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Brooklyn (and legacy of political one-liners) well-represented at Alfred E. Smith Dinner

U.S. Senator Schumer, Rep. Dan Donovan Among Brooklyn Leadership In Attendance at Waldorf

October 21, 2016 By John Alexander Brooklyn Daily Eagle
U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan with Vincent Rohan, president of the May Ellen and Gerald Ritter Foundation. Photos by John Alexander

Along with 1,500 guests packing the Waldorf Astoria’s Grand Ballroom, anticipation hung heavy in the air at the Seventy-First Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner. This ‘white tie’ event allows people from all political parties to let their hair down and enjoy a light-hearted evening with all proceeds benefiting Catholic Charities. But with this year’s keynote speakers being Secretary Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the traditional humor and civility of the evening was expected to be tested.  An audience thousands time larger than the assembled 1,500 in person was eagerly awaiting cable news coverage, live tweets and stand-up fallout from the event.  

The evening was hosted by Alfred E. Smith, IV, the great-grandson of the four-term New York governor, and the first Catholic to be nominated for President of the United States in 1928.  Smith, IV offered witty and well-received opening remarks, before introducing Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan.

Brooklyn dignitaries in attendance included U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan, former Republican Party Chairman Craig Eaton, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Brooklyn Diocese and Monsignor Jamie J. Gigantiello.

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The evening proved to be a night of many firsts, including the first time Clinton and Trump have recently sat near each other ( albeit on either side of Cardinal Dolan) the first time the two candidates shook hands in recent memory and the first time someone was booed at an Al Smith dinner. The Donald created that ‘first’ by some direct non-humorous barbs that were considered inappropriate at this august event.

Trump began his remarks with some humorous observations before shifting gears and attacking Clinton. He said, “ Backstage before we came out, Hillary bumped into my shoulder….she turned and looked directly at me and said ‘Pardon me…’ (laughter). Trump also scored with a reference to the ‘rigged system’.

“Michelle Obama gave a speech …everybody loved it…it was great. Then, Melania gave the EXACT SAME SPEECH and they trashed her…”(big laughter).

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Clinton’s remarks were less biting, as she preferred to keep in the spirit of past dinners. She was at times self-deprecating, although she did raise eyebrows when she referred to Trump’s objectification of women and his stand on immigration when she said, “It’s always a treat to be back in New York, a city that I love. People look at the Statue of Liberty and they see a proud symbol of our history as a nation of immigrants. Donald looks at the Statue of Liberty and sees a 4, maybe a 5 if she loses the torch and tablet and changes her hair.”

Another Clinton score: she praised Cardinal Dolan for bringing together two bitter foe and mortal enemies. Turning toward Dolan she added, “ Cardinal, how DID you get the mayor and governor here tonight.”

Each candidate gave a nearly 20-minute speech, before a dais filled with some of New York’s top elected officials, civic leaders and clergy. V.I.P.’s included Cuomo, de Blasio, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former NY Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, Kati Couric, Gayle King and former mayors David Dinkins, Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg generated the loudest applause upon his introduction.

Vincent Rohan, President of The May Ellen and Gerald Ritter Foundation said, “Six million dollars was raised tonight for non-profit organizations working with children. I’m proud to support this event every year.”

Donovan summed it up best when he told the Eagle, “Some came tonight for Donald Trump, others for Secretary Clinton, but everyone came to support the children who will benefit from the proceeds of this wonderful event! Cardinal Dolan, Al Smith IV, and all those involved deserve our gratitude.”


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