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Clinton Entertains Greek President at State Dinner

May 10, 1996

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton raised his glass, hailed the recent election of President Constantine Stephanopoulos of Greece and said: ``Mr. President, I have my own Stephanopoulos ... I think we’re both doing pretty well.″

Clinton’s Stephanopoulos is, of course, top adviser George Stephanopoulos who was present at the State Dinner with his parents but claimed no blood relationship with Greece’s new president.

``But I think my parents have always looked forward to hearing the words, ``President Stephanopoulos,‴ he said.

His father, the Rev. Robert Stephanopoulos, of New York’s Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, didn’t quite put it that way.

``Right now, he just has to do his job,″ the Rev. Mr. Stephanopoulos said of his son.

Nearly 200 guests, most of them Greek-Americans, filled the East Room of the White House, sitting at round tables sparkling with gold, centered with clouds of flowers and displaying Woodrow Wilson’s blue and gold presidential china.

In his toast, Clinton said: ``Greece has turned to President Stephanopoulos for leadership _ and I have my own Stephanopoulos. Mr. President, I think we’re both doing pretty well.″

The Greek president did not carry on the name game but used his toast to say, ``We know that our two nations can count on each other to continue their long tradition of cooperation.″

It was the first state dinner in the Clinton administration for former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic presidential candidate.

``I tried to get here on my own; but it was not to be,″ Dukakis said as he and his wife, Kitty, arrived. ``But we were pleased to be invited.″

As to Clinton, ``the presidency is not easy, you know that,″ Dukakis said. ``But I think he’ll be here for another four years.″

White House chef Walter Scheib described the menu and the dinner as ``a no-error situation″ involving two months of planning, three days of preparation and a ``chef’s brigade″ of 16 cooks applying final touches.

The entree was grilled lamb tenderloin with spinach Orzo topped with spicy slivers of three kinds of olives and crispy beets. Warm Kefalotiri cheese imported from Greece and baked figs were in the salad, topped with orange saffron dressing.

``It is not Greek food,″ Scheib insisted when reporters asked the question. ``There are some Greek influences. But it’s an American menu.″

The desert did pay tribute to ancient Greece in the form of edible Greek white-chocolate columns by White House pastry chef Roland Mesnier.

And while the wine was American, it came from vineyards whose owners are of Greek descent.

The entertainment was unquestionably American.

Thirty school children from the National Dance Institute, founded by Jacques d’Amboise, former principal dancer with the New York City Ballet, offered a jazzy, syncopated dance session in a tent spread over the Rose Garden just outside the Oval Office.

The rehearsals went on all afternoon but there came a time when the troupe was told to stop dancing and turn off the recorded music.

``The president was having a meeting,″ d’Amboise explained.

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