For the first time in more than two years, official Washington gathered Saturday night for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
It was, largely, a sedate affair – most notable for its normality. President Joe Biden told some (mostly forgettable) jokes and good-naturedly laughed when comedian Trevor Noah poked fun at him.
But as Noah was wrapping up his speech, he said something really important – and worth remembering.
“I stood here tonight and I made fun of the president of the United States,” Noah said. “And I am going to be fine.”
It was a line quickly lost in the hubbub of the night and the mad dash for the exits once Noah had finished speaking.
It shouldn’t be.
In pictures: The 2022 White House Correspondents' Dinner
The ongoing Russian war against Ukraine bring the freedoms that we all take for granted into very sharp relief.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has, repeatedly, punished those who criticize him. Since the initial incursion into Ukraine, Putin has systematically shut down any dissenting voices in the media, leaving the Russian people in the dark about the true state of the war.
While many people insist no such thing could ever happen in America, we have lived through a four-plus-year assault on the very notion of truth – culminating in the January 6, 2021, riot at the US Capitol, an insurrection fueled by misinformation about the 2020 election.
The peaceful transition of power between administrations, which has long stood at the center of American democracy, was fundamentally disrupted. Eight Republican senators and 139 Republican House members voted to object to the Electoral College results, despite an utter lack of evidence of any sort of widespread electoral fraud. Polls show a majority of Republican voters now believe that Biden would not have won if not for (nonexistent) fraud.
What the January 6 insurrection should have taught all of us that democracy is tenuous. When we take our rights and freedoms for granted, we run the very real risk of losing them.
That Noah could feel comfortable ribbing the President of the United States – while he sat just a few feet away – speaks to the strength of our democracy. Dissenting voices are both heard and welcomed.
We would all do well to remember that – in hopes that what Noah said Saturday night is always true in this country.