Behind the Lens: Official State Visits Through The Years

Tuesday, October 18, marks the 14th and final formal State Arrival Ceremony and State Dinner for a head of state during the Obama administration. These visits serve as an opportunity to celebrate the United States’ relationship with some of our closest allies around the world.

To mark the occasion, I’ve selected some photographs from these visits. In my edit, I focused mostly on the formal and behind-the-scenes situations from the ceremony and dinner rather than on the substantive meetings that also take place. Two of the State Arrivals were moved indoors because of inclement weather and one took place outdoors in the rain. State Dinners have been held on the State Floor, in a tent on the South Lawn, and once in the Rose Garden.

I hope you enjoy my selection of photographs. We will add a couple of photographs from tomorrow’s State Arrival and Dinner for the Prime Minister of Italy.

— Pete Souza, Chief White House Photographer

India — November 24, 2009
First Lady Michelle Obama escorts Mrs. Gursharan Kaur, as President Barack Obama escorts Mrs. Kaur’s husband, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India, at the conclusion of the State Arrival ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Nov. 24, 2009. The Prime Minister’s visit is the first official State Visit hosted by President Obama. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The President and First Lady wait for Prime Minister Singh’s motorcade to depart at the conclusion of the first official state dinner for the Obama administration. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)
Mexico — May 19, 2010
President Obama, with the First Lady, adjusts his tie in the Yellow Oval Room, following a private reception prior to a State Dinner in honor of President Felipe Calderón of Mexico and his wife, Mrs. Margarita Zavala, May 19, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama, Mrs. Obama, President Calderón and Mrs. Zavala ride a trolley to the State Dinner tent on the South Lawn. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Beyoncé Knowles performs during the State Dinner in honor of President Felipe Calderón of Mexico and his wife, Mrs. Margarita Zavala. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
China — January 19, 2011
Residence staff prepare for the State Dinner for President Hu Jintao of China in the Old Family Dining Room during the China State Visit, Jan. 19, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)
President Obama, President Hu, former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, and Vice President Joe Biden, listen to former President Jimmy Carter during a reception in the Yellow Oval Room. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The President and First Lady introduce President Hu to daughters Sasha and Malia before the start of the State Dinner performance in the East Room. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Germany — June 7, 2011
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany talks with Mrs. Obama during a reception on the Truman Balcony hosted by the President and First Lady for the Chancellor and her husband, Dr. Joachim Sauer, during the German State Visit, June 7, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The First Lady speaks during the State Dinner in honor of Chancellor Merkel in the Rose Garden. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
A violinist for the U.S. Marine Band Strolling Strings plays during the dinner. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Republic of Korea — October 13, 2011
President Obama and President Lee Myung-bak of the Republic of Korea listen to the U.S. National Anthem during the Korea State Visit Arrival Ceremony on the South Lawn, Oct. 13, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The Vice President greets Lance Powlis, a trumpet player in Janelle Monae’s band, following their State Dinner performance in the State Dining Room. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
United Kingdom — March 14, 2012
Children strain to see members of the Honor Guard during the Official Arrival Ceremony for Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom and Mrs. Samantha Cameron on the South Lawn, March 14, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
The President and Prime Minister Cameron, with the First Lady and Mrs. Cameron, watch the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps during the Arrival Ceremony. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The White House is seen from the tent on the South Lawn during the State Dinner in honor of Prime Minister Cameron. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
France — February 11, 2014
A member of the color guard holds a French flag as President Obama listens to remarks by President François Hollande of France during the State Arrival Ceremony on the South Lawn, Feb. 11, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama helps the First Lady off the stage after her remarks at the State Dinner for President Hollande. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Japan — April 28, 2015
Final preparations are made before the State Arrival ceremony for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan and First Lady Akie Abe on the South Lawn of the White House, April 28, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
President Obama’s place is set at the table prior to the State Dinner for Prime Minister Abe in the East Room. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
Chopsticks accompany a place setting during the State Dinner in the East Room. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The President and Prime Minister Abe wait in the Yellow Oval Room to follow the Color Guard down the Grand Staircase to the State Dinner. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Pope Francis — September 23,2015
President Obama, the First Lady, daughters Sasha and Malia, Marian Robinson, Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden greet Pope Francis on his arrival at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Sept. 22, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
A guest holds up the American flag, the Vatican City flag, and a cross prior to the start of the State Arrival Ceremony for Pope Francis on the South Lawn. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
President Obama, Pope Francis and the First Lady depart the State Arrival Ceremony. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
The President and Pope Francis walk along the Colonnade to the Oval Office for a meeting. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The President and Pope Francis conclude their meeting in the Oval Office. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
China — September 25, 2015
While a color guard holds a flag of China, President Xi Jinping of China listens to President Obama speak during the Arrival Ceremony for President Xi and Madame Peng Liyuan on the South Lawn, Sept. 25, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The President and the Mrs. Obama wait on the North Portico for the arrival of President Xi and Madame Peng before the State Dinner. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The First Lady delivers remarks during the State Dinner for President Xi and Madame Peng in the East Room. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Canada — March 10, 2016
President Obama and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada take the stage as the First Lady and Mrs. Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau stand together during the State Arrival ceremony on the South Lawn, March 10, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
An Honor Guard officer salutes in the foreground while the President and Prime Minister listen to the U.S. national anthem. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Grégoire-Trudeau participate with students during a program‎ to raise awareness for global girls’ education, at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)
The President shows Prime Minister Trudeau the Lincoln Bed Room of the White House prior to the State Dinner. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama with Mrs. Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia walk with Prime Minister Trudeau and Mrs. Grégoire-Trudeau down the Great Hall to the State Dinner entertainment. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Nordic Leaders — May 13, 2016
President Obama delivers remarks during the arrival ceremony for the official visit of Nordic leaders during the U.S.-Nordic Leaders Summit, in the Grand Foyer of the White House, May 13, 2016. Nordic leaders visiting include Prime Minister Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson of Iceland, Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen of Denmark, Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven of Sweden, President Sauli Niinistö of Finland and spouses Mrs. Jenni Haukio, Finland; Mr. Sindre Finnes, Norway; Mrs. Ulla Löfven, Sweden; Mrs. Sólrun Løkke Rasmussen, Denmark; and Mrs. Ingibjörg Elsa Ingjaldsdóttir, Iceland. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
President Obama, the First Lady, Nordic leaders and their spouses exit the trolley to the State Dinner on the South Lawn. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
Singapore — August 2, 2016
The President and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore listen to the U.S. National Anthem during the State Arrival ceremony on the South Lawn, Aug. 2, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama and the Prime Minister greet school children and other guests at the Arrival Ceremony. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Final touches are added to plates before the State Dinner, in the Old Family Dining Room. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
The President and First Lady mingle with guests during the reception on the Truman Balcony. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Guests enjoy food and conversation during the State Dinner for the Prime Minister in the East Room. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Italy— October 18, 2016
The First Lady and Mrs. Agnese Landini wait in the Yellow Oval Room prior to a State Dinner held on the South Lawn in honor of Mrs. Landini and her husband, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy, Oct. 18, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Gwen Stefani performs after dinner. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)