President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama celebrated the Mexican heritage holiday Cinco de Mayo with a music-filled fiesta in the East Room on Thursday night. The reception, which featured a menu that was an embroidery on traditional favorites and a Margarita bar, offered a bit of lightness after the President had spent a somber day in New York, visiting first responders and families of those who lost their lives in the 9/11 terror attacks. Of course some stars were on hand for the event: Eva Longoria, a frequent White House guest, and Emilio Estefan. (Above: The President and First Lady during his remarks)
The East Room was awash in the colors of Mexico, with small serving tables covered in green table clothes, anchored by centerpieces of red roses. As he did at last year's Cinco de Mayo celebration in the Rose Garden, President Obama made a call for immigration reform, and highlighted his promise to fix the country’s broken immigration system.
The President was clad in a dark suit as he stood at the podium, Mrs. Obama by his side. The First Lady's hair was swept up, and she wore a green and black sleeveless silk sheath and hoop earrings. The presidential couple were introduced in English and Spanish, and the crowd greeted them by chanting USA! USA! USA!
"Nothing ruins a good fiesta like a long speech from a politician," President Obama said to laughter. "So I'm going to keep it short."
The President told the guests -- who included Mexican Ambassador to the U.S. Arturo Sarukhan Casamitjana and his wife Verónica, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, and Chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D-Texas) that Cinco de Mayo is both a reminder of Mexican heritage and shared American values.
“It’s a day for remembering that America is a richer, stronger, more vibrant place thanks to the contributions of Mexican Americans to the life of this nation—contributions in commerce, culture, in language and literature, in faith, and obviously in food,” President Obama said.
President Obama poked fun at Mrs. Obama for her love of Mexican food.
“You do not want to be between Michelle and a tamale,” President Obama joked. “It's true. But she’s moving, though, so she can afford to have as many tamales as she wants.”
Mrs. Obama wrinkled her nose at her husband, poked him with her elbow, and then, smiling, did a few seconds of a salsa dance, to hoots from the crowd.
The President touted the administration’s broad, renewed outreach to the Hispanic community, pointing to the White House’s new Spanish language page on its website. The White House has hosted three high-profile events for Hispanics in the last few weeks.
“I want to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, to enforce our laws and also to address the status of millions of undocumented workers,” The President said. “I want to sign the DREAM Act into law.”
The DREAM Act, which failed to pass in the Lame Duck session of Congress, would grant eligible children of illegal immigrants the ability to attend college or serve in the military in exchange for a path to citizenship.
In a week in which America's military has been acutely in the spotlight, President Obama called out military personnel of Mexican heritage saying, "we are proud of them," and adding that it is time to "reaffirm ideals...living up to our values as a nation of immigrants."
The Cinco de Mayo Menu
*Corn and Plantain Chips served
with Guacamole, Salsa and Pico de Gallo Tuna
*Ceviche Shrimp Cocktail with Poached Gulf Shrimp
*Grilled Lamb Chops Sopes
Mushroom, Cheese, Roasted Peppers
*Corn Tamales with Chicken
Before the President and the First Lady exited the reception, they shook hands with guests to the tunes of "Oye Como Va" by Tito Puente and Selena.
*The full transcript of the President's remark IS HERE. The video:
*Photos by Getty; White House video