[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/02/01/alfalfa.obama/art.powel.alfalfa.cnn.jpg caption="Colin Powell chats with other guests at the Alfalfa dinner in Washington on Saturday night."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama poked fun Saturday night at his chief of staff and ribbed Washington's elite during a black-tie dinner at Alfalfa Club, a 93-year-old Washington social club.
The first African-American president began by poking fun at the club's historical roots.
"I know that many you are aware that this dinner began almost 100 years ago as a way to celebrate the birthday of General Robert E. Lee," Obama said, referring to the man who commanded the Confederate army during the Civil War.
"If he were here with us tonight, the general would be 202 years old. And very confused."
The ceremony was closed to the media. But the White House released excerpts of the president's remarks.
The Alfalfa Club was started by four Southerners in Washington's Willard Hotel in 1913. Its sole purpose was an annual night out for the boys, and it took its name from a thirsty plant that sends its roots deep down looking for liquid refreshment.
The club remained exclusively open to men until 1994, when women were admitted as members.