The complete transcript of 2016 White House correspondents' dinner speech
[ďCupsĒ playing as Obama walks up. Audience can hear ďYouíre going to miss me when Iím goneÖ"]
You canít say it, but you know it is true.
Good evening everybody. It is an honor to be here at my last, and perhaps the last White House correspondentsí dinner. You all look great. The end of the Republic has never looked better.
I do apologize. I know I was a little late tonight. I was running on CPT, which stands for jokes that white people should not make. Thatís a tip for you, Jeff.
Anyway, here we are, my eighth and final appearance at this unique event. And I am excited. If this material works well, Iím going to use it at Goldman Sachs next year. Earn me some serious Tubmans. Thatís right. Thatís right.
My brilliant and beautiful wife Michelle is here tonight. She looks so happy to be here. Itís called practice. Itís like learning to do three-minute planks. She makes it look easy now. ButÖ
Next year at this time, someone else will be standing here in this very spot and itís anyone guess who she will be. But standing here I canít help but be reflective and a little sentimental.
Eight years ago I said it was time to change the tone of our politics. In hindsight, I clearly should have been more specific. Eight years ago, I was a young man full of idealism and vigor. And look at me now, I am gray, grizzled and just counting down the days to my death panel.
Hillary once questioned whether I would be up ready for a 3 a.m .phone call. Now, Iím awake anyway because I have to go to the bathroom. Iím up.
In fact somebody recently said to me, ĎMr. President, you are so yesterday. Justin Trudeau has completely replaced you. He is so handsome and heís so charming. Heís the future.í And I said ĎJustin, just give it a rest.í I resented that.
Meanwhile, Michelle has not aged a day. The only way you can date her in photos is by looking at me. Take a look. [Show photos over the years] Here we are in 2008. Here we are a few years later. And this one is from two weeks ago. [skelton photo from Canada dinner] So time passes.
In just six short months, I will be officially a lame duck, which means Congress now will flat out reject my authority, and Republican leaders wonít take my phone calls. And this is going to take some getting use to. Itís really gonnaÖ Itís a curve ball. I donít know what to do with it. Of course, in fact, for four months now congressional Republicans have been saying there are things I cannot do in my final year. Unfortunately, this dinner was not one of them.
But on everything else, itís another story. And you know who you are, Republicans. In fact, I think weíve got Republican senatorsTim Scott and Cory Gardner. They are in the house, which reminds me Ö security bar the doors. Judge Merrick Garland come on out. We are going to do this right here. Right now.
Itís like the red wedding.
But itís not just Congress. Even some foreign leaders, theyíve been looking ahead, anticipating my departure. Last week, Prince George showed up to our meeting in his bathrobe. That was a slap in the face. A clear breach of protocol.
Although, while in England I did have lunch with her Majesty the Queen, took in a performance of Shakespeare, hit the links with David Cameron. Just in case anyone was debating whether I am black enough, I think that settles the debate.
I wonít lie, look, this is a tough transition. Itís hard. Key staff are now starting to leave the White House. Even reporters have left me. Savannah Guthrie, she has left the White House press corps to host the ďTodayĒ show. Norah OíDonnell left the briefing room to host ĎCBS This Morning.í Jake Tapper left journalism to join CNN.
But the prospect of leaving the White House is a mixed bag. You might have heard that someone jumped the White House fence last week, but I have to give the Secret Service credit. They found Michelle and brought her back. Sheís safe back at home now. Itís only nine more months, baby. Settle down.
And yet somehow, despite all this, despite the churn, in my final year my approval ratings keep going up. The last time I was this high I was trying to decide on my major.
And hereís the thing, I havenít really done anything differently. So itís odd. Even my age canít explain the rising poll numbers. What has changed nobody can figure it out. [Image of Cruz and Trump]. Puzzling.
Anyway. In this last year, I do have more appreciation for those who have been with me on this amazing ride. Like one of our finest public servants, Joe Biden. God bless him. I love that guy. I love Joe Biden. I really do. And I want to thank him for his friendship, for his counsel, for always giving it to me straight, for not shooting anybody in the face. Thank you, Joe.
Also, I would be remiss. Letís give it up for our host, Larry Wilmore. Also known as one of the two black guys whoís not Jon Stewart. Youíre the South African guy, right? I love Larry. And his parents are here, who are from Evanston, which is great town. I also would like to acknowledge some of the award winning reporters that we have with us here tonight. Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Liev Schreiber. Thank you all for everything you have done. Iím just joking. As you know, ďSpotlightĒ is a film, a movie about investigative journalists with the resources and the autonomy to chase down the truth and hold the powerful accountable. Best fantasy film since ďStar Wars.Ē
Look. That was maybe a cheap shot. I understand the news business is tough these days. It keeps changing all the time. Every year at this dinner somebody makes a joke about Buzzfeed, for example, changing the media landscape. And every year The Washington Post laughs a little bit less hard. Kind of a silence there. Especially at the Washington Post table.
GOP chairman Reince Priebus is here as well. Glad to see that you feel you have earned a night off. Congratulations on all your success, the republican party, the nomination process. Itís all going great. Keep it up.
Kendall Jenner is also here. And we had a chance to meet her backstage. She seems like a very nice, young woman. Iím not exactly sure what she does, but Iím told that my twitter mentions are about to go through the roof.
Helen Mirren is here tonight. I donít even have a joke here, I just think Helen Mirren is awesome. Sheís awesome.
Sitting at the same table I see Mike Bloomberg. Mike, a combative, controversial New York billionaire is leading the GOP primary and it is not you. That has to sting a little bit. Although itís not an entirely fair comparison between you and the Donald. After all Mike was a big city mayor. He knows policy in depth. And heís actually worth the amount of money that he says he is.
What an election season. For example, weíve got the bright new face of the Democratic party here tonight, Mr. Bernie Sanders. Bernie, you look like a million bucks. Or, to put in terms youíll understand, you look like 37,000 donations of $27 each.
A lot of folks have been surprised by the Bernie phenomenon, especially his appeal to young people. But not me. I get it. Just recently a young person came up to me and said she was sick of politicians standing in the way of her dreams. As if we were actually going to let Malia go to Burning Man this year. Was not going to happen. Bernie might have let her go. Not us.
I am hurt though, Bernie, that you have been distancing yourself little from me. I mean thatís just not something that you do to your comrade. Bernieís slogan has helped his campaign catch fire among young people. ĎFeel the Bern.í ĎFeel the Bern.í Thatís a good slogan. Hillaryís slogan has not had the same effect. Letís see this. [image of a boulder on a hill with the slogan ďTrudge up the HillĒ]
Look, Iíve said how much I admire Hillaryís toughness, her smarts, her policy chops, her experience. Youíve got admit it though, Hillary trying appeal to young voters is a little bit like your relative who just signed up for Facebook. ĎDear America, did you get my poke? Is it appearing on your wall? Iím not sure Iím using this right. Love, Aunt Hillary.í Itís not entirely persuasive.
Meanwhile, on the Republican side, things are a little more, how shall we say this, a little more loose. Just look at the confusion over the invitations to tonightís dinner. Guests were asked to check whether they wanted steak or fish. But instead, a whole bunch of you wrote in Paul Ryan. Thatís not an option people. Steak or fish. You may not like steak or fish, but thatís your choice.
Meanwhile, some candidates arenít polling high enough to qualify for their own joke tonight. [image of Kasich eating]. The rules were well established ahead of time.
And then thereís Ted Cruz. Ted had a tough week. He went to Indiana. Hoosier country. Stood on a basketball court and called the hoop a basketball ring. What else is in his lexicon. Baseball sticks. Football hats. But sure, Iím the foreign one.
Well let me conclude tonight on a more serious note. I want thank the Washington press corps. I want to thank Carol for all that you do. The free press is central to our democracy and, nah, Iím just kidding! You know Iím going to talk about Trump. Come on. We werenít just going to stop there. Come on.
Although I am a little hurt that heís not here tonight. We had so much fun that last time, And it is surprising. Youíve got a room full of reporters, celebrities, cameras. And he says no. Is this dinner too tacky for the Donald? What could he possibly be doing instead? Is he at home eating a Trump steak, tweeting out insults to Angela Merkel? Whatís he doiní?
The republican establishment is incredulous that he is their most likely nominee. Incredulous. Shocking. They say Donald lacks the foreign policy experience to be president. But in fairness, he has spent years meeting with leaders from around the world: Miss Sweden, Miss Argentina, Miss Azerbaijan.
And there is one area where Donaldís experience could be invaluable and thatís closing Guantanamo because Trump knows a thing or two about running waterfront properties into the ground. Alright, that is probably enough. I mean Iíve got more material. No, no, no.
I donít want to spend too much time on The Donald. Following your lead, I want to show some restraint. Because I think we can all agree that from the start heís gotten the appropriate amount of coverage befitting the seriousness of his candidacy. Ha. I hope you all are proud of yourselves. The guy wanted to give his hotel business a boost and now we are praying that Cleveland makes it through July. Mmm mmm mmn. Hmmm.
As for me and Michelle, weíve decided to stay in D.C. for a couple more years. Thank you. This way our youngest daughter can finish up high school. Michelle can stay closer to her plot of carrots. Sheís already making plans to see them every day. Take a look [image of Michelle].
But our decision has actually presented a bit of a dilemma because traditionally presidents donít stick around after theyíre done. And itís something that Iíve been brooding about a little bit. Take a lookÖ
One of the spoof videos during President Obama's White House correspondents' dinner speech had a surprising cameo: the former Speaker of the House, John Boehner. He had some advice for how Obama can fill his time after the presidency. (AP)
There you go. I am still waiting for all of you to respond to my invitation to connect to LinkedIn. But I know you have jobs to do which is what really brings us here tonight.
I know that there are times that weíve had differences and thatís inherent in our institutional roles. That is true of every president and his press corps. But weíve always shared the same goal to root our public discourse in the truth. To open the doors of this democracy. To do whatever we can to make our country and our world more free and more just.
And Iíve always appreciated the role that you have all played as equal partners in reaching these goals. Our free press is why we once again recognize the real journalists who uncover the horrifying scandal and brought some measure of justice for thousands of victims around the world. They are here with us tonight: Sacha Pfeiffer, Mike Rezendes, Walter Robinson, Matt Caroll and Ben Bradlee Jr. Please give them a big round of applause.
A free press is why, once again, we honor Jason Rezaian, as Carol noted. Last time this year we spoke of Jasonís courage as he endured the isolation of an Iranian prison. This year we see that courage in the flesh, and itís a living testament to the very idea of a free press and a reminder of the rising level of danger and political intimidation and the physical threats faced by reporters overseas.
And I can make this commitment that as long as I hold this office my administration will continue to fight for the release of American journalists held against their will. And we will not stop until they see the same freedom as Jason had.
At home and abroad journalists like all of you engage in the dogged pursuit of informing citizens and holding leaders accountable, and making our government of the people possible. And itís an enormous responsibility. And I realize itís an enormous challenge at a time when the economics of the business sometimes incentivizes speed over depth, and when controversy and conflict are what most immediately attract readers and viewers. The good news is there are so many of you that are pushing against those trends and as a citizen of this great democracy, I am grateful for that.
For this is also a time around the world when some of the fundamental ideals of liberal democracies are under attack and when notions of objectively and of a free press and of facts and of evidence are trying to be undermined or in some cases ignored entirely. And in such a climate itís not enough just to give people a megaphone. And thatís why your power and your responsibility to dig and to question and to counter distortions and untruths is more important than even ever.
Taking a stand on behalf of what is true does not require you shedding your objectivity. In fact, it is the essence of good journalism. It affirms the idea that the only way we can build consensus, the only way that we can move forward as a country, the only way we can help the world mend itself is by agreeing on a baseline of facts when it comes to the challenges that confront us all. So this night is a testament to all of you who have devoted your lives to that idea, who push to shine a light on the truth every single day. So, I want to close my final White House correspondentsí dinner by just saying thank you. Iím very proud of what youíve done. It has been an honor and a privilege to work side by side with you to strengthen our democracy. With that I just have two more words to say: Obama out. [Drops mic].