By Lucas Grindley
Originally published on Advocate.com June 07 2012 10:52 AM ET
President Obama fired up LGBT donors during a fund-raiser at the Beverly Hills home of out Glee creator Ryan Murphy with a story about working out at the gym, a discussion of "don't ask, don't tell" repeal, and his view on the nation's founding.
The president first attended a DNC LGBT Leadership Council gala Wednesday night at the Regent Beverly Wilshire in Los Angeles with about 600 people, and with Ellen DeGeneres introducing him. Then he headed to Murphy's house, where about 70 people were expected with tickets costing $25,000 each.
"It's not just our military might or the size of our economy," he told the donors. "It has to do with a set of ideas, a creed, that started more than 200 years ago, when a band of colonists decided that they had a different idea about self-governance and they had an idea that said everybody is created equal, and everybody can participate, and each of us, if we're willing to work hard and take responsibility, can take our lives as far as our dreams will take us."
Obama continued to make his argument about fairness, which will resonate with LGBT Americans who face discrimination in the workplace and the tax code, among other places.
"The America we believe in is one where everybody has a shot, everybody has a fair shot and everybody does their fair share and everybody is playing by the same set of rules, and if you're willing to put your all into it, you can find a job or start a business and buy a home and send your kids to college and they're going to do even better than you can," he said. "And nobody is excluded from it. It doesn’t matter what you look like, where you come from, what your last name is, who you love."
The president recalled taking his regular workout routine to Marine bases when he's on the road and got an empathetic laugh from the audience.
"It’s depressing working out at the gym at the Marine base because the Marines all have 2% body fat and can bench 500 pounds," he said to laughter, "and they make you feel bad."
But then he told the story of Marines coming up to thank him (and with workout tips) for repealing "don't ask, don't tell."
"They would say, you know what, Mr. President, I just wanted to say how much I appreciate you repealing 'don’t ask, don’t tell,' because I’d been serving as a Marine for five years, for 10 years. There have been times where I haven’t been able to have my partner see me off as I’m being deployed. And for you to acknowledge me not just as a soldier but somebody who is a full citizen and equal participant in the life of this country really makes a difference."
Obama said repealing "don't ask, don't tell" is just the beginning.
"That’s why I appreciate you guys being on board," he told the donors, "because I want to finish what we started in 2008."
Read the complete speech on the following page.
Transcript of Campaign Event in Beverly Hills, Provided by White House
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you! (Applause.) Thank you so much, everybody. First of all, I just want to thank Ryan and David for opening up this incredible home -- and arranging perfect weather. (Applause.) We are grateful to you for your hospitality.
I want to also acknowledge John Emerson, who is here and has been just a great friend, and worked on my behalf for a very, very long time, and helped to pull this thing together. (Applause.)
I will not be singing tonight.
AUDIENCE: Awww --
THE PRESIDENT: I'm just saying. (Laughter.) But usually in these kinds of settings where I've got a few friends, I like to spend most of my time in a conversation, as opposed to giving a long speech. So I'm just going to make a few brief remarks at the top.
I just came from a wonderful event over at the Wilshire or the Hilton -- I'm not sure which. (Laughter.) Here's what happens -- because you go through the kitchens -- (laughter) -- of all these places and so you never are quite sure where you are. (Laughter.) But I was telling folks -- many of you got involved in the campaign back in 2008, and you did so not because you thought electing Barack Obama was a sure thing. Generally people named Barack Hussein Obama are not sure things in presidential races. (Laughter.) The reason some of you got involved is because I think you understood that there are a set of values that make this country extraordinary, that make this country exceptional.
It's not just our military might or the size of our economy. It has to do with a set of ideas, a creed, that started more than 200 years ago, when a band of colonists decided that they had a different idea about self-governance and they had an idea that said everybody is created equal, and everybody can participate, and each of us, if we're willing to work hard and take responsibility, can take our lives as far as our dreams will take us.
And those documents that they issued were not perfect and the society in which they lived wasn’t perfect. But they created this space where, through successive generations, we could continually broaden the scope of opportunity to more and more people, and include more and more people as citizens, and recognize each other as part of this American story.
And so through civil wars and civil rights and women's rights and workers' rights, there's been this constant battle so that more and more people can take part. And that's made us all stronger. That's made us all richer. And it's made us this beacon for the rest of the world.
And the sense was back in 2008 that maybe we had lost our way, because history doesn’t always move in a straight line, and so there are times where we go sideways and even times where we step back. And we looked and we said we've seen a surplus squandered on tax cuts for folks who didn’t need them and weren’t even asking for them. We've seen two wars paid on a credit card. We've seen an economy that has done very well for a few but has made it tougher and tougher for ordinary folks to get by. This was all before the financial crisis, before we knew what was going to happen when Lehmans collapsed.
And so we had a sense, we can do better than this. But the America we believe in is one where everybody has a shot, everybody has a fair shot and everybody does their fair share and everybody is playing by the same set of rules, and if you're willing to put your all into it, you can find a job or start a business and buy a home and send your kids to college and they're going to do even better than you can. And nobody is excluded from it. It doesn’t matter what you look like, where you come from, what your last name is, who you love.
That's what we were fighting for in 2008. And now we've gone through a very difficult period in our history -- the toughest economy -- I'm looking around the room -- that any of us have lived through. And the good news is it turns out the American people are tougher than tough times, and so we have bounced back. And we made some very tough decisions to save the auto industry and to stabilize the financial system and keep teachers in the classroom. And America is coming back.
We’ve seen more than 4 million jobs created -- 800,000 this year alone -- and manufacturing stronger than it’s been since the 1990s, and a whole lot of progress has been made. But we've still got a lot more work to do. And that’s why, hopefully, you’re here tonight, because you recognize that that journey we started in 2008 is not finished.
We’ve made sure that 30 million people can get health insurance who didn’t have it before -- (applause) -- and that 2.5 million young people can stay on their parents' health insurance plans, and preventive care is in place, and women can control their own health care choices. (Applause.)
We have signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act that says equal pay for equal work, because I want my daughters treated the same way your sons are.
We have doubled fuel-efficiency standards on cars, and doubled the amount of clean energy to make sure that we’re not only creating jobs and reducing dependence on foreign oil, but making sure that we’re also saving the planet in the process and doing something about climate change.
We’ve changed the education system in remarkable ways all across the country, made it easier for young people to go to college. Millions of young people are getting scholarships now or loans or grants that they weren’t getting before.
So we made a lot of progress, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do. We still have an immigration system that is broken. We still have an economy where too many people are out of work and homes are under water. And there is a fundamental contrast between our vision of where America needs to go and where the other side needs to go -- the other side wants to take this country.
And this is going to be a close election, because people are still frustrated and a lot of folks are still hurting. And the other side happens to have these super PACs that spend $500 million on negative ads and feed into people’s anxieties and their frustrations.
But the good news is that those ideals I talked about at the beginning, that’s what the American people believe in. They’re not always paying attention to what’s going on in Washington, and it seems so negative and dysfunctional, a lot of times folks just tune it out. But when you offer them a choice, a vision that says we’re all in this together and we’re going to make investments so that every child can get an education, and we’re going to rebuild America so we’ve got the kind of infrastructure and broadband lines and high-speed rail that will keep us an economic superpower, and we’re going to invest in clean energy so that we further reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and we’re going to do it in a balanced way, so we’re asking those of us who have been most successful to do a little bit more so that other folks can come up behind us and succeed just like we did — when you give them that choice, they know what the right answer is.
And so the key in 2012 is going to be, how bad do we want it? Are we willing to fight for it, fight for that vision with even greater determination than we did in 2008?
And I told a story at the last event, I go back to my birthplace — and I had a birth certificate for this — (laughter) — once a year. And we usually stay near a Marine base. And it’s depressing working out at the gym at the Marine base because the Marines all have 2% body fat and can bench 500 pounds — (laughter) — and they make you feel bad.
This past winter, while I’d be working out, folks would come up to me and they would say, you know what, Mr. President, I just wanted to say how much I appreciate you repealing "don’t ask, don’t tell," because I’d been serving as a Marine for five years, for 10 years. There have been times where I haven’t been able to have my partner see me off as I’m being deployed. And for you to acknowledge me not just as a soldier but somebody who is a full citizen and equal participant in the life of this country really makes a difference.
And I was telling folks at the hotel that after about four of these, the last day, a young man came up -- and first, he pointed out that I wasn’t doing the exercise right. (Laughter.) And then, he said, I want to thank you for repealing "don’t ask, don’t tell." And I was anticipating a similar story. And so I asked him, well, what kind of struggles have you been through being gay in uniform? He says, no, sir, I’m not gay. I want to thank you because I’ve had friends who were gay who were great Marines. And it always embarrassed me that somehow -- even though it didn’t matter to any of us in the unit -- they had to pretend to be something they weren’t. And this will make us better Marines and this will make us stronger as a country.
And that spirit is why I’m running for a second term, because I believe that’s the essence of who we are as a country. That’s what makes us special. That’s what we’re fighting for.
That’s why I appreciate you guys being on board, because I want to finish what we started in 2008. All right, thanks. (Applause.) Thank you. (Applause.)