Obama to Chicagoans: You guys are the ones who got me started

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President Barack Obama kick started his reelection April 14 in his hometown at the first fundraisers of his campaign.

President Barack Obama kick started his reelection April 14 in his hometown at the first fundraisers of his campaign.

After stoking the modest crowds at two previous events, a visibly tired and thinner-looking Obama walked out onto the stage of the ballroom at Navy Pier to a crowd of over 2,000 supporters who had no problem telling the president how they felt about him.

“(We) love you,” people called out from the crowd, which included mostly young adults – some women in cocktail dresses and men in their sharpest business suits.

Love you back,” Obama broke from his remarks to reply.

The nation’s 44th president announced earlier this month that he would seek a second term, offering the nation another historic moment. In 2008 Obama became the first African American elected president.

But ahead of that history, the president pointed out at Thursday’s fundraiser that, establishing his campaign in Chicago, he is the first sitting president to run their re-election bid outside of Washington.

“Now, this is the first time in modern history that a sitting president has based their reelection campaign outside of Washington.  But I decided I don’t want our campaign to be just hearing all the pundits and the powerbrokers.  I want our campaign to be here because you guys are the ones who got me started.  I see people in this audience who supported me when nobody could pronounce my name,” Obama said. “And I wanted to make sure that our campaign was rooted in your hopes and rooted in your dreams.  I want to make sure we’re putting the campaign in your hands – in the same hands, the same organizers, the same volunteers who proved the last time that together ordinary folks can do extraordinary things.  That’s what this campaign is about,” Obama said.

At the podium, with a row of American flags in the backdrop and a huge one affixed to a makeshift wall just to the president’s left, Obama took in the moment and reflected on his personal and political life in the Windy City. For him, Chicago is where it all started.

A former community organizer working on the South Side, Obama’s political star began to rise after he captured a seat in the Illinois General Assembly, made a successful bid for the U.S. Senate and became the darling of the Democratic Party in 2004. The Hawaii native, who also lived and was schooled there and in Indonesia, not only calls Chicago home, he credits it with being the lifeblood of his political career.

“This is the city where I fell in love and started a family. This is the city where I got my start in politics 25 years ago, working with churches on the South Side to bring jobs to the jobless and hope to the hopeless.  It’s where I stood with so many of you in Grant Park, almost two and a half years ago when we showed the world that all things are possible in the United States of America,” said Obama, who lives in the 4th Ward’s Hyde Park neighborhood.

“I became a man here in Chicago. And a lot of the people who are here today – the values, the ideals, my beliefs, my core convictions about what makes America great were forged here,” he added.

The president went on to list his accomplishments over the last two years to the racially-, ethnically- and gender-diverse crowd of constituents who paid $100 or more each to attend the standing room only fundraiser.

He explained that with all he feels he’s done in Washington, he still has more to do.

His hair noticeably grayer now than before he took office, Obama said there were some battles he had politically girded himself up for. But, the president explained, some things came up during his presidency so far that totally blindsided him.

“And along the way, we had to deal with pirates. Who thought we were going to have to deal with pirates?  That wasn’t in my campaign platform,” he said with a quick chuckle.

Bracing for a fight against re-energized Republicans determined to deny him a second term, the president sought Thursday to reanimate supporters who swept him into the White House in 2008 on promises of change — including liberals disappointed at his compromises with the GOP.

He did so by offering a stinging critique of GOP budget proposals that would cut deeply into social programs, education and elsewhere, accusing Republicans of a slash-and-burn approach that says "we can’t afford to be compassionate."

Obama raised $750 million in 2008 and could top $1 billion this time around, though he himself acknowledges a need to re-energize the grass-roots supporters and small donors who helped sweep him into the White House.

Bulls stars Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and former player, BJ Armstrong, also attended the Navy Pier fundraiser.

For one of only a few times since he moved into the White House, the president slept in his own house Thursday night before heading back to Washington Friday afternoon.

Copyright 2011 Chicago Defender

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