Was it a State Dinner?

State Dinner March 14, 2012 - www.lettgroup.comI have been asked many times since March 14 whether the White House dinner to honor British Prime Minister David Cameron was indeed a State Dinner.  I believe the confusion comes because in most countries, other than the United States, a State Dinner is held by the Head of State in honor of another country’s Head of State.  In the United States we host State Dinners not only for the Head of State but also for the Head of Government.  On March 14, 2012, President Obama and Mrs. Obama hosted a State Dinner for British Prime Minister David Cameron.  The Head of State is defined based upon the type of government set up for the country.  While the US has a Presidential system, Great Britain has a Parliamentary system.  That means our Head of State is our President and Great Britain’s Head of State is the Monarch (Queen Elizabeth ll).  In Great Britain the Queen hosts State Dinners.  In the US, our President hosts them.

 Since Great Britain has a Head of Government as well as a Head of State, we host State Dinners for both.

The official White House announcement:

President Obama and the First Lady will welcome Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and his wife, Samantha Cameron, to the White House for an Official Visit with a State Dinner on March 13-14, 2012.

The visit will highlight the fundamental importance of the U.S.-U.K. special relationship and the depth of the friendship between the American people and the people of the United Kingdom, as well as the strong personal bond that has developed between the two leaders and their families.

It will also be an opportunity to recall the valor and sacrifice of the U.S. and British armed forces and their long tradition of standing shoulder-to-shoulder beside each other in defense of our liberties and shared values.

The visit will underscore the strength of our economic links, which contribute to millions of jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. The Prime Minister’s visit will reciprocate the gracious hospitality shown to the President and Mrs. Obama by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Mr. and Mrs. Cameron, and the British people during the State Visit that was hosted by Queen Elizabeth II in May 2011.

During the visit, the President and the Prime Minister are expected to discuss the upcoming NATO and G-8 summits, as well as the broad array of global issues on which the United States and the United Kingdom cooperate closely in order to advance our common values and shared interests, including: Afghanistan, the Middle East, Iran, human rights, and global economic stability and growth.

They will also review progress in the implementation of the various initiatives launched during the President’s State Visit to the U.K. last year.

When Queen Elizabeth II Comes To Your Town…

Etiquette experts give advice on royal treatment; abrazos discouraged

By Loydean Thomas – Express-News

Originally published on May 17, 1991.What do you do when the queen of England comes to call?

The thing to do is be yourself but don’t overdo it, experts agreed Thursday.

“You mustn’t rush up and try to break through crowds to get presented when you’re not supposed to be presented,” said Leticia Baldridge, author of a book on correct behavior.

“Just be a hospitable Texan is the safest rule. Smile and wave but don’t let her take over. We’re not a colony anymore,” was the tongue-in-cheek response of Liz Carpenter, Lady Bird Johnson’s former press secretary.

The queen can’t abide the abrazo, or hug, warned Abelardo Valdez, a Floresville native who was Jimmy Carter’s chief of protocol.

“They understand that Americans are a different breed, especially in the Southwest, where the abrazo is almost required. But, no, you don’t touch the queen, except you shake her hand if she extends her hand. You wait for her to take the initiative,” Valdez said from his law office in Washington.

Baldridge, the social secretary in the Kennedy White House and author of a revision of “Amy Vanderbilt’s Book of Etiquette,” said Queen Elizabeth II probably will do a walk-through at a reception in her honor Tuesday at the Institute of Texan Cultures.

“She will get presented here and there, but people shouldn’t try to knock others down to try and get presented when they’re not supposed to be,” Baldridge said.

“She will have gloves on. If you’re wearing gloves, you take the right glove off. Don’t give a gloved hand to the queen.”

If you are bare-handed and up to your elbows in munchies?

“If you’re eating hors d’oeuvres and you’ve just had a sort of mayonnaisey little sandwich or a shrimp dripping in cocktail sauce, be sure you wipe your hand before you take hers. She has probably had a lot of hors d’oeuvres on her poor hand,” Baldridge said.

You say: “Your majesty, it’s such an honor.” Or “Your majesty, it’s such a pleasure,” Baldridge said.

To the duke of Edinburgh, you say: “Your royal highness, it’s wonderful to meet you.”

“And that’s all you say,” Baldridge said.

If the queen is going to make conversation, she might say something like: “This is such a lovely town. I am fascinated by its history.”

“Then you could offer some nugget about the history of San Antonio. Just make a tiny bit of conversation,” Baldridge said.

The etiquette doyenne says it is best not to call her majesty “Queeney,” as does happen from time to time.

“If, by mistake, you call her ‘your royal highness’ instead of ‘your majesty,’ don’t think it’s the end of the world. “She is a delightful lady, very petite with beautiful skin. She doesn’t photograph well. She’s so much prettier in person, you’ll see that.”

Carpenter, who lives in Austin, is on the guest list for functions honoring the royal party in that city.

“I’m going to have to resist telling the queen that I knew her mother, but I have a marvelous picture with the queen mum taken the year I was president of the Women’s National Press Club,” Carpenter said.

“There’s no way I can say anything except, ‘Your majesty, we’re glad to have you here.’ But I don’t know how she picks up many facts about the world if that’s all anybody can say to her. I guess she’s very well-read,” Carpenter said.

A few final words of advice were offered by Shirl Thomas, assistant to Mayor Lila Cockrell:

“You call the queen ‘ma’am’ and the duke ‘sir’ on second reference. Americans on American soil don’t bow or curtsy. Just treat the queen like any distinguished visitor. We in San Antonio are used to entertaining distinguished visitors.”

Thank-you Note after State Dinner?

Savvy people know that after you have enjoyed the hospitality at a dinner party, the proper thing to do is to write a thank-you note to the hostess (or host is there wasn’t a hostess). But, what if you are invited to the White House for a State Dinner? Do you send a thank-you note to the President? to Mrs. Bush? Do you send a thank-you at all?

Too often a dinner party is held and the guests have a marvelous time, enjoying the food, entertainment, enticing conversation and then go home and tell everyone what a great time they had. Why would anyone think that the host or hostess wouldn’t want to hear that? If you were the host, would you not want your guests to express their appreciation of the event and their involvement? I dare say that you would. BUT, it would be my guess that the guest of honor and escort (in this case, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip) may be the only ones to send a thank-you.

If you have been a host, you know that there is a great deal of work involved in executing a simple dinner party. Imagine having to execute a white-tie affair. If I had been lucky enough to have been invited, I would have sent a messenger (I live in the Washington, DC metropolitan area) with my handwritten appreciation to the First Lady and to the Office of the Social Secretary of the White House this morning – first thing. A lot of work and worry went into staging such a lovely evening and while the gratitude of the guests as they left is nice, nothing beats knowing that at least one guest appreciated the efforts enough to put pen to paper.

Was President Bush Supposed to Sip after the Queen's Toast?

After watching Queen Elizabeth II’s toast to President and Mrs. Bush at dinner last night on the news, I was glad that President Bush did not sip his wine. He did clink her glass however, which in the truest version of toasting protocol he shouldn’t have done if the toast is just to you. When someone toasts to you, the correct behavior is to sit and smile and perhaps nod your head as a toast is made to you. A toast is a compliment and it is always bad form to compliment yourself.

President Bush clinked her glass which I will give him leeway for since half of her toast was to the American people and to Mrs. Bush. He is a non-drinker so he probably would not have drunk the wine (or was it champagne?) for that reason but I prefer to believe he was knowledgeable about protocol and chose not to drink to himself.