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Barack Obama: 'When women succeed, America succeeds'

President Barack Obama gestures during remarks at the Democratic National Committee's Women's Leadership Forum on Sept. 19, 2014, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Evan Vucci/AP)
President Barack Obama gestures during remarks at the Democratic National Committee's Women's Leadership Forum on Sept. 19, 2014, in Washington, D.C.

President Obama asked Democratic women to “choose hope” at a speech Friday before the Democratic National Committee's Women's Leadership Forum, where Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden spoke earlier in the day.

“You can measure how well a country does by how well it treats its women,” Obama said. “Some folks still talk about women’s issues as if they’re something separate, over there, and economics is over here – that’s nonsense. When women succeed, America succeeds. It’s pretty straightforward.” 

Reprising a classic line from his first presidential campaign, Obama told the crowd that while cynicism is “fashionable these days,” it never did anything for anyone. “Cynicism is a choice. Hope is a better choice. So today, I’m asking you to do the same I thing I asked you to do in 2008 and choose hope,” the president said. 

Obama also took a shot at the media’s portrayal of his administration, saying that he feels like the story of the economic recovery under his watch has not been adequately portrayed to the public. “There are times when I’m watching the news and I wonder if they've been paying attention,” he said before ticking off indicators showing the country is improving after the Great Recession.

“By almost every economic measure, we are better off today than we were when I took office,” he said.

The fundraising conference brought together a number of high-powered Democratic politicians, thinkers and donors.

The Women’s Leadership Forum started in 1993 when Tipper Gore, the wife of Vice President Al Gore, and a handful of other women came together to find ways to give to boost the role of in the national party. What grew out of that was a fundraising apparatus, but it’s since evolved into a larger effort that includes receptions, briefings, and this annual conference, which Obama keynoted.

Earlier in the day, Clinton told a packed room that they had to get engaged in the 2014 midterm elections, even though they’re “not be as glamorous as presidential elections.” Clinton, who has mostly steered clear of politics since stepping down as secretary of state early last year, all but endorsed a string of female candidates running for Senate and governor.

“I’m on grand-baby watch,” she added, referring to her pregnant daughter, Chelsea.

Vice President Biden also gave a forceful speech at the event about his long years in the Senate working to combat violence against women. “My God I’m getting old,” he said at the top of his speech. “I’ve been around a long long time.”

He slipped up, however, at one point by saying he missed Republican compromisers like Bob Packwood, a disgraced former senator who retired after being accused of sexual harassment by almost a dozen women.