White House

State Dinner Honors U.S.-India Friendship

The rain poured on the night of President Obama's first State Dinner, which honored Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The show went on in spite of the storm, with Obama noting "the high esteem in which I and the American people hold your [Singh's] wise leadership." Obama and Singh both stressed the value of their nations' "friendship": "India and America are separated by distance, but bound together by the values of democracy, pluralism, rule of law, and respect for fundamental human freedoms," Singh said. The guest list included the requisite Cabinet members and congressmen (Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden were both on hand) as well as a much-buzzed-about Hollywood contingent including Steven Spielberg, M. Night Shyamalan, and David Geffen. The Washington Post's Robin Givhan reports that Michelle Obama's office worked local Girl Scouts into the arrival ceremony, and that the first lady began her day in J. Crew, and ended with a gown by Indian-American designer Naeem Khan. The meal used ingredients from the White House garden (which Singh's vegetarianism naturally played to) and offered American and African-American favorites, such as collard greens and cornbread, alongside nan and Indian dishes. Pumpkin pie dessert gave a nod to Thanksgiving. After the meal, classical and jazz musicians will share the stage with Jennifer Hudson and A.R. Rahman, who won an Academy Award for Slumdog Millionaire tune "Jai Ho."