Canada’s new glamour couple, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau, were welcomed into the White House on Thursday for an elegant state dinner in their honour with President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.
Mr. Obama greeted his guests with “Evening” as the two leaders’ spouses hugged and kissed on the cheeks before posing for pictures on the White House steps and inside the lobby decorated with white, yellow and jade flowers – jade being Ms. Grégoire-Trudeau’s favourite colour.
Guests at the covered dinner, the first for a Canadian prime minister in 19 years, included Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds and his wife Blake Lively, actors Mike Myers, Michael J. Fox and Sandra Oh, Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NBA commissioner Adam Silver.
“This is such a celebration of two countries,” Ms. Oh told reporters on her way into the dinner.
Mr. Myers, who now has white hair, said he’s “so proud to be Canadian and American.”
“When I lived in Canada, Pierre Trudeau was my prime minister for 14 years and he was my hero. … Now, I’m thrilled to have his son as my prime minister,” he said.
Top American officials such as senators, congressman and women and ambassadors were also on the guest list.
Ms. Grégoire-Trudeau wore a purple gown with coral sequins from Lucian Matis, the second time she sported the Toronto-based designer on the trip. Ms. Obama wore a strapless midnight blue floral gown from Taiwanese-Canadian designer Jason Wu. The men were in dark tuxes.
The 22-person Canadian delegation also included Mr. Trudeau’s mother, Margaret, who last attended a state dinner in 1977 with then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau.
The two leaders toasted each other before the dinner began, Mr. Obama recalling former president Richard Nixon’s trip to Ottawa 44 years ago and toasting the “future prime minister of Canada, Justin Pierre Trudeau,” who was four months old at the time.
“All these years later, the prediction has come to pass,” Mr. Obama said.
He also paid tribute to Margaret Trudeau’s advocacy for mental-health care, and extended her a special welcome. The room stood up and applauded.
In his speech, Mr. Trudeau thanked Mr. Obama for his leadership on climate change and urged Americans to embrace their differences.
“We believe, Canadians and Americans, in the fundamental truth that diversity can be a source of strength. That we are thriving and prosperous countries not in spite of our differences but because of them,” Mr. Trudeau said.
As he said his toast, he thanked Mr. Obama for his work over the past seven years to “preserve this most important relationship.”
The dinner, which featured duck poutine canapés and a Rocky Mountain sugar sculpture, capped off a whirlwind day of celebration for the Prime Minister and his wife, which began with an extravagant official ceremony and included a lunch at the State Department.
At the lunch, Secretary of State John Kerry praised Mr. Trudeau as “the world’s most influential Canadian.” Ms. Grégoire-Trudeau sat beside former secretary of state Henry Kissinger and Mr. Michaels at the head table.
Earlier in the day, while Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Obama held a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, Ms. Obama and Ms. Grégoire-Trudeau attended a Let Girls Learn event at the United States Institute for Peace. The program seeks to empower girls around the world by funding projects that help young women get an education.
Ms. Obama heralded Ms. Grégoire-Trudeau as her “soulmate.”
“We’ve already gotten into trouble,” she joked.
The first lady praised the Prime Minister’s wife as a funny, beautiful role model who is a wonderful mother of three kids, including one “delicious” one, referring to youngest son Hadrien’s curly hair.
“Sophie’s a very passionate advocate for women and girls,” Ms. Obama said, as Ms. Grégoire-Trudeau looked on.
Ms. Obama said 62 million girls around the world are not in school.
“Canada truly understands that gender equality and gender empowerment is a priority,” Ms. Grégoire-Trudeau told the crowd, made up of special visitors, Girl Scouts and members of Girls Inc., a non-profit organization.
She told the audience that they are the leaders not of tomorrow – but of today.
“You be fearless, because you already are fearless,” she said.
The two women were greeted by students in the French immersion program at Kent Gardens Elementary School, who serenaded them with French songs before the event.
“It almost feels like home,” Ms. Grégoire-Trudeau said.
Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes, who was in the crowd at the event, said it’s important for Ms. Grégoire-Trudeau to play an active role in the public eye.
“She has a role to play in our democracy, and I’m very glad that she’s out there and she’s being more present, and more accessible,” Ms. Caesar-Chavannes said.
“I think that when young girls see that, and young women see that, they are inspired to do bigger and better and dream beyond what they possibly could dream about.”
The Prime Minister’s Office also revealed the gifts the Trudeaus gave to the Obamas: a sculpture for the President from Cree artist Leo Arcand, from Alexander First Nations reserve in northern Alberta. And an aboriginal beaded cape from Tammy Beauvais, a fourth-generation artist from Kahnawake, Que., for Ms. Obama.
The Obamas’ daughters, Malia and Sasha, received scarves from Ottawa designer Krista Norris, and “first dogs” Bo and Sunny got Muttluks, dog boots from a Canadian company.