A little rain couldn't dampen the good time at San Francisco's Legion of Honor museum Thursday night.
A heavy downpour, complete with rare lightning strikes above San Francisco Bay, was the prelude to a swanky dinner hosted by President Joe Biden, who toasted presidents, prime ministers and other dignitaries from across the world after a busy day at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.
A steady drizzle turned into a torrential downpour around 6:45 p.m. Biden's motorcade arrived minutes later. Along the president's route in the Richmond District, people and families waved American flags and cheered.
Two rows of military servicemen in white-gloved regalia—ceremonial swords and rifles included—stood in stoic formation awaiting the dignitaries’ arrival. Members of the press were utterly drenched as officials handed out trash bags for cover. An aide swept away deep pools of water that collected on the red carpet.
A military band hailed the leaders’ arrival, one by one. State Department protocol was on full display as Acting Chief of Protocol Ethan Rosenzweig greeted leaders, some with spouses in tow, over the course of more than an hour. Dignitaries were escorted by servicemen carrying umbrellas along a candlelit walkway to an elegantly decorated tent inside the museum grounds.
Guests included Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin. Philippine President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. arrived with his wife, Louise Araneta-Marcos; Vietnamese President Vo Van Thuong was accompanied by his wife, Phan Thi Thanh Tam, and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol brought his wife, Kim Keon-hee.
Chinese President Xi Jinping was on the guest list, but he was not spotted at the dinner. Dignitaries from Colombia and Japan were also absent.
While the men wore suits, many women arrived in style. Phan Thi Thanh Tam wore a teal high-necked gown. South Korea's first lady wore a black dress, a shimmering white blazer and iridescent pumps. Sophie Chang, wife of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company founder Morris Chang, donned a red blouse, a long embellished black skirt and sneakers.
The dinner was held in a tent in a large courtyard of the museum, and with the rain, it was drafty inside.
The dinner group was seated at a long table on one side of the courtyard, and an orchestra played. The president offered a toast to the leaders seated at the dinner, noting that the gathering came alongside "an inflection point in history."
"We had a great day, great meetings today," said Biden, who made a speech earlier in the day at the APEC CEO Summit. "But tonight it's about breaking bread together, and we know one another a little better after tonight."
Biden quoted an Irish poet, Eavan Boland, saying, "Remind us again now that history changes, that it belongs to us, it belongs to all of us."
Annie Gaus can be reached at email@example.com