The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

President Obama’s return to the CBC is sweeter than last

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What a difference two years makes.

When President Obama addressed the Congressional Black Caucus’s annual gala in 2011, some attendees left with a bad taste in their mouths. Back then, the president irked some when he virtually lectured the crowd to trade their “bedroom slippers” for marching shoes.

No footwear references on Saturday night, much to the delight of those at the Washington Convention Center. Instead, the president  delivered a fiery speech that touched on health care as well as topics of economic justice.

“He hit all the right notes,” raved Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), about Obama’s talk at the CBC’s annual Phoenix Awards Dinner, which caps off the organization’s annual legislative conference.

“Best speech I’ve ever heard him give,” said Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.)

Even before the president took the stage, the crowd seemed prepared to be wowed. Pre-dinner, the VIP crowd mingled — Members of Congress comprised most of the boldfacers with a few surprises, like Dikembe Mutombo, retired NBA great, who towered over the other guests — anticipating the speech.

“He could stop by and say ‘hi, it’s nice to be here,’ and he’d be a hit,” said former New York Gov. David Paterson. “We’re an easy crowd.”

Apparently, the love-fest was mutual. Twice during his speech, the president told the audience how good they looked. Sure, it was a bit of your standard so-glad-to-be-here patter, but it also had the advantage of being true — from the silver smoking jacket sported by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), to the dazzling rhinestone-encrusted cowboy hat that accessorized the outfit of Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) (chapeaus happen to be her signature, but this one was extra-special).

First Lady Michelle Obama wore a strapless, full skirted gown in white and black plaid with a jeweled belt for her brief turn on the stage as the president was introduced.

But one of the best looks of the night belonged to Rep.Cedric Richmond (D-La.) who, after the program in which he introduced several guests onstage, slipped into a pair of glossy black Chuck Taylor Converse sneakers. He had wanted to wear the kicks, which are designed for black-tie ensembles, during the event, but they were vetoed by CBC Chair Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio).
“What she says goes,” he said.

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