WASHINGTON — When the French come calling, you aim to impress.
With pomp and pageantry, President Joe Biden welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, to the White House on Thursday for an official state visit and dinner — the first of Biden’s presidency. Rectangle Bakery Box
The official reason for the French leader’s visit was to celebrate the historic bond between the two longtime allies and strategize about world affairs like Russia's war on Ukraine.
But the visit also comes after a diplomatic spat caused by a submarine partnership struck last year between the U.S., Australia, and Britain. The agreement cost the French its own submarine deal with the Aussies and dealt a serious blow to French national pride
That transatlantic tiff may not be forgotten, as far as the French are concerned, but Thursday was a day to focus on friendship and fraternité (brotherhood).
Here are some memorable moments from Macron's visit:
Biden and first lady Jill Biden strolled out of the White House and down a red carpet at 9:18 a.m. on the chilly, late-fall morning to await the arrival of the guests of honor. A minute later, the Macrons pulled up in a black stretch limo. The couples exchanged greetings — in true French fashion, Macron kissed Jill Biden on each cheek — and then the festivities began in earnest.
There was a military procession, a 21-gun salute, and a formal inspection of the troops. A band played “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the French national anthem, “La Marseillaise.” As the two world leaders waited to begin their remarks, the Army’s Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps — decked out in long red coats and white pants — paraded in front of the stage.
Afterward, the presidents and their spouses headed to the Truman Balcony, where they waved to the crowd that had assembled on the South Lawn to watch the affair.
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Body language can often reveal what people aren’t willing to say out loud. In this case, it just seemed to reinforce what Biden and Macron have said over and over again: They genuinely like each other.
While Biden waited for his remarks to be translated into French, the two men clasped hands for several seconds. They shook hands again and shared a prolonged embrace after Macron finished speaking. Both times, a big smile stretched across the French leader’s face.
That’s a stark contrast to Macron’s awkward, white-knuckled handshake with former President Donald Trump at a NATO summit in Brussels in 2017. That handshake — which Macron reportedly practiced after watching videos of Trump’s technique — came across like a test of wills, with the French president seeming determined to demonstrate to the American president that he’d met his match in the transatlantic quest for dominance.
Showing up at a fancy affair empty-handed is très gauche (or as Americans would say, tacky). So naturally, the first families exchanged gifts.
The Bidens presented the Macrons with a custom mirror made of fallen wood from the White House grounds. The mirror, by an American furniture maker, is a reproduction of a looking glass from the White House collection that hangs in the West Wing.
The president gifted his French counterpart with a custom vinyl record collection of American musicians and an archival facsimile print of Thomas Edison’s 1877 Patent of the American Phonograph. Jill Biden gave Brigitte Macron a gold and emerald pendant necklace designed by a French-American designer.
The Macrons came bearing multiple gifts for their hosts, including a vinyl record and CD of the original soundtrack of director Claude Lelouch’s "Un Homme et une femme,” the 1966 film the Bidens went to see on their first date.
The Bidens also got a cup from Christofle, a French manufacturer of fine silverware; a sweater from House St. James; and a watch from LIP Horlogerie. Jill Biden got copies of Gustave Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary” and Albert Camus’ “The Plague, The Fall, Exile and the Kingdom, and Selected Essays.”
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The Bidens and the Macrons weren’t the only big names at the state dinner. A constellation of stars from the world of politics, business, and entertainment scored an invitation to the glitzy soiree on the White House South Lawn.
Among the well-known attendees: Vice President Kamala Harris; actresses Jennifer Garner, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Ariana DeBose; Apple CEO Tim Cook; cabinet secretaries Antony Blinken (secretary of state), Pete Buttigieg (transportation) and Lloyd Austin (defense); House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Republican who hopes to succeed her, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California; Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour; and musicians Jon Legend and Jon Batiste, who provided the night’s entertainment.
"It's going to be fire," Batiste promised reporters ahead of his performance.
French fashion designer Christian Louboutin, who also made the cut, smiled when reporters asked how many of the night's guests might be wearing his fancy footwear.
"Let me check," he said.
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What do you feed the guests of honor when they happen to hail from the place that introduced the world to haute cuisine? If you’re the Bidens, you stuff them with American gastronomy.
Inside a heated pavilion on the South Lawn, more than 300 guests sat at a mix of square and rectangular tables with dark blue silk cloths, red candles, and arrangements of red, white and blue flowers, including white irises, the official flower of France.
They gorged on butter-poached Maine lobster, beef with shallot marmalade, and a selection of American cheeses. For dessert, there was orange chiffon cake with roasted pears — and in a nod to the French — crème fraiche ice cream.
In the spirit of friendship, Biden and Macron saluted each other with a traditional toast of American sparkling wine.
Biden noted that France was the United States' first ally and the first to fly an American flag after the Revolutionary War.
“Vive la France, and God bless America,” he said, clinking glasses with the French leader.
Macron stressed that the longtime relationship between the two countries “means a lot” to the French.
“We come from the same values, principles,” he said, warning that those principles are now in jeopardy by people looking to reverse them.
Bakery Display Box Michael Collins and Francesca Chambers cover the White House. Follow Collins on Twitter @mcollinsNEWS and Chambers @fran_chambers.