After weeks marred by violence in Libya, destructive tornadoes ravaging the South, turmoil in the Middle East and brutal partisanship in Washington, there doesn’t seem to be much to laugh about in the news.
But at Saturday night’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, President Barack Obama didn’t find this to be the case. His address to the assembled crowd of journalists, elected officials and staff was full of humor as he poked fun at himself and his political opponents.
Obama blazed through his initial minutes at the podium by taking on the ‘birthers,’ a group of right-wing crazies who maintain the president is not a U.S. citizen by birth. Lately, the resurgence of the birther controversy has been headed by rumored GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump, who was in the audience that evening.
Perhaps the most humorous portion of President Obama’s comedic commentary was his repeated trumping of the Donald himself. Obama fired many hits at Trump for his overemphasis on the birth certificate controversy that many in the Republican Party have themselves deemed a losing political battle.
While Obama had the bipartisan crowd roaring with laughter, there was one grimacing face in the crowd. Donald Trump looked less than amused during Obama’s playful undercuts, and he maintained a demure demeanor throughout the rest of the event.
Trump’s frosty reaction seems to evoke an attitude all too common today. His inability to laugh at himself is indicative of a larger problem we have in today’s political culture. In a news cycle dominated by brutal headlines detailing the latest political squabble, events like the White House Correspondent’s Dinner are an opportunity to put bickering aside and enjoy an evening of lighthearted bantering.
As I watched Obama take the stage at the Correspondent’s Dinner, a famous quote came to mind. Mark Twain once said “against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.” This seems to ring true today more than ever.
From the difficult decisions being made daily in Washington to the stress and strain we all face at this point in the term, it seems as though a little laughter is necessary.
Just last week, a few of my classmates and I had a good laugh over a prank carried out on an office door in Preston Hall (once again, we are very sorry, Professor Surzhko-Harned). Though our antics were juvenile, everyone involved enjoyed a hearty laugh.
I am not always an advocate for attacking doors in Preston Hall with massive amounts of caution tape or having a laugh at someone’s expense as President Obama did when making quips about Donald Trump, but I am an advocate for a simple act.
Given the seriousness we face in many aspects of our lives, it is important to be able to put things in perspective and laugh when the time is right. In a world where conflict in Libya is escalating, thousands in the United States are struggling to recover from natural disaster, Washington politics are as divided as ever and all of us here in Mercyworld are facing our impending spring term finals, a little laughter can go a long way.