At a Wednesday night Democratic National Committee fundraiser on New York City’s Upper East Side—the first she has attended this year—first lady Michelle Obama urged the crowd to stay involved politically. She cited Congress’s failure to pass gun-safety legislation to remind the crowd that “Barack Obama cannot do it alone” but needs legislators who will support his agenda.
The event, billed as an LGBT gala, also featured NBA player Jason Collins who introduced Mrs. Obama and talked about his own experience coming out as the nation’s first male, openly gay professional athlete.
“I hope my actions give courage to those still unsure about coming out and I hope it shows them the overwhelming amount of support that is waiting for them.” Collins continued, “If there’s one thing to take away from my experience, it’s that we’re not alone.”
He praised the first lady as “a steadfast champion for LGBT families,” saying she and her husband had tried to spread the message that “the most important thing that defines a family is love.”
Obama, who wore a sleeveless black knee-length cocktail dress with a full skirt was welcomed with a standing ovation.
“Just settle down!” she told the excited group.
“We’ve got your back!” one man yelled.
“I know you do, I know you do,” she replied.
She spoke for about 20 minutes, beginning by thanking Collins (“We are so proud!) and the crowd: “I want to thank you for being there for Barack–not just once, but twice.”
“Because of you, we passed health reform so that 41 million Americans can finally get the insurance they need and the peace of mind they deserve,” she said. ”Because of you, we are taking on climate change, gun violence, comprehensive immigration reform. And because of you, yes, we have a president who stands up for our most fundamental rights, from ending “don’t ask, don’t tell” to strengthening hate crimes to supporting our right to marry the person we love.”
Obama urged the crowd to stay active politically, despite the end of election season. “It’s easy to get frustrated and to become cynical. And now that the excitement that comes with presidential campaign has faded, it is so tempting to turn off that TV and wait another four years to re-engage. But make no mistake about it, while we are tuning out, let me tell you, other folks are tuning in,” she said. “And we are seeing the effects of that kind of imbalance every single day in Washington.”
But her usual feel good fundraising remarks were supplemented with a political overtness that seems to be a new trait of the first lady’s speaking engagements in the second term. “Just last month, we saw the failure of common-sense legislation to protect our kids from gun violence – legislation, by the way, that 90% of the American people supported. Failed.” She went on to speak about her visit earlier this year with students who attend Harper High School, a Chicago school that has seen its share of violence.
Her overall message was that her husband can’t solve problems without “folks in Congress to help him every single step of the way…We need you to be engaged in every election.”
And—since the event was, after all, a fundraiser—she also urged the crowd to keep the money flowing to help fund upcoming special and mid-term elections.
“We need you to keep on writing those checks!” Mrs. Obama urged. “And if you haven’t maxed out, you know, what’s my motto? Max out! Let’s say it again, max out! And if you’ve maxed out, get your friends to max out.” She stopped to contemplate her own fundraising terminology for a moment, “Maxing out. Sounds kind of baller, too…Everyone here should be maxed out.”
The LGBT gala was one of three fundraisers the first lady attended in Boston and New York City on Wednesday. According to a DNC official, tickets for the event ranged in price from $1,250-$32,400 and approximately 350 people attended.