THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Have a seat, have a seat.
First of all, I just want to say how grateful I am to Ken and John for agreeing to take on the tough task of co-chairing our finance committee here in southern California. They have been great friends and great supporters from the get-go. And I have to say, I did not realize John was that good on the introductions. (Laughter.) I might have to take him on the road. (Laughter.)
I also want to thank Michael and Amy who, you know, this is their shop, letting us crash their space, when I know they’re incredibly busy. I was just hearing about Spiderman 4 — (laughter) — so I’m all psyched up about that.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Will you play a part?
THE PRESIDENT: Seriously, I was — (laughter) — I’m very big on Spiderman. I also want to acknowledge a wonderful public servant, one of the finest mayors in the country — Antonio Villaraigosa is here. (Applause.)
We set this up so that I am just going to go from table to table and you guys can poke me and prod me — (laughter) — you know, lift the hood and kick the tires — (laughter) — and give me what I’m sure will be wonderful advice. (Laughter.) Looking around this room, this is not a shy group. (Laughter.)
But 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. It was possible, but not likely. 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 and it prevented us from dealing with so many challenges that we face.
As John said, we’ve made incredible progress over the last two and a half years, but we’ve got so much more work to do. There are still a lot of folks hurting out there. We’ve got to put people back to work. We’ve got to grow the economy. We’ve got to reduce the deficit. We’ve got to pass immigration reform. We’ve got to have an energy plan that works for all Americans. And that’s before I start talking about international affairs. (Laughter.)
So my inbox keeps on filling up, but I welcome the challenge because I know that I have all of you behind me. I just want to remind you as we’re going around to the tables that this is going to be just as hard, if not harder, than 2008 and I’m going to need all of you just as engaged, just as motivated, and taking as much ownership over the campaign as you did then.
That’s part of what made 2008 special was you owned it. It wasn’t just top-down. That’s part of the reason why our campaign office is going to be in Chicago — first time in modern history that a President hasn’t had his campaign office run out of Washington. Because I never want to lose touch, I never want to lose that sense that what this is about is not simply maintaining a status quo but it’s about how do we bring about the changes that are going to make a difference in people’s lives.
So, thank you, all of you, for being here. 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. And with that, let me join you all at the tables. Thank you. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Jeffrey. Technically it’s actually five and a half more years. (Laughter.) Everybody have a seat, everybody have a seat.
I’m going to be very brief. First of all, I just want to thank Jeffrey and Marilyn and all of you who were involved in helping put this together. Jeffrey has been an extraordinary friend from the start, and a lot of you got involved at a time when the prospect of electing a Barack Hussein Obama to the Oval Office was slim. (Laughter.) None of you asked for my birth certificate. (Laughter.) It was a complete leap of faith. (Laughter.)
And so I don’t want to spend a lot of time giving a speech. I want to just spend time with all of you at these tables.
A couple of people I just want to mention who are here. The governor of the great state of California, Jerry Brown is in the house. (Applause.) And our ambassador to the Bahamas — (laughter) — Nicole Avant is in the house. (Applause.) It’s a nice gig, isn’t it? (Laughter.)
Anyway, as Jeffrey said, when we started this journey — and we actually started probably 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 decisions so that we could make sure our kids, our grandkids, the next generation inherited the same kind of big-spirited America that we had inherited from our parents and our grandparents.
We didn’t even 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. The campaign wasn’t easy. There’s a lot of revisionist history going on now that, boy, his campaign was so smooth. It didn’t feel that way at the time. (Laughter.) I mean, it was hard. But we kept at it because we understood that a country that is generous and compassionate, that is looking after our children and making sure they’ve got a shot at the American Dream, that is making sure our seniors have dignity and security in their old age, that looks after families who’ve got a disabled child, that is investing in our infrastructure so that we can move products and services and people and information around rapidly, that is a benevolent influence around the world and is respected around the world — we understood that getting to where we needed to go wasn’t going to be easy, and it hasn’t been.
But we have made extraordinary progress over the last two and a half 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 30 million people aren’t going to go without coverage. (Applause.) We have repealed “don’t ask, don’t tell.” We have put two women on the Supreme Court, including the first Latina. (Applause.) We’ve passed equal pay for equal work.
We can go down the list. But we also know we’ve still got a lot more work to do. We’ve just started, and we’ve got a lot more work to do.
And there have been times I’m sure during the past two and a half years where you’re reading the papers or you’re watching TV and you’re saying, oh, Obama — why is he compromising the Republicans? Or, oh, why did health care take so long? And I want a single-payer plan anyway. (Laughter.) And golly, if he was just as good a communicator as George Clooney — (laughter) — then I’m sure the American people would understand exactly what needs to be done. (Laughter.) Gosh. (Laughter.)
That’s understandable because there have been times where I’ve been frustrated. But I don’t want you to lose sight of how much we’ve gotten done. What we’ve done here has been historic, and we’re only a quarter of the way through. And we’ve got a lot more work to do. And these budget debates that we’re having now crystallize the debate that we’re 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.
And I’m confident — because I travel around the country, and my poll numbers go up and down depending on the latest crisis, and right now gas prices are weighing heavily on people. But when I talk to ordinary folks, they are not always paying attention. If you ask them what the makeup of the budget is, they’ll say 25 percent of it goes to foreign aid. If you ask them about Medicare, they’ll say, I love that program but I wish government wouldn’t get involved in it. (Laughter.) Just because they’re busy and they’re tired and they’re working hard. They’re looking after their families, they’re looking after their kids.
Look, if I wasn’t professionally in this, I wouldn’t be following all these debates in Washington. But when you talk to them about their values, what they care about, then 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 that our commitments to seniors are met, and of course we want a family whose child has a disability to make sure that child is getting everything possible to allow them to succeed. And yes, internationally, we want to stand on the side of human rights and democracy. And we understand the world is complicated. But we have a vision about what America should be in the world and we want to live up to that. And yes, government should live within its means, but we think we can live within its means and still ensure that we’re delivering for the next generation.
I have faith in them. And I have faith in you. And so my closing comment, and then I’ll come around and talk to all of you, is just remember the campaign in 2008. It wasn’t about big crowds and nice posters. And it wasn’t even about me. It was about commitments we made to each other as Americans, about who we are and what we care about. And those commitments have not ended. They didn’t end on Election Day. They don’t end when I take office. Those are commitments that we have to fight for and work for and be true to each and every day. And that’s what this next 18 months are going to be about.
All right? Thank you, guys. Appreciate it. (Applause.)