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White House Florist Wendy Elsasser prepares an arrangement of red Gerbera Daises as one of the many bouquests to be used at the State Dinner for Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski tonight, July 17.
History of State Visits

The State Visit of Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski on July 17, 2002 marks the second State Visit during the Bush Administration and continues a tradition that began more than a century ago.

King Kalakaua of Hawaii became the first foreign chief of state to visit the White House in 1874. Today, State Visits are opportunities for friends to renew ties and strengthen the relationship between the United States and the country of the visiting head of state.

The State Visit has grown to include a State Arrival Ceremony and a State Dinner. The State Arrival allows the President and the visiting head of State to formally greet each other through the presentation of flags and honor guards.

For years, the State Dinner took place at a u-shaped table in the State Dining Room. During the Kennedy administration, State Dinners changed from one large table to multiple circle tables, which allowed guests to speak more easily and comfortably with each other.

The first televised State Dinner took place during the Ford Administration. Held in honor of Queen Elizabeth II of England and Prince Philip, the dinner was attended by 224 guests and took place in the Rose Garden.

Planning for a state dinner often begins months in advance between the emissaries of the two governments, but the final stage of completing the arrangements takes place several weeks before the actual event.

With each visit by a head of state, the President re-enforces his resolve to forge strong friendships with countries and to continue a 128-year-old tradition.

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