Only the city of San Francisco could make the President blush, like last Wednesday at the Nob Hill Masonic Center. President Barack Obama addressed over 2,000 supporters to raise money for the 2012 presidential campaign.
“I’m a few years older, a few years grayer,” President Obama said during his speech.
“That’s all right, you still fine!” a woman shouted from the back of the auditorium.
President Obama paused. A smile crept onto his face. He cleared his throat and regained his focus, and went on with the speech, visibly flattered by the comment.
That scene reflected the relaxed and personal atmosphere of the president’s speech.
Ruth Hammons, a 1955 graduate of San Francisco State University said, “It felt like he was at home. It felt like he is what we need.”
In between sarcastic comments, like having less Facebook friends than SpongeBob Squarepants, the President had a lot to say about his possible second term in the White House.
“I hate to be parochial, but I want us to have the best stuff,” President Obama said, “We have to out-build, out-educate, out-innovate the rest of the world.”
The best way to reach those goals, according to the President, is to invest in education, infrastructure, and new clean energies.
“The Secret Service doesn’t let me pump gas anymore, but I remember what it was like filling up.”
The President reiterated the importance of his new plan to raise taxes on American households earning more than $250,000 per year.
He said, “Because some of you bought my book, I fall into that category.” He added that allowing the wealthiest citizens to pay the same tax rates as less well-off citizens is “not a trade off I’m willing to make. We are better than that.”
Before the speech began, Professor Teresa Aldredge of Sacramento’s Consumnes River College said, “He has my vote. I’m a big advocate of education investments. In order to do that, then taxes are needed.” Aldredge then pulled her Presidential Partner card from her wallet. It was like a credit card, with a picture of President Obama and the white house on it. She got the card after donating to his campaign.
Her husband Ralph Aldredge, a professor of engineering at UC Davis, did not agree with raising taxes. He said, “I think he is focused on moving forward. I’m happy he has tried to make a difference.” But Aldredge felt raising taxes was not the most effective way to do it.
The crowd was a mix of concerned voters and those who came to just hear the President speak.
Vanessa Smith, originally from Boulder, Colo, said, “I came with zero expectations. I’m just really excited that I have the opportunity to see him.”
Tushani Illangasekari, a UCSF medical student from Sri Lanka said, “I think a lot of us are waiting with baited breath to hear what he will say, and what promises he will make.”
Nancy Pelosi, democrat Minority Leader of the House of Representatives and former Representative of San Francisco, attended the event. Pelosi spent most of her time in the auditorium surrounded by supporters, taking photos and shaking hands. She did not give a speech or address the crowd.
Former Mayor of San Francisco and current Lieutenant Governor of California, Gavin Newsom also attended the event. Newsom spent his first hour at the Masonic Center in the lobby, like Pelosi, taking photos with supporters and shaking hands.
He spoke with the Foghorn however, and said, “The Bay Area is one of the biggest ATM machine’s for [President Obama], so he wants to stay on message to rally support and rekindle the spirit of 2008.” Newsom thought the important talking points would be the deficit and health care.
The rally started with a speech by Organizing for America’s California Political Director Peggy Moore, who introduced the new slogan for the 2012 campaign “I’m in!”
After Moore, former 49ers wide receiver and pro football Hall of Famer Jerry Rice gave a speech. Wearing one of his three Super Bowl rings, Rice talked about the importance of hard work, dedication, teamwork, and energy, for both successful sports teams and successful presidential campaigns. He said Obama’s nomination is “more important than a Super Bowl ring and I don’t say that about many things.”
Goapele, R&B singer from Oakland, followed Rice. Her first song included the lyrics, “I know we can find a way/ if we start it today” and “I voted for a man who can lead us/ Obama’s his name.” She closed her set with a version of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.”
Tickets for the event ranged from $10,000, $2,500, $1,000, $250, and $25. Ticket sales were donations for President Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign.
Security was tight but not overbearing. Armed Secret Service agents, dressed in white shirts, black ties, and black slacks, checked bags and pockets a the door, and manned the metal detectors.
After getting into the Masonic Center, those who were over 21 could get red wristbands and buy either beer or wine. No political merchandise was available, either by sale or hand out.
President Obama wore a black suit with a gray tie and his signature American flag pin on his lapel.
After his speech, many people rushed to the front of the stage were he shook the hands of those he could reach. One woman was so happy to have touched the President that she began to cry. Talking on her cell phone she said, “Baby, I shook his hand, I can’t believe it, I shook his hand.”
Outside, crowds of people protested a variety of things. People from The Cloud Foundation urged the President to end federally funded round ups of wild horses in the western states. Others handed out flyers and held signs in support of Medicare.
Steve Kessler, a self described “radical from the sixties” sold pins to support Bradley Manning, the former Army intelligence analyst who leaked classified documents in the Wikileaks scandal. Kessler said he supports freedom of speech, freedom of information, and a variety of news sources. “When the San Francisco Chronicle is considered the best large paper in California, we got problems.”