WASHINGTON (ABC7) — President Donald Trump’s first state dinner will honor French President Emanuel Macron and his wife at the White House with pomp and circumstance of an official event the country hasn’t seen since 2016.
First lady Melania Trump oversaw the details of the dinner including the secret guest list of about 120 people.
Security was tighter than normal at the White House Tuesday. Visitors couldn’t get close as barricades blocked most of Lafayette Square Park and Pennsylvania Avenue.
“You can’t get much closer,” a tour guide told her group.
People continued to take photos from afar with the American and French flags waving in the background.
“I think it’s pretty cool, honestly. I’ve always wanted to go to France and this is a little bit of France coming here,” Max Abrams, of Bethesda, said.
“I think it’s pretty nice. It’s just to honor the president of another country and show him respect,” said Chris Carameros, visiting from El Paso, Texas.
The menu for the formal event includes goat cheese gateau, tomato jam, buttermilk biscuit crumbles and young variegated lettuces – and that’s just the first course.
“Sounds really good! If there’s any extra tickets I’ll take one,” said Grant Dahl, of Grand Forks, North Dakota.
Said visitor Alissa Dahl, “I don’t know what most of that is, but it sounds pretty good!”
The main course featured rack of lamb.
“Lamb’s my favorite. Yeah, I’m up for that,” said Tony Davis, visiting from Hampshire, England.
A White House state dinner is an opportunity for the president and first lady to honor a visiting head of state. American University professor David Lublin said he was surprised it’s taken nearly a year and a half into Trump’s presidency to host his first event.
“It’s a chance to look presidential, not just in the sense of being formal but a chance to use the accoutrements of the office to good effect, not just with foreign leaders but also in the United States,” he said.
Some White House visitors questioned whether the formal events are necessary.
“There’s a lot more pressing things right now. The world’s in dire straits. Not just the U.S. but the entire world, so I just think that we could be addressing other things than dressing up and having fancy dinners,” John Rollins, of Los Angeles, said.
Said Lublin, “To me it’s not a question whether they’re needed or not, they’re a tool in the diplomatic toolbox and why would you throw away a tool that might be useful."
State dinners are full of traditions and formalities used to cement friendships between countries. Lublin said the event is “opposite of governing by tweet.”
“Donald Trump and his tweets like to be blunt, in your face and challenge people and attack aggressively and State Dinners are not aggressive occasions,” he said.
Some White House visitors think the commander in chief can uphold tradition.
“I think it’s a good opportunity for two countries to come together and do something they maybe haven’t been able to do in the past,” Dahl said.