In case anyone was wondering, here is info about the dinner (I didn't know much about it before):
About the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner
Although both his state and his country generously honored Alfred E. Smith after his death in 1944, the most unusual and notable memorial to him has been an ongoing series of black-tie dinners. Sponsored by the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation, these annual fêtes were initiated by then-Archbishop (later Cardinal) Francis J. Spellman of the Archdiocese of New York in 1945. Since that time the Foundation has raised millions of dollars for healthcare causes.
Cardinal Spellman, capitalizing on the fact that Governor Smith died in the month of October (the peak of election season), used the dinner to remind later generations of Smith's extraordinary public career and unique role in political history by securing the participation of the leading political figures of those later generations. Over the years, the dinner has attracted the cream of modern American politics: the list of speakers and attendees reads like a who's who of the political landscape.
In the early years of the dinner's existence, this event might have been the only time some of these candidates would share a dais during the entire campaign. By 1960 the Al Smith dinner had truly reached its zenith as "a ritual of American politics," in the words of Theodore H. White.Many of past dinners have generated front-page news items as a result of the program, i.e. joint appearances of opposing presidential nominees.
While commendatory references to Smith and his actions were once common, by chance or by design, many of the addresses at later dinners have taken on a lighter tone. Indeed, the occasion has evolved into something of an opportunity for speakers - particularly ones whose mien is typically quite serious - to show, through quips and slightly irreverent humor, that they can poke fun at a political issue, an opponent, or themselves. In 1988, Michael S. Dukakis solemnly declared, "I've... been told that I lack passion. But that doesn't affect me one way or the other. Some people say I am arrogant, but I know better than that." In the days before Saturday Night Live, the Al Smith dinner served as a kind of "proving ground for the candidate as entertainer," as one reporter described it.
Today the dinner remains a true phenomenon - a living memorial to an uncommon public figure, best known as the first Roman Catholic presidential candidate, who died more than six decades ago. Doubtless the dinner's honoree would be deeply gratified that he is being remembered each year in this fashion. He would be even more gratified to know that the dinner commemorating him and his unique role in American politics has contributed millions of dollars for charitable endeavors in the city he loved so much.
Amazing what Youtube could do because those speeches were not available in 2000 (Kerry & Bush didn't attend in 2004. Kerry was not invited because he's a pro-choice Catholic under the threat of excommunication for his views and, out of respect for his opponent, Bush declined the invitation).