Keeping with the hip image that attracted the youth vote during his 2008 campaign, President Barack Obama was preceded by the likes of Jason Mraz and Jamie Foxx before he addressed an audience of 2,500 people at Sony Studios in Culver City on Thursday. The event was scheduled as part of a California fundraising campaign that kicked off with a visit to Facebook’s headquarters in Palo Alto and included another fundraiser at the chic Brentwood Tavern late Thursday night.
“What I want to say before I visit with all of you is how grateful I am. You know, many of you were involved in the 2008 campaign and, let’s face it, it was not likely that I was going to end up in the Oval Office,” Obama said. “And so many of you took this incredible leap of faith, in part because the campaign wasn’t just about me. It was about how we could move the country in a new direction and how could we recapture that sense of community that I think had frayed for too long.”
The president zeroed in on the progress that has been made during the last two plus years but also stressed that “we’ve got so much more work to do.” Along this vein, he emphasized getting the unemployed back to work, the need to grow the economy and reduce the deficit and pass immigration reform, and finding an energy plan that works for everyone.
The president went on to discuss such issues as the GOP plan to cut Medicare and privatize Social Security.
Before President Obama took center stage, host Foxx amped up the crowd to chants of “I’m in” and “four more years.” The 2008 campaign favorite song “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” played in the background. Other special guests included Parks and Recreation actress Rashida Jones and newly elected Congresswoman Karen Bass, who was shaking hands and smiling on the floor of the soundstage.
“I’ve been in office three and half months and I can’t tell you how important it is for us to make sure Obama is re-elected,” Bass said. “We cannot have Medicare ended and Social Security privatized.”
The first small event of the evening was held on the back lot of Sony Studios and was kept to 100 people, for a whopping $35,800 apiece. VIPs who attended the mass rally forked out $2,500, $250 for general admission and the under 40 crowd dished out $100.
From the three events—the two at Sony and the third in Brentwood—the first $5,000 of the proceeds will go to Obama's election campaign and the remaining amount will go to the Democratic National Committee, according to a DNC spokesperson. Ari Sevugnan, national press director of the DNC, said that the party will not disclose the exact amount of the proceeds from the event, due to electoral competition.
A mere stone’s throw from the president's gathering, several groups including the Dream Act movement, the Armenian Youth Federation and the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights gathered to call on him to honor promises he made during his 2008 campaign. Bomb-sniffing dogs skulked through those who were admitted to the campaign event, and police blocked off several Culver City streets.
“When he was running as candidate for president, he made a lot of promises to the Armenian community and to the human rights community that he would speak truthfully on the Armenian genocide and that he would deliver justice on this issue,” said Serouj Aprahaiman, executive director of the Armenian Youth Federation.
“What happened to his promises for reform for immigration?” said Gabriel Ayon, who was protesting on behalf of the Dream Act movement. “If anything, more people have been deported since Obama’s election.
“We’re trying to figure out is he a man of his word, or is he two-faced?”
Despite the ruckus outside the studios, Obama retained his characteristic calm and positive attitude.
“Thanks in advance for the extraordinary work that you’re going to do over the next 18 months to make sure that we can finish the job that we started," he said.