Tue. Feb 27th, 2024
alert-–-the-bidens-welcome-australia’s-anthony-albanese-and-partner-jodie-haydon-to-a-subdued-white-house-state-dinner-that’s-a-family-affair-with-their-grandchildren-–-but-no-hunterAlert – The Bidens welcome Australia’s Anthony Albanese and partner Jodie Haydon to a subdued White House state dinner that’s a family affair with their grandchildren – but no Hunter

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and his partner Jodie Haydon arrived at the White House Wednesday night for a subdued state dinner with President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden. 

Jill wore a blush-toned dress with silver sequins in a floral pattern beaded over it by designer Reem Acra, while Haydon sported a smoke-colored sparkly ballgown. 

The guest list of around 325 lacked star power – with only actor John Leguizamo and powerhouse producer Jeffrey Katzenberg, who’s advising Biden’s reelection campaign – representing Hollywood. 

A planned performance by the B-52’s had been scrapped due to the poor optics of White House guests getting down to ‘Love Shack’ amid war in the Middle East. 

Hunter Biden – who has attended two other White House state dinners – skipped Wednesday night’s affair, but his children Naomi, with husband Peter Neal, Finnegan and Maisy were all there. 

‘Everything,’ Maisy answered when asked by AlertContent.com what she was most looking forward to. 

President Joe Biden offers a toast to Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese during the state dinner

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden (right) greet Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and his partner Jodie Haydon (left) at the North Portico at the White House Wednesday for the Australian state dinner 

GRANDCHILDREN GALORE: Hunter Biden’s children Finnegan and Maisy Biden (left) and Naomi Biden with husband Peter Neal (right) arrive at Wednesday night’s state dinner with Australia 

President Joe Biden toasts with Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese 

Inside the tent build on the South Lawn of the White House for the state dinner

Amb. Caroline Kennedy, the current U.S. ambassador to Australia, zoomed by reporters as she arrived for the dinner, without answering questions about her cousin Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s independent presidential run against Biden. 

When Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and his husband Chasten arrived at the dinner, Chasten said he was most excited that the ‘babysitter’s on duty,’ as the couple are dads of twins. 

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo brought her son Tommy Moffit as her guest who eagerly told reporters ‘oh no’ when asked if it was his first state dinner.

‘It is,’ his mother objected, garnering laughs. 

Her high school-age son then explained, ‘I get dragged to lots of things.’ 

Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden said it was appropriate for the White House to tone down the dinner, telling reporters the Israel-Hamas war was ‘very much on our mind.’ 

‘My parents fled the Nazis in the 30s. All got out. We lost family in Kristallnacht and Theresienstadt. And absolutely this is very much on our mind tonight and I just want to commend the president and first lady because we would have loved to, under normal circumstances, had the music,’ the Oregon lawmaker said. ‘That was a good call.’

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) talks with actor John Leguizamo during the state dinner

Actor John Leguizamo and Justine Leguizamo arrive for a State Dinner in honor of Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Jodie Haydon.  Leguizamo was one of the only representatives from Hollywood at Wednesday night’s affair 

Sen. Ron Wyden (right) and his wife Nancy (left) arrive at Wednesday’s White House state dinner. Wyden said it was appropriate to tone down the dinner due to the war in the Middle East 

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg (left) and his husband Chasten Buttigieg (right) arrive at Wednesday’s state dinner. Chasten said he was most excited that the ‘babysitter’s on duty,’ as the couple are dads of twins

Australian singer Kid Laroi (right) arrives with Sloane Howard (left) to Wednesday night’s White House state dinner 

Caroline Kennedy, U.S. ambassador to Australian, stayed tight-lipped about her cousin Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s independent presidential bid challenging President Joe Biden 

The biggest celebrity at the dinner, actor Leguizamo, said he would be hitting the campaign trail for Biden to help the 80-year-old president win reelection next year. 

‘Oh yeah, definitely. It must be done,’ Leguizamo said.   

Leguizamo answered in the affirmative when asked if Biden was going to do well with Latino voters, a voting bloc former President Donald Trump has tried to pick off. 

‘Yes, I think he is. I think he’s doing the right things, which is getting Latin consultants and talking to Latin experts who will tell him how to address us, and make the effort,’ the actor answered. ‘If you make the effort, we will be there, but you have to make the effort. I think he’s doing all that – him and Kamala Harris as well.’

Katzenberg was joined by other top Democratic donors including Mark Ein, Joyce Aboussie, Orin Kramer, Donald Sussman, and Henry Laufer.

The Bidens only had three Republican lawmakers on the guest list: Sens. Jim Risch and John Thune and Texas Rep. Michael McCaul. 

Other Democrats invited included Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who didn’t walk through the arrivals entrance, as well as Sens. Tim Kaine and Ben Cardin and Reps. Gregory Meeks, Jim Himes, and Adam Smith. 

Australian artists Vance Joy and Kid Lario were also on the guest list. 

President Joe Biden (left) and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese toast at the top of the state dinner Wednesday night 

Guests at the state dinner 

White House chief of staff Jeff Zients and White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre attend the state dinner

Guests took trolleys down to an elaborate tent that was erected on the South Lawn to hold the more than 300 White House state dinner attendees 

Guests took trolleys down to the dinner, which was put on in an elaborate tent erected on the South Lawn. 

A little before 9 p.m. the Bidens walked into the tent and the president proceeded to the stage to toast Albanese. 

He boasted that the U.S.-Australia alliance had been going strong for 72 years and how 150,000 Americans troops were based in Australia during World War II to fight in the Pacific theater. 

‘To be sure they were prepared to navigate down under … each one of them was given a manual entitled “Instructions for American Servicemen in Australia,”‘ Biden said. 

‘I’d like to read it,’ he said to laughter. 

‘Not all the tips hold today but I thought one of them was pretty good. This is a quote from it, “You’ll find the Australians haven’t much respect for stuffed shirts, their own or anyone else’s.” 

Biden said he learned that from his trip down under – in 2016, as his 2023 trip was cancelled. 

‘As well as becoming friends with the prime minister,’ Biden added. ‘No wonder we get along so well.’

Another tip, he said, that ‘not only stands out but stands up – “Australians have been in all the hot spots whenever the going has been tough.” That’s a fact. They have been.’ 

That line earned the president applause. 

‘That commitment to face tough challenges, that courage to fight for a better future, that’s what’s always brought America and Australia together,’ Biden said. 

‘I saw this growing up. My grandfather, Ambrose Finnegan, lost his son in the Pacific in world war two. He would literally straighten his shoulders every time the country Australia was mentioned; he’d just straighten up, straighten his soldiers,’ he said. ‘I saw it with my own son. Major Beau Biden of the National Guard spent a year in Iraq. He told me how he could always count on Aussies to have his back.’

Albanese mentioned a similar line about Beau, who died of cancer in 2015, when the two leaders participated in a welcome ceremony Wednesday morning. 

Halfway through Biden’s toast, and throughout Albanese’s, an unrelated private fireworks display was going off over the nearby Washington Channel. 

‘I only have one regret about tonight, which is I’m not quite sure how I top this for date night with Jodie at anytime, anywhere in the future,’ Albanese said. ‘It’s all downhill from here, my darling.’ 

Albanese toasted the American spirit. 

‘You strike boldly towards the future, excited about all of its possiblity,’ Albanese said, with firework booms heard throughout the tent. ‘In every field of human endeavor your nation is energized by ceaseless curiosity and the confidence to follow.’ 

‘It is a spirit that Australians identify with – with a small population but a very big imagination, we punch above our weight. All the while drawing inspiration from our friends across the Pacific,’ Albanese continued. ‘We stand as close as we have ever been and I think after this week closer than we have ever been.’ 

Albanese said the Australians and the Americans were ‘close friends’

‘I think we get each other,’ he said, before pointing out he and Biden’s shared Irish descent. 

 As fireworks still cracked in the background, Albanese raised his glass saying that ‘Australia has no greater friend than the United States of America.’

‘To the history our peoples have made together but importantly, the future we will build together as peoples,’ the prime minister said. ‘To friendship!’ 

Australian singer James Keogh (left), who performs under the name Vance Joy, and Selen Us (right) pose as they arrive for a State Dinner

John Kerry (center), the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, poses with daughters Vanessa Kerry (left) and Alexandra Kerry (right) 

Jeffrey Katzenberg (left), CEO of DreamWorks Animation, and Sujay Jaswa (right) arrive for a state dinner. Katzenberg is advising Biden’s reelection campaign 

The Bidens formally welcomed Albanese and his partner to the White House on Wednesday morning. 

The two men held a meeting in the Oval Office and a joint press conference. Jill Biden and Haydon visited the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center. 

The state dinner, which has been in the works for months, has been toned back from its original plan.

Jill Biden scrapped the idea of having the B-52’s perform, citing violence 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.

Menu for Wednesday’s Australian State Dinner 

First Course:

Farro & Roasted Beet Salad 

Popped Sorghum, Herb Vinaigrette

Butternut Squash Soup

Smoked Paprika, Candied Pumpkin Seeds

Main Course:

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

‘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. 

Between 325 and 350 guests attended the black-tie event, according to the White House. It took place in an elaborate tent on the South Lawn of the White House.

The dinner combined 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 with a heavy emphasis on flowers 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.

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. 

U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden wave from the South Portico with Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Ms. Jodie Haydon

With the Washington Monument in the background, President Joe Biden and Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese stand onstage during the playing of the the Australian and American national anthems

U.S. President Joe Biden (right) and Prime Minister of Australia Anthony Albanese (left) hold a press conference the Rose Garden at the White House

The first course of Farro & Roasted Beet Salad, Popped Sorghum with Herb Vinaigrette, Butternut Squash Soup with Smoked Paprika, Candied Pumpkin Seeds (left), the main course: Sarsaparilla-braised Short Ribs, Sorghum-glazed Young Carrots, Brussels Sprouts, Celery Root Purée, Carrot Jus (center), Dessert: Hazelnut & Chocolate Mousse Cake and Crème Fraîche Ice Cream (right)

Color is the theme of the decor, with large bouquets of flowers dominating the table setting

Australia is a key U.S. ally in the Pacific and the visit focused on China’s influence in that area. Biden, speaking in the Oval Office, said the two leaders will also discuss how they ‘stand with Israel in the wake of Hamas’s appalling terrorist attack’. 

Albanese and Haydon joined the Bidens at the White House on Tuesday evening for a private dinner. The two couples exchanged gifts, signed a guest book and had dinner together in the residence.

The Bidens gave Albanese an antique writing desk, designed in 1886 by an American furniture company in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

The side panel included an inscription set in gold to commemorate the Official Visit. 

President Biden gave Albanese a custom signature turntable from a family-owned American audio manufacturer. Albanese is a huge fan of vinyl records.

Jill Biden gave Haydon a green enamel and diamond petite necklace designed and hand-crafted by an American jeweler. 

Albanese gave Biden ‘Fire Flower 8,’ a painting by Australian artist Katherine Boland. Haydon gave Jill Biden a silver leaf brooch by jewellery designer Shimara Carlow, and a silk scarf designed by Katarra Butler Napaltjarri.

Albanese will visit China, Australia’s largest trade partner and biggest buyer of its iron ore, on Nov. 4. He will be the first Australian prime minister to visit China in seven years and he will sit down with Chinese President Xi Jinping

His meeting with Xi 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 on the tables while the menu will reflect seasonal foods

Wednesday marks the Bidens’ 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. 

President Biden welcomed 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.

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