Presidents have long used social events to foster diplomatic ties. Many White House offices and staffers participate in the planning of these grand occasions. The White House Calligraphy Office is not only responsible for written invitations and envelopes, but it also assists the White House Social Office in ensuring that every detail of an event is refined. These menus display the great artistry and talent employed by the Calligraphy Office in welcoming guests to the nation's capital. In Bradley H. Patterson’s book, To Serve the President, George W. Bush’s White House Social Secretary Lea Berman states, “We used to spend a lot of time making sure that the menus really reflected the event. There’s a place on the menu card where you have the title of the dinner and then the food list begins, and then the little place where you could do an interesting sketch or drawing… and the calligraphers would hand paint it. […] There is real attention to detail.” p. 258.
The menus and photographs selected for this gallery illustrate the wide range of social and diplomatic events hosted by President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush, at the White House, Camp David, and the Prairie Chapel Ranch. Because of the important role the First Lady plays in these social events, each menu card is accompanied by a quote from Laura Bush’s memoir, Spoken from the Heart.
“Queen Rania of Jordan came to the White House as did King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain. I needed to master the finer points of protocol that dictated whether I should address a sovereign as Your Highness or Your Majesty. Queen Elizabeth of England and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia are both ‘Your Majesty,’ but the legion of crown princes and princesses around the world are called ‘Your Highness,’ or sometimes, ‘Your Royal Highness.’ It’s rather amusing that, more than 225 years after the United States declared its independence from the monarchy of Great Britain, American presidents and their spouses pour over protocol briefing books to ensure that they do not make a misstep in addressing foreign royalty.” p. 181
“Camp David is a far more intimate setting than the White House. It is a place where you can get to know another leader without the crush of a roomful of a hundred or so invited guests and an hour or more of receiving lines... But entertaining at a place like Camp David, or later our ranch, was far more relaxed and casual. A visit to Camp David is more like a visit to someone’s weekend place. And it cements a different friendship than simply having a fancy event amid gleaming silver and glittering chandeliers.” p. 178
“The fall deepened, and more foreign leaders came. Over the course of six days, the presidents of Nigeria and Algeria, Jacques Chirac of France, and Tony Blair flew to Washington to meet with George. But I was focused on another significant meeting: Vladimir Putin and Lyudmila Putina were about to become our first official guests at the ranch. […]. I still didn’t have all my furniture for the guesthouse...” p. 230
“As September 2001 opened, I was…overseeing plans for our first state dinner, in honor of Mexico’s president, Vicente Fox. State dinner guests are selected by the president, State Department, and the National Security Council. […]. The next day, Marta Fox and I flew to Chicago to tour an exhibition surveying two hundred years of Latino art in the United States at the city’s Terra Museum of American Art. Many of the contemporary Latin American artists whose work was featured joined us, and it was a wonderful day of art and culture and beauty.” p. 193-1
“That spring, Cherie Blair got her wish, a visit to our ranch in Crawford. She and Tony came in early April with her mother and their two youngest children… At our ranch, after dinner, Tony Blair borrowed a guitar and strummed and sang along with the San Antonio band Daddy Rabbit. During the day, we braved a pouring rain to drive across the rugged grounds in George’s pickup. Most of all, we enjoyed each other’s company.” p. 255
“[O]n July 18, 2005, George and I hosted an official dinner at the White House for the Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh [sic], and his wife, Gursharan Kaur. The State Dining Room was transformed into an Indian garden, with overflowing vases of orange and red flowers, saffron-hued silk table cloths, and miniature trumpeting elephants fashioned from hot pink and green mums and roses. […]. I invited Dr. [Srini] Malini. When she came through the long receiving line wearing a stunning orange sari, George announced to the prime minister of India that she was the doctor who’d told us we were having twins, that she was the first doctor to see our babies.” p. 107-108
“On November 2, 2005, Prince Charles, and his wife, Camilla, came for an official visit. For their arrival lunch, we served ginger biscuits from Charles’s Duchy Originals food products, which the prince founded to raise for his personal charities. […].
In the evening we hosted an official black-tie dinner. …Nancy Clarke, the White House florist, and I chose white orchids for the tables because Charles and Camilla were newlyweds.” p. 358
“In any given year, it is possible to count the nationally elected female leaders around the world using little more than the fingers of two hands. Some of the most famous female leaders are women who served decades ago, such as Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir, and Margaret Thatcher. In January of 2006, on Martin Luther King Day, I represented the United States at the swearing in of Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first woman ever elected to lead an African nation. […].
It was a remarkable moment of promise to see a strong woman inaugurated as the president of an African nation, a woman so determined to lead her country out of the ruin of decades of war and conflict.” p. 360-361
Shortly after President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s inauguration, she came to the White House for an official visit in March 2006.
“Two months later we were back on the South Lawn to welcome Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan. Koizumi, who had become our good friend, would be staying for two days, and that night we planned an official dinner in his honor, with flower arrangements reminiscent of a Japanese garden… More than the black-tie evening, we knew Koizumi was looking forward to the following morning, when we took off from Andrews Air Force Base for Memphis, Tennessee. He is a huge fan of Elvis, so we had planned a trip to the King’s home, Graceland. [… ]. After the tour, we stopped for lunch at the famed Memphis barbecue restaurant the Rendezvous, where Koizumi donned big gold sunglasses, hopped up on the stage, and asked a three-piece band to play the Elvis hit ‘I Want You, I Need You, I Love You,’ while his face beamed and he sang along.” p. 373
“At the start of 2007, we received word that Queen Elizabeth of England wanted to make another visit to the United States, and the White House immediately sprang into action to host a state dinner in her honor. […]. We decorated the State Dining Room with white roses in vermeil vases and we used the gold-edged Clinton china. Our menu tastings, with our talented White House chef, Cris Comerford, were done weeks in advance, and everything was designed to showcase the best of America with a nod to British favorites…” p. 389
George and I liked Nicolas Sarkozy very much. […]. It was no accident that he timed his visit to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the birth of the Marquis de Lafayette, the young Frenchman who had become one of George Washington’s closest aides during the Revolutionary War and who is buried in France beneath soil that he himself carried home from the ground around Bunker Hill.”
“I thought that to commemorate this extraordinary French aristocrat [Marquis de Lafayette] who had such love for the United States, we should host Nicolas Sarkozy at Washington’s Mount Vernon home. …[O]n Sarkozy’s second day in Washington, D.C., the two heads of state traveled to Mount Vernon and sat at the table where Lafayette and Washington had once dined to discuss the security of the globe.” p. 400- 401
“As I left Europe, I thought of the many friendships we had made with foreign leaders. I would miss German chancellor Angela Merkel and her husband, Joachim Sauer, whose quick minds and lively conversation warmed our visits. We had stayed with them in the German version of Camp David, an old manor house located in the former East Germany that had been fully restored. In return, we had invited them to visit our ranch, where we hiked and talked.” p. 415
Included are two menus from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visits to the United States in 2007; a dinner was held at the White House in January and a luncheon at the Prairie Chapel Ranch in November.
“In Ghana, I launched the Africa Education Initiative, which linked U.S. universities with African nations including Ghana, Senegal, Zambia, Tanzania, South Africa, and Ethiopia. As part of the United States’ work in international development, we had made a special commitment to improving education in Africa, where a staggering one-third of young children do not attend school.” p. 362
These two menus are from Ghanaian President John Agyekum Kufuor’s visits to the United States.
“As in so many years past, Inauguration Day 2009 was cold. It was also historic, as the nation swore in its first African-American president. After the inaugural ceremony, we made our last walk down the steps of the Capitol with the Obamas…
As the helicopter rose over the Capitol, George took my hand. We looked at the city below and out into the vibrant blue January sky, toward home.” p. 426