Transparency returns to the White House
After months of anticipation, the red carpet was finally rolled out last night for the first state dinner of the Obama Administration, honouring Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and First Lady, Gursharan Kaur. Dubbed the biggest social event of the Obama Presidency, the 338 strong guest list was a mix of Washington hierarchy, Hollywood A-listers, prominent Indian Americans, and Obama friends, family and campaign donors.
Keeping with tradition, Mrs Obama previewed the glamorous table settings and menu to a group of young women from the White House Leadership and Mentoring Program, who were then invited to stay for lunch.
Highlighting the important links with the country, the Obamas hosted the event in a marquee located on the South Lawn, with views of the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. In his toast, the President said the settings conjured images of India, where events are often held in outdoor locations. Prime Minister Singh said he was overwhelmed by the Obamas hospitality, and repeated that the President’s election had been an inspiration to millions of Indians.
The excitement surrounding the event signals a new beginning of a transparent Presidency, where the American public, and indeed those around the world can now experience the planning and hard work which goes in to organizing an event of this size. All the events, from the welcoming ceremony to the state dinner itself were streamed live on the White House’s website, allowing internet users to see the guests arriving and what the First Lady had selected to wear in real-time. In an interview with Capitol File and Vogue earlier this year, Social Secretary Desiree Rogers hinted that sweepstake draws could be introduced in an effort to welcome more individuals to the nation’s house, much like similar competitions which were held throughout the campaign trail and election.
This brings new hope and transparency to the social side of the Presidency. During the Bush ’43’ Administration, only 7 state dinners were held during his 8 years in office, compared to the Clinton’s who hosted well over 20 similar events. These developments all signal the Administration’s attempts to reverse the secrecy and ‘closed-circle’ environment of the past eight years, and open up the White House, and the Presidency to the American people and the world. Washington DC residents and natives have talked of a new excitement in the city, and much of this I feel is down to the election of Barack Obama and his innovative plans for the future.
Read the joint statement from President Obama and Prime Minister Singh here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/joint-statement-between-prime-minister-dr-singh-and-president-obama
Photos from the event can be seen here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/whitehouse/sets/72157622877680964/