Obamas welcome French president to celebrity-studded state dinner

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The rich and powerful from across the nation descended on the White House Tuesday night for an extravagant state dinner honoring French President Francois Hollande, who was one of the only guests to arrive without a date.

Mr. Hollande, who recently separated from his long-time partner, Valerie Trierweiler, arrived at the White House via limousine just after 7 p.m. President Obama, clad in a black tuxedo, and first lady Michelle Obama, wearing a formal black and “liberty blue” gown, greeted him at the North Portico of the White House.


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Just after 9 p.m., the two leaders toasted one another and, as they’ve done repeatedly in recent days, touted the deep, seemingly unbreakable Franco-U.S. bond.

“Our two countries share universal values and we have feelings for one another,” Mr. Hollande said. “We love Americans, although we don’t always say so. And you love the French, but you’re sometimes too shy to say so.”

Mr. Obama said the relationship has thrived for so long because both nations stand for the same principles.

“We love our French friends because we’ve stood together for our freedom for more than 200 years,” he said. “Long live the alliance between our great nations.”

The black-tie affair, the seventh official state dinner of Mr. Obama’s presidency, includes a menu of dry-aged rib eye beef with blue cheese, American Osetra caviar and other assorted foods.

Following the meal, singer Mary J. Blige was scheduled to perform.

Mr. Hollande led an impressive guest list that included movie and TV stars, members of Congress and Mr. Obama’s Cabinet, governors, media figures, athletes, Supreme Court justices, wealthy Obama campaign donors and others.

Among the guests: New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson; Comedy Central star Stephen Colbert; NBA player Jason Collins, who recently announced that he’s gay; actor Bradley Cooper; Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan; actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus; civil-rights activist and MSNBC host the Rev. Al Sharpton; former NBA Commissioner David Stern; Comcast executive David Cohen, a major donor to Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign; and others.

The guest list also included numerous Democratic officials at both the state and federal level, but a few Republicans also made the cut, including Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia.

Tuesday marked the French president’s second day in Washington. On Monday, he and Mr. Obama toured Monticello, the Charlottesville, Va., estate of Thomas Jefferson.

Earlier in the day Tuesday, Mr. Obama and Mr. Hollande held a joint press conference at the White House on the heels of a lengthy bilateral meeting.

On Wednesday, Mr. Hollande will travel to California to meet with Silicon Valley executives before returning to France.

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