Sunday, October 11, 2009

Michelle's First State Dinner for India

The George W. Bush China Service
India, a democratic superpower has over a billion citizens with its own arsenal of nuclear weapons and the shared disgrace with America of being one of the top three polluters on the planet will have the distinct honor of being the first nation to receive the full ceremonial honors from a state visit.  No doubt, difficult topics will be discussed by the heads of state.  Yet, it is Michelle Obama who is going to hold the spotlight as she chooses, flatware, table coverings, floral design, china patterns, glassware, the menu(s), entertainment and music, seating arrangements, invitations for teas, luncheons and the attendees for the historic first state dinner on November 24th while choosing a never before seen fully formal gown to be discussed for eternity.  Believe it or not, the gown actually helps settle the detailed choices of color used in the State Dining Room's or the East Room's table decor.  Either room may be used and the East Room would hold more elegant diners, but makes the after dinner entertainment space a new challenge.  If Michelle Obama is a last minute dress chooser - oh dear. (Photo of Obamas going up the Grand Staircase back to the residence after greeting Ambassadors to the US.)

Her staff has been on the case since May.  No rest for the weary as November looms large in the Obama White House cultural portfolio.  Michelle Obama received kudos for her first turn as an international hostess with the G20 heads of state and their spouses.  Her choice of a gift for the event was rare and a keepsake.  The huge state dinner is the Tuesday before Thanksgiving which makes it doubly rich for grand and gravy leftovers.  That Wednesday the president should pardon a turkey - lately the saved pre-poultry birds have dined on some incredible tranquilizers before meeting the president due to some of the wilder pardon photos.

This is what Michelle Obama gave as hostess to the G20 spouses.  It is an exclusive porcelain tea set mirroring the Lincoln china in the White House with US national flower (American Beauty Rose) at the bottom of the teacups made by a one hundred year old Illinois company.  The little vials of honey and the larger container is honey produced directly from Michelle Obamas world famous Kitchen Garden, Photo courtesy LA Times
Mrs. Obama must also make Blair House ready and work with the State Departments protocol experts on name pronunciation, food requirements, allergies and taboos, complete with full black tie etiquette.  A briefing book has already been compiled and the secret invite right now is for the under two dozen friends and staff that get to attend a tasting menu featuring choices for the meals.  Her residence staff is theming floral pieces for all of the bathrooms and a host of contract workers need to be ready to produce the pièce de résistance of an elaborate multi-course meal for at most 140 people.  It will be the hardest ticket to obtain in Washington DC since the inaugural.  All those people who have spent time sucking up to the first lady's friend and Social Secretary while writing puff pieces about her are about to find out if the investment was worth it.

In February 2009, the Obamas had a trial run at a high level black-tie event for the US governors.  Here they dance in the East Room to Earth Wind & Fire playing live.
The East Wing communication staff will arrange a day of photo spray for the press to see Mrs. Obama in front of a fully set table complete with hand crafted calligraphy table cards while explaining which China pattern she is choosing to use.  The menus for each setting will feature the salads, American vintage wines, entrées and desserts all in the same calligraphy style.  It is usually a keepsake from the White House along with the invitation requesting the honor of their presence.  That is definitely still a secret, but the Wilson China has made a debut.  Part of the decision is made on which full sets of China are available in the right colors for a state dinner - Ronald Reagan China in a bold red, the George W. Bush set - never yet used in a green with basketweave pattern, the Clinton China with the golden rims and 24-karat gold images of the White House dead center, with which full set of flatware is available.  The last first lady to purchase a full set of gilded formal flatware, late 19th century reproductions from Kirk Steiff of Baltimore, for elegant entertaining in the White House is Barbara Bush.  Her daughter-in-law also purchased large sterling silver serving pieces.

The stunning table arrangement here is the 2007 white tie setting for Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.  White tie is usually reserved as a royal honor.  This was an excellent use of the William Jefferson Clinton china service by Laura Bush.  This table is set to handle five courses rather than the usual four for a state dinner.

Formal arrival ceremony

The newly re-elected fourteenth Prime Minister of the Republic of India, Manmohan Singh and his lovely wife, Gursharan Kaur will receive the full ceremonial honors of arriving at the South Lawn.  After a troop review and opening remarks, the couples will go through the Diplomatic Reception Room and usually share some time together before the spouses go one direction and the heads of state another.  After a luncheon, the next arrival will be on the North side of the White House in view of the world's press as they are formally greeted by the president and first lady in formal attire on the red carpet.  They will go upstairs and have a moment to share in the Yellow Oval Room in the private residence.  Just before dinner, Ruffles and Flourishes will announce the president and first lady as they descend the Grand Staircase with their honored guests to stand and welcome each invited guest in the Entrance hall as the President's Own plays and photographers film. There are vast differences in height so the images will need some thinking through by the professionals.  (Gursharan Kaur with Michelle Obama from April in London during the Obamas first meeting of the G20.)

Prime Minister Singh, President Barack Obama, Mrs. Gusharan Kaur and Mrs. Michelle Obama at the arrival for the working and spouse dinner.

Michelle gives welcoming remarks at the dinner party held on a patio at Rosemont Farms for the G20 spouses.  Photo courtesy the White House

Can't wait for November 24th.  All of the public ceremony is usually covered in full by the wonderful station I love, C-SPAN.

UPDATE:  The latest Obama State Dinner post is here... State Dinner Tuesday with the Obamas


Anonymous said...
Thursday, 15 October, 2009  

"If Michelle Obama is a last minute dress chooser - oh dear."

That's a little snarky!

Maureen said...
Thursday, 15 October, 2009  

LOL, snark is the mother's milk of politics and blogging.

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