Guest list at $10,000/couple event includes entertainment industry powerbrokers...
With her husband careening around the country in an election-year edition of The Great Race, First Lady Michelle Obama was in Los Angeles on Thursday to do the dirty work: Shake down Golden State supporters for cash. California's electoral votes are a sure bet for President Obama, so Mrs. Obama had just one task. She was feted with a luncheon at the massive, Mediterranean-style Calabasas mansion owned by film star Will Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith, where tickets for couples were $10,000 each. Salma Hayak co-hosted, and entertainment industry powerbrokers filled the guest list. The luncheon was closed to photographers and reporters, except for one White
House-selected pool reporter.
Like ships in the night, the President and Mrs. Obama missed each other in LA: On Wednesday he blew into town for two hours, to tape an appearance on Tonight Show. Mrs. Obama during her visit to the City of Angels appeared on Jimmy Kimmel's show. The President was also in California earlier this month, where he rubbed shoulders with celebs and raised millions.
The Smiths' huge home is in a gated, Palm-tree studded community that is a haven for security-minded
celebs, located about half an hour up the freeway from downtown LA. Standing under a white tent erected beside a Japanese-themed
garden in the vast backyard, the First Lady spoke at 2:30 PM to
the guests, opening with a tribute to the Smiths.
"They have stepped up for us in so many ways, and it has truly just been a
gift and a blessing to have you guys as friends and as part of our
lives," Mrs. Obama said.
She gave a version of her standard stump speech, which focuses
on her husband's character and touts his record.
I tell folks is that although Barack is handsome, as some would say
he's fine--charming, incredibly smart, that’s really not why I married
him," Mrs. Obama said to laughter.
"Absolutely not why I
married him. What truly made me fall in love with Barack was his
character. It is something we have watched for four years now. We have
seen his decency and his honesty, his compassion and his conviction,
and that’s the man I have always known."
Also co-hosting the lunch were Roc Nation co-founder Jay Brown and wife Kawanna, film producer James Lassiter and wife Mai, and Lady Gaga manager Troy Carter and wife Rebecca. A $40,000 donation got the donor and a companion lunch, a photo with Mrs. Obama, and an exclusive “meet-and-greet” with the First Lady.
On Friday, Mrs. Obama travels to La Jolla, CA for a fundraiser hosted by Irwin Jacobs, the billionare co-founder of Qualcomm, and his wife Joan.
The White House, it should be noted, can choose any reporter to do pooling, and the reporter selected was from a local Hispanic newspaper. That voting bloc is crucial to Mr. Obama's re-election.
The transcript of the First Lady's remarks:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the First Lady
For Immediate Release
October 25, 2012
REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY
AT CAMPAIGN EVENT
2:34 P.M. PDT
MRS. OBAMA: Wow. Goodness! Thank you all, my goodness. Thank you so much. You all, please rest yourselves, please. You all have done so much work. And I am honored and, yes, I’m going to go home, brag to Barack. (Laughter.) Go home and say, well, look at what I did. (Laughter.) No, in fact, what we did. I want to thank you all. I am beyond thrilled to be here today.
I want to start by thanking Jada for that very powerful, touching, beautiful introduction. Back at you, truly -- truly. (Applause.) It has been a privilege to get to know Will and Jada and their beautiful family. They have stepped up for us in so many ways, and it has truly just been a gift and a blessing to have you guys as friends and as part of our lives. So I want to thank the entire family for opening up this beautiful home with all your ghosts -- (laughter) -- and welcoming us. Thank you so much. (Applause.)
I also want to thank our other family co-hosts and the women who lead those families, who have been by our side for so, so very long. The Lassiters, the Browns, the Carters, and of course, Salma Hayek. You guys, thank you. We love you all so deeply. Way to go. Well done. (Applause.)
And most of all, I want to thank all of you. Twelve days and you all are right here, and it means a great deal. And I know you all are pretty fired up and ready to go -- I hope you are. I hope you are. (Applause.) Because if you haven’t noticed, if you’ve seen me around town, I’m feeling pretty fired up and ready to go myself.
The beautiful thing about campaigning is that I get to do one of my favorite things, and that is travel around the country and talk about the man that I have loved and admired for the 23 years since we first met. I am so proud of my husband. And I know we all are proud of our partners, but I am so proud of this man, standing tall.
And what I tell folks is that although Barack is handsome, as some would say he's fine -- (laughter) -- charming, incredibly smart, that’s really not why I married him. Absolutely not why I married him. What truly made me fall in love with Barack was his character. It is something we have watched for four years now. We have seen his decency and his honesty, his compassion and his conviction, and that’s the man I have always known.
I love that when I met Barack that he was so committed to serving others that he turned down high-paying jobs and instead started his career working to get folks back to work in struggling communities. I loved that about him. This is a man who was the President of Harvard Law Review -- he could have done anything. He chose to work with people.
And I love that Barack was so devoted to his family, especially the women in his life. Yes, we give that a hand. (Applause.) And for all the young ladies here, that’s what you look for -- how does he treat his mother. (Applause.) I saw the respect that he had for his mother. I saw how proud he was that she was able to put herself through school and still take care of he and his sister as a single mom.
I saw the tenderness that he felt for his grandmother. And I saw how grateful he was that long after this woman should have retired, she was still waking up every morning, catching that bus to her job at the community bank, doing whatever she could to support his family. And he also watched this same woman be passed over again and again for promotions simply because she was a woman. But the other thing he saw in her, he saw how she kept getting up, despite the challenges, she kept getting up year after year, without complaint or regret.
And with Barack, I found a real connection because in his life story I saw so much of my own. Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, I watched my own father make that same uncomplaining journey every day to his job at the city water plant. And I saw how he carried himself with that same dignity. We all know that dignity, that same pride that a man gets when he can provide for his family. That same hope that one day his kids could have things he could only dream of for himself.
And what I’m trying to tell people around the country is that, like so many families in this country, our families weren’t unique. But they weren’t asking for much. That’s the darn thing, they didn’t want much. Our families didn’t begrudge anyone else’s success. They didn’t mind if others had much more than they did; in fact, they admired it. That’s why they pushed us to be the very best we could be.
But let me tell you what they did believe. They believed in that fundamental American promise that in America, if you don’t start out with much, if you work hard, you should be able to build a decent life for yourself and an even better life for your kids and your grandkids. That’s what they believed.
And they believed that when you’ve worked hard and done well like so many of us have, and you finally walk through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. No, you reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed. (Applause.)
And that is how Barack and I and I know how so many of you were raised. Those are the values we were taught. And more than anything else, that is what this election is all about. Don’t be mistaken. It’s a choice about our values and our hopes and our aspirations. It’s a choice about the America that we want to leave for our kids and our grandkids.
And what does that America look like -- let me tell you. We believe in an America where every child, no matter where they’re born or how much money their parents make, every child deserves good schools -- the kind of schools that push them and inspire them and prepare them for college and jobs of the future. We believe in an America where no one goes broke because someone gets sick; where no one loses their home because someone loses a job.
We believe in an America where we all understand that none of us -- none of us gets where we are on our own, that there is always a community of people lifting us up, where we treat everyone with dignity and respect -- from the teachers who inspire us to the janitors who keep our schools clean. And when one of us stumbles, in this America that we’re trying to build -- because we all have the potential to stumble -- when one of us stumbles, when one of us falls on hard times we don’t turn our backs and say, tough luck, you’re on your own --not in this America. No, instead, we extend a helping hand and help them until they can get back on their feet.
We also believe that the truth matters -- simple as that -- that you don’t take shortcuts, you don’t game the system, you don’t play by your own set of rules. (Applause.)
And, finally, we believe in keeping our priorities straight, because here’s the thing -- we all know good and well that cutting Sesame Street is no way to balance our budget. We know that. (Applause.) We know that shortchanging our kids is not how we tackle our deficit. That’s not the answer.
If we want to build opportunities for all Americans, yes, we have to cut wasteful spending. But we also have to make smart investments in things like education and infrastructure for the kind of economy this President talks about, one that is built to last. That is what my husband stands for. That is the country he’s been working to build for the last four years. Those are his values.
And I’ve said this before, but over the past four years as First Lady, I have seen up close and personal what being President looks like and how critical those values are for leading this country, let me tell you. I have seen how the issues that come across a President’s desk, they are always the hard ones -- the decisions that aren’t just about the bottom line, but about laying a foundation for the next generation.
And I have seen how important it is to have a President who doesn’t just tell us what we want to hear, but who’s willing to tell us the truth even when it’s hard, especially when it’s hard. And I have seen that when it comes time to make those tough calls, everyone around you is urging you to do what’s easy, what polls best, what gets good headlines.
See, as President, you have to be driven by the struggles, hopes and dreams of all of the people you serve -- you hear me -- all of them. That’s how you make the right decisions for this country. That’s what it takes to be a leader.
And since the day he took office, my husband -- let me tell you -- on issue after issue, crisis after crisis, I have been there right by his side -- I’ve seen it. That is what you have seen in my husband.
Let’s go back in time. Think back to when Barack first took office and where this country was, because sometimes we forget. This economy was on the brink of collapse. You don’t have to take my word for it. Newspapers were using words like “meltdown,” “calamity” -- declaring “Wall Street Implodes,” “Economy in Shock.” See, for years folks had been lured into buying homes they couldn’t afford, so their mortgages were underwater. The auto industry was in crisis. The economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month and a lot of folks wondered whether we were headed for another Great Depression. Do you hear me? That’s where we were.
And this is what Barack faced on day one as President of the United States. He inherited an economy in rapid decline, but instead of pointing fingers and placing blame your President got to work. See, because he was thinking about folks like my dad and like his grandmother. And that’s why he cut taxes for small businesses and working families, because he believes that teachers and firefighters should not pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires. I’m sorry, that’s just not right and we all know it. (Applause.)
And that is also why, while some folks, if you recall, were willing to let the auto industry go under, with more than a million jobs that would have been lost, your President had the backs of the American workers. He fought hard to protect jobs for American families. And that's why, today, the auto industry is back on its feet again. (Applause.) Indeed, today!
And while we still have a long way to go to completely rebuild our economy, there are more and more signs every day that we are headed in the right direction. Stock market has doubled. Exports have grown by 45 percent. Manufacturers have added 500,000 jobs. We've had 31 straight months, the majority of my husband's presidency, with private sector job growth -- 5.2 million new jobs have been created under this President right here in the United States of America. (Applause.)
Those are the facts. But in addition to focusing on job creation -- because as President, you've got to be able to do a few things at the same time -- (laughter) -- fortunately for us, Barack also focused on improving access to health care for millions of Americans. Let me tell you, Barack didn’t care whether health reform was the easy thing to do politically. See, because that's not who he is. He cared that it was the right thing to do. He was thinking about all those folks that we still meet across this country -- their stories: the woman diagnosed with breast cancer whose insurance company wouldn’t cover her care; the seniors pinching pennies to save up for the medicines they need; the parents who couldn't get lifesaving treatment for a child because one of them lost a job.
Those stories are endless in this country. And today, because of health reform, our parents and grandparents on Medicare are paying hundreds less for their prescription drugs today. Our kids can stay on our insurance until they're 26 years old because of health reform. Insurance companies now have to cover basic preventative care -- things like contraception, cancer screenings, with no out-of-pocket costs. They won't be able to discriminate against you because you have a preexisting condition -- let's say, diabetes or asthma.
And if you get life-threatening illness and you need expensive treatment, no longer can they look you in the eye and tell you, sorry, you've hit your lifetime limit and we're not paying a penny more. That is now illegal because of health reform. (Applause.)
And then when it comes to giving our young people, all of them, the education they deserve, let me tell you Barack knows that, like me, and I know like so many of you, he never could have attended college without financial aid. Never. I tell young people I wouldn’t be standing here today if it weren’t for financial aid. In fact, when we were first married, our combined student loan bill was higher than our mortgage. It wasn’t a house as nice as this, but it was -- (laughter) -- it was ours. (Laughter.)
So when it comes to student debt, let me tell you, Barack and I, we have been there. This is not a hypothetical situation. And that is why Barack fought so hard to double funding for Pell grants and to keep interest rates low, because he wants more of our young people to be able to get the education they deserve, to go to college.
And finally, when it comes to understanding the lives of women, when it comes to standing up for our rights and opportunities, we know that this President will always have our backs, because Barack knows from personal experience what it means for a family when women aren't treated fair in the workplace. And believe me, as a father of two beautiful girls, he knows what it means to want our daughters to have the same freedoms and opportunities as our sons.
And that's why the very first bill he signed into law as President was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to help women get equal pay for equal work. (Applause.)
And that is also why he will always, always fight to ensure that we as women can make our own decisions about our bodies and about our health care. (Applause.) That is what your President stands for.
So when you're out there over the next 12 days -- and hopefully you will be -- you will keep talking to people -- if folks come up to you and ask, well, what has this President done for our country, when you're talking to folks who are deciding who's the best person in this race to keep this country moving forward, here's what I want you tell them.
In addition to everything he has done for our economy, our health care, and education, I want you to tell them how your President ended the war in Iraq. You tell them how he took out Osama bin Laden. (Applause.) Tell them how Barack fought to give veterans and military families the benefits they've earned. Tell them about all the young people in this country who will no longer live in fear of being deported from the only country they have ever called home. (Applause.) Tell them about our servicemembers who will never again have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love.
Remind them of all the concrete plans Barack has laid out for the next four years. Send them to the website -- we got a website, too. (Laughter.) BarackObama.com/plans -- (applause)
-- where you can learn how he's going to create new jobs, train the best workforce in the world, boost American-made energy, reduce our deficit, and end the war in Afghanistan -- and more. Go to the website. (Applause.)
But most importantly, here's what I want you to tell folks. You remind them that Barack Obama knows the American Dream because he’s lived it. And he is fighting every day so that everyone in this country, do you hear me, everyone can have that same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we’re from, or what we look like, or who we love.
But let us be very clear. While he is proud, extremely proud of all that we have done together -- because none of this could be done without all of us -- my husband knows that we are nowhere near satisfied. He of all people on this planet knows that there are still too many people hurting in this country. He knows that there is plenty of work left to be done. And as President Clinton said, it is going to take a lot longer than four years to finish rebuilding an economy that was on the brink of collapse. (Applause.)
But here’s why I stand up for my husband every day not as his wife, but as a citizen -- because in Barack, thankfully, we have a leader with a deep and unyielding faith in the American people; a leader who understands that this country was built by men and women like our parents who woke up and wake up every day, and work hard for their families without complaint or regret.
And as President that is what my husband has been fighting for. As President, he has been fighting for us. And that is why when the stakes are so high, as they are today, we can always trust that Barack will have our backs. And over these past four [three] and a half years together, know this: Slowly but surely we have been pulling ourselves out of that hole that we started in. We are steadily making progress and making real change in moving this country forward.
So here’s the question that we have to ask ourselves over the next two weeks: Are we going to turn around and go back to the same policies that got us into that hole in the first place?
MRS. OBAMA: Are we going to sit back and watch everything that we worked for and fought for just slip away?
MRS. OBAMA: What are we going to do -- are we going to keep moving this country forward? Where are we going to be in this? (Applause.) But in the end, the answers to these questions is on us. It’s now on us. Let me tell you, I’m proud of the job that my husband has done. It is on us now -- because truly, all of our hard work, all the progress that we have made, you all know this more than ever, it is all on the line this November. It’s all at stake.
And I want to take the time to let you all know that your support, the checks that you have written, the prayers that you have sent, the work that you have done, that has made the difference every step of the way. And I get a little melancholy as we get down to the last two weeks, because I’ve spent so much time with all of you. I know you’re sick of having me in your houses, taking pictures -- (laughter) -- but because of you, just understand what this work means.
It means that we’ve got today, today we’ve got hundreds of field offices and thousands of staff and volunteers in those key battleground states. And let me tell you, our volunteers, our team leaders are fierce. They are working every day. These are people who have just walked away from jobs and family, letting people live in their houses, cooking for them, on the phone every day. We’re on the airwaves. We’ve set up phone banks across the country. We’re reaching millions of voters every single day.
And all of you made that possible. Know that. And I cannot begin to tell you how grateful Barack and I are for everything that you all have done to have our backs over these past four years.
But as my husband has said, this election is going to be even closer than the last one. That’s really the only guarantee. So just hold on to that. It’s going to be a little nerve-wracking. (Laughter.) But the last one was close. So for example, back in 2008, we won the state of North Carolina by just 14,000 votes. And when you break that number down across the states over precincts, that’s just five votes for precinct -- five. We won Nevada by about 121,000 votes. And that might sound like a lot, but that’s just 69 votes per precinct.
So this is the margin of difference in these elections. So make no mistake about it -- what we do over these next 12 days will absolutely make the difference between waking up the day after Election Day and asking ourselves, could I have done more -- see, and I’m not going to be that person. (Laughter and applause.) Or feeling the promise of four more years. That’s the difference.
So we need your support more than ever before. Twelve days. For anyone who works out, it’s like the end of a hard workout, you know? You would do anything for that last five minutes. That last run, that last minute, that’s what -- in my mind it’s like we’re just on that last minute of that run. But we need you to keep writing those checks. Keep doing it. And if you haven’t maxed out, max out! (Laughter and applause.) There’s still time. If you’ve got a friend that hasn’t maxed out, shake them. Find him. You guys have pretty much wrung a lot of people dry to make this event happen. (Laughter.) But you know there’s that one person in the office. Find him. Slap him in the back of the head. (Laughter.) Take their wallet. (Laughter.) Just make it happen.
And know that is one of the most important things you can do to keep our grassroots operation running across this country. But for those of you who want to really get out there and roll up your sleeves, you can do that. You can sign up at California.BarackObama.com to go to Nevada, to knock on doors. These last few days before the election are so critical, especially next weekend and Election Day. So if you can give even just one or two days, we need you to head to Nevada and help us get out the vote in that state.
And if you’re not able to leave your home, here’s the beauty of technology -- and our young people, help your parents if they’re a little challenged. You can call and do phone-banking right from your living room, from the comfort of your own home.
And we’ve had a couple of young people who have done this. They’ve gotten friends together and they just get on the phone and they call. You just go to dashboard.BarackObama.com and you can do that. Yes, young people in the room, help your parents figure this out, because I know I couldn’t do it. I don’t know how you do that, but we try to make it easy.
So we hope in any way over these last -- this last little hump you guys keep pushing, because I’m going to be honest with you, like I always am in all of my speeches -- because some of you have been to quite a few -- but I always say this journey is going to be hard. And these last 12 days, there are going to be ups and downs. We’ve seen it over this last month. It’s just like, whoa! That’s been my life. (Laughter.)
But no matter what, from now until November the 6th, we need you all to keep working and struggling and pushing forward. Because here’s the thing that I remind especially our young people when I talk to them, because I go to a lot of college campuses -- that is how change always happens in this country. We cannot forget. We know from our history that change is hard and it requires patience and tenacity -- anything worth having does. But we know that if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight and doing in our hearts what we know is right, then eventually we get there. This is the beauty of America -- we always do. In America, we always move forward.
So we cannot let anyone talk down our dreams and aspirations. We cannot let anyone talk down our country or our country’s future. We have every reason to be optimistic about what lies ahead, because here in America we always move forward, we always make progress. And in the end, that’s what this is about.
Hopefully, that’s why we’re here, because that’s what elections are always about. Don’t let anybody tell you differently. Elections are always about hope. What kind of hope am I talking about? I’m talking about the hope I saw on my father’s face when he watched me walk across the stage to get that college diploma that he took out loans to help me get.
It’s that kind of hope I’m talking about, the kind of hope that Barack’s grandmother felt as she cast her ballot for the grandson she loved and raised. We know that hope. The hope of all those men and women in our lives who work that extra shift for us, who prayed and sacrificed and saved so that we could be here -- we’re standing on their shoulders. The hope that so many of us feel when we look into the eyes of our own children and grandchildren.
And that’s why we’re here today -- that’s why I’m here -- because we want to give all of our children a solid foundation for their dreams. We want to give all our children opportunities worthy of their promise, because we know good and well that all of these children in this country are worthy. We want to give them that sense of limitless possibility, that belief that here in America, the greatest country on the planet, there is always something better out there if you’re willing to work for it. That is the America we are building for our children. (Applause.)
So here’s what I tell myself. We cannot turn back now -- absolutely unacceptable. We will not turn back now. We have come so far. But here’s what we do know. We have so much more work left to do.
So let me ask you one last question? Are you ready for this last push? Are you in? (Applause.) You ready to roll up your sleeves? (Applause.) Write that last check. Get on the phone, call some people. Shake a few folks up. Because if we do we’ll be well on our way.
I want to thank you all. We love you so much. God bless.
END 3:04 P.M. PDT
*Photo compilation by The Hollywood Reporter