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  /  News   /  White House plans first-ever teacher state dinner

White House plans first-ever teacher state dinner

WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — Kings, prime ministers and foreign presidents have been honored at White House state dinners, and first lady Jill Biden wants to extend that honor to teachers.

White House state dinners are usually lavish affairs, with painstakingly paired flower arrangements, multicourse meals on fine china and a military band paying tribute to a visiting head of state. They’re often attended by a curated list of stars, politicians and artists.

The first lady, who has spent three decades as an educator, announced Wednesday that the White House will host a “Teachers of the Year” state dinner as part of her ongoing efforts to champion public education. Biden made the reveal on CBS Mornings while surprising the newly named “National Teacher of the Year,” Missy Testerman from Rogersville, Tennessee.


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“I always say teachers are our heroes, and I wanted to be here today to celebrate Missy as I love celebrating teachers,” the first lady said. “And I have a special announcement, Missy: When you come to the White House, we are going to have a state dinner for the teachers.”

“It’s the first time ever,” Biden added.

Generally, there is an annual ceremony at the White House to recognize the top teachers from all 50 states, but this is the first time a state dinner will be a part of the festivities. Teachers are selected by the Council of Chief State School Officers.

The event is going to be held on May 1, a White House official told NewsNation.

President Joe Biden has already hosted the leaders of France, South Korea, India and Australia for state dinners, and there are forthcoming plans to welcome Japan’s prime minister in April and Kenya’s president in May.

And while a state dinner is customarily held to woo a visiting head of state, it is not unprecedented for a first lady to add a spin to the deep-rooted tradition to advocate a cause close to their heart. Between 2012 and 2016, then-first lady Michelle Obama hosted a “Kids’ State Dinner” as part of her “Let’s Move!” campaign to resolve the challenge of childhood obesity.


Flowers, food and fall: White House steeped in symbolism for state dinner

First lady Jill Biden, who continues to teach English and writing at Northern Virginia Community College, has used her platform to promote education, military families and cancer research. She is also the first presidential spouse to maintain a career outside of the White House.

The first state dinner dates back to 1874, when President Ulysses S. Grant welcomed the last king of Hawaii, David Kalākaua. There have been over 300 since.