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The White House state dinner on Thursday honored Kenyan President William Ruto and first lady Rachel Ruto with a guest list that included celebrities, politicians, and allies of President Joe Biden. Former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, actor LeVar Burton, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries were among the guests in attendance for the official state dinner, which is a significant diplomatic tool used to honor a top ally and emphasize the strong alliance between the two countries. Former President Barack Obama also attended a reception prior to the state dinner and briefly stopped by the dinner area, having met with the Kenyan leader earlier in the day.

Hollywood celebrities such as Wilmer Valderrama and Sean Penn were also invited to the dinner, with Burton mentioning that it was his first state dinner. The event was held in a transparent pavilion on the South Lawn, adorned with over 1,000 candles, with a menu that included a chilled heirloom tomato soup as the first course, followed by a main course of butter-poached lobster and smoked beef short ribs. Sports commissioners Goodell and Silver were also in attendance, reflecting the NFL and NBA’s efforts to expand their programs in Africa, including in Kenya.

Philanthropist Melinda French Gates and former Meta COO Sheryl Sandberg were among the guests invited to the dinner, which featured entertainment from country star Brad Paisley and the Howard Gospel Choir. Paisley, who arrived with a white cowboy hat, provided music for the black-tie event. Some members of Congress, including Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar and Veronica Escobar, and GOP Rep. Michael McCaul were also present, along with Reverend Al Sharpton, who expressed confidence in democracy winning in the 2024 election.

Journalists such as CNN’s Bianna Golodryga, NBC News’ Lester Holt, and the Associated Press’ Darlene Superville were also part of the guest list. This visit marked the first time an American president had hosted an African leader for a state visit since 2008, when President George W. Bush hosted the president of Ghana. The state dinner on Thursday was the sixth that President Biden had hosted since taking office, showcasing the importance of diplomatic relations and showcasing a strong alliance between the US and Kenya.

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