Much news has been made in these past months of Trump’s conspicuous absence from this year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, which took place just this past Saturday. While I do not intend to delve into opinionated politics nor comment on having a President with such contentious relationships with the press, I do find Trump’s absence from this event to have been a symbolic shift of the American culture that every past POTUS has encouraged.
One of the most exciting aspects of event design is the potential to encapsulate a society-wide phenomena into the confines of one fleeting moment in space and time, and the White House Correspondents’ Dinner is a perfect example. There is nothing inherently fancy about the visible elements of the production itself — book a hotel ballroom, hire a comedian performer, invite a couple thousand people, present some awards, give some scholarships — your usual networking dinner.
What this Dinner encapsulates though, is the unique relationship in America between our politics and our media. It’s a relationship that’s been deliberately fostered since the founding Amendment in this country’s Bill of Rights. It’s a relationship that has been one of the backbone traditions of what makes us America.
The White House Correspondents Dinner is for the most part, a casual and social event, and has never been used as a platform for major announcements. In the Dinner of 2011 for example, Seth Meyers roasted the Obama Administration on their inability to track down Osama Bin Laden. The President laughed along throughout the evening, but the very next day, he announced to the world that the US had just conducted an operation and that Bin Laden has been killed. Incidentally, at that very dinner Obama and Seth Meyers both took turns roasting Donald Trump’s then casually stated intentions to one day run for President, and thereafter many headlines were drawn about how Trump didn’t look so good handling the jokes.
These Dinners are produced by the White House Correspondents’ Association, an organization comprised of the all the journalists from the various media sources across the country that are assigned to cover news at The White House. We take much of it for granted in this country, but in the context of the world, the American freedom to openly satirize, criticize, and debate the merits of our politics is a very special one. By bringing politics and press together on its platform, The White House Correspondents Dinner is a platform that encapsulates the very essence of that American tradition, and it is a tradition that I do hope will not be destroyed through this Administration.
See you at the next exploration!