Jill Biden scrapped her plan to have the B-52s perform at Wednesday night’s state dinner for Australia because of the ‘sorrow and pain’ being felt in the world.
Instead, the members of the band will attend the event as guests. Performing will be the president’s Marine Band and the Army and Air Force Strolling Strings, offering instrumental music for the evening.
The first lady didn’t directly reference the conflict between Israel and Hamas but the violence there has dominated the news the past week.
‘We are now in a time when so many are facing sorrow and pain, so we made a few adjustments to the entertainment portion of the evening,’ she said at a press preview of the dinner on Tuesday.
‘Nurturing our partnerships and relationships with our allies is critically important, especially in these tumultuous times. Food is comforting, reassuring and healing, and we hope that this dinner provides a little of that as well,’ she noted.
Jill Biden is scaling back her entertainment plans for Wednesday’s state dinner
Jodie Haydon, Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, President Joe Biden, and First Lady Jill Biden at the South Portico of the White House
Color is the theme of the decor, with large bouquets of flowers dominating the table setting
The B-52s – pictured above performing on Saturday Night Live in April 1990 – will now be guests at the Australian State Dinner instead of performing
The Bidens are hosting their fourth state dinner on Wednesday night. It, like three other of their events, will take place in a tent built on the South Lawn.
Menu for the Australian State Dinner
Farro & Roasted Beet Salad
Popped Sorghum, Herb Vinaigrette
Butternut Squash Soup
Smoked Paprika, Candied Pumpkin Seeds
Sarsaparilla-braised Short Ribs
Sorghum-glazed Young Carrots
Brussels Sprouts, Celery Root Purée, Carrot Jus
Hazelnut & Chocolate Mousse Cake
Crème Fraîche Ice Cream
Windracer Chardonnay ‘Alexander Mountain’ 2019
Sequel Syrah Columbia Valley 2019
Argyle Extended Tirage Brut 2012
Between 325 and 350 guests will attend the black-tie event, according to the White House.
Lawmakers, celebrities and business leaders typically make up the guest list, which isn’t released until shortly before the dinner begins.
President Biden is welcoming Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to the White House after he promised a state visit in return for having to scrap a stop in Australia earlier this year to focus on debt limit talks in Washington.
The president was scheduled to go to Syndney after a G7 meeting in Japan in May but changed plans in order to continue talks to keep the U.S. from defaulting on its debt.
Albanese and his partner Jodie Haydon arrived in the United States on Sunday night. They were officially welcomed by the Bidens to the White House on Tuesday evening. The two couples will exchange gifts, sign a guest book and have dinner together in the residence.
The official visit is on Wednesday with an Oval Office meeting, a joint press conference and a state dinner.
Also on Wednesday Jill Biden and Haydon will visit the NIH’s Clinical Center to promote the National Cancer Institute’s pediatric cancer research.
The main event, however, will be the state dinner.
It will combine the best of both nations, both its food and its seasons.
Event designer Bryan Rafanelli brought together the seasons of Fall, which is currently taking place in the U.S., and Spring, which is happening in Australia, in his decor and settings.
The decor is spring-like while the menu consists of seasonal fall food: farro and roasted beet salad, butternut squash soup, sarsaparilla-braised short ribs, and, for dessert, hazelnut and chocolate mousse cake with crème fraîche ice cream.
Ice cream is President Biden’s favorite dessert and is often served at state dinners.
‘It makes him happy,’ said White House Social Secretary Carlos Elizondo.
Katie Button, the co-founder of Asheville, North Carolina’s Cúrate, is the guest chef who designed the menu.
‘We’ve wanted to welcome the guests from Australia with the warmth and bounty of fall in the United States,’ Button said.
Katie Button (center), the co-founder of Asheville, North Carolina’s Cúrate, is the guest chef who designed the menu: ‘We’ve wanted to welcome the guests from Australia with the warmth and bounty of fall in the United States’
The table settings consist of colorful flowers and candles
Color dominates. Soft lavender makes up one table cloth while colorful sequins dominate another. Massive flower bouquets of pink, yellow, blue, and red flowers set in the center of the tables. Apples, grapes, berries and pears are part of the decorations.
The florals represent both countries: Roses and Delphinium for the United States and Eucalyptus for Australia.
The backdrop to the dinner will be a canvas of American Monarch Butterflies and Australian Cairns Birdwing Butterflies.
Elizondo said the first lady wanted decor that reminded the guests of their homes.
‘She has chosen decor that will delight and surprise that will still give guests whether they are from Australia or from the United States, something that reminds them of the familiar landscapes of their homes. The moment guests walk into the pavilion tomorrow up, they will be immersed in color,’ Elizondo said.
The visit comes against a chaotic backdrop: House Republicans are still attempting to elect a speaker and the U.S. is worried about escalating violence in the Israel-Hamas conflict.
The speaker of the House has been invited to past state dinners but, with the party in chaos, it’s unclear who is their top leader. When asked who she’d invite, Jill Biden responded: ‘I don’t know.’
But the main topic of President Biden and Albanese’s conversation is likely to be China and its broading influence in the Indo-Pacific.
Albanese will visit China, Australia’s largest trade partner and biggest buyer of its iron ore, on Nov. 4.
His meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping comes ahead of a potential Biden-Xi meeting.
‘The president has said that many, many times and Australia and their relationship with China is incredibly important to manage it. The first question, there’s no question in my mind that the challenges and the opportunities in relations with the [People’s Republic of China] will be on the agenda tomorrow. No question about that,’ White House spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday.
The president could sit down with Xi on the sidelines of next month’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco.
‘There has been no such meeting set up, but it is a possibility,’ Biden told reporters earlier this month.
Biden has focused heavily on the Indo-Pacific region in his presidency.
A menu and napkin at a dinner setting
The dinner will take place in a tent on the South Lawn
Color dominates the decor
A table set for Wednesday’s state dinner
Prime Minister of Australia Anthony Albanese pauses after laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery on Monday
Wednesday will mark his fourth state dinner since becoming president and two others – for South Korea and India – also focused on the Indo-Pacific. The first state dinner was for France.
Albanese’s politics match closely with Biden’s Democratic values and both men have expressed concern about the environment.
And U.S.-Australia relations have grown stronger since the advent of the AUKUS pact – an agreement between the U.S., the United Kingdom and Australia on nuclear-powered submarine building.
The U.S. is said to be concerned about the Aussie’s military readiness as China takes a more assertive posture in the South China Sea.