A Night in Praise of 'Promise'

We are relieved to report that America's top political leaders all support the highly controversial idea of helping our nation's young people. Wednesday's first America's Promise to Our Youth Gala at the Ronald Reagan Building brought disadvantaged young people together with their senators and representatives for a night of golden photo-ops and speechifying.

America's favorite runner-up, Clay Aiken, buffered himself from the bevy of eager "American Idol" fans with the help of a mountain-size bodyguard. We're pretty sure he supports American youth too, but "his people" didn't want him "doing any press."

The honorees of the night -- Sens. Ted Stevens and Hillary Rodham Clinton, Reps. Deborah Pryce, Harold Ford Jr. and Tom Osborne -- arrived at intervals, some sneaking in during the first course; and the sixth honoree, one Ted Kennedy, missing the event altogether. But the real star power surrounded the evening's hosts, Secretary of State Colin Powell and wife Alma. Powell founded America's Promise in 1997.

"Alma and Colin Powell are the bomb," said emcee Naomi Judd in her Southern drawl. "They walk the talk." So do these kids. "I really think that we should call this generation Generation Extra," said Sen. Clinton. "Extra committed, extra caring, and extra concerned."

Aiken summed up the night's main message after his two-song performance when he told the audience that America's youths can become anything they want -- even politicians.

At the Bark Ball, Their Night to Howl

Nearly all of the dates at Saturday night's Bark Ball wore fur, licked everyone they met, and sniffed their fellow attendees' backsides, but that's the whole draw of the Washington Humane Society's 17th annual fundraiser, which raised a record $125,000.

"It's the only place you can go in Washington where no one will ask you what you do," said Reinhardt Lynch, co-owner of the Inn at Little Washington and two Dalmatians named Pearl and JoBe.

The 400 tuxedo- and tutu-clad canines munched on fancy treats like "paw-nut butter" cookies during the reception. "We've had a few people eat the food," said Kristy Smith, co-owner of canine caterer Doggie Style. The 700 bipedal guests, including honoree and NBC 4 sportscaster George Michael, were served a vegetarian dinner courtesy of Equinox.

Call it a four-arf night.

At SilverDocs, the Reel Winners

This is a very big year for documentary filmmakers. First, Michael Moore nabbed Cannes's Palme d'Or, the first documentary to receive one of cinema's highest honors. And the second annual SilverDocs festival received more than 1,200 submissions and presented 75 films. "We have landed," said festival producer Nina Gilden Seavey.

Yesterday, the five-day festival concluded with its awards brunch at the Cinema Lounge in Silver Spring. If the filmmakers looked a little tired, blame it on the transgendered, dark-glam rock band All the Pretty Horses, who kept everybody partying into Sunday's wee hours. So it was a happy, if low-key, ceremony.

"Born Into Brothels," the story of children in Calcutta's red-light district, was voted the festival's audience favorite. Two feature films won the top jury award: "Original Child Bomb," a look at the atomic bombings in Japan, and "Death in Gaza," a about Palestinian children in the conflict there. Director Jim Miller was shot and killed on the last day of filming last year; the documentary is scheduled to air on HBO later this year. "He loved awards and he would have really loved this one," said producer Daniel Edge.

With Laura Thomas