Wednesday night, the White House staged a formal state dinner to honor Chinese President Hu Jintao.
It was the first such formal dinner held for a visiting Chinese leader in 13 years, and much was made of almost every aspect of the gathering, not the least of which was who sat at the head table.
In addition to the expected guest list of political and business dignitaries, the invited guests included a number of this nation's most foremost entertainment luminaries. One of them was actor B.D. Wong.
In addition to winning many tributes for his work on the Broadway stage, Wong has been a member of the cast of one of the most popular television series in the United States for many years, Law and Order SVU.
He is also gay.
This was the actor’s first invitation to a White House state dinner. “I was forced to kind of ponder for myself the specific reasons were that I would make the cut, ” said Wong.
“One of the reasons is that I’m openly gay, I’m a Chinese American and I have done a fair amount of visible work in both of those communities.”
The actor says he feels “diversity among Chinese Americans is important in the landscape of what it means to be American.”
Wong says there seemed to be a fair amount of thought and work that went into who would sit at the head table. He says when he and his mother entered the White House, they were welcomed by U.S. first Lady Michelle Obama who told them “I’ll see you later, we’re sitting together.”
Although Wong says he’s not certain it had anything to do with the human rights issues that stand between China and the United States or President Obama “gently” trying to bring up the issue of human rights to the Chinese President, he found himself and his mother seated at the head table along with President Obama and the other presidents in attendance along with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“I’m fascinated and pleased and honored to think about the reasons why that might be,” Wong said.