On the 25th of April the White House Correspondents Association held their annual Correspondents dinner, hosted by Saturday Night Live’s Cecily Strong.
Only members of the media receive invitations to the dinner, though musicians, athletes and other celebrities are often in attendance, thanks to invitations shared by media groups.
Every year the dinner begins with the president delivering a speech making remarks at the expense of both the media and government alike, followed by the host’s monologue. Some years are more serious than others, the 2001 dinner featured Ray Charles as host in light of the attacks and took a more serious patriotic tone.
At this year’s dinner the president stole the show with several memorable moments and an attitude of a man who had no fear. His speech began with a montage of reports that he would be doing things his own way backed with the “I Don’t Care” section of the Icona Pop song “I Love It” and featured pictures of interviews with Grumpy cat and surfing in the White House fountain.
Living up to his opening song, the president seemed to hold no punches going after everyone from his biggest critics, to senate democrats, and even his own Vice President Joe Biden.
Just a minute into his remarks he stated that while he did not have a bucket list for his remaining time in office, he did have something that rhymes with bucket list.
“Take executive action on immigration? Bucket. New climate regulations? Bucket.”
The president took the opportunity to make light of some of the criticism he has taken over the years, whether that be jokes about having to pray five times a day, being a pot smoking socialist or simply being arrogant and condescending.
While the president’s delivery was smooth as expected, he was also able to react a degree of heckling with the skill of a seasoned standup.
Perhaps the most well received material of the night was when the event featured comedian and actor Keegan Michael Key, of the popular Comedy Central series “Key and Peele.”
The actor joined the president on stage in character as “Luther,” Obama’s anger translator for a series of more intense jokes, mocking everything from the dinner itself to Fox News and CNN.
Eventually the two ended the bit with the president getting riled up himself and Luther declaring, “You don’t need an anger translator, you need consoling.”
The president did end the speech on a more serious note dedicating a toast to journalists imprisoned and killed throughout the world for simply trying to write to inform the people of the world around them.
Many criticize the dinner for being an example of the government working too closely with the media and for becoming more of a spectacle than a showcase to acknowledge excellence in journalism.
Each year the hosts and guests seem to be more and more Hollywood and the material seems to grow more and more cynical in nature by both host and president.
While not untrue, these criticisms fail to recognize the important role the dinner plays in celebrating the freedom to be critical of our own government.
The speech’s no holds barred nature goes to reinforce the mindset that nothing manmade, government or otherwise should be held sacred or beyond reproach.
We live in a time where there are still nations where speaking against the government can get someone imprisoned or even executed. The ability of the media and those with a platform to be critical of our elected officials and government system is one of the few ways the people can still hold those in power accountable.
It is in the criticisms that we work with to improve our system, because without being able to acknowledge our flaws, we will fail to improve anything.