Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
The Italian prime minister, Giulio Andreotti, was honored at a state dinner in the White House Tuesday night where he granted President Carter permission to use all the Latin he wanted to - he cited "E Pluribus Unum," as an example. This is, of course, the motto the eagle holds in his beak in the Great Seal, familiar adornment of the dollar bill.
Andreotti began in English, in his dinner toast to the Carters, but said his Latin was probably more understandable than his English, and switched to Italian. His point, in any language, was to emphasize Italian bonds with America and to forecast a sound and progressive Italian future. He spoke of the 50 per cent of Italians who now own their homes.
He alluded to the "prodigious expansion" in the number of college students in Italy, and while acknowledging the woes of unemployment and inflation, pledged that "freedom is the fulcrum" on which his country, policies would be based.
In a touching moment, he read off some of the Italian surnames of Americans lost at Pearl Harbor.
As for communism, which was not specifically mentioned, he said there should be no conflict between the President's call for human rights and a policy of detente. Once he spoke with feeling on the disparity "between the few who possess very much and the many who have . . . bare necessities," a gap he is pledged to narrow or remove in Italy.
The sun was still bright when a little fleet of Cadillacs brought 10 Italian ministers and high officials to the front door of the old mansion, and a few minutes later Andreotti arrived in a Cadillac with red lights and the Italian flag flying over the left fender.
The presidential couple walked down a red carpet from the front door to greet him, as he pulled on a handstrap to ease his descent from the low-slung car.
Inside, the lobby was festive with enormous hanging baskets of coleus and other foliage plants, borrowed from the U.S. Botanic Garden, and north of the rain forest, so to speak, sat the entire Marine Band in scarlet and gold playing Puccini.
After a moment upstairs to rest, the attending ministers marched down the main stairway preceded by Vice President Mondale ("Fritz Mondahlly," rhyming with "tamale" as President Carter called him in a joking spirit after dinner).
It is always a pretty sight, unfortunately seen only by the press and not the participants. Neat trim aides march up into the lobby from downstairs, followed by a few guests, dressed fit to kill, who gather in the basement and are led up. Then there is a pause in the upward flow as the Vice President leads down the ministers.
Finally the President, accompanied by his wife, lead the guest of honor down the main staircase to a fanfare, followed by a rousing "Hail to the Chief" from the orchestra. (Carter discourages such trappings of the imperial presidency except at state dinners when he allows it to be played).
The dinner was simple - seafood cocktail, roast lamb, frozen souffle. Gone are the days of multi-course dinners that either wasted food or made people fat and drowsy or both.
The entire evening seemed to be one of affirming good will and looking for the best, after a period of political and economic distress in Italy, and the very tablecloths and roses were sunny yellow.
After dinner, William Mondale, 15-year-old son of the Vice President, leaned against the doorway of the Blue Room and sighed. It was, after all, his first state dinner and he was, quite frankly, excited.
"It was really much better than I expected it to be," he bubbled. "I just watched everyone else to see what they di and followed . . . you know, with the forks and everything."
His father watched over his son's shoulder to be sure he was acting correctly. "Just checking up," he laughed. "Can't be too careful."
But parental protection didn't seem to bother William. He was inside the White House most people never see and his eyes darted from portrait to portrait, trying to see everything at once.
"My first time in this part of the White House," he explained. "Put tomorrow night I get to sit next to J.C. (the President) at the Italian embassy. I can't wait."
Shirley Verrett, the mezzo who can sing both the great roles of Bellini's "Norma," though she had first intended to work in either accounting or the real estate business, sang Italian arias.
The East Room, dominated by the portraits of George and Martha Washington, was in its white and gold best, the heavy gold-brocaded draperies closed, but only one of the three huge chandeliers lit. The packed room - some stood in the Green Room doorway as well - tingled to the opening Pergolesi, sung in a voice much bigger than the room could well manage. This was new to the President (he said) but he applauded with great energy when the singer finished.
At the moment the White House exterior walls are disgraceful with peeling paint in patches the size of watermelons, but the part under the portico was the first to be repainted dazzling white, with boxes of scarlet geraniums on the side nearest Pennsylvania Avenue. Anumber of tourists, with the contented and exhausted air of parents who have shown their kids The Sights, paused to see the Carters greeting the prime minister, then strolled slowly on. The last few White House events have been outdoors and everybody claimed it was hot as hell.
So this time the entertainment was held indoors, and of course it was regular summer-resort weather outdoors with a glorious sky. There are times, even at the White House, or maybe especially there, you can't hardly win.