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Obama welcomes governors to White House

President Barack Obama welcomed the nation's governors to the White House on Sunday night, joking that the black-tie dinner shared some of the qualities of the Academy Awards taking place in Hollywood.
Barack Obama
President Barack Obama offers a toast with governors, government officials and their spouses at the 2011 Governors Dinner in the State Room of the White House in Washington on Sunday.Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

President Barack Obama welcomed the nation's governors to the White House on Sunday night, joking that the black-tie dinner shared some of the qualities of the Academy Awards taking place in Hollywood.

"I know some of you may be confused and think this is the Oscars," Obama said to laughter. "There are some similarities. First of all, everybody looks spectacular. And the second is this: If I speak too long, the music will start playing."

Obama welcomed the governors — many of them newly elected Republicans who rode November's wave to power — and urged collaboration.

"Our goal has to be to find ways to find common ground to work together. And I am confident we can do that moving forward," Obama said.

Obama hopes to hear ideas from the states on how to best repair the United States' slowly recovering economy when he meets Monday with the nation's governors. Vice President Joe Biden and other administration officials will also be in attendance.

On Friday, Obama met privately with the Democrats; Monday's bipartisan affair will be open to reporters.

"Know that you've got a partner here in the White House," the president said Sunday. "If you look around the room, we come from a lot of different parts of the country and people may have different perspectives. But one thing that we all absolutely share is the belief in the American Dream and the confidence that when our people get opportunities, they've got the ingenuity, the stick-to-it-iveness and the drive to succeed."

But Obama acknowledged the governors were on the front lines and often received the brunt of the criticism.

"Our federal system is a laboratory for democracy. In each of your states, you guys are trying all kinds of things. Oftentimes, your best ideas end up percolating up and end up becoming models and templates for the country," Obama said Sunday night as he welcomed the governors and their spouses to the White House for a black-tie dinner.