First Lady Breaks With Tradition

Photo by Natalia Janetti ©
Michelle Obama
Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama showed up more than an hour and a half late Wednesday for the Congressional Club’s annual First Lady’s Lunch in her honor, but she made up for a bit of the lost time by breaking with the usual way of doing things:  she skipped parading down a runway on the arm of a military escort, a tradition of the event for decades.

Instead she strode directly to the dais from backstage.

One blog, Obamafoodorama, quoted a White House official as saying she was delayed by a bomb threat earlier in the morning in the Washington Hilton garage.  The blog said the threat was deemed false. No details about that were heard at the event.

When she arrived, she sat down for lunch and spoke to the gathering of hundreds of guests at the Hilton’s International ballroom.

For as long as old timers can remember, it was a customary ritual for the First Lady to be introduced at one end of the runway, then she waves as she walks “Miss America-style” to the other end where the main dais is set up. 

Mrs. Obama also did not attend the pre-lunch reception for event sponsors.  As the time for expected arrival passed and organizers anguished, other introductions were made and those dignitaries did the catwalk, including Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul.

“…when she gets here” was repeated several times by organizers as to the timetable.

Trisha Yearwood (Photo by: Natalia Janetti) Trisha Yearwood

Mrs. Obama, dressed in a simple dark blue and white polka dot sleeveless dress, delivered a warm tribute to people who responded heroically to help others during the tragedies in Newtown, Boston, and the explosion in West, Texas. She also spoke with passion about the fears of youngsters attending schools in high-risk neighborhoods and touched on the concerns of young people growing up in today’s uncertain world. 

The Congressional Club, founded in 1908, honored Mrs. Obama -- as stated in the literature -- for her “dedication and work with military families and her program to encourage healthy eating and exercise.” The club’s membership primarily consists of the spouses of members of the House and Senate in Washington, D.C.

This year the event carried a “Georgia” theme since Planning Committee chair was Mrs. Billie Gingrey, whose husband is a Georgia Republican congressman.  Charitable recipient for the event was the Good Samaritan Health Center of Cobb.

Paula Deen (Photo by: Natalia Janetti) Paula Deen

Two Georgia-connected celebs were part of the luncheon: county star Trisha Yearwood who sang “Georgia on My Mind,” among other tunes, and a slimmed down Paula Deen, author of cookbooks and host of several TV cooking shows.  The luncheon menu highlighted “Paula Deen’s Sweet Georgia Peach Honeyed Shrimp.”

Just a few locals spotted at the packed luncheon were Democrat fundraiser Esther Coopersmith; Teresa Heinz Kerry (wife of the Secretary of State); Brett Greene, CEO of American Management Corporation, and his wife Tiffini; Maxine Champion, president of Champion Strategies LLC; and Barbara Hawthorn, interior decorator and a leader of charitable events.

4 Comments For This Article

Mike S.

There WAS in fact, a report of a bomb threat closing the garage at the Washington Hilton. It was on several public safety "alert" websites. I saw it at the time. And I saw a follow-up report that the bomb threat had been deemed to be false and the garage had just reopened. I didn't have to search for these reports. They showed up in my inbox along with the other street closures and safety-related events.

The Secret Service remembers, even if the author of this blog doesn't, that the Hilton is where President Reagan was shot in March, 1981. If the professionals who risk their own lives to protect our public officials decided to delay the First Lady for safety and security reasons, I would respect their judgement and not carp about it.

She showed up, ate lunch, and spoke to the crowd. That, after the Secret Service determined the location was secure. The "changes" in "tradition" are - at best - much ado about nothing.

That's also not the most flattering picture of the First Lady. And the tone of the article isn't the kindest, either. Sounds like "tasting spoon" has been to a whine and cheese party. Either that, or a Tea Party.



Regardless of a bomb threat, she still refused to walk the runway. Had she just done that, everyone would've forgotten she was late. It was diva-like behavior and there's no getting around that.

Teresa Sheppar

As mentioned in your article, the luncheon had a Georgia theme. In addition to Georgians Paula Deen who catered the event and Trisha Yearwood who performed, Georgia born and raised artist Steve Penley was in attendance and was asked to paint a portrait of the First Lady. Steve was also commissioned to do a painting of Planning Committee Chair Billie Gingrey's grandfather returning home following World War II, in honor of Mrs. Obama's work with military families. Each guest received a limited edition print of the serviceman's homecoming. It is my understanding that the First Lady loved the PENLEY portrait of her and that the White House staff took it back with them. Photos of both paintings can be seen on the artist's facebook page,


Obviously you haven't attended the First Lady's Luncheon. I've attended for the last 12 years. Laura Bush walked the runway 1 time as First Lady. Otherwise she came from behind the dais or walked down an aisle cordoned off between luncheon tables. It's the First Lady's prerogative to enter/exit how and when she pleases. And under that foolish bomb threat, we were just grateful Secret Service let Mrs. Obama attend at all!!!