Colorado Democratic Party officers have decided to name their annual gala the Obama Dinner. Will former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama be attending?
“Yes, the former President and First Lady would certainly be the guests of honor at a dinner bearing their name,” Spokesman Eric Walker said. (Of course, the Obamas are invited to hundreds of events around the country.)
“The Colorado Democratic Party is proud to honor the historic contributions from the former first family by naming our dinner the Obama Dinner,” Colorado Democratic Party executive director Pilar Chapa said in a press release. “In 2008, Colorado had the privilege of hosting the Democratic National Convention where Barack Obama won our party’s nomination and subsequent election as the 44th president of the United States of America. Since that time, both Michelle and Barack Obama have played a pivotal role in advancing our nation forward.”
Chapa said the United States pulled itself out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression under the Obama administration and started the longest period of private sector job growth in American history.
“That record of economic success, combined with landmark health care legislation, millions of jobs saved through the auto rescue, and important work on climate change, cemented President Obama’s legacy as a transformational leader of our country,” Chapa said. “As an inspirational role model, First Lady Michelle Obama’s focus on health and exercise programs helped reverse childhood obesity trends in the U.S., and her focus on helping military families stands as an inspiration to all Americans. The Obama legacy embodies the values we hold as Democrats, and we are beyond proud to rename our annual dinner after our former first family.”
The inaugural Obama Dinner is set for Saturday, Feb. 3, at the Hilton Denver City Center.
This will be the state party’s 85th annual dinner, formerly known as he Jefferson-Jackson Dinner.
With Presidents Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson both having been slave owners, several state democratic parties are renaming their annual events. Here in Colorado, Jackson’s Trail of Tears legacy also highlights a painful part of history with which Democrats do not wish to align their ideals.
Renaming the annual dinner didn’t come without criticism.
Dave Kopel, research director for the Independence Institute, called the whole rebranding trend ridiculous on “Colorado Inside Out.”
“Jefferson was one of the founders of the country, and Jackson was a great president for the people,” he said. “His Indian policy was very wrong, but he led the fight against the bank of the United States,” keeping the country free from central banking for the rest of the 19th century.”
Nonetheless, he said, “Let’s presume the rule is, you have to be a Democratic president, no slaves, and, for prudence, let’s say no sex scandals.” That would leave Martin Van Buren, Franklin Pierce, Grover Cleveland, Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama, he said.
However, party leaders have settled on naming the annual dinner after the Obamas,; tickets range from $150 a piece to $10,000 for a table of 10.
Democrats haven’t yet announced the upcoming dinner’s keynote speaker. This year’s featured former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, a 2016 U.S. Senate candidate and the president of Let America Vote. The year before that, Democratic nominees Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders spoke at the event.
Previous keynote speakers a the annual dinner have included Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, and then-mayor of Newark, N.J., Cory Booker, who won a seat in the U.S. Senate soon after.
After the annual dinner, the next major event for Colorado Democrats is the state assembly on April 14 at the 1stBank Center arena in Broomfield.
Staff writer Ernest Luning contributed to this story.