The White House Kenyan State Dinner guest list includes LeVar Burton, Roger Goodell and the Clintons.

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President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden welcome Kenya’s President William Ruto and First Lady Rachel Ruto to the White House in Washington, Thursday, May 23, 2024.



CNN

Thursday’s White House invitation list State dinner Including celebrities, politicians and associates of the President President Joe Biden And the first female doctor. Jill Biden The red carpet was rolled out for Kenyan President William Ruto and First Lady Rachel Rudo.

Former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, actor Lever Burton, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries are among the special guests attending the official State Dinner.

The state visit is one of the most high-profile diplomatic tools the White House can use to honor a top ally, as the meticulously planned event looms as Biden seeks to emphasize the strong alliance between the two countries.

“There is a bright light in the White House tonight,” Biden told the Kenyan president during his dinner. “Jill and I are proud to have you here.”

He joked that there were “many members of the African diaspora,” including former President Barack Obama, who is “now gone” at the black-tie event on Thursday. Biden said Obama was “very gracious” and met Ruto earlier on Thursday.

The former president attended a reception in the Blue Room before the state dinner and stopped briefly inside the dinner area, his office said. Obama, who was born in Kenya, visited the country as president in 2015, left office and returned in 2018.

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Biden said the United States has “strong respect” for Kenya and recalled former President Jimmy Carter hosting Kenyan leaders for the first time.

He ended with an Irish toast, “Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand – to Kenya, to our guests.”

During his toast, Ruto asked attendees to raise a glass to President Biden and the First Lady “to the continued well-being and longevity”.

Thursday night’s dinner is even Hollywood — actors Wilmer Valderrama and Sean Penn are among the invitees, and Burton told reporters it was his first state dinner.

The dinner will be held in a “transparent pavilion” on the South Lawn, decorated with more than 1,000 candles, according to the first lady’s office. Guests will be served three courses – first a chilled Heirloom Tomato Soup. White House executive chef Chris Comerford says the main course for Thursday’s dinner will be the “best of both worlds” of butter-poached lobster and smoked beef short ribs.

Sports commissioners Goodall and Silver were among the guests invited to the state dinner on Thursday night. The NFL held a talent identification camp in Kenya last year aimed at expanding its “NFL Africa” ​​program. Press release from that time. NBA Africa has a “subsidiary” in Kenya, which is set to open in November 2023to the league.

Invited guests to Thursday night’s dinner included philanthropist Melinda French Gates and former longtime META chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg.

Country star Brad Paisley and the Howard Gospel Choir will provide entertainment. Paisley wore a white cowboy hat as she entered the White House on Thursday evening.

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Country star Brad Paisley and his wife, actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley, arrive in the White House Bookseller Room during a dinner with the President of Kenya on May 23, 2024 at the White House in Washington, DC.

Some members of Congress were also invited to the dinner, including Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Veronica Escobar of Texas, and GOP Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas.

The Reverend Al Sharpton was also invited to the dinner and told reporters that “Democracy is going to win in 2024” when asked if the president would win re-election.

CNN’s Bianna Golodryga was invited to Thursday’s dinner, as were Lester Holt of NBC News and Darlene Superville of the Associated Press.

President George W. This is the first time a US president has hosted an African leader on a state visit since February 2008, when Bush hosted the president of Ghana. Thursday night’s dinner was the sixth state dinner Biden has hosted since taking office.

This story has been updated with additional updates.

CNN’s Bestie Klein and Kevin Lipdock contributed to this report.

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