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The White House
Office of the First Lady
For Immediate Release

Remarks by the First Lady at State Dinner Press Preview

State Dining Room

1:55 P.M. EDT

MRS. OBAMA:  Well, isn't this beautiful?  Every time I see this -- see, I'm getting to see the full effect along with you all.  The placements are beautiful.

Well, welcome.  Good afternoon.  How's everybody doing?  Welcome to the White House.

One of the things that I love to do -- we're doing a press preview.  And just to be simple, we open up the state dinner to the press so that they get to see what the inside of the tent is going to look like, what the feel of the dinner is going to be, and what the menu is going to taste like, and all of that good stuff.  So that’s something that we generally do with the state dinner.

But over the years, as we've invited guests here, we also try to open up these press previews to students and young people, so that you all get a sense of what actually happens at a state dinner -- what goes on at that dinner; what's the purpose of it; what does it feel like.  So we have decided -- we have made this a wonderful tradition to invite you all here to the press preview to be a part of it.  And that’s what we're doing this afternoon.

And we have three wonderful groups of young women who are with us today.  We've got National Cathedral School students who are here.  Where are you guys?  Right here in D.C.  Hello.  How are you guys?  What years do we have here?

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Juniors and seniors. 

MRS. OBAMA:  Juniors and seniors.  Excellent.  Excellent.

And we also have the Elizabeth Seton High School students in Maryland.  Where are you all?  Over there.  What years? 


MRS. OBAMA:  Twelfth.  Going to college?  Moving and grooving?  You guys are all ready to -- college bound as well?  Good.  Good.

And then we have some very special guests from the United Kingdom, our young ladies -- 12 of them -- from the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School.  And these young ladies are right here with us, and they are 12 wonderful young people.  I have developed a terrific relationship with the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School over the years.

When I did my very first visit to the UK a couple of years ago, I got to visit the school.  And the students there were amazing.  They did a wonderful program for me, and I was so touched and so moved and felt so connected to them that one of the things I wanted to do was just stay connected.  And we have done that. 

And when we visited again last year, I took a group of them to Oxford to see one of the finest colleges in the country to make sure that like all of you young women here, that our girls in the UK were reaching for the greatest heights possible and seeing the inside of some of the most astounding institutions their country has to offer.  And when I was there, I invited them back to the United States. 

And because of their wonderful teachers and sponsors and mentors, they selected 12 students who had to compete, actually, to attend this trip -- write essays and show their leadership skills.  And these are the 12 young women who were selected, and they've been here for a few days; you've gotten to go to the State Department. 

We met yesterday with the mentees that I host here at the White House.  We had a good little conversation; you guys did some community service with our mentees yesterday, and we're grateful -- at Martha's Table.  So we're very proud of the investment that you're making while you're here.

So we are just happy to have all of you here this afternoon.  And we want you to relax, enjoy yourselves.  Because you're going to hear a bit about what a state visit -- what we try to accomplish at a state visit.  And you're going to hear from Brooke Anderson -- she's the Chief of Staff for the National Security Staff -- who's to my left.  And she's going to talk a bit about what a state visit means, what we're trying to accomplish with this particular state visit.  And she can answer anything.  She's phenomenal, she's smart, she knows a little bit about everything.  So she's going to help you guys through that.

And we also have one of my dear friends, Cris Comerford, who's the Executive Chef for the White House.  So she is responsible for what we eat -- she designs the menu, she works with her staff.  And let me tell you, we have hundreds of guests coming tonight, and it is a complete production for them to put together this meal.

And the White House is a big place, but the kitchen is really teeny.  You wouldn’t believe it; it's a little-bitty kitchen.  So they have to really man the engines to make it happen.  But actually, because we're in a tent tonight, you probably have more space than you usually do when we have the dinner here.

But Cris will talk about the menu; she'll talk about what they think about in pulling together an event like this.  And again, you can ask her any questions as well.  She is one of the first female executive White House chefs that the White House has ever had.  And she cooks for our family, she does all the special occasions, she feeds the nation as they come through the White House.  And she is very good at what she does.

So we have two wonderful people here today who will lead you through a presentation.  So you guys, as I always say to the young women who come -- speak up.  Ask questions.  This is -- it's only formal because we wanted you to see what it's going to feel like.  But other than that, you guys enjoy yourselves.  Learn as much as you can.  Don’t be hesitant. 

And then, to top it off, we're going to let you guys try some of the dessert -- (laughter) -- that we're going to have.  And you'll be the first -- after me.  I think me and Grandma and a couple of people, we've tasted the desserts, but you guys will be the first to taste the desserts tonight.

So we are just excited to have you.  We're very proud of all of you, because all of you have shown a level of dedication to your school and your community, a level of leadership.  And I'm sure that’s why your school selected you to be here.  We are very proud of you.  And hopefully, you'll be on the other end of some state dinner -- maybe you'll be doing what Brooke is doing, or doing what Cris is doing, or maybe you'll be doing what I'm doing or what President Obama is doing.  But you'll get a taste of what you might do when you get into these high posts, because we expect very big things from all of you.  All right?

So I'm going to go, because I have to go look at the tent.  I'm going to see what's going on there.  And I will hand it over to Brooke, who will take good care of you.  It's great to see you all.  Love you guys.  Have fun.

All right, take care.  (Applause.)

2:02 P.M. EDT