Approximately 400 guests, including 50 African leaders, their spouses, U.S. lawmakers, and some celebrities attended the dinner held in a large tent set up on the South Lawn of the White House.
Obama welcomed those in attendance, remarking that "never before have we hosted a dinner at the White House like this, with so many Presidents, so many Prime Ministers all at once."
The dinner, Obama observed, was also also personal. During his toast, the president spoke of his ancestral ties to Africa, his travels to the continent, and how he has been inspired by "ordinary Africans doing extraordinary things."
"I also stand before you as the son of a man from Africa. The blood of Africa runs through our family. And so for us, the bonds between our countries, our continents, are deeply personal."
Obama spoke of taking his family to visit his father's hometown in Kenya and their visits to Ghana, Senegal, and the prison in South Africa where Nelson Mandela served a 27-year prison sentence for opposing apartheid.
He also praised "the extraordinary young Africans ... who show the world that Africa has the talent and the drive to forge a new future."
Obama closed his remarks with the words of a Senegalese song called "New Africa."
Come together, New Africa
Keep on working, for Africa
Later, singer Lionel Ritchie serenaded the dinner guests with "Easy Like Sunday Morning," "Say You, Say Me," and "Dancing on the Ceiling."