Wednesday, May 15, 2013

First Lady Michelle Obama Honored At 2013 Congressional Club Luncheon

Closed-press party includes a menu by celeb chef Paula Deen and a performance by country star Trisha Yearwood...and a bomb scare...
First Lady Michelle Obama was the guest of honor at The Congressional Club's annual First Lady's Luncheon on Wednesday, where country star Trisha Yearwood entertained and celebrity chef Paula Deen offered a menu of her Southern specialties.  As she arrived in the ballroom of the Washington Hilton, Mrs. Obama was clad in a sleeveless navy blue and white polka dot dress by French couture house Lanvin, an outfit she's worn before.  (Above, greeting the crowd, with the Club crest in the background)

Mrs. Obama's scheduled arrival for 11:15 AM at the hotel "was delayed" according to a White House official, by a bomb threat earlier in the morning in the Hilton's garage.  But after Secret Service gave the all-clear, the festivities went on as planned.  As is always the case, the luncheon was closed to press, and guests were discouraged from taking photos.  But of course images of the First Lady were posted to Twitter, including the Instagram at top by @KristanMaurer.**

The luncheon theme was "Patriotism From The Front Porch," and focused on Georgia charm, home state to both Yearwood and Deen.  The First Lady addressed the guests, speaking about the importance of national unity.  She called for support for America's children in what one guest billed on Twitter as "a tear-jerking" speech.

"Are we meeting our obligations to our nation's kids?" Mrs. Obama asked, and expressed a wish that the empathy and generosity seen in citizens' heartfelt responses in times of crisis could be "bottled" and "shared." 

Paula Deen's menu...
Deen's sweet Southern luncheon menu included "Quinoa Hopping John Terrine," served with baby greens and bacon, and "Paula Deen's Sweet Georgia Peach Honeyed Shrimp," served with a sweet pea puree and sweet potato risotto.  There was also a bread course and dessert.  Guests dined at round tables laden with flowers and covered with blue and white toile du jour tablecloths, while Mrs. Obama sat at the head table.  (Above, a seating card for the luncheon, from @KristanMaurer)

Deen has famously lost weight since revealing last year that she has Type 2 diabetes, and her formerly hi-calorie cooking aesthetic has changed.  But she has not yet been invited to be a guest chef at the White House. 

The First Lady is a Yearwood fan...
Yearwood's lunch performance included her hit song How Do I LiveThe First Lady is quite a fan of Yearwood's, and invited her to perform at a special concert for spouses of world leaders and school children in 2009 when President Obama hosted the G20 summit in PittsburghYearwood's husband, Garth Brooks, also performed at the President's first inaugural ceremony.  (Yearwood, above, by @JaneFrancisco)

Members of The Congressional Club are the spouses of lawmakers from both chambers, spouses of Supreme Court justices, and spouses of members of the President's Cabinet.  Tickets for the event, a fundraiser for charity, were $125 for four tickets per member.  The Club was founded in 1908, and has been honoring First Ladies since 1912.

The Club also publishes The Congressional Club Cookbook, and autographed copies were for sale at the event to boost fundraising.

As for the bomb scare in the late morning: The US Secret Service said a man in the parking garage of the Washington Hilton claimed to have a bomb in his vehicle.  The streets around the hotel, including Connecticut and Florida Avenues and T Streets, were closed until the threat was deemed false and cleared.  The First Lady was originally scheduled to arrive at 11:15 AM.  Other than her security detail being on high alert, there was no impact.  

President Obama was last at the hotel for the White House Correspondents' Dinner; it is the same hotel where President Ronald Reagan was shot in a failed assassination attempt.

Luncheon guest Jane Francisco, editor in chief of @Chateleine, noted that guests were asked not to take photos of Mrs. Obama, but nonetheless tweeted the photo, above.

"Terrible shot (I wasn't supposed to take pics while First Lady was eating!) but she's very attractive," Francisco wrote on Twitter.

The White House did not release a transcript of the First Lady's remarks.

*Photos by Kristan Maurer and Jane Francisco.  **Maurer has since deleted her Tweeted photos that are included in this post.