Washington's Top Political & Press Events 2009

By Brendan Speigel June 22, 2009, 11:44 AM EDT

Rush Limbaugh at the Conservative Political Action Conference

Photo: Courtesy of CPAC 2009 and Panoramic Visions

1. State of the Union Address
The president’s big annual speech is the only time the entire federal government gathers in one place. Although a new president’s first-year address to Congress bears all the trappings of this gathering, it’s technically not considered one, so President Obama’s first official State of the Union takes place January 2010.

2. White House Correspondent’s Association Dinner
Comedian Wanda Sykes hosted this May 9 event, traditionally attended by the president along with some 2,000 politicians, journalists, and celebrities. Dinner at the Washington Hilton is preceded by a maze of pre-parties hosted by media outlets. For the first time, Bloomberg and Vanity Fair  co-hosted an after-party this year.

3. Gridiron Club Black-Tie Dinner
President Obama bucked tradition in March, skipping this 125-year-old event in favor of a family vacation. The 600-plus guests at the Marriott Renaissance Hotel consoled themselves with barbs from Vice President Joe Biden and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

4. Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner
The last of the big three journalist-and-politician powwows, the R&TC dinner makes a slight change of pace this year, moving from the Washington Hilton to the Washington Convention Center, and pushing the date back a few months to June 19.

5. Presidential Medal of Freedom Ceremony
The nation’s highest civilian honor can be awarded at any time the president chooses, but traditionally is given out at a ceremony each summer. In January, President Bush gave out his last set of medals—to former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, among others. The Obama White House had not scheduled its first medal ceremony as of press time.

6. Washington Press Club Foundation’s Congressional Dinner
CNN’s Candy Crowley served as M.C. at the first press dinner of the year, held February 4 at the Ritz-Carlton, Washington, D.C. The 66th annual dinner will take place in February 2010.

7. Conservative Political Action Conference
Ironically, with Republicans out of power, this meeting of conservative activists attracted even more attention in February 2009, as power brokers such as Michael Steele and Mitt Romney maneuvered for influence within the party’s core. The meeting at the Omni Shoreham Hotel drew 8,500 participants; it moves to the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel next February 18 to 20.

8. Aipac Policy Conference
Some 6,500 activists and lobbyists turned out for the May 3 to 5 meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The 2008 conference drew then-Senator Barack Obama and then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

9. National Governor’s Association Winter Meeting
This annual meeting took on added significance in 2009 as President and Mrs. Obama welcomed the governors at the couple’s first official White House dinner. The meeting, held at the J.W. Marriott hotel this year, returns next February.

10. U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting
More than 250 of the nation’s mayors heard from big shots such as Bill Clinton and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel at the 77th annual edition of this meeting, held in January at the Capital Hilton Hotel.

11. The Africare Bishop John T. Walker Memorial Dinner
This 29-year-old event has grown into one of Washington’s biggest fund-raisers, bringing in nearly $1 million in a night. The dinner, which honored President George W. Bush at the Washington Hilton in 2008, returns this fall.

12. National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation Celebration of Service to America Award
Radio and television stations from around the nation will be honored for outstanding community-focused programming at this 11th annual ceremony, slated for June 8 at the Renaissance Washington, D.C. Hotel.

13. America’s Future Now! Conference
Formerly known as the Take Back America Conference, this meeting of liberal minds had a more insider feel when it returned to the Omni Shoreham hotel June 1 to 3.

14. Human Rights Campaign National Dinner
Then-senator Hillary Clinton was the featured speaker at this gay rights group’s fund-raising event in 2008. The 3,000-person dinner returns to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on October 10.

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