Pomp, Protocol and a Party Tent
By Alister Bull
Honoring his first state visitor with a gracious dinner under a huge tent on the White House South Lawn, President Barack Obama marshaled a wine glass into the teetotal hands of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday evening for a toast to a new and closer relationship with the world’s largest democracy. Singh rewarded his host with warm words of praise.
“Your journey to the White House has captured the imagination of millions and millions of people in India. You are an inspiration to all those who cherish the values of democracy, diversity and equal opportunity,” Singh told Obama to loud applause after they had walked together down a candle-lit tan carpet while the band played Hail to the Chief.
The Obamas, him in a sleek tuxedo and first lady Michelle in a much admired flowing floor-length champagne and silver gown designed by Indian-born designer Naeem Khan, looked to be very much enjoying their first state dinner.
“As we all know, in India some of life’s most treasured moments are often celebrated under the cover of a beautiful tent. It’s a little like tonight,” Obama said.
The guest list included usual suspects from Washington’s power elite, General Electric boss Jeff Immelt, Hollywood’s Steven Spielberg and David Geffen, and Katie Couric (CBS), Brian Williams (NBC), and Dr. Sanjay Gupta (CNN) from TV.
In a bipartisan gesture that Obama has tried to make a hallmark of his administration, guests also included a number of Republicans, including Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.
After dinner, an announcer introduced the National Symphony Orchestra, then (moment of surprise here) a green wall of curtain on the south side of the tent fell to each side, revealing a vast stage where the orchestra was arranged and a dance floor.
Presumably, a good time was had by all.
Photo credits:Reuters/Jason Reed (Obama and Singh toasts at State Dinner; Obamas await arrival of Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur), Reuters/Jonathan Ernst (Katie Couric (r) at State Dinner)