Will Allen returns to the White House

Growing Power CEO a guest at Mexican state dinner

President Barack Obama greets guest Will Allen in a receiving line in the Blue Room of the White House, May 19, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

Just two months after First Lady Michelle Obama asked him to stand with her in Washington as one of four Americans speaking in support of the launch of her “Let’s Move!” initiative to end childhood obesity, Will Allen of Growing Power was again invited to the White House, this time as a guest at a dinner to honor the official state visit of the president of Mexico.

The State Dinner was held on Wednesday, May 19, 2010 at the White House in a tent on the South Lawn. The invitation read: “The President and Mrs. Obama request the pleasure of the company of Mr. Will Allen at a dinner in honor of His Excellency Felipe Calderón, President of Mexico, and Mrs. Margarita Zavala.”

“It is an absolute honor to be invited by the President and Mrs. Obama to such a prestigious and important event,” Allen said. “It gave me an opportunity to continue building important relationships that will help drive our Good Food Revolution. “

Allen, who lives in Oak Creek attended the dinner with his wife, Cynthia. The black-tie affair marked the Obama administration’s second state dinner-and unlike the first one, this one went off without any complications.

Allen was among a handful of special guests personally invited by First Lady Michelle Obama.

“I really admire her work in terms of our youth,” he said. “The garden at the White House has really engaged a lot of folks, inspired a lot of folks to grown a garden. That makes me happy because that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Another special treat for Allen was the opportunity to enjoy the upscale Mexican cuisine of Rick Bayless, renowned chef who has been featured on the series Top Chef Masters, and owner of Chicago restaurant Topolobampo, one of the Obamas favorite eating spots in their hometown.

“He’s pretty legendary. He uses organic ingredients, sourced locally and has his own garden where he grows a lot of the food he uses in the restaurant.” Allen said.

Other invited guests at the dinner included retired golfer Lorena Ochoa, actresses Salma Hayek and Eva Longoria- Parker.

Entertainment included Beyonce’ and noted Mexican entertainment team, Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero originally from Mexico City.

The invitation capped a heady week for Allen. On May 15, in the midst of hosting Growing Power’s Fifth Annual National and International Urban Agriculture Workshop, with more than 100 attendees participating in intensive training, he took time off from his duties to accept an honorary doctor of fine arts degree from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and to deliver the commencement address to 140 graduates of the institute.