Obama Prepares for First State Dinner
Crave dressing up in a tuxedo or evening gown? Long to mingle with world leaders and high-ranking officials? Aspire to dine on haute cuisine prepared by world class chefs?
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Then you'll want to be at tonight's first State Dinner of the Obama presidency. Just show up at the East Wing Entrance of the White House by 7:00 p.m. ET.
Oh. Did I mention you'll need an invitation?
What? You didn't get one of the engraved, gold-embossed notes from the president requesting the pleasure of your company and addressed to you by top tier calligraphers? Well, then you won't have to change plans for meat loaf night.
Since taking office, President Obama has met with 70 foreign leaders. Tonight he honors Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India with a State Dinner. (at left, Mr. Obama welcomes Singh at a ceremony this morning)
"This is a very important relationship with a very important country," says White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. "That's why India was chosen to be the first (State)Visit." (At left, Mr. Obama welcomes Singh to the White House at a ceremony this morning.)
Some 320 guests will gather in a heated tent on the South Lawn this evening for the black tie event that includes an exchange of toasts by two leaders, a very fancy dinner and after-dinner entertainment.
"I think is a show of respect for the value that we put on the relationship," says Gibbs, reminding reporters that India is the world's largest democracy.
The menu and guest list for the event are closely-guarded secrets until they're disclosed just a few hours before the dinner takes place. Those receiving invitations will include familiar names of top U.S. and Indian government officials, members of Congress, friends of the president, big money supporters of his campaign, and Americans whose heritage is tied to India.
Tonight's dinner may also have a familiar feel to it. In July 2005, Prime Minister Singh was feted with a black-tie dinner in his honor by then-President George W. Bush. But it was billed as an "Official Dinner," a notch below "State Dinner" on the protocol scoreboard. In every other way, however, it served as a preview of tonight's event, except it was held indoors in the State Dining Room of the White House, rather than the tented setting outdoors.
"Above all, India and the United States are bound together by common values," said Mr. Bush in his toast to Singh at the start of that dinner 4 years ago.
We'll hear similar if not identical sentiments today from Mr. Obama.
Jennifer Hudson to Perform at State Dinner
Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/markknoller.
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