighborhoods, small businesses are revitalizing our communities.”
The president also thanked the governors for demonstrating a bipartisan approach to regional issues.
“I’m looking for good partners. Because while nobody in this room sees eye to eye on everything, we know that when we work together, Democrats and Republicans, north, south, east and west, we can accomplish so much more than we can on our own,” he said.
Obama said the country was stronger when they worked as a team.
The president concluded with a toast, quoting an Oval Office occupant of ages past: Woodrow Wilson.
“America is nothing if it consists merely of each other — if it — consists merely of each of us, Woodrow Wilson said. It’s something only if it consists of all of us,” Obama said. “And nearly 100 years later, I expect those words continue to be true, and they should be guiding all of our efforts.”
Delaware Gov. Jack Markell followed up the president with his own toast. The chair of the Governors Association said it was one of few occasions for the leaders to get together where politics didn’t “drive the conversation.”
“One thing for sure is certain,” he joked to the room. “You don’t let issues fester. You get to deal with education, health care and even a sequester.”
Markell also said the president was “probably jealous” of the first lady.
“She’s Jimmy Fallon’s trainer, while you on the other hand, deal with Leader Reid and Speaker Boehner,” he said.
Sunday night’s event came the same day the White House released a preview of how the looming federal budget cuts known as the “sequester” will affect individual states. The president made no mention of the $85 billion package set to take effect in four days, should Congress fail to reach a debt agreement. But the president is expected to speak of it directly when he addresses the governors again on Monday alongside his wife and Dr. Jill Biden.
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