First lady Jill Biden gives media a preview of White House State Dinner hosting the president of Kenya

 May 24, 2024

President Joe Biden on Thursday hosted the president of Kenya, William Ruto, for an official State Dinner at the White House.

On Wednesday, first lady Jill Biden provided the media with a sneak peek of the special menu, decor, and other details of the extravagant diplomatic affair, according to USA Today.

The media were permitted to take photos and heard prepared remarks from the first lady along with the White House chefs, who presented samplings of what would be prepared for the first couple's guests on the following evening.

Jill Biden previews State Dinner

During her prepared remarks at the Kenya State Dinner Preview on Wednesday, first lady Biden noted that the dinner would be held at an outdoor pavilion with a glass roof and be lit by candles and the moon.

She further revealed that live music would be performed by "the amazing Howard Gospel Choir and the incredible Brad Paisley" in a nod to the Kenyan first couple's preference for gospel and country music.

"As guests leave, their path illuminated by our one moon, I hope they will be filled with that same warmth I felt on my visits to Kenya -- that of a friendship that will endure, helping create a shining and prosperous tomorrow," Biden said of the 60-year partnership between the two nations. "Every detail of this State Dinner has been thoughtfully planned by so many people from across our government -- Joe and I could not have asked for a better team."

She then introduced the chefs who displayed samplings of the State Dinner's menu items before she turned the remainder of the preview event over to Carlos Elizondo, her social secretary.

What's on the menu?

CBS News reported that the State Dinner menu consisted of "chilled green tomato soup, with marinated onions and cucumber marinated in white balsamic vinegar" as the first course, followed by entrees that included lobster poached in butter plus marinated and smoked short ribs, which were served alongside "kale, roasted corn, a corn puree, roasted turnips, sweet potatoes, and squash."

Following that main course, guests would receive a special dessert served in a "homemade white chocolate basket" filled with "nectarine paste" and stamped with the U.S. and Kenyan flags. The white chocolate baskets contained "banana ganache, fresh raspberries, and peaches" and were surrounded by "fresh strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries."

Prior to the candlelit meal on the glassed-over pavilion, a cocktail reception was held on a nearby terrace and gifts were exchanged between the two first couples.

Who was on the guest list?

The Kenya State Dinner guest list was also released ahead of the formal event and it featured a who's who of celebrities and dignitaries, business leaders and philanthropists, and prominent senior administration officials and elected Democratic politicians.

CBS News reported that in addition to several of President Biden's family members, including his son Hunter and granddaughters Naomi and Finnegan, other "notable guests" included "former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, actor Sean Penn, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, philanthropist Melinda French Gates, guitarist Don McLean, tech executive Sheryl Sandberg, and NBA commissioner Adam Silver."

The outlet noted that this is the first State Dinner hosting an African nation since 2008 and that President Biden, who has not yet fulfilled a campaign promise to visit Africa, vowed to do so next year "after I'm reelected."

During a joint press conference before the extravagant dinner, Biden said, "The world is safer when Kenya and the United States work together," and went on to express how "optimistic and hopeful" he was for the future of the two nations "Because Kenya and the United States stand together, committed to each other, committed to our people, and committed to building a better world."

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