Special attention: Dr. Jill Biden attends tea and poetry recital for Mrs. Kalsoom Nawaz Sharif...
Washington, DC - First Lady Michelle Obama routinely hosts White House tea parties for the wives of world leaders visiting President Barack Obama. But when Pakistani Prime
Minister Nawaz Sharif had an Oval Office bilateral meeting with the President on Wednesday, his wife, Mrs. Kalsoom Nawaz Sharif, got special treatment. (Above, Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden at tea with Mrs. Sharif)
Mrs. Obama treated her honored guest to a command performance from former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins; her tea parties do not typically include entertainment. And Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, attended both the tea party in the Yellow Oval Room as well as Collins' poetry recital. Dr. Biden usually does not attend Mrs. Obama's teas for spouses of world leaders.
The social events, Mrs. Obama's first to be announced by her aides since the government reopened after the 16-day shutdown, were both closed to press. They came as the President is dealing with an easing of years of strained relations with Pakistan, due to, among other things, the discovery that Osama bin Laden was living in the country before he was killed by US forces.
The Prime Minister was elected last May, "which led to the first democratic transfer of power between elected governments in Pakistan's history," the White House said, and Mrs. Obama's meeting with his wife was her first since the transfer of power. The President's afternoon meeting with the Prime Minister lasted for close to two hours, and Mr. Obama saluted it as an "historic occasion."
The Yellow Oval Room is in the Private Residence, and Mrs. Obama wore a navy suit with a bright silk top as she chatted over tea with Mrs. Sharif, who wore a pale pink version of traditional garb. Dr. Biden wore a stone-colored suit. Pastel flowers decorated the room, and candles were lit, though the tea was at 11:30 AM.
Collins gave his recital in the Blue Room following the tea, standing at a podium. His performance had special meaning for Mrs. Obama's
special guest: Mrs. Sharif holds an MA in Urdu poetry, the East Wing
said. (Above, Collins during the reading)
The award-winning Collins served as Poet Laureate between
2001-2003, and is the author of twelve books of poetry, including Horoscopes for the Dead: Poems, published in 2012. He is known for a "witty, conversational" style and has been dubbed "America's best-loved poet" by the New York Times.
The event included a reading of poems by 2013
National Student Poet finalist Sojourner Ahebee, the White House said. Mrs. Obama's Chief of Staff, Tina Tchen, was also on hand for the poetry reading; she is seated behind Mrs. Sharif in the photo above.
The special treatment for Mrs. Sharif was also accorded the Prime Minister: Vice President Biden hosted him for breakfast at the Naval Observatory on Wednesday morning, the White House said in a readout of the meeting.
*Photos by Amanda Lucidon/White House