Obama hosts noticeably low-key state dinner honoring Chancellor Merkel

President Obama honored German Chancellor Angela Merkel with a decidedly low-key state dinner on Tuesday night. 

The fourth state dinner of Obama's administration was a black-tie affair, and the first for newly arrived White House Social Secretary Jeremy Bird. It also was noticeably lower-key than previous state dinners the Obamas have hosted. Musician James Taylor was the only celebrity in attendance, and he provided the after-dinner entertainment.

More than 200 guests were invited, including Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP struggles with retirement wave Overnight Energy: Trump to revoke California's tailpipe waiver | Democrats propose bill to revoke Trump endangered species rollback | Trump officials finalize rule allowing fewer inspectors at pork plants Mark Mellman: The most important moment in history? MORE, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellDemocrats seize Senate floor to protest gun inaction: 'Put up or shut up' Democrats press for action on election security Hillicon Valley: Election security looms over funding talks | Antitrust enforcers in turf war | Facebook details new oversight board | Apple fights EU tax bill MORE (R-Ky.) and Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharMark Mellman: The most important moment in history? Democrats press for action on election security Antitrust enforcers in turf war over Big Tech MORE (D-Minn.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenLewandowski launches campaign-style website during Capitol Hill hearing Democrats headed for a subpoena showdown with White House Overnight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine MORE (D-N.H.) and Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsTrump has named more ex-lobbyists to Cabinet in 3 years than Obama, Bush did in full terms: report Hillicon Valley: FCC approves Nexstar-Tribune merger | Top Democrat seeks answers on security of biometric data | 2020 Democrats take on Chinese IP theft | How Google, Facebook probes are testing century-old antitrust laws Congress should defy Dan Coats' last request on phone surveillance MORE (R-Ind.). House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) attended, but Majority Leader John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBoehner reveals portrait done by George W. Bush Meadows to be replaced by Biggs as Freedom Caucus leader Scaramucci compares Trump to Jonestown cult leader: 'It's like a hostage crisis inside the White House' MORE (R-Ohio), who is of German descent, declined, choosing instead to stay in his district.

There was equally little in the way of high fashion during the red-carpet arrivals, save for first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaTrump: House Judiciary should investigate Obama Netflix deal instead of his business 2020 is not a family affair, for a change Former speechwriter says Michelle Obama came up with 'when they go low we go high' line MORE, who wore an ivory beaded sleeveless gown by Naeem Khan, and Pelosi, who donned a cream-colored Thierry Mugler gown with a choker.

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Klobuchar wore navy blue, and joked with reporters that her dress had cost her $178, and her shoes, $29.

The real focus of the evening was Merkel herself. Prior to dinner, a ceremony was held in the Rose Garden where Obama presented Merkel, who grew up under communism in East Germany, with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which he had awarded her earlier this year.

"Tonight we honor Angela Merkel, not for being denied her freedom, or even for attaining her freedom,” Obama said at the medal ceremony, “but for what she achieved when she gained her freedom.”

The theme of Merkel’s leadership carried over into the president's formal toast, which he gave before dinner.

“Now, it’s customary at these dinners to celebrate the values that bind nations,” Obama began, “but tonight, we want to do something different. We want to pay tribute to an extraordinary leader who embodies these values and who’s inspired millions around the world — including me.”

Merkel was equally warm in her toast, addressing the president and first lady as “dear Barack and dear Michelle,” before praising Obama as a leader who “has been able time and again to put down important international goalposts.”

With toasts out of the way, the meal began with a chopped salad made from vegetables grown in the White House garden. The first course was tuna tartare, followed by an entrée of surf-and-turf: filet mignon and Maryland crab ravioli. Dessert was an apple strudel, a culinary nod to the visiting delegation.

The evening’s décor featured white linens and silver accents inspired by German Bauhaus design, which emphasizes architectural form and clean lines. The flower arrangements were low bouquets of yellow calla lilies and green blooms.


For photos of the event, click here.