Condoleezza Rice to Speak at Alfred E. Smith Dinner Oct. 21


For three-quarters of a century, the annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner has been “the cultural event of the fall season,” and this year’s edition promises to be no different, with Condoleezza Rice, who served as U.S. secretary of state and national security adviser under President George W. Bush, serving as dinner speaker.

The 76th annual dinner, which will also celebrate the diamond anniversary of the charitable Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation, will take place at the Javits Center expansion site in Manhattan Thursday, Oct. 21. All guests must bring proof of full Covid-19 vaccination.

“I look forward to participating in the legacy this October,” said Ms. Rice in taped video remarks she made at a press luncheon Sept. 9. Ms. Rice, now the director of the Hoover Institution, noted she follows the well-established path of presidents, dignitaries, journalists and civic leaders who have spoken at the Al Smith Dinner. 

Also at the Manhattan luncheon was Frank A. Bennack Jr., executive vice chairman of Hearst, who will receive the Happy Warrior Award in honor of Alfred E. Smith, a four-time governor of New York who was the first major-party Catholic presidential candidate in 1928.

Other luncheon guests included Cardinal Dolan, several Smith Foundation board members, as well as several Catholic journalists.

Michael Deegan, superintendent of schools for the archdiocese, in his remarks, said it was one year to the day that Catholic schools in the archdiocese reopened for in-person instruction last September. “It was a wonderful day for us,” he recalled. “So much was riding on that day.”

Acknowledging the journalists present, Deegan said, “You told our story. It was a remarkable year for the Catholic schools in New York.”

Deegan also noted the support of the Smith Foundation, which last year gave more than $1 million to the schools in the archdiocese to support growing special education programs, acquisition of necessary technology and scholarships and financial aid that made Catholic schools possible for students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend them. 

“I can’t tell you what a gift and treasure the Al Smith Foundation’s generosity is to these children,” he said.

Bettina Alonso, the executive director of development for the archdiocese, is also executive director of the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation. Speaking with Catholic New York the day before the luncheon, she said the Smith Foundation in recent years has been able to double the amount of annual grants it disburses to $4 million.

The 24-person board, chaired by Mary E. Erdoes, CEO of J.P. Morgan Asset and Wealth Management, was cited by Ms. Alonso for its dynamism, commitment and ability to work nimbly and quickly.

Grant recipients range from education to health services and family and child services. 

“The dinner provides a lot of good,” Ms. Alonso said. “The highlight is in June when we are able to send out the checks.”

Last year, the foundation board awarded $8 million in Covid-19 relief, which included a $4 million disbursement to the Inner-City Scholarship Fund’s Emergency Tuition Assistance Program and the Archdiocese of New York for its charitable, health and pastoral services in communities most affected by the pandemic. The other $4 million was subsequently awarded to 16 distinct nonprofit organizations providing vulnerable children and families with needed health care and social services. 

Ms. Alonso said the board is trying “to get the message out” about the Smith dinner and the people the board is able to assist because of it.  

Dinner information: