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An Invitation to the White House: At Home with History

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First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton has worked to make the White House a distinctly American showcase — from historically accurate renovations and acquisitions of important American art, to celebrations of jazz and gospel music and an expanded emphasis on American cuisine. The first family's home has also been distinguished by the diversity of Americans honored and welcomed there. In this lavishly illustrated book, the First Lady invites you into the best-known house in the country and celebrates the very best of ...

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Overview

First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton has worked to make the White House a distinctly American showcase — from historically accurate renovations and acquisitions of important American art, to celebrations of jazz and gospel music and an expanded emphasis on American cuisine. The first family's home has also been distinguished by the diversity of Americans honored and welcomed there. In this lavishly illustrated book, the First Lady invites you into the best-known house in the country and celebrates the very best of American history, arts, and culture.

An Invitation to the White House shows how the White House figures prominently in the cultural and political life of the country, as well as in the life of the first family. You'll have a front-row seat at the full range of White House occasions, from an elegant and historic State Dinner for the Emperor and Empress of Japan to the annual Easter Egg Roll, from a performance by Lou Reed to a private recital for President Clinton by a saxophone quartet. You'll follow a State Visit — from the planning of the seating arrangements to the arrival ceremonies to the dancing after dinner — and meet the dedicated staff who work behind the scenes to make it all possible. This is a White House you won't see on any public tour: As historian Carl Anthony writes in his introduction, "This book makes the rooms come alive — one can almost taste the food and hear the music."

With more than 350 color and black-and-white photographs, menus and invitations from State Dinners and other events, and more than fifty recipes used in the White House kitchens, here is a glimpse of the day-to-day life behind the historic events thattake place in the people's house.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684857992
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 11/28/2000
  • Pages: 324
  • Product dimensions: 10.61 (w) x 10.60 (h) x 1.21 (d)

Meet the Author

Hillary Rodham Clinton was elected to the U.S. Senate from New York in 2000 and is the author of Living History; An Invitation to the Whitehouse: At Home with History; and Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids' Letters to the First Pets.

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Read an Excerpt

Introduction

I recall one of my first conversations with Hillary Clinton, shortly after she became First Lady. As we discussed some of the individuals featured in my two-volume history, First Ladies, her reverence for her predecessors and her love of the White House were clear, as was her sense of responsibility for the house and her awareness of the role she was to play.

Many people know Mrs. Clinton for her groundbreaking contributions to the policy arena. Fewer know the mark she has made on the responsibilities of the First Lady, honoring the traditions begun by those before her while bringing new ideas and innovations to the position. Mrs. Clinton has a natural affinity and affection for many of her predecessors; Dolley Madison is a particular favorite, and to hear Mrs. Clinton detail aspects of the legendary hostess's legacy is to see evidence of how an earlier life can reach across the decades to inspire another. The First Lady's description of Dolley Madison could be used to describe Mrs. Clinton herself: "Not only a wonderful hostess but a very skilled diplomat with a tremendous political ear, who could bring people together, have them work together, and then send them out feeling that they were charged with a mission."

Anyone who has been to one of the hundreds of the Clintons' parties can see how seriously Mrs. Clinton takes her role as hostess. To see her circulate through the crowds, pointing out objects of interest, posing for endless snapshots, and putting a reassuring arm around a nervous visitor, is to realize that her love of the house is rivaled only by the joy she gets in sharing it with people from all walks of life. I recall seeing hertalking to a circle of guests at an evening celebrating the life of Thomas Jefferson and excitedly leading them to see the new red carpet she had finally managed to have installed in the regal hall between the State Dining Room and the East Room. Afterwards she implored everyone to examine the gold centerpiece that has been in the White House collection since it was bought by James Monroe, and, of course, urged them all to indulge in the trays of desserts on the long table.

Like other First Ladies, Mrs. Clinton has been responsible for overseeing the menu at the White House, and one of her first acts was to reinstate the tradition of serving the finest regional American food. Jefferson insisted on serving fresh seafood from the Chesapeake Bay and locally grown vegetables, while the Coolidges offered many of their native New England specialties to guests: brown bread, cheddar cheese, codfish, and maple cookies. At one State Dinner, Mamie Eisenhower had pomme de brune listed on formal menus for dessert, but it was still her favorite Apple Brown Betty from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. While the last several decades brought a decidedly European flavor to the White House table, Hillary Clinton decided it was time to bring in a top American-trained, American-born chef, change the table service from French to American, and use American-grown ingredients whenever possible. The results have been fine indeed.

The furnishings and decorations of the White House are the traditional purview of the First Lady. In this arena, Mrs. Clinton has been extraordinarily sensitive to preserving historical detail while modernizing rooms on the State Floor. Consider the Blue Room. In 1961 Mrs. Kennedy used original furniture purchased from France by the Monroes in her cream-and-blue refurbishment. The room, so well used during the next decade, became threadbare by 1972, and Pat Nixon undertook another refurbishing, changing the wall covering and the shade of blue of the draperies, but still maintaining the feel of the previous room. Twenty years later, it again required attention. When it was unveiled by Mrs. Clinton in 1995, the room was a rich sapphire blue that looked good when lighted for television, but still preserved the style and furniture of the Monroe era. Now the room as redone in 1972, 1961, or even 1917 might have been perfectly preserved for generations with glass or velvet ropes across the door, as in a museum, but this is the White House: Lively parties, Christmas receptions, solemn ceremonies, receiving lines, seated dinners, and photo sessions all take place in the Blue Room. It lives and thus it evolves. Mrs. Clinton understands this fine balance perfectly.

The use of the house as a national stage featuring the best contemporary entertainment also follows a White House custom: The Kennedys requested that the American Ballet Theater perform in the East Room; the Eisenhowers asked Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians to sing after a dinner; and Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson had Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass perform for them in the 1960s. The Clintons have carried on this long-standing tradition, showcasing performers from Isaac Stern to Eric Clapton.

Of course, like other first families, the Clintons have also established new traditions. While it was the Benjamin Harrison family that brought the first Christmas tree to the White House, the Clintons have opened the holiday season with acknowledgment of both Jewish and Muslim holy times. The Tafts used the lawn for the first known performance of Shakespeare at the White House, and other families gave garden parties and State Dinners in the Rose Garden, but the Clintons have found even more creative uses for the lawn as a space for sculpture exhibits, large-scale State Dinners (held in an elegant pavilion specially constructed for the events), picnics and cookouts, and even a carnival. By using this large space for entertaining, the Clintons have enabled large numbers of guests to enjoy the White House inside and out.

It is in furthering this rich tradition of making the White House the people's house that the Clintons have had their greatest impact. What makes the White House so different from the homes and palaces of other world leaders is the life that "the people" -- the tourists, the dinner guests, the staff, and the families -- bring to its old walls. Were it not for the people who come to the White House, it would simply be a museum, or a beautiful private estate. What makes the White House so special, so distinctly American, is that everyone -- however different, from whatever political party, age, or station in life -- can visit.

Since the 19th century, tourists have come to marvel at the paintings of past Presidents, ask the staff what the family eats for dinner, watch the delivery wagons come and go -- and even snip a curtain tassel for a souvenir. Gates and doors were flung open to the masses at weekly band concerts on the lawn, at the annual Independence Day reception, and for the Egg Roll on Easter Monday, an event still open to the public today. Although security concerns and costs limited the number of "come one, come all" events as the population grew in the 20th century, the Clintons have worked to keep the doors of the people's house open to a great diversity of Americans. Almost every guest list compiled by Hillary Clinton has included those who never thought they might one day receive an invitation to the White House. At these events, one can always expect to meet remarkable people from all walks of life who came to the attention of the Clintons because of a touching letter they had written or important work they had done in their own communities.

The Clintons have also followed the tradition of using the latest technology to bring the White House to those who cannot visit in person. Rutherford and Lucy Hayes were the first to permit a reporter into the private quarters. The Harrisons first allowed the rooms to be photographed for reprinting in newspapers and books. Harry Truman hosted the first televised tour for the nation. And, in 1993 the Clintons permitted C-SPAN (the cable television station that broadcasts political and historical programming to millions of homes) to cover the large State Dinner they hosted in honor of President Nelson Mandela of South Africa, in order to provide a glimpse of the effort that goes into such an event. Along with White House Social Secretary Ann Stock, Mrs. Clinton guided viewers through the earlier planning stages, showing everything from choosing the menu to the music to the table decorations. She also provided commentary on the political impact of what seem like simply "social" functions. Similarly, the Clintons have made frequent use of satellites to bring events to viewers around the world, and did the first cybercast events, including White House conferences and lectures by prominent Americans, to make them accessible to viewers at their home computers.

An Invitation to the White House is in keeping with this spirit. This book makes the rooms come alive -- one can almost taste the food and hear the music. It is not only informative, but inspiring. My own lifelong interest in the White House was prompted by reading books on the subject. I imagined what the rooms looked like, and what it would be like to attend an event there. A first visit to the White House as a young tourist left me feeling extraordinarily privileged and only deepened my interest in the people's house, sending me back to my books for further study. An Invitation to the White House will do the same for generations to come.

The Clinton Blue Room will someday be refurbished. New portraits with new faces will be hung on the walls. Other families will come and go. Whatever the length of their stay, each will leave their own mark on the White House in the centuries to follow. The Clintons certainly have, and the nation can be grateful.

Copyright © 2000 by White House Historical Association

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Table of Contents

Contents

Foreword by J. Carter Brown

Introduction by Carl Sferrazza Anthony

Preserving the House for History

Making This House a Home

Behind the Scenes

"The President and Mrs. Clinton Request the Pleasure of the Company of..."

Welcoming the World

Celebrating American Arts and Culture

Honoring Americans

History in the Making

The People's House

Christmas at the White House: An American Tradition

Celebrating the Millennium

Recipes from the White House Kitchens

Credits

Acknowledgments

Indexes

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Introduction

Introduction

I recall one of my first conversations with Hillary Clinton, shortly after she became First Lady. As we discussed some of the individuals featured in my two-volume history, First Ladies, her reverence for her predecessors and her love of the White House were clear, as was her sense of responsibility for the house and her awareness of the role she was to play.

Many people know Mrs. Clinton for her groundbreaking contributions to the policy arena. Fewer know the mark she has made on the responsibilities of the First Lady, honoring the traditions begun by those before her while bringing new ideas and innovations to the position. Mrs. Clinton has a natural affinity and affection for many of her predecessors; Dolley Madison is a particular favorite, and to hear Mrs. Clinton detail aspects of the legendary hostess's legacy is to see evidence of how an earlier life can reach across the decades to inspire another. The First Lady's description of Dolley Madison could be used to describe Mrs. Clinton herself: "Not only a wonderful hostess but a very skilled diplomat with a tremendous political ear, who could bring people together, have them work together, and then send them out feeling that they were charged with a mission.

. Clinton takes her role as hostess. To see her circulate through the crowds, pointing out objects of interest, posing for endless snapshots, and putting a reassuring arm around a nervous visitor, is to realize that her love of the house is rivaled only by the joy she gets in sharing it with people from all walks of life. I recall seeing her talking to a circle of guests at an evening celebrating the life of Thomas Jefferson and excitedly leading them to see the new red carpet she had finally managed to have installed in the regal hall between the State Dining Room and the East Room. Afterwards she implored everyone to examine the gold centerpiece that has been in the White House collection since it was bought by James Monroe, and, of course, urged them all to indulge in the trays of desserts on the long table.

Like other First Ladies, Mrs. Clinton has been responsible for overseeing the menu at the White House, and one of her first acts was to reinstate the tradition of serving the finest regional American food. Jefferson insisted on serving fresh seafood from the Chesapeake Bay and locally grown vegetables, while the Coolidges offered many of their native New England specialties to guests: brown bread, cheddar cheese, codfish, and maple cookies. At one State Dinner, Mamie Eisenhower had pomme de brune listed on formal menus for dessert, but it was still her favorite Apple Brown Betty from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. While the last several decades brought a decidedly European flavor to the White House table, Hillary Clinton decided it was time to bring in a top American-trained, American-born chef, change the table service from French to American, and use American-grown ingredients whenever possible. The results have been fine indeed.

The furnishings and decorations of the White House are the traditional purview of the First Lady. In this arena, Mrs. Clinton has been extraordinarily sensitive to preserving historical detail while modernizing rooms on the State Floor. Consider the Blue Room. In 1961 Mrs. Kennedy used original furniture purchased from France by the Monroes in her cream-and-blue refurbishment. The room, so well used during the next decade, became threadbare by 1972, and Pat Nixon undertook another refurbishing, changing the wall covering and the shade of blue of the draperies, but still maintaining the feel of the previous room. Twenty years later, it again required attention. When it was unveiled by Mrs. Clinton in 1995, the room was a rich sapphire blue that looked good when lighted for television, but still preserved the style and furniture of the Monroe era. Now the room as redone in 1972, 1961, or even 1917 might have been perfectly preserved for generations with glass or velvet ropes across the door, as in a museum, but this is the White House: Lively parties, Christmas receptions, solemn ceremonies, receiving lines, seated dinners, and photo sessions all take place in the Blue Room. It lives and thus it evolves. Mrs. Clinton understands this fine balance perfectly.

The use of the house as a national stage featuring the best contemporary entertainment also follows a White House custom: The Kennedys requested that the American Ballet Theater perform in the East Room; the Eisenhowers asked Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians to sing after a dinner; and Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson had Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass perform for them in the 1960s. The Clintons have carried on this long-standing tradition, showcasing performers from Isaac Stern to Eric Clapton.

Of course, like other first families, the Clintons have also established new traditions. While it was the Benjamin Harrison family that brought the first Christmas tree to the White House, the Clintons have opened the holiday season with acknowledgment of both Jewish and Muslim holy times. The Tafts used the lawn for the first known performance of Shakespeare at the White House, and other families gave garden parties and State Dinners in the Rose Garden, but the Clintons have found even more creative uses for the lawn as a space for sculpture exhibits, large-scale State Dinners (held in an elegant pavilion specially constructed for the events), picnics and cookouts, and even a carnival. By using this large space for entertaining, the Clintons have enabled large numbers of guests to enjoy the White House inside and out.

It is in furthering this rich tradition of making the White House the people's house that the Clintons have had their greatest impact. What makes the White House so different from the homes and palaces of other world leaders is the life that "the people" -- the tourists, the dinner guests, the staff, and the families -- bring to its old walls. Were it not for the people who come to the White House, it would simply be a museum, or a beautiful private estate. What makes the White House so special, so distinctly American, is that everyone -- however different, from whatever political party, age, or station in life -- can visit.

Since the 19th century, tourists have come to marvel at the paintings of past Presidents, ask the staff what the family eats for dinner, watch the delivery wagons come and go -- and even snip a curtain tassel for a souvenir. Gates and doors were flung open to the masses at weekly band concerts on the lawn, at the annual Independence Day reception, and for the Egg Roll on Easter Monday, an event still open to the public today. Although security concerns and costs limited the number of "come one, come all" events as the population grew in the 20th century, the Clintons have worked to keep the doors of the people's house open to a great diversity of Americans. Almost every guest list compiled by Hillary Clinton has included those who never thought they might one day receive an invitation to the White House. At these events, one can always expect to meet remarkable people from all walks of life who came to the attention of the Clintons because of a touching letter they had written or important work they had done in their own communities.

The Clintons have also followed the tradition of using the latest technology to bring the White House to those who cannot visit in person. Rutherford and Lucy Hayes were the first to permit a reporter into the private quarters. The Harrisons first allowed the rooms to be photographed for reprinting in newspapers and books. Harry Truman hosted the first televised tour for the nation. And, in 1993 the Clintons permitted C-SPAN (the cable television station that broadcasts political and historical programming to millions of homes) to cover the large State Dinner they hosted in honor of President Nelson Mandela of South Africa, in order to provide a glimpse of the effort that goes into such an event. Along with White House Social Secretary Ann Stock, Mrs. Clinton guided viewers through the earlier planning stages, showing everything from choosing the menu to the music to the table decorations. She also provided commentary on the political impact of what seem like simply "social" functions. Similarly, the Clintons have made frequent use of satellites to bring events to viewers around the world, and did the first cybercast events, including White House conferences and lectures by prominent Americans, to make them accessible to viewers at their home computers.

An Invitation to the White House is in keeping with this spirit. This book makes the rooms come alive -- one can almost taste the food and hear the music. It is not only informative, but inspiring. My own lifelong interest in the White House was prompted by reading books on the subject. I imagined what the rooms looked like, and what it would be like to attend an event there. A first visit to the White House as a young tourist left me feeling extraordinarily privileged and only deepened my interest in the people's house, sending me back to my books for further study. An Invitation to the White House will do the same for generations to come.

The Clinton Blue Room will someday be refurbished. New portraits with new faces will be hung on the walls. Other families will come and go. Whatever the length of their stay, each will leave their own mark on the White House in the centuries to follow. The Clintons certainly have, and the nation can be grateful.

Read More Show Less

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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2001

    An Outsiders Look into the White House

    A wonderful coffee table book and a true treasure of American History. I enjoyed the many photos as well as the brief text, which was very informative. As an event planner I especially enjoyed seeing the various events planned top to bottom at the White House. A must buy! A wonderful book for anyone who is planning to visit the White House or has been there.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2001

    The Backstage and Red Carpet Versions of the White House

    If you are like me, you have not yet been invited to a state dinner in the White House or to stay overnight. This book will make you feel like you have. This is by far the best book ever about a First Lady's role relative to and her perspective on the White House. Mrs. Clinton was involved in providing continuity with the White House's history in selecting furnishings, art and deciding what rooms to redo; being official hostess for state events; raising funds to preserve and improve the White House; and creating a personal space for her family. The book contains many wonderful photographs of behind-the-scenes preparations that will be important historical guides for future First Ladies. The book is strengthened by over 350 photographs (mostly in color), images of invitations, and menus which are mostly well reproduced in the appropriate sizes. All of the author's payments will go to the White House Historical Society and a portion of the publisher's profits go to the National Park Foundation. This book will be tremendously appealing to all fans of Mrs. Clinton's. It will also appeal to those who have not yet spent a night in the Lincoln Bedroom, but would like to. If you are not in either category, this may not be the right book for you. The images and text are very focused on the Clinton years in the White House. J. Carter Brown summarizes the book's perspective in his interesting Foreword. The book is a 'perspective on history, art, and furnishings, . . . and a behind-the-scenes glimpse at how the White House works.' As such it is 'an unprecedented opportunity to share in the dialy life of the people's house.' Mrs. Clinton is generous in her willingness to include photographs and named references to the many hundreds of people involved in the endeavors that she coordinated as First Lady. This adds to the richness of understanding you will receive about how the White House is organized and operated. Mrs. Clinton's personal touch was to make the White House more authentically American, both from a historical and a contemporary perspective. Gone are the continental cuisine menus in favor of native American food with American ingredients. Foreign antiques were replaced with American ones. Paintings were added by Georgia O'Keeffe, the first by an American woman, and by Henry Ossawa Tanner, the first black artist presented. Time and sunlight had faded the Blue Room into the Aqua Room, and the restoration made it more wonderful than ever before in ways consistent with the original design principles. Personally, she talks about her identification with Dolley Madison who was both interested in making the White House run better and being a terrifically stimulating hostess. The book contains sections on state dinners, honoring American arts and culture, honoring specific Americans, historic events of the last 8 years (such as the various peace negotiations), public events (such as the Easter Egg hunt), Christmas celebrations, and a special section on the Millennium events last year. At the end are a series of recipes featuring the kind of dishes available in the White House. I don't h

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2001

    scandal

    Interesting book, But I just could not get past the 'scandal' that surrounded the Clintons during this time.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2001

    An interesting view

    I was intrigued by the idea of this book, written from Ms. Clinton's perspective, about the White House, and the entertaining the Clinton's have done. I have never been a fan of the Clinton's but decided to give thisbook a try. I have been pleasantly surprised by this book. It has given me a totally different perspective of the Clinton's and some of the few good things they have done in the last eight years.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2001

    Great Book!!!

    Best book I've ever read or seen of the Whitehouse. I've personally toured the Whitehouse under several administrations and Hillary Clinton has done a wonderful job of redecorating and restoring the Whitehouse. I'm looking forward for her to become our 1st Woman President of the United States of America!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2000

    Breathtaking illustrations

    The fact that a First Lady has put forth a treaties that captures the experiences of the White House is an excellent achievement. This at once raises the standard and the bar for all other first ladies. I loved the variations in the book's theme - from recipes to high profile dinners. Excellent, Hillary, time well spent at the White House!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2000

    A Wonderful Look at Our Nation's More Cherished Home

    This is a wonderful book highlighting our nation's most cherished home, the White House. It is a celebration of 200 years. This is not a partisan effort, but highlights both Republican and Democratic leadership in the White House. Disregard the negative reviews of this book - those are posted by frustrated Republicans who have had to bite their lip the past 8 years as America has enjoyed the most prosperous times in its history. Buy this book - it is an American treasure!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2000

    What a beautiful book!!!

    Mrs. Clinton and her staff have complied the most beautiful book ever regarding the social events at The White House! The pictures and copies of menus are marvelous! This is a must for anyone interested in what goes on to prepare for some of the most important events hosted by the White House and First Family! Unfortunately, it is not logistically possible for all of America to be invited to a White House event...but here we get to see exactly what it looks like! This beautifully illustrated piece has captured the grace and elegance of The White House. For a two hundred year old house...it never looked better! :-) Thanks to Mrs. Clinton and the entire White House staff for letting us see your world! What an exciting life it must be!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2000

    Great Pictures!

    This book shows a more personal side to Hillary. She will forever be an American icon!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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