For the past week I’ve been recovering from watching the last Presidential debate. The tenor of the entire presidential campaign has me worried about the great divisions in this country and how it’ll affect the health of the democratic republic. Then I was caught by surprise to see a video of Trump and Hillary together at a dinner laughing and making bad jokes. I had never heard of the Al Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner until a day or two ago, but I went on wikipedia to learn more about it. The Al Smith Memorial Foundation was founded by Francis Cardinal Spellman in 1946, to honor the memory of Alfred Emanuel Smith, New York’s renowned Governor and patron of the “Little People”. The Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation serves neediest children of the Archdiocese of New York, regardless of race, creed, or color.
According to wikipedia:
The first dinner was in 1945, the year after Al Smith’s death. It is generally the last event at which the two U.S. presidential candidates share a stage before the election. Apart from presidential candidates, keynote speakers have included Clare Boothe Luce, Bob Hope, Henry Kissinger, Tom Brokaw, Tony Blair, and many other prominent figures in government, business, the media, and entertainment.
Since 1960 (when Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy were speakers), it has been a stop for the two main presidential candidates during several U.S. election years. In 1976, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter spoke; in 1980, Carter and Ronald Reagan; in 1988, Michael Dukakis and George H.W. Bush; in 2000, Al Gore and George W. Bush; in 2008, John McCain and Barack Obama; in 2012, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney and in 2016, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Since 1945, only two presidents have not spoken at the dinner: Harry Truman and Bill Clinton. Candidates have traditionally given humorous speeches poking fun at themselves and their opponents, making the event similar to a roast. The 2008 dinner raised $3.9 million.
I think this tradition is a great idea to bridge the partisan divide that forms during a heated presidential campaign. It is a good reminder to both Democrats and Republicans that in spite of our political differences, we’re all Americans. After the elections are over, we have to work together to find common ground and work to better our country.
I saw this nice article by Colin Campbell for Yahoo News. Campbell wrote:
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump ripped each other with scorching zingers Thursday night, but privately, they apparently took a softer approach.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan said Trump actually heaped praise on Clinton just before they took their seats at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in New York.
“There were some very touching moments. When we were going in, I said, ‘Can we pray together?’” Dolan recalled on Friday during an appearance on “Today.”
He continued: “After the little prayer, Mr. Trump turned to Secretary Clinton and said, ‘You know, you are one tough and talented woman.’ And he said, ‘This has been a good experience, this whole campaign, as tough as it’s been.’”
Clinton reportedly then extended an olive branch to Trump.
“She said to him: ‘And Donald, whatever happens, we need to work together afterwards.’ Now I thought, ‘This is the evening at its best,’” Dolan said.
Here is a 1994 video to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the dinner. The video features quotes from Dwight D Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard M Nixon, Nelson Rockefeller, Bob Hope, Hubert H. Humphrey, Ronald Reagan, George H. Bush, Barbara Bush, Michael Dukakis, Bob Dole and others.
Here is a video of Al Gore and George Bush at the 2000 Al Smith Memorial Dinner.
Here is a video of John McCain and Barack Obama at the 2008 Al Smith Memorial Dinner.
Here is a video of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama at the 2012 Al Smith Memorial Dinner.
Here is a video of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton at the 2016 Al Smith Memorial Dinner.