KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) – President Barack Obama’s supporters often shout at him, “I love you!”
But Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller didn’t have to raise her voice Thursday. She had prime seating beside Obama from which to declare her and her country’s love for him after they met privately during his first presidential visit to her island nation.
“I just want to say to you, you might not know, but you are very loved in this country,” Simpson Miller said, before describing how many Jamaicans mistakenly had lined the route they thought his motorcade would take after he arrived Wednesday evening.
“So I just wanted to say you’re well-loved in Jamaica,” she said. “Well, first of all I can say to you publicly, `I love you.”
Simpson Miller said she hoped Obama understood how important his visit is to Jamaica.
Obama’s stop was the first here by an American president since President Ronald Reagan visited in 1982.
Thursday’s official events had just begun but Obama appeared to already be looking ahead to Friday.
His first order of business was a stop at Jamaica House, where the prime minister and her staff have their offices.
It’s where Obama met with Simpson Miller and where he signed Jamaica’s guest book.
“It is a great pleasure to visit Jamaica, known for its beauty and the extraordinary spirit of its people,” Obama wrote. “May the deep and abiding friendships between our nations continue for generations to come.”
There was one small problem, though. He signed with Friday’s date: “10 April 2015.”
Simpson Miller also expressed the region’s affection for Obama at a subsequent meeting with leaders in the 15-member Caribbean Community, also known as CARICOM.
People from across the region followed both of his presidential election campaigns with “heightened interest,” she told the president, particularly the 2008 campaign that made him the first black man to be elected president of the United States.
“Your slogan `Yes we can,’ was repeated at every opportunity. Souvenirs were secured. Your photograph has pride of place in living rooms.”
“Your victories have been ours,” Simpson Miller said.
Obama said his visit to the Bob Marley Museum was one of the “more fun meetings” he has had as president.
After arriving Wednesday, Obama made a late-evening visit to the museum. He took a tour in his shirt sleeves as one of the late reggae star’s most-recognized hits, “One Love,” played over the sound system. One of the rooms Obama visited held the Marley’s platinum records and a Grammy.
“The quick trip that I made last night to Bob Marley’s house was one of the more fun meetings that I’ve had since I’ve been president,” he said.
Obama said he’s been a “big fan” of Marley since high school.