February 1st, 2009
09:20 AM ET
12 years ago

Obama gets laughs at Alfalfa dinner

Colin Powell chats with other guests at the Alfalfa dinner in Washington on Saturday night.

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.

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Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
soundoff (56 Responses)
  1. zaphod2000

    I don't know about Lee being confused but he is probably turning in his grave. First women and now our first black President?
    I am glad that many of us saw past race and elected someone who is trying to do what is best for the country and not just for himself.
    BTW – NBC reports that the witch from Wasilla and President Obama didn't seem to talk to each other. Good for him to rise above the trailer trash from Alaska.
    Now go back and be there when Redoubt explodes. Make sure you can bet as close as you can. That might keep you out of the limelight for a while.

    February 1, 2009 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  2. Ray Fisher

    I'm sure that Marse Robert was there in spirit celebrating his birthday and wondering if another Civil War is warranted after our financial collapse. We pray not!!!

    February 1, 2009 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  3. WIlly Brown

    #44's change that is really the same old democrats in different jobs of taking tax payer dollars and spending it on social programs.

    February 1, 2009 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  4. Ackermaniac

    Perhaps General Lee would have been confused had he attended the past Alfalfa Club gala – but not for long! General Lee did not advocate slavery; and, so I have read, declined President Lincoln's offer to command the Union forces only because of Lee's greater loyatly to his native state, Virginia. An explanation of what he would have seen this past week end would have displaced Lee's confusion with his approval and acceptance of what he had experienced as a guest of the Alfalfa Club.

    February 1, 2009 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  5. Angie

    WOW. A real person that is president. He is intelligent and funny. He is keeping it real. The uptights should take notes. When you are president it doesn't make you super human(bush and he was super dumb).

    February 1, 2009 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  6. Taryn

    Had the general lived to see THAT, it surely would have been the death of him.....

    February 1, 2009 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  7. curtis in WI

    Barack Obama is a very funny man – just listen to the audiobook of "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me – The Best of Not My Job". Funnier than most comedians working today.

    February 1, 2009 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  8. brit in tx

    A pres with a sense of humor. Like a breath of fresh air. He knows there is a time and a place for everything!

    Wish u the best PRESIDENT OBAMA

    February 1, 2009 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  9. Happy Camper

    Obama is more than 1/2 white.

    February 1, 2009 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  10. Greg in Chi

    Obama is not "African American"!
    That's as accurate as saying he's white.
    How come his white half never gets any attention? Especially since he only met his father once and was raised on the beaches of Hawaii by his white grandmother?
    The "one drop rule" used to be considered the height of racism, now the media and Obama use it to his advantage to get votes and deflect criticism, and to create celebrity hype of course..

    February 1, 2009 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  11. JC

    We thought we were electing a president and got a comic. Lucky us!

    February 1, 2009 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  12. Michael J,

    He may be commander in chief...but he's not comedian in chief. He should get John McCain's speech writers to help him with his jokes.

    February 1, 2009 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  13. Texas Teacher

    True.... women were the last to get the right to vote and to be considered a whole human being with the rights of men. And we still have problems accepting women in places of authority, as well, to have equal pay until only just now. How very primitive is this culture we can civilization.

    February 1, 2009 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  14. mellow

    Powell is a racist No one, like NO ONE cares what that guy says after he supported the guy with no private business and/or military experience whatsoever...he only supported him because he's black

    February 1, 2009 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  15. Scott

    You mean the name didn't come from the Black kid in Spanky and our gang?

    February 1, 2009 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  16. RealityCheck

    For the next for years are you going to continually write of say "First African-American President"?

    Are you going to continue to create a racist divide by this constant mantra?

    Well, remember he is BI-RACIAL and he is the president. He should not constantly be referred to as THE FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN PRESIDENT.


    February 1, 2009 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  17. Dakota

    I can't wait to hear Obama speak at this year's White House Correspondents Dinner.

    February 1, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  18. albert griffith

    We finally got a smart president who is a comedian as well,LOL!!

    February 1, 2009 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  19. billy-bayou

    Is there anyone out there that thinks this gou the "Great Himself" (obama) is not an absolute clown?
    I have a good laugh every time he shows up on TV. I laugh at how easy it is to get away from him and move on to important things in life.

    February 1, 2009 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  20. Dumas McGee

    Those obsessed with calling Obama an African American or black president every other sentence are racist.

    He is our American president.

    February 1, 2009 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  21. Helen, NY

    Barack is busy filling his cabinet with cheats like Geithner, Daschle, etc. Barack himself if a biggest cheat. He got elected saying that he can manage our economic crisis and now he does not know what to do. He is scaring us all away saying times are difficult. Mr. President, you have to solve the problems, You got elected so it is your responsibility. I do not believe you can solve the problems with your radical socialist agenda.

    February 1, 2009 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  22. a true american

    some americans are just ignorant. they listen to their instinct but not their intelligence

    February 1, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  23. Lynne

    I think that those of you who are offended that his "white side" gets no attention need to realize that in the era of black persecution in the United States, racists citizens, racists in the government, and racists in our courts didn't care if you only had a "drop of black blood" in you, you were considered black.

    See the Supreme Court case Plessy v Ferguson 1892.

    So your arguments that because he has white relatives are moot. That doesn't matter. He is a black man and he is our president, which is a truly amazing thing considering the U.S.'s recent past.

    That being said though I do see the point that yes, we as a nation, have made a truly historic decision, but it is now time to get beyond that and hold him accountable as our president.

    February 1, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  24. knowlege

    Caucasian people need to leave that race card alone.

    February 1, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  25. Jane

    Colin Powell change parties and do it now. Republicans do not want you and why would they. You are simply not good enough to be in the /republican party. You play every angle to youyr advantage.

    February 1, 2009 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
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