Hundreds of supporters gathered at the Nob Hill Masonic Center on Thursday night to catch a 40-minute speech from President Barack Obama. The fundraising event was the President's final appearance after his day in San Francisco.
Outside the auditorium, protesters ranging from medical marijuana advocates, Ron Paul supporters, Tea Partiers and anti-abortion activists lined California Street. But inside the auditorium, Obama was preaching to the choir.
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After a series of introductory speeches, including one from 49er Vernon Davis, and an opening acoustic performance by Chris Cornell, the President took the stage. As the lights dimmed, the crowd erupted into cheers and applause. Several fans shouted, "We love you, Obama."
"San Francisco, I love you back," he replied at the microphone. The crowd screamed.
Obama opened his speech focusing on his goals to help strengthen the middle class. "We believe that everyone who works hard should have the chance to get ahead," he said. "Not just a few." He spoke about his success at boosting the American auto industry and his hopes to do the same for education. "I want to make our schools the envy of the world."
Two protesters were escorted out in separate incidents when they started loudly heckling the President. The crowd booed at one protester after she shouted criticism over the administration's policies on oil drilling. But Obama interrupted them.
"No, this is what San Francisco is always about," he said. "Folks are not shy about sharing their views in San Francisco. There's always something going on in San Francisco." The crowd laughed and cheered.
Obama acknowledged the problems that have faced Americans in the past three years, focusing on the economy. "I've made mistakes," he said.
But he encouraged the crowd to think about the state of the country when he entered the presidency, and the changes that he has championed during his administration.
"As tough as this economy is and has been, think about what’s changed the day I took office," he said. "That month we were losing 750,000 jobs. Over the past two years, businesses have added about 3.7 million new jobs."
"Change is is the health care reform bill that we passed after a century of trying," he said, referring to his landmark health care bill. "A reform that will ensure that in the United States of America, nobody is going to go broke just because they get sick."
The applause grew louder when he mentioned issues that are near and dear to San Francisco. "Change is the fact that for the first time in our history, you don’t have to hide who you love to serve the country you love," referring to the elimination of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. "That's what change is."
Obama mentioned SEAL Team Six's successful mission to kill Osama bin Laden. "We refocused our efforts on the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11," he said – a jab at former President Bush's decision to launch war in Iraq. "For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq." He continued, "Now it's time to take the money we're not spending in Iraq, put half towards our debt and half towards doing some nation building."
Finally, the President urged supporters to start volunteering now, and reminded them of the long road ahead. After his closing remarks, he left the stage to shake hands with the crowd.
The President arrived in the City early in the afternoon for the first major California fundraising effort for his 2012 campaign. His appearances included an impromptu lunch at Great Eastern Restaurant in Chinatown (where one daring fan grabbed the President's rear end) and a $38,500-per-plate dinner for 70 at a private residence. At the dinner, guests enjoyed a meal by Chef Michael Tush of Quince, as well as a performance by Reverend Al Green.
Green's performance was a last-minute addition after a video of the President singing a bar of Green's hit "Let's Stay Together" went viral on the Internet. According to the Associated Press, guests at the dinner urged Obama to join Green for a duet, but he declined.
"After re-election I might go on tour with the good reverend -- be his opening act," joked Obama. "But I don't want to lose any further votes because of my singing voice."
Check out photos of Obama's appearance at the Nob Hill Masonic Center in our slideshow below. Then, watch videos of Chris Cornell performing Bob Marley's "Redemption Songs" and "I Will Always Love You," made famous by Whitney Houston, at Obama's event.
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