You are invited to attend a state visit at the White House. Actually, 14. And you don’t even have to travel to Washington, D.C.
In the Clinton Presidential Center’s current temporary exhibition, “Be Our Guest,” you will experience the pomp and circumstance of state visits as if you were an invited guest.
What’s more, you have the rare opportunity to peek behind the curtain and learn about the planning and execution of some of the most memorable diplomatic visits hosted by President Bill Clinton and then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The exhibit features unexpected stories told through a rich collection of archives, one-of-a-kind gifts given to the Clintons by world leaders, original gowns and suits worn by the Clintons to White House dinners and new video interviews featuring first-hand accounts from the Clintons and key White House staff members.
Here are three standout "did you know" moments you'll find in “Be Our Guest:”
1. Rock musician Lou Reed, lead singer of The Velvet Underground, gave a chandelier-shaking performance at the state dinner honoring Václav Havel, president of the Czech Republic. Before his presidency, Havel was a leader in the Velvet Revolution, which took its name from the band, and helped achieve Czechoslovakia’s independence from the Soviet Union. The exhibition features a video montage of incredible state dinner musical performances including Reed, Whitney Houston and Earth, Wind & Fire.
2. Diplomatic visits always include a meaningful gift exchange between the two leaders. These gifts are representative of the country’s culture or the interest of the leader. President Clinton gifted boxing memorabilia to President Nelson Mandela, who was an avid boxer, noting, “You went 12 rounds in the fight for freedom and won.”
3. The state dinner honoring Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso in April 1995 was different from most. The day before his arrival, Timothy McVeigh set off a truck bomb in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, killing 168 people. Security at the White House was high, and the flags flew at half-staff, but the event went on. In his toast, President Cardoso recognized the Oklahoma City tragedy saying, “I know that your thoughts are also with the victims of the Oklahoma tragedy. And I take this opportunity to reiterate my words of sympathy and solidarity with you and the American people.”
You can experience the exhibition now through May 27. Free programming will be offered throughout the exhibit's run, and details are available on the Clinton Center website.
Don’t miss your chance to “Be Our Guest” at the Clinton Presidential Center.