President Obama concluded a busy Wednesday in New York City with an energetic fundraising speech at The Town Hall in Times Square.
The president spoke for about a half hour following a performance by The Roots and pleas from Campaign Director Jim Messina and a number of grassroots organizers to donate time and money to the reelection campaign in 2012.
The members of the audience, many of whom paid $250 or even $1,000 for their seats, were not afraid to make their voices heard.
Two attendees interrupted the president about a minute into his speech with an indecipherable chant (later discovered to be AIDS activists seeking recognition and, presumably, federal funding). The first time they started up, the audience silenced them with boos.
The second time they chanted, whispers of “Huh?” and “What are they saying?” echoed throughout the crowd. Obama addressed the pair, saying “I think you made your point,” and they settled down.
Later on in the speech, When Obama listed some of his goals for the years ahead, audience members began to chime in with their own issues. “I’ve got 1,000 political advisors in this room,” joked the president.
Throughout the night, Obama’s statements were met with cheers, statements of support, and even a “We love you.” But for the room full of supporters, some topics were far more popular than others.
The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the end of tax breaks for oil companies, and the end of the Bush tax cuts all drew huge applause. Guantanamo Bay was a sore spot for many in the room, as was the lack of a public option in last year’s health care reform law.
For his part, the president called out the audience on their cynicism, a thought which he described as his greatest challenge.
“I know what you’ve been writing about me,” said Obama before listing some common criticisms from the left about his negotiation and communication skills.
Obama blamed this sentiment on his having to deal with a stubborn, well-organized opposition. “They think the momentum is on their side,” he president said of conservatives. “We need to organize better than they do.”
Obama defended himself against right-wing talking points. “I believe in the free market, but I also believe that we are a family,” said Obama in defense of social security programs Republicans are hoping to cut in favor of tax breaks for the rich.
“I don’t want a $200,000 tax refund if it means that 33 seniors are going to have to pay $6,000 extra for health care,” he said.
He also assured the audience that he was indeed born in Hawaii, hours after the White House released the president’s long form certificate of live birth in the hopes of diminishing the so-called “birther” movement. The audience laughed, and in what must have been a pleasant change of pace for the president, no one argued the point.