- Donald Trump, the president of the United States, is hosting French president Emmanuel Macron for a state dinner.
- It’s Trump’s first ever state dinner.
- From Harry Truman to Barack Obama, nine past presidents hosted state dinners for French leaders.
US president Donald Trump is hosting his first ever state dinner for the leader of America’s first ally.
State dinners are a big deal in the US. The president usually hosts the black-tie event in the State Dining Room at the White House. They date back to December 12, 1874, when President Ulysses S. Grant held a dinner in honour of King David Kalakaua of the Kingdom of Hawaii.
Spring lamb, jambalaya, and “wines made from French plants harvested in Oregon” are on the menu this year, The Hill reported. And the presidents and their wives will be serenaded by the Washington National Opera as part of the event.
Here’s a look at some notable state dinners that past presidents hosted for French leaders:
US President Harry Truman hosted French President Vincent Auriol
On March 28, 1951, Truman hosted French President Vincent Auriol. Truman awarded Auriol with a Legion of Merit, and said that the president had “… displayed unswerving friendship to the United States and to the ideals held by all democratic nations, and has done much to assure the success of these ideals.”
Auriol had fought with the French resistance during WWII.
US President Dwight Eisenhower hosted French President Charles de Gaulle
French President Charles de Gaulle arrived in Washington DC to much fanfare in 1960.
The French leader was in town for an April 22 state visit with US president Dwight Eisenhower.
According to the Library of Congress, 200,000 Washingtonians turned out to greet de Gauelle, who later wrote about driving through a “deafening accompaniment of cheers, sirens and brass bands, amid a forest of banners and flags.”
The French politician’s trip consisted of a visit to Eisenhower’s farm in Gettysburg and then a trip to Camp David.
US President Richard Nixon hosted French President Georges Pompidou
French President Georges Pompidou’s 1970 visit to the US didn’t go off without a hitch.
The French leader was confronted by thousands of protestors during his nine day trip. The demonstrations centered on a perceived anti-Israel bias to France’s Middle East foreign policy, according to the JTA.
On February 24, Pompidou met with Nixon, who said in a speech on the South Lawn that the two leaders would “… find means to work together toward our common goal, the goal we had 900 years ago, the goal of liberty and independence for all people. That is the same goal we have today.”
US President Gerald Ford hosted French President Valery Giscard D’Estaing
On May 17, 1976, French President Valery Giscard D’Estaing met with Ford, as well as secretary of state Henry Kissinger.
The leaders spoke of communism, the US election, Africa, and nuclear non-proliferation, according to a declassified White House memo. D’Estaing was also feted at a dinner in the White House’s State Dining Room, during which the US Army Band played,according to the Ford Library Museum.
But Ford wasn’t the only president the French politician went to see. D’Estaing also visited the grave of John F. Kennedy in Arlington National Cemetery.
The New York Times noted that the visit fell close the bicentennial of the founding of the US, and that D’Estaing’s ancestor had helmed an ultimately unsuccessful French expedition to assist the rebelling colonists in the fight against Britain.
US President Jimmy Carter hosted French Prime Minister Raymond Barre
French Prime Minister Raymond Barre attended a state dinner with Carter on September 9, 1977.
The menu for the event featured Maryland crab, cheese straw, roast rack of lamb, green beans, sautéed eggplant parmesan, salad, and Macadamia nut soufflé.
American violinist Elizabeth Matesky played compositions by Wolfgang Mozart and Eugène Ysaÿe.
In a speech, Carter said the US was indebted to France due to its assistance during the Revolutionary War, and “… for the formation of our country itself, our closest ally and friend and staunch partner in this difficult struggle were the people of France.”
US President Ronald Reagan hosted French President François Mitterrand and Prime Minister Jacques Chirac
Reagan hosted two French leaders during his tenure as president.
On March 22, 1984, he welcomed French President François Mitterrand. The Chicago Tribune reported that Mitterrand’s wife Danielle didn’t move when Reagan went to escort her to her table. A translator explained to Reagan that he was standing on her dress.
“One more step and diplomatic relations with France would have been broken,” Reagan reportedly joked later on.
A few years later, on March 31, 1987, French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac was the guest of honour at a White House state dinner.
Reagan informed Chirac that he’d always be a welcomed friend in the White House and added, “I hope you all enjoyed this evening’s dinner wine. You see, it was produced in California – as part of a joint French-American venture.”
US President Bill Clinton hosted French President Jacques Chirac
Chirac returned to the White House on February 1, 1996, this time as a president.
He was also honored by a new president.
During his speech, Clinton joked, “I feel compelled to make full disclosure to our French guests: Our extraordinary White House chef, Walter Scheib, is an American.”
The Deseret News reported that the menu featured a soup made from lobster, thyme, and roasted eggplant, a rack of lamb, sweet potato puree, and a “tower pyramid” of balls of apple and cherry sherbet that was “circled with small pastry swans swimming on a bed of dark red raspberries.”
US President George W. Bush hosted French President Nicolas Sarkozy
French President Nicolas Sarkozy was treated to a dinner of Maine lobster bisque, Chardonnay, lamb with tomato fondue, sweet potato casserole, and asparagus salad on November 6, 2007.
“France and the United States can meet great challenges when we work together, Mr. President,” Bush said, in his remarks. “You and I share a commitment to deepen the cooperation of our two republics, and through this cooperation, we can make the world a better place.”
US President Barack Obama hosted French President François Hollande
French President François Hollande’s February 11, 2014 state dinner with Obama featured a guest appearance from singer Mary J. Blige.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, Hollande ultimately hit the dance floor with the First Couple.
Before that, the two presidents hosted a press conference together, during which Obama remarked, “François, in this work, I could not be more grateful for your partnership and your friendship.”
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