I 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.