White House State Dinner Has Knox College Flavor

February 14, 2014

State Dinner attendees have Knox connections

A White House State Dinner in honor of French President Francois Hollande on February 11 included five people with connections to Knox College: President Barack Obama, Stephen Colbert, Tina Tchen, Charles "Chuck" Smith '84, and John Podesta '71.

President Obama spoke on the Knox campus last July and earlier, as a United States senator, he delivered the 2005 Knox Commencement address and received an honorary degree.

The following year, in 2006, Stephen Colbert -- host of "The Colbert Report" on Comedy Central -- was chosen as an honorary degree recipient and Commencement speaker at Knox. That prompted then-Senator Obama to issue a self-described "tongue-in-cheek" statement poking fun at the comedian.

"I'd like to welcome you to our state," part of the statement read. "As you know, I was invited to speak at Knox after my keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention and subsequent election to the United States Senate. Your convention speech must also have gone really well to have been invited (to Knox). It's weird that I didn't read about it somewhere."

Tina Tchen, a Knox College honorary degree recipient and the 2010 Commencement speaker, is an assistant to President Obama and chief of staff to First Lady Michelle Obama. She formerly served as director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Chuck Smith, a 1984 Knox graduate, is an attorney and partner at Skadden Arps LLP in Chicago, Illinois. He serves on the Knox Board of Trustees as Chair for Advancement and a member of the Board's Executive Committee.

John Podesta, a 1971 Knox graduate, is senior counselor to President Obama. A former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, he is also founder and former president of the Center for American Progress. He is the recipient of a Knox Alumni Achievement Award and a life member of the Board of Trustees. In 1998, he received an honorary degree and was Commencement speaker at Knox.

(At top of page: Composite photo of, from left, President Barack Obama, Stephen Colbert, Tina Tchen, Chuck Smith, and John Podesta.)