Last May, I had an idea. I was watching the annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner — my senior essay is basically about presidential rhetoric, so this is the kind of nerdy thing I do — when I wondered: Why doesn’t Yale have one of these? The correspondents’ dinner, as it’s informally known, brings together reporters, politicians and celebrities for an evening of humor and good spirits. The sitting president and a popular comedian both give a roast of the administration (last year’s pick was Joel McHale; this year’s is Cecily Strong). Dinner is served. Everyone wears fancy dresses and suits.
Here at Yale, we also love humor and spirits. We have student reporters, student politicians and student celebrities (of sorts). We’re even led by a commander-in-chief, in the form of current Yale College Council President Michael Herbert ’16. A dinner of our own seemed preordained.
I emailed Michael with my idea on May 8. He replied on May 24. “I apologize for the long delay,” he began (the delay did not feel long to me). His endorsement of the proposal was enthusiastic. He wrote: “This could be a blast.”
Michael’s excitement was essential in getting the project — eventually christened the YCC Correspondents Gala, since dinner would not be served — off the ground. An official chair was appointed, Lauren Sapienza ’18, who was equally invaluable in organizing the details of the event.
Thanks to their efforts, the gala took place on Saturday. It went off without a hitch. Over 60 students, each affiliated with either a student publication or the YCC, gathered in an iteration of the Pierson dining hall that seemed remarkably dignified. Attendees wore celebration-worthy attire. There were two chocolate fountains and cheese plates from Caseus Fromagerie. Bottles of sparkling cider lounged in a vat of ice.
The speeches were the highlight of the night. The student emcee landed all his jokes, as did Michael. The editors in chief of Rumpus magazine wowed the crowd. I was even able to deliver some short remarks. Throughout the night, our spirits remained high indeed.
I am elated by the success of last week’s event, and hope that the tradition the YCC worked so hard to establish continues for years to come. The gala, I think, serves a valuable place on our campus. The opportunity to take ourselves less seriously was nice. Saturday night reminded me that, for the most part, we Yalies usually get along fine — deep down, we maybe even like each other.
My faith in student government was also renewed. I pitched something to the YCC president and he made my idea come to life. Is the basic role of a student government not satisfying the desires of its constituents? In this instance, the council fulfilled its function perfectly.
But the most powerful realization I had at the gala goes back to that senior essay I mentioned earlier. On Tuesday at lunch, I was asking my advisor, a journalist who has written about presidential campaigns for many decades, about the mentality of people who vie for our nation’s highest office. Does he get the sense that they’ve always wanted to run? That all of them, as college students or even kids in junior high, fantasized about being the star of a campaign?
Yes, we decided, or most of them anyway, and then I thought back to the gala. That what cuts through our laughter is the uncanny, uncomfortable, unrelenting sense that all of us are just here to rehearse.
Marissa Medansky is a senior in Morse College and a former opinion editor for the News. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .