Obama talks about successes and continuing challenges at final L.A. fundraiser
President Obama arrived at his final fundraiser of the evening about 8:20 p.m. Thursday after traveling along the 405 Freeway, which had been shut down for the motorcade ride from Culver City to Brentwood.
The dinner was at Tavern, in a private room that held about 50 people. There was major celebrity wattage at the event: Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown and his wife; George Clooney; Steven Spielberg; Tom Hanks and wife, Rita Wilson; and Will Ferrell.
Tables were covered with forest green tablecloths, and potted trees and twinkling white lights created an atrium-like setting.
Obama was introduced by Jeffrey Katzenberg, DreamWorks Animation SKG's chief executive. Katzenberg noted that about three years ago, most “everyone in this room embarked on a great journey and adventure with you,” he said, directing his remarks to the president.
“I think we all would agree that nobody has ever inherited a set of challenges -- and nobody I think could possibly be better in tackling them. So we all feel very lucky to have you as our president for four more years,” Katzenberg said to the audience's applause.
“Four more years,” Obama said, taking the microphone. He added: “Technically it’s actually 5 1/2 more years,” which got a round of laughter.
“A lot of you got involved at a time when the prospect of electing Barack Hussein Obama to the Oval Office was slim. None of you asked for my birth certificate. It was complete leap of faith,” he said to more laughter.
He acknowledged Brown -- to applause -- and Nicole A. Avant, the U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas. “It’s a nice gig, isn’t it?” he asked her, to more laughter.
“When we started this journey -- it was actually about four years ago -- I think we understood that the country was at a crossroads and we were going to have to make some fundamental changes so that we could make sure our kids, our grandkids, the next generation inherited the same kind of big-spirited America that we inherited from our grandparents and parents,” the president said.
“We didn’t maybe know how steep the climb was going to be to get to where we needed to go. But we understood it was not going to be easy....
"And it hasn’t been, but we have made extraordinary progress over the last 2 1/2 years. We’ve pulled this economy out of a recession. We’ve stabilized the financial system. We’ve passed historic health care legislation to make sure that 30 million people aren’t going to go without coverage," Obama said to applause. "We’ve repealed ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell.’ We have put two women on the Supreme Court including the first Latina. We’ve passed equal pay for equal work.
"We can go down the list," he told the audience, "but we also know we’ve got a lot more work to do. We’ve just started, and we’ve got a lot more work to do.”
Obama said the budget talks “crystallize the debate that we are going to be having in this country over the next 18 months about who we are, what we care about, what our values are, what our commitments are to each other.”
He noted that his poll numbers “go up and down depending on the latest crisis -- and right now gas prices are weighing heavily on people.”
He said that when he talks to "ordinary folks" about their values and what they care about, "They say, of course, we should make sure every child has a good education and gets opportunity. And absolutely we’ve got to make sure our commitments to seniors are met.... And, yes, internationally we want to stand on the side of human rights and democracy.”
Government has to live within its means, Obama said, but “we think we can live within its means and still ensure that we’re delivering for the next generation.”
He closed his speech by saying that he has faith in the next generation and that the "commitments we made to each other as Americans" have not ended, but need to be fought for and worked for every day.
Obama left the fundraiser about 10 p.m. He is expected to leave from Los Angeles International Airport on Friday morning.
-- Maeve Reston in Brentwood