D.C. Democratic State Committee held its sold-out Kennedys-King Dinner on Oct. 28 at the FIS Champions Club at Nationals Park. It was a return of the anticipated event following a decade-long hiatus.
“It is my privilege to welcome you back to the 2022 Kennedys-King Dinner,” said Charles Wilson, the chairman of the D.C. Democratic State Committee and a resident of Ward 8. “For more than three decades, we have convened this esteemed event to connect our community, celebrate our party’s achievements, and honor Democratic champions.
“Tonight, we reflect on the enduring legacies of President John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who stood on the right side of peace, justice, and equality for all,” Wilson continued. “As we rebuild and navigate beyond the challenges of the pandemic, now it is our turn to stand up and re-engage around those lauded values.”
Democratic organizations have named their primary fundraising event after the Kennedy brothers and King throughout the country. Most organizations call their event “Kennedy-King,” but in the District, the Democrats selected Kennedys-King to reflect both brothers. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said the event had been brought back after a nearly 10-year break.
Speakers Focus on Democratic Values
Former Maryland Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who served as the guest speaker, talked about her father, Robert Kennedy, and his commitment to civil rights. She told a story about the effort by James Meredith to integrate the University of Mississippi in 1962 as its first Black student and the behind-the-scenes maneuvering between Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett, her uncle, President Kennedy, and her father as the U.S. attorney general. She later discussed the controversy that ensued when her father, then a U.S. senator from New York, accepted an invitation by University of Mississippi law students to speak on campus. Many people did not want Kennedy to speak, but he did on March 18, 1966.
Richard A. Fowler, a nationally syndicated radio show host, served as the event host. Fowler, who resides in Ward 8’s Bellevue neighborhood, said statehood should be a priority of Democrats.
“We need statehood,” Fowler said. “This election matters. D.C. should have two senators and a voting representative in the House. If we had that, a lot of stuff that is going would not take place. Statehood should be important for D.C. Democrats, but for Democrats nationwide.”
Fowler told the gathering to be skeptical of what polls are saying. Some polls say Democrats will lose control of the House and may not make any gains in the Senate.
“The polls count people who are likely voters,” he said. “That means people who voted in the last three elections. People who are Black, LGBTQ, and Latino tend not to be polled.”
D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton stressed why Democrats need to hold on to the House and Senate for statehood bills to move forward.
“If the Republicans take control of the House, they will try to do everything they can to undermine Home Rule here in the District,” Norton said. “Sen. Ted Cruz has been a consistent meddler in the affairs of the District. I have been able to stop him, but it will be harder in the next Congress if the Republicans take control.”
Democrats Party the Night Away
The notables attending the event included Industrial Bank president and CEO B. Doyle Mitchell, former D.C. Council member Bill Lightfoot, Ward 8 entrepreneur Phinis Jones, public relations representative for the late District Mayor Marion S. Barry, and entertainer Michael Jackson, Raymone Bain. Candidates in the Nov. 8 D.C. Council at-large race, such as Council member Anita Bonds (D-At Large), Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), and independents Graham McLaughlin and Fred Hill, attended, as well. D.C. Council members at the event included Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2), and Robert White (D-At Large). Ward 5 Democratic Council nominee Zachary Parker also attended the event.
People dressed up for the occasion, and many wore sneakers, as the event’s invitation requested. After the speeches, the attendees mingled and danced to the music played by The Experience Band & Show.
Wilson seemed pleased with the event’s turnout and the enthusiasm it appeared to generate.
“We are definitely doing this next year,” he said. “We will bring this back as an annual event.”