The White House
Office of the First Lady
March 22, 2016
Biblioteca Publica Ruben Martinez Villena
11:25 A.M. CST
MRS. OBAMA: Good morning. Buenos dias. It is such a pleasure and an honor for me and my family to be here with you in this historic place at this historic moment for our two nations.
But before we get started, as my husband, President Obama, said in his speech this morning, we are outraged and heartbroken over the horrific attacks today in Belgium, a very close ally and friend of our country. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who have been injured and all those who have lost loved ones, and we hold all the people of Belgium in our hearts right now.
I now want to start by thanking all of you for joining us here today for this ceremony. During this visit by an American President to Cuba, we express the hope that this new chapter in our relationship will lead to new friendships and partnerships between our peoples, particularly between our young people. We hope that young people in Cuba and in the U.S. will grow up visiting each other’s communities, studying in each other’s universities, and learning about each other’s cultures and lives.
And we hope that as we get to know each other, they will come to realize that while we may have our differences, the people of Cuba and the United States have so much in common: Our historic struggles for independence, our shared commitment to scientific discovery, our passionate love of baseball, and our determination to help all of our children fulfill their promise through education. Because as the great Cuban leader Jose Marti once wrote: “los ninos son la esperanza del Mundo — “Children are the hope of the world.”
After meeting some of the wonderful young people of this country, I have felt that hope. And I am so grateful to them and to all the people of Cuba who have shared the beauty of your culture — your history, your music, your food — with me and with my family. And now, in return for your warm and generous hospitality, we would like to share some of the beauty of America with all of you.
These trees that we have brought here today are Magnolia trees, the same kind of tree that is in full bloom right now all around the White House in Washington, D.C., and around so many parks and gardens and homes across the United States.
As for the bench, we hope that it will serve as a peaceful resting spot and a reminder of this moment in our history for all those passing through this beautiful plaza — the site of Cuba’s oldest town square, right next to a library that was once a U.S. Embassy — a place where today, people of all ages go to broaden their minds and satisfy their curiosity about the world. We hope that the people of Cuba will come to this place, appreciate the beauty of these trees, and feel the hope and possibility that they symbolize as together, we seek to build a new relationship between our peoples and a new world for our children.
And with that, it is now my pleasure to turn things over to Lesbia Mendez Vargas from the Office of the Historian of Havana who will be accepting this gift on behalf of the Cuban people.
Thank you all so much. Muchas gracias. (Applause.)
11:29 A.M. CST