Covering Washington politics. From our vantage point. One day a time.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

State Visit. State Dinner.

The President and Mrs. Obama welcomed Chancellor Angela Merkel of the Federal Republic of Germany to the White House yesterday with an official arrival ceremony to kick off her visit to Washington, the first ever for a female head of state.

After lunches and meetings, the two leaders held a joint press conference in the East Room of the  White House where they remarked on the binding ties between the two nations.

President Obama and Chancellor Merkel field questions from the media during a joint press conference.
Photo/CD Brown.
“We see our partnership in the courage of our service members who stand shoulder to shoulder in Afghanistan, where Germans serve under Americans and Americans serve under Germans”
He thanked Chancellor Merkel and the Germans for what he called their “strong commitment” to their service, adding, “We remember and honor them all."

Both the President and Chancellor expressed their agreement on Qaddafi being removed from his post.

“The Chancellor and I have been clear. Qaddafi must step down and hand power to the Libyan people, and the pressure will only continue to increase until he does.”

During their meeting the two leaders discussed their support for political and economic reform across the Middle East and North Africa, as well as in Tunisia and Egypt.

“Along with the entire world, we have an enormous stake in seeing that these transitions to democracy succeed”, Obama said.

Merkel remarked that if it had not been for U.S. involvement during the Cold War, she might not have her position as Chancellor.

“Let me say this on a personal note. Without the United States of America, I would in all probably not be able to stand here before you today.”

Merkel said the transition to end the Cold War "required the steadfastness of Western partner, over many decades, when many had long lost hope of integration of the two Germanys and Europe. Many perhaps didn’t even want this anymore. But the then-President George Herbert Walker Bush said German unity, European unity, is indeed something that deserves our support”, the Chancellor went on to say.

President Obama awarded Merkel with the Presidential Medal of Freedom during a state dinner last evening.  It is the highest honor a President can bestow on a civilian (not that the Chancellor is considered a 'civilian').

“Tonight, we honor Angela Merkel not for being denied her freedom, or even for attaining her freedom, but for what she achieved when she gained her freedom. Determined to finally have her say, she entered politics, rising to become the first East German to lead a united Germany, the first woman chancellor in German history, and an eloquent voice for human rights and dignity around the world.“

The state dinner was held under a tent in the White House Rose Garden. It was the fourth State Dinner hosted by President Obama.

Place setting for the evening's State Dinner.  Photo CD Brown.
State Dinner Diplomacy
Earlier in the day the First Lady invited young girls from Banneker and Wootton high schools to the White House for an afternoon in State Dinner education and diplomacy. The girls where given a preview of the table setting for the evening. National Security Staff Chief of Staff, Brooke Anderson also spoke to the young girls, encouraging them to do their best in whatever they do.

“You can be whatever you want to be, even the next President”, said Anderson, much to the girls’ delight, as many smiled after Anderson’s remark.

The Menu
The State Dinner featured vegetables from the White House garden, planted in 2009 by students from Tubman and Bancroft Elementary schools. The first course is named White House Garden Chopped Salad added with a bit of vinaigrette and White House honey. The main course is a Hawaiian tuna, with a main course of Maryland blue crab on a bed of wild ramp puree from West Virginia. The dessert was an apple strudel topped with topfen, a cheese. The dish is a German tradition.

The Entertainment
The entertainment was by members of the National Symphony Orchestra, 15 year-old George Li, and James Taylor. Taylor was presented with an Arts and Humanities medal from President Obama earlier this year.

President Obama and First Lady Obama welcome Chancellor Merkel and her husband Joakim Sauer.  Photo CD Brown.
The Fashion
As always the emphasis was what the First Lady was wearing. FLOTUS opted for a flowing cream colored gown designed by Naeem Khan.  The President, looking dapper, wore a traditional black tux.

Chancellor Trivia
Chancellor Merkels’s husband is Joachim Sauer. He is a Chemistry professor. Earlier in the day he spoke at a college in Detroit. He arrived later in the evening to accompany his wife to the state dinner.
Chancellor Merkel and Mr. Sauer don't live in a White House-like residence in Germany. They live in an apartment style residence that she commutes to everyday.

See our photos here.

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