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Henry Kissinger to address annual Al Smith Dinner in New York


Domenico Fornas | Shutterstock

John Burger - published on 10/03/23

Event to honor 100th birthday of foreign policy expert and former US Secretary of State.

Henry Kissinger, a centenarian whose foreign policy advice is still listened to, will be the keynote speaker at the 78th annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in New York. 

Kissinger, who was Secretary of State of the United States from 1973 until 1977 under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, was the Al Smith dinner’s keynoter in 1974, the year after winning the Nobel Peace Prize. 

“We are grateful to have Henry Kissinger, in celebration of his 100th birthday,” the foundation announced. Kissinger turned 100 on May 27

The dinner, whose $5,000 tickets are sold out, will take place on Thursday, October 19, at the Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan. The annual event raises money for charity. Last year’s dinner raised $5.6 million.

A press release from the Archdiocese of New York called Kissinger a “longtime friend of the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation and frequent member of the dais.” In addition to being 56th US Secretary of State, he also served as Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, chaired the National Bipartisan Commission on Central America, and held key positions in the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, the Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy of the National Security Council and Defense Department, and the Defense Policy Board. 

Helping unfortunate kids

A proponent of Realpolitik, Kissinger played a dominant role in United States foreign policy between 1969 and 1977. In that period, he extended the policy of détente, which led to a significant relaxation in US-Soviet tensions and played a crucial role in 1971 talks with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai. The talks concluded with a rapprochement between the United States and China, and the formation of a new strategic anti-Soviet Sino-American alignment. He was jointly awarded the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize with Lê Đức Thọ for helping to establish a ceasefire and U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam. 

The Al Smith Dinner bears the name of Alfred Emmanuel Smith, four-time Governor of the State of New York and the first Catholic nominated by a major political party to run for President of the United States. He was known as the “Happy Warrior” for his indomitable spirit and good cheer. The dinner is meant to be light-hearted, even when it brings together political opponents. In recent years, it has featured as keynote speakers the major political parties’ candidates for president during presidential election years.

Founded by Cardinal Francis Spellman in 1946, the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation, which sponsors the dinner, helps children in need in the Archdiocese of New York via yearly financial support to not-for-profit organizations. The cost of the dinner is underwritten by the Board of Directors of the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation, and 100% of the proceeds go directly to benefiting the neediest children of New York. 

Current grant recipients include Calvary Hospital, Catholic Charities, Covenant House, the Inner-City Scholarship Fund, The National Gianna Center, the Neonatal Comfort Care Program at Columbia, the Office of Youth Ministry, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the Sisters of Life.

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