Opinion: Barack and Michelle Obama’s first White House state dinner: Part II


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Tonight was the first state dinner in the short history of the new Barack Obama administration.

The Ticket published a behind-the-scenes look at the formal dinner’s preparations with First Lady Michelle Obama available for reading by clicking here. This newer item concerns the dinner itself with the president’s remarks to most of the nation’s governors and the scene as provided by pool reporter Mike Madden of

-- Andrew Malcolm

Abridged Pool Report President and Michelle Obama’s State Dinner for the National Governors Assn.

POTUS welcomed the governors to the first formal dinner of his administration with brief remarks in the State Dining Room.


‘The last thing I want to do is hold up the food, so Michelle and I want to say welcome. Everybody looks extraordinary; even Axelrod has cleaned up pretty well. I say it often, but I’m going to repeat it tonight, that nobody understands what’s happening in the country, and the struggles, hopes hardships and the dreams of the American people as well as the nation’s governors.

You’re where the rubber hits the road. And you have to make tough decisions all the time, even when there’s a lot of fussing and fighting here in Washington. The bottom line is, you still have to make sure that schools are open, that children are learning, that people who are falling on hard times are getting help. And so our goal and aim is to make sure that we are making life easier, and not harder, for you during the time that we’re here in Washington.

And so it’s fitting that we’re spending this first formal dinner in the White House with the nation’s governors. [Applause)

A special word to the spouses, and Michelle did not prompt me on this -- you have some of the toughest jobs in politics putting up with all of us. So thank you. This is not consolation, but hopefully at least an acknowledgement of how much all of us appreciate what you do in your own right, in your respective states.

The last point I’d make is this: We are going through some tough times. I don’t need to tell you -- you’re seeing it in your own budget, you’re seeing it in your own state. There are going to be some differences, both within your state and in the country, in terms of how we address these problems.

Here’s my assurance. I know that each and every one of you are making the decisions you make, and taking the positions that you take, based on what is best for your state. And not every state’s the same, and each of you have to take into account the particular characteristics and demographics and culture and perspectives of your states and your parties. But I want you to know that regardless of our occasional differences, and in this very difficult time, my hope is that we can all work together. And I’m confident that we can... [Applause]


Let me propose a toast. To the nation’s governors, to the United States of America, and to the certain hope that despite our current travails, that we will all emerge more prosperous and more unified than we were before.

And with that, I believe that dinner is served.’

It seemed POTUS had cut off Gov. Ed Rendell (D-Pa.), the chairman of the NGA, who was due to make a toast immediately after, because he then corrected himself: ‘Oh no, Rendell’s coming!’ Your pool was ushered out before Rendell began speaking.

And now, some detail from the dinner. POTUS was seated between Midge Rendell, the first lady of Pennsylvania, and Carole Rome, the first lady of Florida, at a table directly to the left of the wood and gold podium he spoke from. At a table directly to the right, FLOTUS sat between Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Calif.) -- who those of you watching the Oscars may recall was an actor before he had to start showing up at these NGA events -- and Gov. Christine Gregoire (D-Wash.).
A large portrait of Lincoln looked down on POTUS during his remarks.

POTUS was wearing a black tuxedo with a black tie, gold tuxedo studs on his shirt and a gold pin on his lapel, possibly a U.S. flag. FLOTUS was in a silver dress, with a necklace that looked to be made up of diamonds and pearls. The tables appeared to be decorated with gold centerpieces and fresh red roses.

The governors and their guests had been mingling in the main hall and the Red Room before going into the State Dining Room for the dinner; your pool held in the foyer, instead of on the steps, because it was cold. A small Marine jazz combo was playing, and at one point Rendell was seen joking with Robert Gibbs and Samantha Tubman (who has left the world of press wrangling behind for the White House social office). Gov. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), walked past your pool to order a beverage from a bartender next to the front door, but didn’t stop to talk, and your pooler couldn’t make out what Sanford had ordered.

POTUS and FLOTUS walked from the Red Room into the main hall just before they walked into the dining room, where they were greeted by applause.

-- Mike Madden of

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