Reprinted from yesterday's late edition.
President Jimmy Carter held a state dinner Wednesday that demonstrated unintentionally how differently people from East and West interpret the ideological catchwords "proletariat" and "the people."
One interpretation came from the president's Communist Eastern European guest and the other from a group of American farmers protesting outside the White House gates.
Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu, that most friendly of the Warsaw bloc leaders, on his fourth visit here in eight years, contributed his proletarian ingredient - an insistence on eschewing black tie, a policy that many of the capitalist guests and, perhaps, the president himself, welcomed. Carter took the opportunity to wear brown shoes with his dark blue business suit.
As the two heads of state, their wives and 140 guests were just cutting into their Supreme of Royal Squab with wild rice, a large group of angry, and probably hungry, farmers, including some who said they were from Georgia, came marching down from Capitol Hill to the north fence and began chanting for Carter to come out.
Upset by the House's overwhelming vote Wednesday against the farm bill, the farmers took turns shouting threats and pleas into a bullhorn. One voice in the night, directed to the president who opposed the bill, said, "When you come back to Georgia we're going to remind you every day of your life what you've done to the American farmer."
Frank Moore, Carter's congressional liaison, stepped out onto the circular driveway and surveyed the scene. "A militant group," he observed. He stood a while looking at the silhouetted figures at the fence, and then went away.
The unexpected and uninvited American visitors made for a strident postscript to the serene view of the White House that the president had temporarily enjoyed just a few hours before, during a surprise visit to the Tidal Basin. Carter had taken time out after attending a rehearsal of Wednesday night's entertainment to take the family to see the cherry blossoms.
After the First Family strolled up the steps of the Jefferson Memorial, the president turned daughter Amy around and pointed to the White House. "There's where you live, Amy," he said.
The president greeted several surprised Tidal Basin visitors. Nick Artimovich, an engineer with the Department of Transportation, came up to shake Carter's hand and said, "Good afternoon, boss."
Carter asked with a grin, "Why aren't you working?"
"I get off at 4," came the reply.
The president continued to enjoy himself at the dinner. "I've had a delightful day with the president of this great country," he said during a toast to Ceausescu, whose visit is focusing mostly on trade. Carter also did not overlook his guest's special position as a broker in the Middle East, saying, "More than any other, he was responsible for the historic visit of President Sadat to Jerusalem."
In equally happy spirits Ceausescu noted - though ironically the people who were by now wandering away from the White House fence wouldn't agree at the moment - "It's wonderful how you overcame all obstacles; it's wonderful how you can have a farmer at the head of the United States."
The group then adjourned to the East Room, where there were still more guests, to listen to pianist George Shearing and New York City Opera soprano Clamma Dale.
President Carter, a bonafide music lover, seems to have a thing about pianists. First, there was Rudolph Serkin at a state dinner. Then there was the Vladimir Horowitz White House recital in February on the 50th anniversary of Horowitz's American debut. And Wednesday there was Shearing performing Gershwin. He played a marvelously inventive "The Man I Love" that was interpolated with fragments from two of Gershwin's preludes, one a blues masterpiece and the other an acerbic piece of casual street music.
Dale, who is preeminent in our times in the role of Bess in "Porgy and Bess," sang three songs from the same opera: "Summertime," "The Strawberry Woman's Song" and "My Man Is Dead." Her soaring high tones were resplendent and at the end the president kissed her.
The president made repeated references to George Gershwin, clearly a composer whom he esteems. "He was one of the greatest of all musicians, and he captured the spirit of our great and new country."
The absence of black tie at the dinner was an aspect of Eastern European socialism that was endorsed heartily by both Vice President Walter Mondale and Special Adviser to the President Zbigniew Brzezinski.Brzezinski said, "It's great not having to wear a tux. Those people are right."
There were, however, a few male guests who apparently had not gotten the message and wore tuxedos. In Wednesday's crowd, they seemed conspicious.
About the Carters droppping in during the afternoon for Shearing's rehearsal in the East Room, Carter said then, "I thought I was sneaking in on hearing one of my favorite musicians." The president went out of his way to spend some time in private conversation with Shearing.
Shearing's wife, Eleanor, steered her husband through the rehearsal. As with Horowitz, the president noted that he and Mrs. Carter had first gotten to know Shearing's work through the phonograph.
"Shearing's records have been one of the bright spots of my life," the president said.
When it was time to leave, after an elegant rhapsody based on "Somebody to Watch Over Me," the president departed with a mock apology. "Now you know the secret of how a president spends his spare time."