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Will Barack Obama come to Southwark during London state visit?

London SE1 website team

Southwark Council has renewed its invitation for President Obama to visit the borough whilst he is in London at the end of this month, the London SE1 website can reveal.

Barack Obama
Photo by "transplanted mountaineer". Licensed with a Creative Commons licence

The council first invited the US president to visit Southwark soon after his victory in the 2008 elections.

The then Liberal Democrat council leader Nick Stanton made the invitation at the instigation of Labour councillor Ian Wingfield who tabled an urgent question at a meeting of council assembly.

When President Obama's state visit to London was announced, we asked Southwark Council's present administration whether the invitation was still open.

Now we can reveal that last month the leader of the council, Peter John, wrote to the White House to suggest that the president might like to drop in to a Southwark primary school during his forthcoming visit to the capital.

President Obama is a graduate of Harvard University in Cambridge Massachusetts. Harvard is named after its principal benefactor John Harvard who was born and brought up in Southwark. His family ran the Queen's Head inn in Borough High Street.

In 2007 the borough celebrated the 400th anniversary of John Harvard's baptism in the church now known as Southwark Cathedral.

Harvard's Southwark ties are also recalled at the John Harvard Library which now also carries a blue plaque, and in the John Harvard Memorial Lecture series.

Southwark's other important historical links with the USA include the Mayflower ship which sailed from Rotherhithe in 1620.

"Southwark has a diverse and vibrant ethnic community and combines thriving areas of renewal with areas with high levels of deprivation," wrote Cllr John.

"Our mission as an administration is to see every part of our borough benefiting from Southwark's staggering but uneven growth and it is our belief that your visit would inspire all of our residents."

He aded: "Your victory was welcomed enthusiastically in Southwark. It provided an inspiration to people across the borough, particularly for many of the young people in our large black and minority ethnic communities for whom you continue to be an outstanding role model.

"The council's deputy leader, Cllr Ian Wingfield, spent two weeks in the United States campaigning for the Obama-Biden ticket, such was the excitement felt by all about your message of change.

"We would be delighted if you would accept our invitation to visit one of our local schools, extending the message of hope which you set in motion in 2008 to young people in our borough in 2011."

The council is awaiting a response from the White House.

It is thought that the last time a serving US president set foot in Southwark was 1997 when Bill Clinton dined at Le Pont de la Tour with Tony Blair.

In 1968 vice-president Hubert Humphrey visited the borough.

• Grange ward councillor Mark Gettleson (Liberal Democrat) has asked us to point out that he spent two months as a field organiser for the Obama campaign in Atlanta.

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