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White House State Dinner draws names from fashion, business and politics

 


WASHINGTON (AP) President Joe Bidens administration’s first White House state dinner drew big names from fashion, entertainment, politics and business who have proven to help celebrate the French president Emmanuel Macron and the return of high-powered DC social events after the pandemic.

First to arrive: Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, followed soon after by Gov. John Carney, representing Bidens’ home state of Delaware.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus skimmed the press, stopping only to say that, yes, she had attended a state dinner before and it was all very exciting. Late-night TV host Stephen Colbert also made his entrance, as guests walked through the White House before heading to a heated party tent on the South Lawn.

The family also made the cut: Bidens’ adult children, Hunter and Ashley, and his sister, Valerie Biden, were on the guest list.

Others in attendance, according to the official guest list: Good Morning America host Robin Roberts, actors Jennifer Garner and Ariana DeBose and singer John Legend and his wife, Chrissy Teigen.

Outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was expected, as well as House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, who hopes to succeed Pelosi. Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and shoe designer Christian Louboutin were also among the more than 300 expected guests.

The first Republican to arrive was Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who laughed when told she was the first GOP member to run, promising I’m sure there will be more.

Former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms stopped to speak for a bit ahead of Tuesday’s Senate election runoff in Georgia, where Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock is seeking re-election, saying, I think it will be a good night for georgia tuesday… just gotta make sure people keep coming.

With the tent ready and the tables set for the big dinner, hostess Jill Biden earlier in the day, she took her French counterpart and fellow teacher to a language museum to highlight their mutual interest in learning and their growing friendship.

We are friends, Brigitte Macron said as she and Biden shook hands at Planet Word, a museum dedicated to words and language.

We are friends, repeated Biden before they repeated that they are friends.

The declaration of friendship suited the occasion. A state dinner is a high diplomatic honor, bestowed only by the United States on its closest allies, such as France, one of the oldest in the Americas.

The wives made their exit to the museum while their husbands chatted to the White House. Brigitte Macron is a former professor of French literature and theatre; Jill Biden continues to teach English and writing at a community college in Virginia.

Guests began arriving at the White House as the sun was setting, dressed to impress and eager to say they had played a small part in history – the first state dinner hosted by the Bidens.

Maine lobster poached in butter, beef with shallot marmalade and American cheeses are on the menu at the red, white and blue themed dinner. Dessert is an orange chiffon cake with roasted pears and fresh cream ice cream. American sparkling wine will be served for the toasts.

Guests will dine on rented crockery as cutlery from the White House china collection cannot be removed from the executive mansion.

The design of this dinner was inspired by the common colors of our flags, red white and blue, and our common values, freedom and democracy, equality and fraternity, said Jill Biden on Wednesday. These form the foundation on which our lasting friendship has been built.

The lavish party celebrating American-French relations is held in a heated pavilion on the South Lawn. Guests alighted from White House carriages to sit at a mix of square and rectangular tables with dark blue silk tablecloths, red candles and arrangements of red, white and blue flowers, including white irises, the official flower of France.

After dinner entertainment was provided by Jon Batiste, a Grammy Award-winning New Orleans native and most recently the bandleader and musical director of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Cambric tweeted Thursday on his role.

The White House hasn’t hosted a state dinner since September 2019, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has put a damper on gatherings with large numbers of people.

But the fun is back at the White House.

Thursday’s dinner follows the wedding last month of Bidens’ granddaughter on the South Lawn with 250 guests. And in December, tens of thousands of people will pass through the White House, including tourists and other guests at nearly a month of holiday functions.

White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford said 200 live Maine lobsters were delivered on Tuesday. Some conservation groups are calling on the White House to serve Maine lobster, citing concerns about the threat to rare North Atlantic right whales from fishing gear used to trap lobsters. Entanglement in gear is one of the greatest threats to whales.

The White House had no immediate comment on the environmental concerns.

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