(WASHINGTON) -- While Hollywood celebrated the Academy Awards, a different kind of celebrity gala event unfolded at the White House Sunday evening: President Obama hosted the nation’s state governors for an annual black tie dinner.
The states’ top executives and their spouses were in town for the yearly National Governors Association weekend, a four-day conference where the leaders meet with federal officials and business executives to discuss issues facing the states. However, Sunday night’s festivities with the president and first lady were a purely social event and not officially affiliated with the NGA. Regardless, the dinner is often billed as a high point of the weekend's activities.
The president praised his guests for their leadership, but kept his remarks brief, telling them Sunday night was about having some fun.
“I’ve always said that governors have one of the best, but also one of the toughest jobs around,” the president joked. “On the one hand you guys are in charge, which means that folks know where you live and they know how to find you if something doesn’t work.”
Obama told the leaders that they were in a unique position, being able to see lasting change in their states every day.
“Every time I get a sense of what is happening in your states I am reminded that progress is possible,” he said.
The politicians were coming off three days of panel discussions and meetings. Topics covered were largely broad-based, regional and focused on cooperative dialogue. This year’s conference had a special emphasis on job creation. Obama lauded the progress made on the economy and clean energy, and while they wouldn’t agree on every issue, he said he looked forward to more collaboration going forward.
“By virtue of the position, you end up having to be pragmatic, because you need to find out what works,” he said.
Obama wrapped up by toasting his guests, “but especially all the spouses who put up with us.”
He was followed by the chairman of the NGA, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, who told the crowd that as a young man he could never have dreamed he would be standing there one day. The two-term Republican thanked the president and first lady for their service.
“For you, and for us, it is an honor and a privilege to serve the citizens of this great country,” Heineman said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio