President Donald Trump has used the Rose Garden at the White House for major policy announcements, Medal of Honor ceremonies, impromptu press conferences and as a backdrop for Twitter videos, but on Friday the first lady will steal it for an evening of al fresco dining in honor of Australia.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison will be the second foreign leader honored with a rare state visit to the White House since Trump took office.
The day will begin with the military pomp of a South Lawn arrival, then the leaders will hold a one-on-one meeting in the Oval Office before more meetings with staff, a press conference in the East Room of the White House, and a lunch at the State Department. The day will end with dinner in a lavishly decorated and illuminated Rose Garden.
On a briefing call, the White House said the visit is meant to highlight the “breadth and depth” of the United States’ relationship with Australia, and their economic and security cooperation – specifically in regard to North Korea and Iran, as Australia recently announced their participation in joint patrols with the United States in the Strait of Hormuz.
The leaders will also roll out a plan related to rare earth elements and minerals security, unveil new space and technology research partnerships, and discuss plastic pollution in the ocean.
“It is the first [Australian] state visit that we've had since Prime Minister Howard came to the United States shortly after 9/11. And in those 18 years, the Australians have really been shoulder-to-shoulder with us all over the world in so many different areas and this is really a perfect time to highlight the alliance and the contribution,” a senior administration official said.
Morrison also plans to travel to Wapakoneta, Ohio, on Sunday to tour an Australian-owned plant with Trump.
Trump and Morrison last met on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Biarritz, France.
“Scott, he is fantastic,” Trump said after their meeting.
After a full day of work on Friday, the Morrisons, Trumps, and an exclusive list of guests will be treated to a special state dinner under the stars. At a preview, string musicians played in a row along the Colonnade and tables were set with gold plates and crystal glasses that sparkled under the lights. The first lady planned the dinner along with her social secretary, Rickie Niceta.
“As the head of the executive branch, one of the president’s most important roles is to conduct diplomacy with foreign nations,” explained Lindsay Chervinsky, White House Historian with the White House Historical Association. “State dinners provide the opportunity to highlight the role of other cultures in American life, cement existing friendships, improve tense relationships, and celebrate important treaties and agreements that improve national security and international relations.”
The menu on Friday will pay “homage to Australia’s special blend of culinary adaptations from its various cultures,” according to officials. It will feature Dover Sole, Sunchoke Ravioli and a Lady Apple Tart for dessert. Guests will be served wines from both United States and Australia, although the president, who doesn’t drink, will likely sip on his preferred beverage of Diet Coke or water.
Guests will also hear a performance from the largest gathering of military musicians from the United States Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force.
There are still some details about the dinner that the first lady’s office is keeping secret: The guest list and the designer of the first lady’s gown won’t be revealed until minutes before the dinner kicks off.