Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Queen fetes Obamas amid pomp of Buckingham Palace

Washington Post
In Print: Wednesday, May 25, 2011

President Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth II attend a state banquet, featuring Windsor lamb, homegrown vegetables and wine from Sussex, in Buckingham Palace on Tuesday. He is in Britain for a two-day state visit.

LONDON — President Barack Obama will outline in a speech today how much the world has changed since the U.S.-British partnership emerged victorious from World War II, but also argue that the relationship remains the cornerstone of global security.

The theme, outlined by administration officials here Tuesday, is part celebration of the military partnership, which has waged war in three Muslim nations over the past decade, and part reassurance that the heavy cost has been essential.

Obama will deliver the address, characterized by advisers as "the anchor speech" of his six-day European trip, to the British Parliament at Westminster Hall, becoming the first American leader to do so in that historic venue.

"He'll speak to the fact that we've obviously come through a very difficult decade, but in some respects we're turning a corner," Ben Rhodes, a U.S. deputy national security adviser, told reporters.

His address at Westminster Hall will be the most substantive event of the trip so far after a start heavy with ceremony.

On Tuesday, Queen Elizabeth II welcomed Obama and the first lady, Michelle Obama, for his first state visit here. The official greeting took place just before noon at Buckingham Palace.

America's first couple walked up the red carpet to the palace door, where the queen, her ubiquitous handbag in the crook of her arm, greeted them with a handshake and smile. Prince Philip stood by her side.

The Obamas' gift to the queen was a handmade, leather-bound album containing original photographs of the June 1939 visit to the United States of her parents, King George VI and his consort Elizabeth, known more recently as the queen mother.

Inside the palace, the Obamas also met with Prince William and new wife Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Many lined the streets and gathered outside the Obamas' tour sites on a warm and clear afternoon.

The Obamas visited Westminster Abbey and laid a wreath at a tomb in memory of "the unknown warrior." Obama wrote in the guest book, "It is a great privilege to commemorate our common heritage and common sacrifice," but added the wrong date, "24 May 2008."

Obama also paid a courtesy call at 10 Downing Street to see Prime Minister David Cameron, with whom he will hold more extensive meetings today.

The evening ended with a state dinner at Buckingham Palace, where Obama, in white tie and tails, toasted the alliance as "a commitment that speaks to who we are."

Two lefties can't quite get it right

For a couple of steadfast allies, President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron aren't always in synch. The two leaders, both lefties, had their hands full playing table tennis with a couple of London school boys Tuesday. The game was part of a visit to a school in the Southwark neighborhood of London that specializes in math and performing arts. "They're up five?" Obama asked at one point. "More than five? Goodness?" Reporters were ushered out before the game ended.

Michelle Obama wows with style: First lady Michelle Obama's choice of wardrobe had the attention of the British media Tuesday. Her three dress changes throughout the day were closely watched, with the BBC, among others, spending much of its air time before the evening's white-tie state dinner excitedly speculating on what she might wear for the occasion. Her choices — including her white Tom Ford evening gown — wowed fashion critics. The Guardian praised her for bringing "style and substance to the palace."

Associated Press

[Last modified: May 24, 2011 11:03 PM]

Copyright 2011 St. Petersburg Times

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