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US President Gerald Ford dances with Britain's Queen Elizabeth II during a state dinner in Washington, DC, in 1976.

US President Gerald Ford dances with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II during a state dinner in Washington, DC, in 1976.

Ricardo Thomas/Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library/Reuters

Updated 3:09 PM EDT, Wed May 22, 2024

By Laura Oliverio and Kyle Almond, CNN

President Joe Biden is hosting a state visit this week for for Kenya President William Ruto, and a state dinner will be held Thursday at the White House.

This is the sixth state visit of the Biden administration. The first came in December 2022, when French President Emmanuel Macron visited and brought back a tradition that hadn’t been seen since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A state visit is typically a multiday affair that includes formal ceremonies, meetings and a dinner.

The first state dinner is historically considered to be the one held in 1874 by Ulysses S. Grant for King Kalākaua of Hawaii. It featured multiple courses and expensive table settings.

In the early days, state dinners were, more than anything else, a chance for a president and first lady to showcase their hosting skills. As the United States became a global power, the attractiveness of getting face time with a US president became crucial — both from the American perspective and from other parts of the world.

US President Franklin D. Roosevelt holds up the United Nations Declaration next to Bolivian President Enrique Penaranda after Penaranda signed it during a state dinner at the White House in 1943.

US President Franklin D. Roosevelt holds up the United Nations Declaration next to Bolivian President Enrique Penaranda after Penaranda signed it during a state dinner at the White House in 1943. “Roosevelt is really the first to start using the dinners a bit more strategically,” Matthew Costello, a historian with the White House Historical Association, said in 2020.

George R. Skadding/AP

Nikita Khrushchev, left, was the first Soviet head of state to visit the United States. He's joined by his wife, Nina, and US President Dwight D. Eisenhower and first lady Mamie Eisenhower, center, in 1959. After Roosevelt, state dinners became a delicate dance of strategy during the Cold War era. Costello said the official visits were opportunities to pull Western allies closer, or to try to thaw icier relationships.

Nikita Khrushchev, left, was the first Soviet head of state to visit the United States. He’s joined by his wife, Nina, and US President Dwight D. Eisenhower and first lady Mamie Eisenhower, center, in 1959. After Roosevelt, state dinners became a delicate dance of strategy during the Cold War era. Costello said the official visits were opportunities to pull Western allies closer, or to try to thaw icier relationships.

The Washington Post/Getty Images

US President John F. Kennedy and Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba are trailed by their wives, Jackie and Moufida, as they walk down White House steps to pose for photos in 1961.

US President John F. Kennedy and Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba are trailed by their wives, Jackie and Moufida, as they walk down White House steps to pose for photos in 1961.

Bill Allen/AP

US President Lyndon B. Johnson welcomes Barbados Prime Minister Errol W. Barrow and his wife, Carolyn, for a state dinner in 1968. Johnson threw 54 state dinners during his time in office, which is more than any other president.

US President Lyndon B. Johnson welcomes Barbados Prime Minister Errol W. Barrow and his wife, Carolyn, for a state dinner in 1968. Johnson threw 54 state dinners during his time in office, which is more than any other president.

AP

US President Richard Nixon and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev share a toast during a state dinner in 1973.

US President Richard Nixon and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev share a toast during a state dinner in 1973.

Charles Tasnadi/AP

US President Gerald Ford dances with first lady Betty Ford during a state dinner held in honor of Jordan's King Hussein in 1974.

US President Gerald Ford dances with first lady Betty Ford during a state dinner held in honor of Jordan’s King Hussein in 1974.

David Hume Kennerly/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

First lady Betty Ford, center left, and decorator Betty Sherrill, center right, look over table settings as they prepare for a state dinner in honor of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II in 1976.

First lady Betty Ford, center left, and decorator Betty Sherrill, center right, look over table settings as they prepare for a state dinner in honor of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II in 1976.

AP

US President Jimmy Carter offers a toast while hosting Chinese Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping and his wife, Cho Lin, at a state dinner in 1979. There was no hard liquor served at state dinners hosted by Carter, but they did serve beer and wine.

US President Jimmy Carter offers a toast while hosting Chinese Vice Premier Deng Xiaoping and his wife, Cho Lin, at a state dinner in 1979. There was no hard liquor served at state dinners hosted by Carter, but they did serve beer and wine.

Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

First lady Nancy Reagan meets with White House chefs ahead of a state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1982.

First lady Nancy Reagan meets with White House chefs ahead of a state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1982.

The White House/The New York Times/Redux

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, left, shakes hands with baseball legend Joe DiMaggio while attending a state dinner at the White House in 1987. At center is US President Ronald Reagan.

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, left, shakes hands with baseball legend Joe DiMaggio while attending a state dinner at the White House in 1987. At center is US President Ronald Reagan. “The Reagans loved to throw state dinners,” Costello said. “In the 80s, global change was reaching a fever pitch, and Reagan had secured the admiration of several leaders.”

Ronald Reagan Library/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his wife, Naina, stand next to US President George H.W. Bush, right, and his wife, Barbara, before a state dinner in 1992. Following the Cold War, state dinners began to taper off.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin and his wife, Naina, stand next to US President George H.W. Bush, right, and his wife, Barbara, before a state dinner in 1992. Following the Cold War, state dinners began to taper off.

Dirck Halstead/The Chronicle Collection/Getty Images

Singer Whitney Houston performs at a state dinner in honor of South African President Nelson Mandela in 1994.

Singer Whitney Houston performs at a state dinner in honor of South African President Nelson Mandela in 1994.

Ron Sachs/CNP/ABACA/Reuters

US President Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Clinton stand with Mandela and his daughter Zindzi before the state dinner in 1994.

US President Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Clinton stand with Mandela and his daughter Zindzi before the state dinner in 1994.

Wally McNamee/Corbis/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, take their seats in 2003 for a state dinner held in honor of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, take their seats in 2003 for a state dinner held in honor of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

US President George W. Bush, right, sits with first lady Laura Bush, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip as they listen to a performance by violinist Itzhak Perlman after a state dinner in 2007.

US President George W. Bush, right, sits with first lady Laura Bush, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip as they listen to a performance by violinist Itzhak Perlman after a state dinner in 2007.

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

US President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama await the arrival of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife, Gursharan Kaur, for a state dinner in 2009.

US President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama await the arrival of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife, Gursharan Kaur, for a state dinner in 2009.

Pete Souza/White House/AP

Obama listens to Singh during toasts in 2009.

Obama listens to Singh during toasts in 2009.

Jason Reed/Reuters

The White House's State Dining Room is seen ahead of a state dinner honoring French President Emmanuel Macron in 2018.

The White House’s State Dining Room is seen ahead of a state dinner honoring French President Emmanuel Macron in 2018.

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump greet Macron and his wife, Brigitte, at the state dinner in 2018.

US President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump greet Macron and his wife, Brigitte, at the state dinner in 2018.

Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Trump and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison share a toast at a state dinner in 2019. It was Trump's last state dinner.

Trump and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison share a toast at a state dinner in 2019. It was Trump’s last state dinner.

Joshua Roberts/Reuters

US President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden greet French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, as they arrive for a <a href=state dinner at the White House in December 2022. It was the first state dinner of the Biden administration, and the first since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.” onload=”this.classList.remove(‘image__dam-img–loading’)” onerror=”imageLoadError(this)” height=”1667″ width=”2500″>

US President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden greet French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, as they arrive for a state dinner at the White House in December 2022. It was the first state dinner of the Biden administration, and the first since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images