TODAY   |  November 24, 2009

Obamas hold first state dinner

Nov. 25: President Obama and the first lady welcome the D.C. elite, Oscar-winning entertainers and Hollywood moguls to the White House for their first state dinner. NBC’s Savannah Guthrie reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> door.

>>> but let us begin this morning with last night's state dinner at the white house . nbc's savannah guthrie is there this morning. savannah, good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning, matt. on the day we learned that the president's decision on afghanistan is imminent, he hosted a key player in the region, india 's prime minister, in a night that served up diplomacy with a big side of glitz and glamour . stepping out as hosts of their first state dinner since entering the white house , president and mrs. obama had the eyes of the world watching them. their guests of honor, the prime minister of india , manmohan singh , and his wife. diplomatic relations between the u.s. and india high on the agenda for the evening.

>> mr. prime minister, today we work to fulfill our duty, bring our countries closer together than ever before.

>> he should be on our common values and interests to realize the enormous potential and promise of our partnership.

>> reporter: politics aside, this state dinner was the hottest ticket in town. the guest list reading like a who's who from washington and hollywood. bold-faced names like jennifer hudson , who provided some of the evening's entertainment, the trio from dreamworks, steven spielberg , jeffrey katzenberg and david geffen also in attendance. so was hollywood superagent aria manuel, whose brother rahm emanuel is the president's chief of staff.

>> this is not just a party. this is not anything that's frivolous. this is a serious thing, this state dinner , because our relationship with india is crucial.

>> reporter: in a nod to the guests of honor, there were also several indian celebrities like director m. knight sham lan, author and spiritual adviser deepak chopra , and a.r. rahman , who composed songs for " slumdog millionaire ." absent was bill clinton . secretary of state hillary clinton came alone. oprah winfrey wasn't there, either, but her best friend , gayle king , was. and then, of course, there was the other star of the evening, the first lady's dress, always the talk of the fashion world. michelle obama chose a gown by indian american designer naeem khan.

>> she chose an important color in india , which is gold, and i think it's one of the most beautiful dresses i've ever seen.

>> reporter: but the dress wasn't the only homage paid to the guests of honor. there were the purple flowers representing the official indian state bird, the peacock, and magnolia branches, which not coincidentally are native to both the u.s. and india . all the night's details carefully thought out months in advance. the world tuning in to watch the obamas as hosts.

>> it's sort of like a swan. we're kind of calm and serene above water, but we're paddling like mad, going crazy underneath trying to look smooth.

>> this is not just their party. they are representing us. our country is the host. this is a great start for them.

>> reporter: well, today the president moves to thanksgiving activities. he will pardon the traditional thanksgiving turkey later today and also participate in a service event here in the washington area with his family. matt and meredith.

>> savannah guthrie at the white house , thank you very much. what do you think?

>> i feel like a hypocrite, because yesterday we were talking about what does she wear? and we're like who cares anymore? then all i wanted to know is what is she going to wear?

>> and what'd you think?

>> gorgeous. i think it's elegant and appropriate for the first state dinner . she looks great. he looks great, too, in that tux. he looks, as you said, classic.

>> classic route. looked like a nice evening.

>> we look like shlubs. well, we do.