Obama and Australian PM emphasize unity, spar over Vegemite

President Obama at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia on March 7, 2011.

In a high school visit on Monday, President Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard (who was formerly Australia's education minister) emphasized the close friendship between the United States and Australia, citing a shared "frontier spirit" and a "premium on individualism and freedom." (The two leaders did, however, disagree on the merits of Vegemite.)

After remarks to reporters in the Oval Office, the two leaders headed to Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia - the site of Mr. Obama's address to students on Sept. 8, 2009 - to stop in and chat with an 11th grade history class.

During the appearance, the president led the students in singing "Happy Birthday" to their teacher - who, Mr. Obama pointed out, got into teaching because she "wanted to get into something useful."

(Watch a clip from their rendition of "Happy Birthday" at left.)

The group also discussed discrepancies between American and Australian football, and the relative merits of the traditional Aussie spread Vegemite.

"It's horrible!'' said Mr. Obama, of the vegetable spread.

Gillard admitted that there was "a little bit of a division between the president and I" on the matter, adding that "I love vegemite.''

Gillard also said that students were returning to schools after a recent bout of severe floods tore through a Texas-sized portion of the country.

Earlier in the day, Gillard announced a $3 million donation from the Australian government to help build a visitors center at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.