The Alfred W Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner is a tradition in DC Politics. Held every year at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York on the third Thursday of October, most Presidential candidates attend, and speak, at the formal tuxedo white-tie charity event during election years. While other charity dinners happen on a regular basis, the Al Smith dinner, named after the former Governor of New York and one time presidential candidate, is notable due to its close proximity in the calendar to the November election, with a tradition since 1960 for the presidential candidates to speak before it. Only twice in history, in 1996 and 2004, were the candidates not invited on the decision of the Archdiocese of New York which handles the function. In addition, in 1984 Walter Mondale turned down the invitation, citing preparation for the upcoming debates.
This year, both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama took part in the celebration of the late Governor Smith. The dinner is a jovial event, a place for candidates to make light of politics and the campaign which can weigh down on them. It allows them also the opportunity to show a side of themselves which is difficult, if not impossible, during the campaign otherwise.
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