Singapore to name orchid hybrid after Obamas

To mark the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Singapore and the United States, Singapore has named an orchid hybrid in honour of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced in his toast speech at the White House State Dinner. (ChannelNewsAsia)

On Tuesday evening (Aug 2) (Wednesday morning, Singapore time), Mr Lee and Mrs Lee were hosted to a state dinner by Mr Obama and Mrs Obama at the White House as part of his official visit to the United States. The orchid hybrid – Dendrobium Barack and Michelle Obama – is “a hybrid of breeds native to Singapore and Hawaii, where the President was born … most of us believe”, he said to laughter from the audience.

“It is a fitting tribute to America’s first Pacific President, and a beautiful symbol of the flourishing ties between our countries,” Mr Lee said.

In his speech, Mr Lee spoke about his first meeting with Mr Obama at the US Senate in May 2007, while he was in the midst of his presidential campaign, and how he was “struck by Mr Obama’s focus, informed interest in Asia and desire to cement America’s role in it”. “Your years growing up in Indonesia gave you direct experience of Southeast Asia’s cultures and challenges. As President, your personal leadership and decision to rebalance to Asia, has won America new friends and strengthened old partnerships, including with Singapore,” he said.

Mr Lee said Singapore admires America’s dynamism, vibrancy and capacity for self-renewal – qualities which attract the “best and brightest” from around the world. He also spoke about how Singaporean students and athletes like Joseph Schooling have benefited from their exposure in the US.

“At this year’s International Math Olympiad the US team came in top, and beat Singapore! You did so in an open and collaborative manner — inviting students from other competing countries to the US to train with you, including two Singaporeans who benefited from the exposure,” Mr Lee said. “America is a great nation not just because of your power and wealth, but because of your high ideals, openness and generosity of spirit. You seek to build a world where countries can prosper together. You make common cause with others to fight the problems which plague mankind, be it extremist terrorism, poverty, Ebola or climate change,” he said.

“This is why 70 years after the Second World War, America is still a welcome power in Asia. We hope these strengths and qualities will enable you to remain engaged in our region for many more years.” Read More