First Place Award for General Excellence, Catholic Press Association, 2013-2016

House Speaker Paul Ryan to Deliver Keynote at Al Smith Dinner
CNS/Bob Roller
House Speaker Paul Ryan

House Speaker Paul Ryan will deliver the keynote address at the 72nd annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner on Thursday evening, Oct. 19, in Manhattan.

Ryan, R-Wis., will share the dais in the Grand Ballroom of the New York Hilton Midtown with Cardinal Dolan, and deliver the evening’s principal speech in the spirit of collegiality and good humor that is a hallmark of the annual gala.

In keeping with the long-standing tradition of the foundation’s signature event, Ryan will come together with some of the country’s most prominent civic, business and religious leaders to support charities that serve New York’s neediest children. 

The dinner is dedicated to the memory of Alfred E. Smith, a former governor of New York who in 1928 became the first Catholic to be nominated by a major political party as the Democratic candidate for president of the United States.

Ryan belongs to St. John Vianney parish in Janesville, Wis., where he served in his youth as an altar boy. “The Al Smith Dinner is a fun evening, but with a serious purpose: help those who have the least. I’m honored to be a part of this special dinner that has supported New York’s children for decades,” he said upon accepting the foundation’s invitation.

Actress Patricia Heaton will act as emcee for the event, marking the first time a woman has served in that capacity. She is best known for portraying Debra Barone on the CBS sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond” from 1996 to 2005, and as Frances “Frankie” Heck on the ABC sitcom “The Middle” since 2009.

Ms. Heaton is a three-time Emmy Award winner—twice winning the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series in 2000 and 2001 for “Everybody Loves Raymond” and a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Culinary Program as host/executive producer of “Patricia Heaton Parties.”

In another first for the foundation, Mary Erdoes, who previously served on the foundation’s board of directors, will participate in the dinner in her new role as vice chair.

The dinner honors a cause that transcends the polarizing political rhetoric of the day and exemplifies the vision of Smith, who was known as “The Happy Warrior” for his ability to maintain a positive outlook as he tackled the pressing social issues of his day.

Each year the foundation carries on the tradition of the “The Happy Warrior” by recognizing an individual who exemplifies the character and leadership of Smith. The 2017 Happy Warrior Award recipient will be John K. Castle, chairman and CEO of Castle Harlan Inc. 

Cardinal Dolan, as Archbishop of New York, will preside at the dinner where speakers often share self-deprecating humor as well as timely messages about the moral imperative of the foundation’s mission.

Ryan joins a list of political dignitaries, cultural leaders and presidential candidates who have served as speakers, including John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama, Tony Blair, Colin Powell, Tim Russert, Stephen Colbert, Charlie Rose and former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Last year’s dinner speakers were presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

The foundation has raised hundreds of millions to provide support for the neediest children in New York. Charities and educational institutions devoted to New York’s children are the beneficiaries of the event.

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