Hispanic Caucus Dinner Includes Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, President Obama

Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez bring a touch of Hollywood glamour to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's annual gala dinner.
Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez bring a touch of Hollywood glamour to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's annual gala dinner. (By Jonathan Ernst For The Washington Post)
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By David Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ah, the power and the glitz. All the pieces were in place Wednesday night for a perfect Washington party -- luminaries from the three branches of government gathering at the Washington Convention Center, a red carpet for them to walk on and J-Lo to join them.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute's black-tie gala comes around yearly at this time, but rarely with this kind of political and celebrity wattage. President Obama, who escorted first lady Michelle Obama, delivered the keynote remarks. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who smiled and kissed her way up the red carpet, was greeted with the passion and cellphone paparazzi usually reserved for, well, such divine beings as Jennifer Lopez, who accompanied her husband, Marc Anthony. He was there to pick up a lifetime achievement award -- on his 41st birthday.

"I'm telling you, J-Lo, watch out," Obama said from the lectern, teasing her about the Latina members of Congress who have a crush on her husband. Lopez cracked up and patted Anthony.

Turning serious, Obama said: "Our destiny is shared. . . . Todos somos Americanos. We are all Americans."

That Spanish phrase became the refrain for his pre-dinner remarks to the 2,200 guests. He said "probably the proudest moment" of his presidency was the day Sotomayor ascended to the Supreme Court. He renewed his commitment to comprehensive immigration reform, while repeating his vow that illegal immigrants would not be eligible for proposed health-care reform.

Obama -- wearing a dinner jacket, while Michelle Obama wore a shiny black sleeveless dress -- is the first president to address the gala since Bill Clinton was a regular. No surprise, perhaps. The caucus institute is the nonpartisan charitable arm of the Hispanic caucus, which consists of two dozen Democratic Latinos in the Congress. Obama bragged about hiring two former caucus members -- Ken Salazar and Hilda Solis -- for his Cabinet and nominating more Latinos to senior positions than any president at this point in a term.

Earlier in the day, Anthony and Lopez visited Obama in the Oval Office, where they talked children and education, Anthony said. The couple brought their twins with them.

"Max was tearing up the White House," Anthony said.

The Obamas skipped the red carpet -- and the banquet of sea bass and beef short-ribs -- and departed after the remarks.

The red carpet led from K Street NW up to a pre-gala VIP reception in the Carnegie Library, next door to the convention center.

Anthony (in black tux and shades) and Lopez (in a long black gown) stopped to chat amiably in Spanish and English. Lopez let Anthony be the star, rubbing his back affectionately as he did most of the talking.

The well-wishers kept coming forth: "¡Feliz cumpleaños, Marc!"

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