The final details have been set for President Obama’s last White House Correspondents’ Association dinner before the end of his term. Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner will be held at the Washington Hilton and hosted by Comedy Central’s Larry Wilmore. Wilmore is the host of Comedy Central’s “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore.”
The annual dinner began as a get-together for a few dozen journalists at the Arlington Hotel in 1921. President Calvin Coolidge was the first presidential attendee, attending in 1924. Every subsequent president has attended at least once during his term in office. The annual event has only been canceled three times in its history: following after the death of former President William Howard Taft in 1930; after the country entered World War II in 1942; and during the Korean War in 1951.
The ultimate purpose of the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner is to honor young and veteran journalists with scholarships and awards. The proceeds from the 2,600 available tickets, which cost $300 per person, goes towards the costs of those scholarships. The demand for tickets outstrips the supply every year.
As a rule, only member news organizations can buy tickets. The nonprofit WHCA currently has 261 “regular” and 114 “associate” members. The organization gives priority to requests from news outlets that have members on the WHCA’s board, including the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, CBS News and Yahoo News. The rest of the tickets are sold to organizations at the WHCA president’s discretion.
The event attracts some of the most powerful people in Washington, New York and Los Angeles. In addition to the journalists that cover the White House, attendees often include celebrities, government officials, and advertisers as well. Notable names attending this year include Kendall Jenner and Will Smith. Recent headliners for the event have included Cecily Strong, Jimmy Kimmel and Jay Leno. Stars like Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Irving Berlin have also graced the stage.
One notable name missing from the list is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president, Donald Trump. Trump has attended in previous years, but has declined an invitation to attend this year. Instead, he will be on the campaign trail meeting constituents and trying to lock up the nomination before this summer’s convention in Cleveland, Ohio.