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Trevor Noah Closes His White House Correspondents’ Dinner Speech With A Powerful Message On Freedom Of Speech

Salva Mubarak
Senior Features Writer

Comedian Trevor Noah was tasked with hosting the annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner that had been on a two-year-long hiatus because of the pandemic. The black-tie event aims to honour and celebrate reporters who cover the White House and raise funds for journalism scholarships and programs. But most importantly, the event is known for its roast by the featured comic, who uses their speech to crack jokes at the expense of the president and the attendees.

This year, the Daily Show host came through and didn’t leave anyone unscathed by his sharp and funny roast, including US president Joe Biden. “I think ever since you’ve come into office, things are really looking up. Gas is up. Rent is up. Food is up. Everything,” he joked.

There was also a mandatory Oscar Slapgate joke, “I’ve actually been a little bit worried about tonight. I won’t lie. I was like, ‘What if I make a really mean joke about Kellyanne Conway and then her husband rushes up on the stage and thanks me?’.”

But the most memorable part of his speech was towards the end where he gave everyone present in the room a sobering reminder of the privilege they hold as journalists in a country that doesn’t actively attack freedom of speech.

“If you ever begin to doubt your responsibilities, if you ever begin to doubt how meaningful it is, look no further than what’s happening in Ukraine. Look at what’s happening there. Journalists are risking and even losing their lives to show the world what’s really happening. You realize how amazing it is. In America, you have the right to seek the truth and speak the truth even if it makes people in power uncomfortable. Even if it makes your viewers or your readers uncomfortable. You understand how amazing that is?” he said.

Noah reiterated the importance of acknowledging their privilege by reminding everyone that he stood next to the President of the United States of America while cracking jokes at his expense and that he knows he is going to be fine despite that. “Do you really understand what a blessing it is? Maybe it’s happened for so long that it might slip your mind. It’s a blessing.”

He concluded his speech by saying, “In fact, here, ask yourself this question. Honestly, ask yourself this question. If Russian journalists who are losing their livelihoods, as you were talking about Steve, and their freedom for daring to report on what their own government is doing. If they had the freedom to write any words, to show any stories or to ask any questions. If they had basically what you have, would they be using it in the same way that you do? Ask yourself that question every day because you have one of the most important roles in the world.”

You can watch his full monologue here: