In the years before the Internet, when I was writing books about such Washington cave dwellers as Alice Roosevelt Longworth and Katharine Graham, I used to get the Washington Post mailed to me in Chicago, complete with grocery ads and a giant subscription bill. It was worth it to me for the obituaries alone—to see which Washington luminary had died before I could get his/her interview on tape. And then there was my favorite feature, the guest lists, often hundreds of names long, for White House State Dinners. There was no better guide to D.C. power and privilege—and no better way to fill out my wish list of interviewees.
I continued to closely examine the lists during the Clinton years and the Bush years. Now, in the Obama years—this is the sixth Obama state dinner—they are more interesting than ever because they contain so many Chicagoans.
Wednesday night’s dinner, carrying the theme, “America’s Backyards,”—held on the South Lawn, in a tent complete with a 150-foot-wide glass wall—was in honor of “The Right Honorable David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, and his wife, Mrs. Samantha Cameron.”
Here are the Chicago names I recognized, along with, in some cases, a bit of annotation. I’ve undoubtedly missed some on the 362-name list and would love to hear from readers who catch an oversight or two.
+ Fred Eychaner, Obama bundler and chairman of Newsweb Corporation
+ Louis Susman, former Obama bundler and current U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, and his wife Marjorie
+ Neil Bluhm, Obama bundler, Walton Street Capital Managing Principal, and his daughter Leslie Bluhm, a 2011 Chicagoan of the Year
+ Wally Brewster, Jr., and Robert Satawake, Obama bundlers, General Growth Properties/Keller Williams Realty
+ Jim Crown, Obama bundler and president of Henry Crown & Co., and his wife Paula Hannaway Crown
+ Rajiv Kumar Fernando, Obama bundler and CEO of Chopper Trading
+ Valerie Jarrett, assistant to President Obama and senior advisor and close friend of both Obamas
+ Chuck Lewis, Obama bundler, chairman of the Lewis-Sebring Family Foundation, managing partner of Coach House Capital and Evanston resident
+ Marty Nesbitt and his wife Anita Kay Blanchard, close Hyde Park friends of Obamas
+ Dr. Eric Whitaker and his wife Dr. Cheryl Whitaker, close Hyde Park friends of Obamas
+ Stuart Taylor II, CEO of The Taylor Group L.L.C, and his wife Evonne Taylor
+ Tina Tchen, former partner in Chicago office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; Michelle Obama’s chief of staff
+ Deborah Wais and her husband Marshall Wais, who is CEO of Marwais International
A full description of the menu—the main course was Bison Wellington—and the décor and floral arrangements can be found at the White House Web site.