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Vermont Couple Attends State Dinner


Published November 30, 2009 at 8:48 a.m.

While high society gatecrashers nabbed the headlines from last week's state dinner at the White House, one Vermont couple was among the event's 400 legitimate guests.

The event was held under a tent on the South Lawn in honor of a visit by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (see second photo).

Michaele and Tareq Salahi, of Virginia, found their way into the dinner and eventually came face-to-face with Pres. Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. The Secret Service has since admitted it made mistakes and said the couple should never have made it inside.

Jane and Bill Stetson of Norwich were at the event, and Bill Stetson snapped a few photos, including this photo, top right, of the Salahis. Michaele Salahi is in the center of the photo.

Bill Stetson told Seven Days that he and Jane Stetson entered the receiving line room to shake hands with Pres. Obama and Prime Minister Singh with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and his wife.

Bill Stetson said it was interesting watching House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell chat.

"It seemed like they were old friends," said Stetson.

But, not everyone in the room was a household name. "They didn't invite the usual suspects," Bill Stetson said of the White House.

While Bill Stetson was invited, in part, because of his environmental activism and policy work during the Obama campaign, Jane Stetson was on the guest list as she is the Finance Chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

During the dinner, Bill Stetson was seated next to Lisa Jackson who is the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

 "It was a very interesting dinner and very much like the briefing I had been to the week before that was presided over by Lisa Jackson," said Bill Stetson. "It was a total cross-section of the country — a lot of regular folks, even community organizers. These were not all multi-millionaires or cabinet members."

Stetson said there were top administration officials, along with other political and Hollywood luminaries such as Colin Powell and director Steven Spielberg.

In the opening few seconds of the official White House video of the event, you can see the Stetsons sitting down at the table at the center of the frame.

Photos courtesy of Bill Stetson.