Condoleeza Rice to headline Al Smith’s dinner; the gala returns as an in-person event

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NEW YORK (CNS) – These are tough times marked by the desire for civil discourse among opponents, the smooth transfer of power and the ability to recognize the shortcomings of our ancestors without rewriting or erasing history in disgust of self and accusation, according to Condoleeza Rice.

The former US Secretary of State was the keynote speaker at the 76th Annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner on October 21 at the Javits Center Expansion.

“We seem to yearn for a different future than in our darkest moments that we see ahead of us,” she said.

Desire is sometimes expressed as a kind of nostalgia based on an incomplete picture of history. “In our past, ‘we the people’ excluded many. The diverse voices of today, some of which have not been heard for years, enhance our national character even though the journey is rocky, ”said Rice.

We embrace who we are today while reclaiming our faith in the institutions that have brought us here by combining the grandeur of government efforts with the power of voluntary associations, often faith-based, she said. .

“If we add a belief in the essential goodness of the American people, we will have an unbeatable combination,” she said.

The Al Smith Dinner honors the memory of the former Governor of New York, who was the first Catholic nominated by a major political party to run for President of the United States.

Proceeds from the $ 5,000 per plate event help needy children in Greater New York City. The foundation distributed $ 8 million in grants in 2020, with a particular focus on helping those affected by the pandemic.

The event drew more than 600 guests to the traditionally festive gathering of political, religious and philanthropic New Yorkers. Among those who shared the three-tiered stage were New York Governor Kathy Hochul, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, comedian Jim Gaffigan and actress Brooke Shields.

The diamond anniversary planned last year, or 75th anniversary, of the dinner was canceled in favor of a virtual event featuring the presidential candidates’ quadrennial game.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, the host of the evening, said it was a joy to be together after chairing the 2020 event remotely from his residence.

He joked that last year, after blithely quoting Jesus’ promise to be where two or more gathered in his name, he had to check the number of people in the silent room.

FOX Business Network reporter and presenter Maria Bartiromo was the host for the dinner. She joked that the current supply chain disruptions are forcing the foundation to cut dinner portions in half while guarding against inflation by doubling the price of a ticket.

Former President George W. Bush addressed the rally via pre-recorded video. He said Al Smith’s dinner guests are, in his father’s words, points of light and represent neighbors helping neighbors support the most vulnerable.

“I might add that we will have new neighbors,” he said, referring to the Afghans. “I am confident that our country will welcome them and help them succeed,” he said.

Bush appeared in a black t-shirt printed to resemble the required formal dress of other podium guests. He recognized Rice as “one of our most gifted Secretaries of State, a great ‘strategist'”. Putin.’

Rice acknowledged the loss of her good friend, former Secretary of State General Colin Powell. She said he was a giant among us and a gem of a human being. “Colin Powell was a patriot. He will be missed, ”she said.

Rice got into the spirit of the event, which calls on speakers to gently poke fun at themselves and other attendees. She wondered why she had been invited to address dinner. Maybe it was an audition for a dream job as National Football League commissioner?

“But I already live and work in Silicon Valley, another place with a huge ego and a lot of 20+ with more money than common sense, so the NFL would be a sideways move,” she said. declared.

She projected a photo of herself as a high school student at St. Mary’s Academy in Denver and said her time under the Sisters of Loreto tutelage may have qualified her for the invitation. It shaped her, she said, but obviously not as a rules follower.

“In the photo, I perfected the rite of passage proven in Catholic girls’ schools: roll up your skirt just high enough to be elegant but not too short for the nuns to kick you out before graduation,” a- she declared. .

Rice, the daughter and granddaughter of Presbyterian pastors, described an audience with Saint John Paul II where she blurted out: “God bless you, Holy Father! and was immediately embarrassed.

“I thought, ‘Oh no, he’s blessing you, you’re not blessing him. What a stupid Protestant thing to do: I bless you. You bless me. All of God’s children bless one another!

She said the Pope, to whom she credits for pulling millions of Eastern Europeans out of communism, responded with humble thanks.

Rice said she was sworn in as Secretary of State by late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as she stood under a portrait of Benjamin Franklin.

Reflecting on herself as an African American woman taking an oath before a Jewish woman, she said: “That the impossible now seems almost inevitable in retrospect is a reason to dismiss cynicism about who we are and who we are. let us become and firmly embrace hope. as we move forward together in this still young century.

In his invocation, Cardinal Dolan asked for God’s blessing on recently deceased supporters of the event, including Powell, longtime master of ceremonies and founding board member Alfred E. Smith IV and well- restorer. New York’s beloved Jimmy Neary.

He asked the guests to “remember those in difficulty, the sick, the new arrivals, the very poor and those who benefit from your generosity”.

Over the dinner, Frank Bennack Jr., Executive Vice President of Hearst, received the Happy Warrior Award. The honor recalls the nickname given to Al Smith by Franklin D. Roosevelt at the Democratic Convention of 1924. The award recognizes someone who embodies Governor Smith’s character, grace and leadership by making a positive impact on others.

New York Police Officer Brianna Fernandez sang the national anthem to open the dinner.

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