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Local Designer Dines with First Lady

Annual luncheon in Washington draws 1,800.

The Congressional Club hosted its annual First Lady's Luncheon at the Capital Hilton in downtown Washington, back in May, and Alexandria resident Claire Schwab was one of the invited guests. She was guest of the New York fabric house, Kravet Fabric.

Her invitation arrived because of the fabric and furniture orders she places with them for her interior design business, Old Town Window Treatments & Design Inc. Kravet donated all the Spring floral fabric for the 180 tabletops and the swagged dressings decorating the head table.

She was invited not only to the luncheon but to a reception and a photo opportunity with Laura Bush, Lynne Cheney and Cherie Booth Blair before the luncheon. Schwab said that she was especially delighted to speak with Cheney. The vice president and his wife are devoted and generous supporters of Capital Partners for Education (CPFE.org), a local scholarship and mentoring program that Schwab and her husband, Ted, started 11 years ago.

When the bell struck 11:30 a.m., the ballroom opened up, and more than 1,800 women from around the country were invited in to the luncheon.

Guests included spouses of members and former members of Congress, congresswomen, spouses of the former and current speaker of the house and the White House chief of staff, members of the Supreme Court and spouses of justices, and members and spouses of the president's Cabinet.

This year's theme was Britannia, so guests enjoyed scones with clotted cream and jam, an assortment of teas and a mixed rice, fruit, beet and mango salad. It was because of the British theme that the Congressional Club had invited Mrs. Blair to attend. She was introduced, after a 20-minute procession of the honorary guests at the head table, by Mary Lucas, president of the Congressional Club.

Blair complimented Bush on her efforts in literacy and passion for children and described her warmly as her own personal friend.

"You defend all types in your society and share freedom and prosperity of your country with others," she said.

Blair was presented with a lapel pin made by a congresswoman's wife. The pin, also given to Bush, is a gold eagle perched on top of a crystal globe.

Schwab said that, much to everyone's surprise, Bush chose not to speak about literacy but about heart disease. A topic of great concern to the first lady, she noted that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in this country, taking over 500,000 lives a year — about the population of the District of Columbia.

"One in 25 women die every year from breast cancer, but one in two die from heart disease," said Bush. "Lifelong health is the important key. Heart disease can be prevented in a lot of cases. Any amount of exercise is better than none."

Bush said that she finds time to walk three times a week. "If my mother-in-law can swim 88 laps at a time, certainly the rest of us can find time to walk." She also suggested lifting weights for muscle strength and bone density.

"It is important to take care of ourselves so that we may take care of the people we love," she said.

The luncheon was followed by entertainment from the U.S. Marine Band and British artists, including a piano performance of the “Star Spangled Banner” by Marina Arsenijevic. The luncheon has been in existence since 1912 and has been held almost every year since its inception.