President Barack Obama hosts his final state dinner, toasting Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in the White House.
NATURAL ROUGH CUT - NO REPORTER NARRATION U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to the White House on Tuesday (October 18), using the the formal state visit to show support for his counterpart and highlight the links between the two nations. The spotlight comes at an opportune time for Renzi, who seeks a boost ahead of a constitutional referendum on December 4 that could determine his political future. Obama praised Renzi's proposed economic reforms and said he supported his attempts to modernise political institutions because it would help accelerate economic changes. "To the friendship between the Americans and the Italians. In pursuit of the world we can build for future generations, may we always be bold; may fortune smile upon us," Obama said during a toast at the state dinner. Renzi, 41, has worked hard to win White House respect and has been one of the most vocal supporters in Europe of free trade deals championed by Obama, but viewed with great scepticism by the centre-left in Italy. "We share above all the future and the common values. For all the reasons, I propose a toast. To President Obama, to First Lady Michelle, thank you so much for your incredible journey," Renzi said during his toast. The state dinner was the last scheduled for Obama before he leaves office in January. The last time the United States threw a state dinner for Italy was in 1998. To mark the occasion this time, Italian-American celebrity chef Mario Batali prepared the food while Grammy-winning Gwen Stefani sang for the 500 guests. Notable guests included former racing driver Mario Andretti, designer Giorgio Armani, and actor Roberto Benigni.