With the advancement of marriage equality in New York last week, you may have missed President Barack Obama’s speech at a LGBT DNC fundraiser in New York City. He is the first president to address a LGBT group. He spoke on current issues that we face as a nation. And was briefly interrupted by protesters. Many are asking if he has flip flopped on the marriage issue – saying he was previously pro-marriage before he started running for President.
Transcript of President Obama’s Remarks at the DNC Fundraiser
6:59 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, hello, hello! (Applause.) Thank you! Thank you so much. Hello, New York! (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Thank you. Everybody please have a seat. Thank you. Thank you so much. (Applause.)
Thank you, Jonathan, for your service to this country and for continuing to fight for what this country stands for, even after you had to take off the uniform.
I also want to recognize the extraordinary performance of Audra McDonald. I like hearing her sing. (Applause.) I want to thank our MC for this evening, Neil Patrick Harris. (Applause.) Everybody knows that Neil is openly terrific. (Laughter.)
A couple of other acknowledgments — Christine Quinn, the New York City Council Speaker, is here. (Applause.) A great friend of mine who helped move the process forward to make sure that “don’t ask, don’t tell” got done — Patrick Murphy is in the house. (Applause.) The DNC treasurer, Andy Tobias, is here. (Applause.) I think they like you, Andy. (Applause.) And I want to thank the co-chairs of the LGBT Leadership Council. Thank you so much. This is just an extraordinary event.
Video via Think Progress LGBT:
It is wonderful to be back in New York. I see a lot of new faces but also a lot of friends who I have known for a very long time. Many of you knew me before I had gray hair. (Laughter.) Malia and Sasha says it makes me look distinguished. Michelle says it makes me look old. (Laughter.)
Now, being here with all of you, I can’t help but think back to election night two and a half years ago. We were in Grant Park — some of you were there. Beautiful night. Culmination of an extraordinary journey; a campaign that had drawn on the hard work and support of people all across the country — men and women who believed that change was possible, who believed that we didn’t have to accept politics as usual, who believed that we could once again be a country that lived up to our highest aspirations, not our lowest common denominators. And it was a perfect night, and we were feeling pretty good, I got to admit.
But what I said then at Grant Park was that this was not the end of the road; it was just the beginning. And I said that the journey was going to be long and it was going to be difficult and there were going to be times where we stumble, that the climb was going to be steep. Now, we didn’t know exactly how steep it was going to be. (Laughter.) But we knew that it wasn’t going to be easy to rebuild the middle class after a decade of stagnant incomes and rising costs — a decade where a lot of Americans felt like that dream was slipping away.
We knew it wasn’t going to be easy to end two wars and restore America’s leadership around the world. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy to fix our immigration system; to reform our health care system; to transform our energy policy; to educate our young people for the demands of a global economy. We did not think it was going to be easy.
And I said that night I did not run for President to do easy things. I ran because I believed that as a nation it was time for us to do the hard things. It was time for us to do the big things — even if it took time, even if sometimes it was going to be frustrating. I said I was not going to let politics or the typical Washington games stand in our way because it had held us back for too long. That’s what led to the mess that we were dealing with in the first place.
So over these past two and a half years, I’ve had some tough calls to make. I had some tough calls as soon as I took office. We had to prevent a financial system from falling apart and dragging the economy into depression. We had to pass reforms to stop abuses in the financial system and prevent future crises. We had to rescue the auto industry. I did not think it was going to be an auto CEO. (Laughter.) Even though there were a lot of people who said, let them go, let more than a million jobs vanish, allow two of America’s iconic companies to be liquidated and sold off for parts, we said no, we’re going to have to step up, we’re going to have to deal with it.
But even as we took these emergency steps, we started tackling all the challenges that we had talked about during the campaign, all the things that were standing in the way of the American Dream. Because that’s why I ran. That’s what the campaign was about. That’s why you supported me. Because we believed in an economy that didn’t just work for those at the top, but worked for everybody — where prosperity was shared. (Applause.) Where prosperity was shared from the machinist on the line to the manager on the floor, to the CEO in the boardroom.
We worked so hard in 2008 because we believed that we have to define our success not just by stock prices or corporate profits, but whether ordinary folks can find a good work, whether they can afford a middle-class life, whether they can pay the mortgage and take care of their kids and save some money for their child’s college education or their own retirement, and maybe have a little left over to go to a movie or dinner or even a play. (Laughter.) Since we’re in New York. (Laughter.)
That’s why we cut taxes for middle-class families, and ended subsidies to the banks for student loans to make college more affordable. That’s why I was proud to sign a bill to make sure women earn equal pay for equal work — a basic principle. (Applause.) That’s why we’re promoting manufacturing and homegrown American energy — because that’s what will lead to jobs that pay a decent salary. That’s why we’re standing up a new consumer bureau with just one responsibility — looking out for ordinary folks in the financial system so they’re not cheated. That’s why we passed health reform, so that no one in the richest nation on Earth ever has to go bankrupt because they or somebody in their family get sick. (Applause.) That was the right thing to do. (Applause.)
We waged that long campaign in 2008 because we believed it was time to end the war in Iraq. And that is what we are doing – ending the war in Iraq. (Applause.) We removed 100,000 troops from Iraq already, ended combat missions there. We’re on track to bring the rest of our troops home by the end of this year.
I ran for President because I believed we needed to refocus our efforts in Afghanistan — and we’re doing this, too. We pummeled al Qaeda. We took out bin Laden. (Applause.) And because of our progress and the extraordinary sacrifices of our troops — because of the extraordinary sacrifices of our troops, we’re now fulfilling the commitment I made to start reducing our troops this month so that Afghans can take responsibility for their own security. (Applause.)
I also ran because we now live in a world where America is facing stiff competition for good jobs. There are rapidly growing nations like China and India — they’re hungry; they’re on the move. And for a long time we were told that the best way to win this competition was to undermine consumer protections, undermine clean air and clean water laws, hand out tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires, and everything would work out just fine. It did not work out well. In fact, if you look at our history, you’ll see that philosophy has never worked our very well.
America was built on the hard work of people and the ingenuity of our businesses. But we also built a system of free public high schools and sent a generation to college on the G.I. Bill. We constructed railroads and highways that spanned a continent. We invested in research and technology, and we sent a man to the moon, and we discovered lifesaving medicine. We launched the Information Age — creating millions of jobs along the way. That’s how you build a nation. That’s how you build a strong middle class. And that’s what we need to do today.
There is an important debate in Washington right now about cutting the deficit. And it is absolutely critical that we cut the deficit. Like families all across America, government has to live within its means. And I’m prepared to bring down our deficit by trillions of dollars — that’s “trillions” with a “t.”
But I won’t reduce our deficit by sacrificing the education of our young people. (Applause.)
We can’t stop medical research being done by our scientists. (Applause.) We can’t stop building the infrastructure that made this country great. I’m not going to sacrifice clean energy at a time when our dependence on foreign oil has caused Americans so much pain at the pump. (Applause.) That doesn’t make any sense. In other words, I will not sacrifice America’s future.
What makes America great is not just the scale of our skyscrapers, or our military might, or the size of our GDP. What makes us great is the character of our people. Yes, we are rugged individualists and we are self-reliant, and that’s part of what makes us Americans. We don’t like being told what to do.
But what also makes us who we are is we’ve got faith in the future and we recognize that that future is shared — the notion that I’m my brother’s keeper, I’m my sister’s keeper. My life is richer and stronger when everybody in the country has some measure of security; everybody has got a fair shot at the American Dream. That’s what makes us great. That’s our vision for America.
It’s not a vision of a small America. It’s a vision of a big America; a compassionate America; and a bold and optimistic America. And it’s a vision where we’re living within our means, but we’re still investing in our future. And everybody is making sacrifices, but nobody bears all the burden. An America where we live up to the idea that no matter who we are, no matter what we look like, we are connected to one another.
That’s what led many of us to fight so hard, to knock on so many doors and maybe harangue some of our friends — this belief that it was up to each of us to perfect this union. It was our work to make sure that we were living up to a simple American value: We’re all created equal. We’re all created equal.
Ever since I entered into public life, ever since I have a memory about what my mother taught me, and my grandparents taught me, I believed that discriminating against people was wrong. I had no choice. I was born that way. (Laughter and applause.) In Hawaii. (Applause.) And I believed that discrimination because of somebody’s sexual orientation or gender identity ran counter to who we are as a people, and it’s a violation of the basic tenets on which this nation was founded. I believe that gay couples deserve the same legal rights as every other couple in this country. (Applause.)
Now, there was such a good recitation earlier by Neil that I feel bad repeating it, but let me just — it bears repeating. (Laughter.) This is why we’re making sure that hospitals extended visitation rights to gay couples, because nobody should be barred from their bedside their partner — the beside of their partner in a moment of pain, or a moment of need. Nobody should have to produce a legal contract to hold the hand of the person that they love.
It’s why we launched the first comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy, providing a road map not only to providing treatment and reducing infections — (applause) — but also embracing the potential of new, groundbreaking research that will help us bring an end to this pandemic.
That’s why I ordered federal agencies to extend the same benefits to gay couples that go to straight couples wherever possible. That’s why we’re going to keep fighting until the law no longer –
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Marriage.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Marriage. Marriage. Marriage.
THE PRESIDENT: I heard you guys. (Laughter.) Believe it or not, I anticipated that somebody might — (Laughter and applause.)