Thursday, June 14, 2012

Behind The Scenes: President Obama's White House Luncheon For The Bush Family

New details from the closed-to-press event...
There were tears and laughter when President Obama and First Lady Obama hosted three generations of the Bush Family at the White House on May 31 for the unveiling ceremony for President George W. Bush's and First Lady Laura Bush's official portraits. The afternoon included a closed-to-press luncheon at 12:10 PM in the Red Room, the first to feature three Presidents and three First Ladies dining together during the Obama administration: President George H. W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush were also on hand. No guest list and no menu were released, but the White House has posted a photo of the historic luncheon to the official Flickr that reveals plenty of details.

The President and Mrs. Obama had 14 luncheon guests in total, including Bucky Bush, Doro Bush Koch, Jenna Bush Hager, Marvin Bush, Jody Bush, Bobby Koch, Margaret Bush, and Jonathan Bush. The First Couple were seated across the table from each other, between the former Presidents and First Ladies. In a personal nod, one of Mrs. Laura Bush's china patterns was used. And though the guest of honor is a teetotaler, wine was served, as can be seen from the butler carrying a bottle of white wine in the background of the photo.

President Obama sat in the center of the table between the former First Ladies, while Mrs. Obama was on the other side of the table, between the former Presidents. (Above: at left of Mrs. Obama is George W. Bush; at right is George H.W. Bush)

The floral centerpieces were typical of chief floral designer Laura Dowling's signature style--brightly colored roses in popping colors, gathered in low vases. Most--but not all--First Ladies have the opportunity to create their own china patterns. Mrs. Laura Bush had two patterns, a State Service and a Residence Service, which were delivered on January 8, 2009, just weeks before her husband concluded his second term in office.

Mrs. Bush's informal pattern, the Magnolia Residence China Service, was used for the luncheon.
The 75-piece hand-painted porcelain service features magnolia blooms as well as butterflies and dragon flies and other whimsical creatures found at the White House. It was created by Hungarian-born Anna Weatherley of Arlington, Virginia. Mrs. Bush in 2008 hailed her china sets as "the last acquisitions to the White House collection made during President Bush's term." (Above: A magnolia bloom on one of the guest's luncheon plates)

Magnolia trees dating from President Andrew Jackson's term still grace the White House grounds today. White House Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses dipped some of the blooms in green chocolate to make trees for the 2011 holiday White House Gingerbread House.

President Bush thanked painted John Howard Sanden saying he had done a "fine job with a challenging subject."

In the photo at top, seated clockwise from the President are: former First Lady Barbara Bush, Bucky Bush, Doro Bush Koch, Jenna Bush Hager, Marvin Bush, Jody Bush, former President George W. Bush, Mrs. Obama, former President George H.W. Bush, Patty Bush, Bobby Koch, Barbara Bush, Margaret Bush, Jonathan Bush, and former First Lady Laura Bush.

The White House video of the portrait unveiling ceremony:

*Photo by Pete Souza/White House