Thursday, June 24, 2010

President Burger Runs With Mr. Medvedev, First Lady Lunches With Mrs. Medvedeva

A business summit for the Presidents & an afternoon of arts for the First Ladies; video after the jump...
Update: Post-burger, Medvedev dubs Ray's unhealthy
"A life without burgers and fries is really depressing," First Lady Michelle Obama announced yesterday to a crowd of Washingtonians. And today President Obama took her at her word, and treated Russian Federation President Dmitry Medvedev to lunch at Ray's Hell Burger in Arlington, VA, just outside the nation's Capitol. (Above: President Obama and President Medvedev at Ray's, with translators)

Mrs. Obama, for her part, treated Mr. Medvedev's wife, Russian First Lady Sevetlana Medvedeva, to a private luncheon at the White House. Burgers weren't on their menu, however, an East Wing spokesperson told ObFo, but declined to offer further details.

President Obama seems enchanted with the idea that fast-ish food is the best representation of traditional American cuisine, and thus ideal for visiting heads of state, because he advised French President Nicolas Sarkozy to have lunch at Ben's Chili Bowl when he was visiting the White House in March, which caused international headlines. Today's visit to Ray's is doing the same (Above: post-visit, the White House released this photo of the two presidents looking at the Ray's menu as they drove to lunch).

On the menu...

At Ray's, the presidents ordered at the window, and President Obama paid with cash. His historic burger: A cheddar cheeseburger, with onions, lettuce, tomato, and bread-and-butter pickles, washed down with bottled iced tea. President Medvedev had a cheddar cheeseburger with onions, jalepenos and mushrooms. He also had a Coke. The two presidents shared an order of fries, which made the entire afternoon much less depressing. (Above: The Presidents after ordering)

President Medvedev's translator sat beside the two presidents, both in their shirtsleeves, as they dined at Ray's, and they were left alone by other patrons. But cheers and applause erupted in the crowd outside as they left.

A video of the Ray's visit, from NBC Washington:

Today was President Obama's second visit to Ray's since taking office; on May 5 of 2009, he had lunch there with Vice President Joe Biden. The President's request for Dijon mustard for his burger during that visit caused an awesome kerfluffle in the right-wing media. Ray's immediately enjoyed its own economic stimulus package, and expanded to a second storefront, Ray's Too, thanks to a boom in business.

The afternoon...
After their lunch, President Obama and President Medvedev headed back to the White House, and then to the US Chamber of Commerce, which is about a block from the White House, where they attended the US-Russia Business Summit.

Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Medvedeva, after their lunch, headed to Duke Ellington School of the Arts, in Northwest Washington, to watch students perform, in what can only be described as a spectacular and impressive 45 minutes. Even the journalists and photographers in the press section were applauding as the high school kids did a series of songs from Broadway shows, and a stunning series of classical and modern dance numbers. (Above: Mrs. Obama during her remarks; Mrs. Medvedeva is in White, and her translator is at right. Rory Pullens, Head of School, is at left)

During brief remarks after the performance, Mrs. Obama praised the enormously talented students, and the school, and the faculty, and told the kids that they were fostering international relations, as she referred to Mrs. Medvedeva as her "dear friend," and noted that she and her husband had hosted the Obama family in Russia last summer. During her own remarks, Mrs. Medvedeva invited Duke Ellington to become a sister school with Russia's Vaganova Arts School in Russia, and she, too, praised the performances.

Ag trade win for US...
President Medvedev's visit is to promote economic cooperation between the US and Russia. Today, USDA issued a press release that United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack "welcomed the announcement that the United States and Russia have reached an agreement to permit the resumption of U.S. poultry exports to Russia." In 2009, U.S. poultry exports to Russia were valued at $767 million.

Once the Agreement is signed, U.S. producers will be able to resume shipments of poultry to Russia.

“This is an important achievement for U.S. agriculture,” said Sec. Vilsack in a statement. “Russia has long been the largest export market for U.S. poultry and regaining access to that market has been a top priority for the Obama Administration. I am pleased our countries have come to an agreement that will reopen this valuable market to U.S. producers.”

In March, President Obama announced a special Agriculture Export Initiative, focused specifically on increasing the income of America's farmers and ag interests through trade, in March.

Info: Ray's Hell Burger is at 1713 N Wilson Blvd Arlington, Virginia 22201. Phone: (703) 841-0001. Open Mon 5pm-10pm; Tue-Sun 12pm-10pm.

*Top ph0to by Pete Souza/White House; NBC Washington Video; Limo photo by Pete Souza/White House; Mrs. Obama & Mrs. Medvedeva by EGK/