Washington's Top Political & Press Events 2008

By Brendan Spiegel September 26, 2008, 1:54 PM EDT

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi spoke at the Washington Press Club Foundation's Congressional Dinner.

Photo: Courtesy of WPCF

1. The State of the Union Address
Each January, the entire government shows up en masse for the president’s annual address at the Capitol. A newly inaugurated president is not expected to deliver an address, but usually gives a speech to a joint session of Congress outlining his administration’s goals.

2. White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner
The president and first lady are roasted by one of the nation’s top comedians each year. Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson took the stage at the Washington Hilton for the April dinner, organized by WHCA executive director Julia Whiston. After-parties included Bloomberg’s fete at the Costa Rican Embassy, and Vanity Fair’s exclusive soiree at Christopher Hitchens’s home. The 2009 dinner will take place in May.

3. Gridiron Club Black-Tie Dinner
Washington’s oldest journalistic organization held its 123rd black-tie dinner on March 8. President Bush entertained the crowd of 600 at the Renaissance Hotel with a country-and-western musical number, while White House correspondent Helen Thomas delivered a send-up of Condoleezza Rice.

4. Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner
The Washington Hilton also welcomes what host Mo Rocca called “the Nicky to the WHCA’s Paris.” Vice President Dick Cheney delivered a comical speech to a crowd of 2,400, including Rupert Murdoch and Mitt Romney. The 65th annual dinner will take place on April 2, with network-sponsored after-parties to follow.

5. Presidential Medal of Freedom Ceremony
On June 19, President Bush honored Congressman Tom Lantos, General Peter Pace, former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, Judge Laurence Silberman, neurosurgeon Benjamin Carson, and immunologist Anthony Fauci. The ceremony is organized by the White House communications staff and will be scheduled by the new administration.

6. President’s Dinner
The National Republican Senatorial Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee join forces to put on this fund-raiser, which generated $21.5 million for GOP candidates in 2008. The 5,000 guests at the June 18 dinner at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center included members of Congress and President Bush. The 2009 dinner will be shaped by the outcome of the presidential election.

7. Washington Press Club Foundation’s Congressional Dinner
Traditionally the first press dinner of the year, the Washington Press Club’s 2008 event was held February 13 at the Ritz-Carlton, Washington, D.C. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell rubbed elbows with celebrities while the foundation bestowed its journalistic awards. The 65th annual dinner will be held in February.

8. AIPAC Policy Conference
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee garnered a slew of D.C. big shots, including Barack Obama and John McCain, for its June 2 to 4 meeting. More than 7,000 activists, students, and lobbyists attended the conference at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, which included a banquet for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The 2009 conference is set for May 3 to 5.

9. U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting
More than 250 American mayors gathered in January at the Capital Hilton Hotel for the conference’s 76th meeting. The event closed with a gala for 750 guests at the National Building Museum. Carol Edwards, the organization’s director of conferences, will oversee the January 17 to 19 meeting.

10. National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation Celebration of Service to America Awards
A mix of political bigwigs and broadcasters turned out to the National Building Museum June 9 for this annual celebration of philanthropy. Deborah Norville hosted the event, which honored music producer Quincy Jones. The 11th annual awards will take place on June 8.

11. Conservative Political Action Conference
The American Conservative Union organizes this annual conference, which in 2008 featured speeches from President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and Mitt Romney. The 2009 conference at the Omni Shoreham Hotel is expected to draw more than 6,000 attendees from February 26 to 29.

12. Take Back America Conference
More than 2,000 liberal activists turn out for this conference sponsored by the Campaign for America’s Future. The March 17 to 19 event featured speeches from Barack Obama, Arianna Huffington, and Jesse Jackson. Television producer Norman Lear was saluted with a lifetime achievement award at the gala. 

13. Human Rights Campaign National Dinner
More than 3,000 guests turned out for this gay rights group’s annual dinner at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in October 2007. Camille Rodriguez, senior event manager for HRC, planned the 11th annual dinner, where Project Runway’s Tim Gunn gave actor Matthew Broderick the “Ally for Equality” award. The event returns October 4.

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