Monday, April 23, 2018

Presidential Entertaining at Mount Vernon

The U.S. and French presidents are scheduled to dine tonight at Mount Vernon, the estate of George Washington across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.  Undoubtedly, the most impressive presidential dinner to take place there was on July 13, 1961.

Nearly six months into the new administration, President and Mrs. Kennedy hosted Pakistani President Mohammad Ayub Khan in what was the first state dinner undertaken outside the White House.  More than 137 guests, mostly American and Pakistani officials, attended the gala event held under a tent on the lawn.

There were huge logistical issues, notably, transporting the guests, food, dishes—in fact, everything needed for the dinner.  Four boats, including two presidential yachts, left from the pier at the Naval Weapons Plant in Southwest Washington, D.C., sailed up the river to Mount Vernon, giving the guests a breathtaking view on a warm and pleasant evening.

Guests dined on a main course of Poulet Chasseur.  They listenedd to the National Symphony Orchestra perform selections from Mozart, Debussy, Barber, and Gershwin.

This was only one of the many gala dinners and events during the Kennedy years.  The Nobel Prize dinner, honoring American intellectuals, would take place eleven months later, and would be a highlight of Camelot.

Photo credit:  Robert Knudsen. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

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