When Air Force One touched down in Canberra, Australia Wednesday afternoon, President Obama at last made good on a promise to visit the “land down under” after twice delaying an official visit over the past year.
Obama came to Australia bearing a big gift: a new military agreement that will bring U.S. troops to the Australian continent as early as the middle of next year.
Before announcing the details of the plan, Obama was treated to a formal, official welcoming ceremony on the steps of the Australian Parliament, including a 21-cannon salute, a review of the 100-member honor guard of Australian troops and a playing of the U.S. national anthem — twice.
Once Obama moved inside the boomerang-shaped Parliament building, he was greeted by screaming 5th and 6th grade students from the territories surrounding the capital.
“Thank you so much for your wonderful greeting,” reporters heard the President say to the kids. “G’day … g’day mate. I’m getting the hang of it,” he said.
Obama also signed Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s visitor’s book before meeting with her behind closed doors.
“To the People of Australia, with whom we have stood together for a century of progress and sacrifice. On this 60th Anniversary of our Alliance, we resolve that our bonds will never be broken, and our friendship will last for all time,” the President wrote.