First Lady’s Luncheon

May 27, 2003

Read in Florida’s News Journal about Marina’s performance for the First Lady

West Volusia Chatterbox by Mimi Carter
Every Thursday.

Washington receptions draw DeLand residents
The Congressional Club in Washington, D.C., recently had its annual luncheon honoring First Lady Laura Welch Bush, wife of President George W. Bush. Many of the distinguished guests were spouses of presidents, cabinet members, former and current speakers of the House, Supreme Court justices, U.S. representatives and senators. The special guest speaker was Cheri Booth Blair, wife of the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair.
Local residents enjoying the luncheon were Pat Mica, wife of U.S. Representative John Mica, and Emilie and Rita Carter, DeLand. Pat was on the planning committee for the luncheon. (Later that evening, the three enjoyed a couple of receptions at the historical Jefferson Building in the Library of Congress.)

In keeping with the Brittania theme of the luncheon, the stage was set with a picture of Big Ben, and the Tower of London in the background. Cheri Blair said Big Ben was a very familiar sight; she would hear its chimes frequently, especially throughout the middle of the night while nursing her babies. The Blairs have four children; Euan, 19; Nicholas,18; Kathryn,15; and Leo, 3. She said it is an honor to share the same spirit and values in the United Kingdom as we do in the United States.

A standing ovation greeted Laura Bush as she arrived at the head table that was draped in yellow and blue, enhanced with gorgeous yellow roses and snap dragons, blue irises and English boxwood. Her speech began by recognizing the friendship we have with the United Kingdom and that we are united to help Iraq build a better future.

She continued with a passionate speech on women’s health issues, especially the risk of heart disease among women. She said heart disease kills 5,000 women in America every year, but it’s often preventable with exercise, a healthy diet and screening through your doctor. She advocated walking and said her mother-in-law, Barbara Bush, was also dedicated to exercising. She said Barbara swims 88 laps a day.

The audience was entertained by some letters Laura read from a kindergarten class on what they thought the first lady does with her day. Some examples were: “she picks out the president’s shirt and tie every day, she washes out all the vases and she plants the tulips in the gardens.” Later, she joked that the days are gone when a first lady’s main job was to make sure her hat was on straight while standing next to her husband, the president.

Marina Arsenijevic, a concert pianist, played her own dramatic rendition of “America the Beautiful,” which overwhelmed the audience with emotion. She said she was playing “in the name of freedom.” Marina fled from Belgrade when it was still Yugoslavia. Russell Watson awed the audience with his gorgeous operatic voice, young handsome face and charming style. He livened the room up when he sang “Volare,” with the audience participating. Russell lives in Manchester, England.

The Congressional Club was founded in 1908. The first “First Ladies Luncheon” was held in 1912 in honor of First Lady Helen Taft.

At a spring reception for Republican members and their spouses in the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress later that day, the guests enjoyed a beautiful buffet amid the exquisite decor of the members’ reading room. Former and sitting members of Congress and their spouses and guests were in attendance.

Next door, The Florida House celebrated its 30th anniversary in the Great Hall of the Jefferson Building. The guest of honor was Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida’s first lady, Columba Bush, the honorary chairman of The Florida House. They honored Columba with a painting of her that will be hung in The Florida House. Columba promotes awareness of best practices in arts education in Florida’s public schools. With the first lady’s leadership, the Arts Recognition program has expanded to include many programs throughout the state of Florida.

Lorna Jean Hagstrom, DeLand, was among the guests. She serves as treasurer on the board of The Florida House. The Florida House is often referred to as “Florida’s Window to Washington.” The house is a home away from home in the nation’s capital. Florida is the only state that has its own hospitality house. There, Floridians can receive information on Washington landmarks, businesses and attractions. It also serves as an intimate setting for educational forums and meetings with visiting dignitaries. The Florida House, a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1973 is supported solely by private donations from corporations and residents of Florida.

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