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Hours before Wednesday evening's state dinner in honor of British Prime Minister David Cameron and Mrs. Samantha Cameron, first lady Michelle Obama hosted a smaller White House event for high school girls from the United States and the United Kingdom, explaining the importance of the official visit. The lucky teens were also treated to a preview of the high-profile dinner's table settings and menu, as well as a question-and-answer session with women in leadership positions at the White House.


"It's only formal because we wanted you to see what it's going to feel like, but enjoy yourselves and learn as much as you can," Mrs. Obama told about 25 young women seated around violet and silver cloth-topped tables in the State Dining Room. "You'll get a taste of what you might do when you get into these high posts, because we expect very big things from all of you."

The first lady was also joined by Brooke Anderson, chief of staff for the National Security Staff, and executive White House chef Cris Comerford, who gave details on the afternoon's activities, including President Obama's meetings with Prime Minister Cameron and the role of social entertaining in diplomacy. The students, who came from Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in the U.K., Elizabeth Seton High School in Maryland and the National Cathedral School in Washington, D.C., were selected by their schools for their leadership skills.


Although the preview was held indoors, the actual state dinner will take place in a massive tent on the White House South Lawn. Nonetheless, the replica table settings -- ornamented with purple and citron green hydrangeas, pink roses, candles and silver-rimmed china -- provided a peek at how the glittering event will look. The theme for the decor is "America's Backyard," inspired by backyards as places for gathering and entertaining close friends and family.

Dinner guests -- who include Warren Buffett, Idris Elba, George Clooney, California Attorney General Kamala Harris, journalist Gwen Ifill, BET Chairman and CEO Debra Lee, United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, Attorney General Eric Holder, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and architect David Adjaye -- will enjoy performances by R&B singer John Legend and British folk-rock band Mumford & Sons.

The menu, designed around vegetables harvested from the 1,700-square-foot White House garden, includes potato-crusted halibut, braised kale, spring garden salad, bison Wellington and warm lemon pudding with huckleberry sauce. As Comerford explained, the menu was planned with nods to both American and British culinary traditions.



Photos taken by Cynthia Gordy/The Root.

This post has been updated to include names of state-dinner guests.

Cynthia Gordy is The Root's Washington reporter.