First Lady Michelle Obama spoke at a DNC Fundraiser at the Manhattan home of fashion designer Tory Burch Wednesday evening. TPM was in attendance to provide press pool coverage. Our unedited pool report is below:
“Your pooler is currently composing this report in a Starbucks a few blocks from Manhattan’s Hotel Pierre where First Lady Michelle Obama just gave a speech at a DNC fundraiser in the home of fashion designer Tory Burch. In her speech, Obama encouraged the crowd to remain politically engaged and active though “the excitement that comes with the presidential campaign has faded.”
The library was peach-colored and filled with books and decorations including a massive sea turtle shell and the skeletons of several crustaceans. Obama and Burch stood at a podium in front of a crowd of about 40 people including designer Vera Wang. For those of you who care about these things, Obama was wearing a black dress and a pair of black necklaces. Reports of the death of her bangs appear to be greatly exaggerated.
Burch introduced Obama by praising the First Lady for working “tirelessly and effectively” on several issues including “the problem of childhood obesity,” education, and standing up for the needs of “women and girls.”
“With her passionate advocacy, dedication, grace, and style our First Lady has been an important voice for women and girls around the world,” Burch said. “Women and girls in this country and around the world have a true ally and an amazing role model in our first lady.”
Obama spoke next. The White House will be sending out a full official transcript of her remarks, so as always, be sure to check these quotes against that. She began by thanking Burch and the crowd by making a nod to the guests’ fashion industry ties.
“This is a special event because there are a lot of people who have touched my life in so many important ways, who have helped me become the poised and stylish woman that I am,” the First Lady said, provoking laughs from the audience. “So, I want to thank all of you. I want to thank Tory.”
Obama then noted the presence of DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The first lady initially had trouble spotting Schultz in the crowd, which led her to make a joke about the congresswoman’s height.
“I also want to recognize our fabulous DNC chair, who I haven’t seen … because she’s small,” Obama said as she spotted Schultz. “Debbie and I hang out sometimes, I don’t see her. … She is fearless, she is a hard worker, and she is a true friend.”
After she dispensed with the acknowledgements, Obama told her audience they were responsible for not only winning “two elections” but also helping make “some real meaningful change in this country” including strengthening the economy and making progress on “health reform,” “climate change,” “gun violence,” and “comprehensive immigration reform.”
“Although our economy is improving, too many middle class families are still struggling,” Obama said.
The First Lady then encouraged the crowd to remain engaged though the presidential election has ended.
“Now that the excitement that comes with the presidential campaign has faded, it is so tempting to just turn off the TV and wait another four years to re-engage. But make no mistake about it, if we are tuning out, I trust you others are tuning in, others are doing everything they can to make their voices heard,” said the First Lady.
Obama said the consequences of this “imbalance” in engagement are on display “every day in Washington.”
“Just last month for example we saw the failure of common sense legislation to protect our kids from gun violence, legislation by the way that 90 percent of the American people supported. We’re seeing a budget stalemate and a sequester resulting in children across the country being turned away from Head Start, and so many seniors losing their meals on wheels, and now there’s talk about cutting food stamps,” Obama said.
The First Lady described these cuts as “not what this country is about.”
“We are so much more compassionate and fair, so much more decent than
that,” said Obama.
She continued by saying this “decency” is on display “every day” when people work hard, sacrifice for their children, and help neighbors. Obama also noted it was “especially” apparent “in times of tragedy and crisis” and cited several recent examples.
“The teachers who rushed children to safety in Newtown, the teachers who risked their lives to save students in Oklahoma. We saw it in the volunteer firefighters in Texas who plunged into the flames and all those folks in Boston who ran toward the explosions and spent hours tending to perfect strangers,” the First Lady said. “None of these folks asked the people who they were helping whether they were Democrats or Republicans, they didn’t ask whether they were Christians, or Muslims, or Jews. They didn’t care whether they were gay or straight.”
Obama said she was thinking of this unprejudiced aid “during a recent visit I made to my hometown of Chicago” where she met high school students plagued by poverty and gun violence. She noted the children all raised their hands when asked if they knew someone who had been shot and described them as “consumed with staying alive” rather than “reveling in the joys of their youth.” Obama added there are “so many kids in this country” who are “just like” those children she saw in Chicago.
“We have to remember that they are the reason were here today,” said Obama. “So, here’s the thing, we can’t afford to wait for the next presidential election to get fired up and ready to go. They can’t afford to have us wait.”
She urged the crowd to “recapture that passion” of 2008 and 2012 to help children get access to education, to “finally pass some commonsense gun safety laws,” and to fight for women to make “our own decisions about our bodies and our healthcare.” Obama then said the president “can’t do this alone” and needs “folks in Congress to help him every step of the way.” As evidence of this, she cited several pieces legislation that failed by slim margins in Congress including the DREAM Act and the gun bill.
“So, we need all of you to get engaged in every special election and every midterm election all across this country. We need you to keep on writing those checks and, if you haven’t maxed out, max out. Get your friends to max out,” the First Lady said.
According to a Democratic Party official, there were approximately 100 guests at Burch’s fundraiser who paid between $5,000 and $25,000 to attend. Obama told them donating money is “not nearly enough” and asked them to go “out there making phone calls” and to “bring people to the polls.” She closed by referencing Desiline Victor, a 102-year-old female voter that the president discussed in his State of the Union speech.
“If Desiline Victor can summon that kind of passion and energy, then we don’t have any excuse,” said Obama. “If we all keep on working, and organizing, and engaging, then I know that we can keep on building that change we believe in, and together we can build a future worthy of all of our children.”
After her remarks, the crowd cheered the First Lady and she made her way out of the room, which had become quite warm.
“Alright you guys, get some air,” Obama said as she departed.