WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Barack Obama attended the 99th annual Alfalfa Club dinner Saturday evening. Comprised of a who’s who of Washington elite, the social club’s sole purpose is to meet every January for a night of banquet festivities for its roughly 200 members. Per tradition, each sitting president is invited to deliver remarks at the event.
First Lady Michelle Obama accompanied her husband to the gala, held this year at the Capitol Hilton.
As is typical of the gathering press was not allowed into the dinner; but usually details make their way out to the public over time.
The president stuck mostly to a humorous tone for the light-hearted evening, taking time to poke fun at some his critics, including House Speaker John Boehner.
“Speaker Boehner, it is good to see you at the head table. I know how badly Eric Cantor wanted your seat,” Obama said. “But John, I want you to know: I am eager to work with members of Congress to be entertaining tonight. But if Congress is unwilling to cooperate, I will be funny without them.”
However, the night was not without its seriousness.
President Obama reminded the audience that despite their differences and the current political climate , they were all in their positions for the same reason.
“Let us never forget the extraordinary privilege that we share as Americans, and the responsibility that we all have, as leaders, to the continued success of this country that’s made so many of our stories possible,” he said.
The Alfalfa Club was founded in 1913 for the District’s movers and shakers to do what an alfalfa plant does: anything for a drink.
It would not admit black members until the 1970′s and had its first women join as late as 1994 after then-President Bill Clinton boycotted the previous year’s dinner.
Held on the birthday of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, at the 2009 dinner President Obama commented on the occasion’s ties to the Civil War figure.
“If he were here with us tonight, the general would be 202 years old. And very confused,” he said.
Washington’s elite weren’t the only attendees.
Hundreds of Occupy DC protesters staged a rally outside the event, demonstrating against the perceived injustices of the city’s power brokers and heckling a number as they arrived, including Senator Joseph Lieberman.
The Connecticut lawmaker was showered in glitter as he approached the hotel. At one point during the rally, female protesters even took their shirts off as a taunt to police.