Lockheed, Boeing Chiefs Among Guests at State Dinner for Trudeau

  • The two aerospace giants are vying to sell fighters to Canada
  • `Deadpool' star Ryan Reynolds is among celebrity attendees

The chief executives of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co., who are vying to replace Canada’s aging fleet of fighter jets, both made the guest list for the White House’s State Dinner on Thursday in honor of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg and Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson are among several business leaders that will share toasts with Trudeau, whose party pledged during last year’s election to abandon plans to buy Lockheed’s troubled F-35 stealth fighters. Boeing’s F-18 Superhornet is among possible replacements, though Trudeau’s government has backed off eliminating the F-35 from consideration.

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama were also set to host entertainers, business leaders and government officials from the U.S. and Canada for the dinner, with Xerox Corp. CEO Ursula Burns, Saturday Night Live co-founder Lorne Michaels and actor Ryan Reynolds among the attendees.

“Guests for state dinners are selected with great care, chosen especially to symbolize ties between the countries,” Erik Goldstein, who teaches international relations at Boston University and has studied state dinners, said in an e-mail. “As the Obama administration draws to a conclusion, this will provide an opportunity for him to thank some of his loyal supporters.”

Several current and former government officials from the U.S. and Canada also planned to attend one of the final state dinners of Obama’s presidency.

Trudeau promised in his campaign to reopen a tendering process for new fighter jets and exclude the F-35, which has grown controversial in Canada for its price tag and development delays. Since taking power last November he has backtracked on that pledge; his defense ministry now refuses to rule out the F-35 in any new bidding process.

Fox, Myers

Other business leaders expected at the dinner include Dow Chemical Co. CEO Andrew Liveris, United Parcel Service Inc. CEO David Abney, United Therapeutics Corp. Chairman Martine Rothblatt and WordPerfect Corp. co-founder Bruce Bastian.

Governors and senators from states sharing a border with Canada made up the bulk of politicians invited to the dinner. They include Democratic Governor Mark Dayton of Minnesota, Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Democratic Senators Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Jon Tester of Montana.

Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California were also invited.

The entertainment industry was well-represented on the guest list, as is typical for State Dinners. Canadian-born actors Michael J. Fox, Mike Myers and Sandra Oh were invited. Reynolds, who was born in Vancouver, is bringing his wife, actress Blake Lively.

The dinner and reception culminate Trudeau’s three-day visit to Washington, where he and Obama announced commitments to reduce methane emissions and ease cross-border travel between the U.S. and Canada.

Trudeau, the 44-year-old son of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, was elected last year. His mother, Margaret Trudeau, was planning to attend the dinner.

“We have a common outlook on the world,” Obama said Thursday in welcoming Trudeau during a sun-drenched ceremony on the South Lawn. “We are steadfast allies and the closest of friends.”

The president joked that one of the main points of contention between the U.S. and Canada is hockey. National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman was invited to the dinner, as was National Basketball Association Commissioner Adam Silver and former NBA star Grant Hill.

Recording artist Sarah Bareilles will provide the entertainment.

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