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Preview of the White House State Dinner

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Glitz and glamour make a comeback at the White House  tonight, as President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host their second White House State Dinner, this time in honor of Mexican President Felipe Calderon and his wife Margarita Zavala. Exhaustive preparation has gone into this elegant tradition of celebrating diplomatic ties between the two countries -- and hopefully, no uninvited guests will crash the party (like the embarrassing spectacle of couple Tareq and Michaele Salahi at last year's soiree). Here's a rundown of the Obamas' lead-up events, and a preview of tonight's black-tie dinner... Bienvenidos! President and Mrs. Obama started the day with an elaborate welcoming ceremony for President Calderon and Mrs. Zavala on the White House South Lawn. Hundreds of dignitaries, military personnel, and members of the Washington, D.C. public watched impressively disciplined military drills, a 21-gun salute, and a lively fife and drum corps, before the two presidents took to a podium at the center of the lawn. "I say to you and to the Mexican people, let us stand together," Obama said to Calderon. "Let us face the future together. Let us work together. Trabajemos juntos." Tough Questions In a joint press conference in the White House Rose Garden, President Obama and President Calderon fielded reporters' questions on the Arizona immigration law and drug-related violence in Mexico. "My administration is taking a very close look at the Arizona law. We're examining any implications, especially for civil rights," Obama said. "Because in the United States of America, no law-abiding person... should ever be subject to suspicion simply because of what they look like." Let's Move! First Lady Michelle Obama and Mexican First Lady Margarita Zavala visited the New Hampshire Estates Elementary School in Silver Spring, Maryland, joining a second-grade gym class and a healthy "family style" cafeteria lunch with Head Start students. Good thing both First Ladies wore flats -- they skipped, ran and hopped with the best of them! Cosina Mexicana Celebrity chef Rick Bayless will be manning the White House kitchen tonight, preparing an authentic Mexican meal (think fresh, light ingredients -- not gloppy cheese and sour cream) including a jicama salad, ceviche and beef with mole sauce. Bayless, whose Chicago restaurant Topolobampo is an Obama family favorite, will also be making use of produce from the White House garden. Guests of Honor Tonight's State Dinner will be more intimate, with about 200 guests, compared to last year's 400, but there will still be a touch of star wattage. Beyonce will perform at the event, along with the Mexican musical duo Rodrigo y Gabriela. "Desperate Housewives" actress Eva Longoria, comedian/talk show host George Lopez, members of Congress and various dignitaries will also attend. Security Breach The Obamas' first State Dinner last November, in honor of India's prime minister, was infamously overshadowed by Tareq and Michaele Salahi -- a married couple who managed to bypass security and shake President Obama's hand at the event, despite not having an invitation. Former social secretary Desiree Rogers left her post after several months of criticism over the incident. This time, social secretary Julianna Smoot will have White House aides at every checkpoint to double and triple-check the guest list. Entertaining in Style In the White House East Room, tables will be covered in bold striped linens in three hues of Mayan blue, to resemble ripples of water. Bouquets of fuchsia roses and orchids, set in handmade woven baskets, will serve as centerpieces, along with bouquets of marzipan and chocolate flowers fashioned into the national flowers of America (roses) and Mexico (dahlias). Guests will be served on Clinton and Eisenhower china from the White House's historic collection. Expected Attendees at Tonight's State Dinner The guest list includes Whoopi Goldberg, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Gayle King, Attorney General Eric Holder, United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, as well as Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Chenault.
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