Alfalfa Club

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Alfalfa Club
Motto Bis dat, qui cito dat.[1] (He gives twice who gives promptly.)
Formation 1913
Type Club
Purpose Hosts annual Alfalfa Dinner on the last Saturday of January
Region served
United States
~200 politicians and corporate executives

The Alfalfa Club is a Washington, D.C. social organization that exists only to hold an annual banquet on the last Saturday of January.[2] The club's membership, which numbers about 200, is composed primarily of influential politicians business executives, and has included several Presidents of the United States. The group's name is a reference to the plant's supposed willingness to "do anything for a drink".[2]

The president is usually asked to deliver remarks at the dinner. President George W. Bush spoke at the Alfalfa Dinner each year of his presidency;[3] the Alfalfa Club was one of only three clubs that his father, George H. W. Bush, was a member of as president.[4]

Annual presidential nomination[edit]

One of the evening's activities includes the playful nomination of a presidential candidate by the Club's leadership. The candidate is then required to make a speech. Several such candidates went on to hold the actual presidency after being nominated, including Richard Nixon in 1965 (elected in 1968), Ronald Reagan in 1974 (elected in 1980), and George W. Bush in 1998 (elected in 2000).[1] In 1969, they nominated Harold Stassen.[5] In 2004, the Club nominated the former president of the Motion Picture Association of America, Jack Valenti. Its 2000 nomination was Australian-born James Wolfensohn, constitutionally ineligible for election to the U.S. presidency.[1] In 2001, the presidential nomination went to John McCain.


When founded in 1913, the Club's function was to celebrate the birthday of Confederate Civil War General Robert E. Lee. It began admitting blacks in 1974, and women in 1994.[2] In 2009, President Barack Obama spoke at the club's annual dinner, saying "this dinner began almost one hundred years ago as a way to celebrate the birthday of General Robert E. Lee. If he were here with us tonight, the General would be 202 years old. And very confused."[6]

In addition to its January dinner in Washington, the club previously had an annual summer picnic.[7]

In 1986, William H. Rehnquist's membership in the club became the subject of discussion in a Senate Judiciary hearing after Rehnquist was nominated to be Chief Justice. He described the club as one that "met once a year to listen to patriotic music and 'hear some funny political speeches'" and said "he did not think his membership in such a once-a-year group violated the canons of judicial ethics."[8]

In 1994, the club admitted its first women members—Sandra Day O'Connor, Elizabeth Dole, and Katharine Graham (whose father had also been a member[9])—in response to a 1993 boycott by President Bill Clinton.[10] Clinton's boycott had been the first by a U.S. president since Jimmy Carter.[10]

During the 2012 dinner, protesters from Occupy D.C. gathered outside the building to protest the meeting of government and business literally behind closed doors.[11][12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Alfalfa Club at NNDB
  2. ^ a b c "Palin, Obama to share stage". The Politico. Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  3. ^ Newhall, Marissa (2008-01-27). "Alfalfa Club Hears Bush Speak as President for Last Time". Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  4. ^ "Bush Belongs to 3 Men's Clubs". The New York Times. February 1, 1989. Archived from the original on 1 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-30. Stephen Hart, a White House press aide, said the President belongs to three clubs: The Alibi Club, the Alfalfa Club and the Bohemian Club. All three are men's clubs. 
  5. ^ Nixon's New Humor (Cont'd), a February 1969 article from Time (magazine)
  6. ^ "Obama gets laughs at Alfalfa dinner". 2009-02-01. Retrieved 2013-03-04. 
  7. ^ Weekend Mystery, a July 1946 article from Time
  8. ^ President Asserts He Will Withhold Rehnquist Memos, an August 1986 article from The New York Times
  9. ^ Jesse Gets Ruffled, an April 1942 from Time
  10. ^ a b Point Made, Clintons Dine at Club, a January 1994 article from The New York Times
  11. ^ "Egyptian army, demonstrators stand off in Tahrir Square". CNN. 2011-02-05. 
  12. ^ "Obama, Occupy DC Attend Alfalfa Dinner - ABC News". 2012-01-29. Retrieved 2013-03-04.