Biden Hosts Star-Studded State Dinner Honoring Kenyan President William Ruto

The White House state dinner on Thursday saw a star-studded guest list, including celebrities, politicians, and allies of President Joe Biden, as he and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden welcomed Kenyan President William Ruto and First Lady Rachel Ruto. Daily Mails told this.

Among the notable attendees were former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, actor LeVar Burton, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. In a surprise appearance, former President Barack Obama also made a brief visit.

“There is a bright light at the White House tonight,” President Biden remarked to the Kenyan president during his toast. “Jill and I are honored to have you here.” He humorously noted that many members of the African diaspora were present, including Obama, who had just left. Biden praised Obama for his graciousness in a meeting with Ruto earlier in the day.

Obama, whose father was Kenyan, attended a reception in the Blue Room prior to the dinner and made a short appearance in the dining area, despite not being on the initial guest list. Obama had previously visited Kenya as president in 2015 and again in 2018 after his presidency.

President Biden emphasized the strong relationship between the United States and Kenya, recalling when former President Jimmy Carter first hosted Kenyan leaders. He concluded with an Irish toast, saying, “Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand – to Kenya, to our guests.”

In his own toast, President Ruto raised a glass to the “continued well-being and long life” of President Biden and the First Lady.

The event, held in a transparent pavilion on the South Lawn adorned with over 1,000 candles, featured a three-course meal starting with chilled heirloom tomato soup and followed by a duo of butter-poached lobster and smoked beef short ribs, prepared by White House Executive Chef Cris Comerford.

Hollywood figures such as Wilmer Valderrama and Sean Penn also attended, with Burton mentioning it was his first state dinner. The event showcased the presence of sports commissioners Goodell and Silver, highlighting their respective leagues’ initiatives in Africa. The NFL had hosted a talent identification camp in Kenya as part of its “NFL Africa” program, and NBA Africa opened a subsidiary in Kenya in November 2023.

Philanthropist Melinda French Gates and former Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg were among the distinguished guests. Entertainment for the evening was provided by country star Brad Paisley and the Howard Gospel Choir, with Paisley notably sporting a white cowboy hat.

Congressional attendees included Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Veronica Escobar of Texas, and GOP Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas. Rev. Al Sharpton, also present, expressed confidence in President Biden’s reelection prospects, stating, “Democracy is going to win in 2024.”

The media presence included CNN’s Bianna Golodryga, NBC News’ Lester Holt, and the Associated Press’ Darlene Superville.

This event marked the first state visit hosted by an American president for an African leader since President George W. Bush hosted the president of Ghana in February 2008. It was the sixth state dinner hosted by President Biden since taking office.