WASHINGTON -- It was a glamorous weekend in the nation's capital, as two of the year's most anticipated galas raised millions for good causes at the height of the autumn social season.
On Friday, the Susan G. Komen For the Cure "Honoring the Promise" gala united politicians, scientists, advocates and breast cancer survivors at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where the organization founded by former Ambassador Nancy Brinker raised more than $2 million for the fight against breast cancer.
NBC "Today" Show co-host and breast cancer survivor Hoda Kotb emceed the program, which featured performances by Natasha Bedingfield, Grammy Award-winning violinist Miri Ben-Ari and opera singer Denyce Graves, among others. Former First Lady Betty Ford received a lifetime achievement award, and Sarah Brown, wife of former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, received an award for international achievement.
Ambassador Brinker served in the George W. Bush administration, so the group's Washington evenings always have a slightly more Republican feel than some other galas, as the Texas native draws on her wide circle of friends and colleagues to add glamour and fundraising clout to the cause. Founded in 1982 after Brinker lost her sister, Susan Komen, to breast cancer, the organization has grown to be the world's largest breast cancer nonprofit.
On Saturday night, President Obama turned on the charm at a black-tie gala for the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF). Held in the huge oval ballroom of the Washington Hilton, the annual NIAF draws a who's who of Italian Americans in politics, media and the arts. Among Saturday's guests were House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who is a regular at the gala, as well as Frankie Avalon, former Clinton Chief of Staff John Podesta, CNBC's Maria Bartiromo and romance novel icon Fabio Lanzoni.
Obama took to the stage late in the dinner and gave one of the most lighthearted speeches he has delivered in recent memory, joking with the largely Italian American audience the he "can't cook like your grandmothers," he "can't sing like Frankie Avalon," and therefore, all he has is "a last name that ends in a vowel." After a few more jokes, Obama also touched on the shared experience of immigrants, saying, "we have to remind ourselves that those of us who now feel comfortable in our American identity, that that wasn’t always the case in the past." Obama's remarks begin at 10 minutes, 30 seconds in the video above.
PHOTOS of this weekend's official Washington parties.
(Photo credits for NIAF gala to Getty Images, photo credits for Susan G. Komen to Tony Powell unless otherwise specified.)