Obama really is skilled at this kind of thing, the kibbitzing and the expressions of sympathy, the hugging and the eulogizing and the celebrating, the sheer animal activity of human politics—but he suffers an anxiety of comparison. Bill Clinton was, and is, the master, a hyper-extrovert whose freakish memory for names and faces, and whose indomitable will to enfold and charm everyone in his path, remains unmatched. Obama can be a dynamic speaker before large audiences and charming in very small groups, but, like a normal human being and unlike the near-pathological personalities who have so often held the office, he is depleted by the act of schmoozing a group of a hundred as if it were an intimate gathering. At fund-raisers, he would rather eat privately with a couple of aides before going out to perform.
According to the Wall Street Journal, when Jeffrey Katzenberg threw a multi-million-dollar fund-raiser in Los Angeles two years ago, he told the President’s staff that he expected Obama to stop at each of the fourteen tables and talk for a while. No one would have had to ask Clinton. Obama’s staffers were alarmed. When you talk about this with people in Obamaland, they let on that Clinton borders on the obsessive—as if the appetite for connection were related to what got him in such deep trouble. “Obama is a genuinely respectful person, but he doesn’t try to seduce everyone,” Axelrod said. “It’s never going to be who he’ll be.”
Obama’s thoughts have been down in the city. The drama of racial inequality, in his mind, has come to presage a larger, transracial form of economic disparity, a deepening of the class divide. Indeed, if there is a theme for the remaining days of his term, it is inequality. In 2011, he went to Osawatomie, Kansas, the site of Theodore Roosevelt’s 1910 New Nationalism speech—a signal moment in the history of Progressivism—and declared inequality the “defining issue of our time.” He repeated the message at length, late last year, in Anacostia, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., this time noting that the gap between the rich and the poor in America now resembled that in Argentina and Jamaica, rather than that in France, Germany, or Canada. American C.E.O.s once made, on average, thirty times as much as workers; now they make about two hundred and seventy times as much. The wealthy hire lobbyists; they try to secure their interests with campaign donations. Even as Obama travels for campaign alms and is as entangled in the funding system at least as much as any other politician, he insists that his commitment is to the middle class and the disadvantaged. Last summer, he received a letter from a single mother struggling to support herself and her daughter on a minimal income. She was drowning: “I need help. I can’t imagine being out in the streets with my daughter and if I don’t get some type of relief soon, I’m afraid that’s what may happen.” “Copy to Senior Advisers,” Obama wrote at the bottom of the letter. “This is the person we are working for.”
President Barack Obama introduces Maria Contreras-Sweet as his choice to be the new administrator of the Small Business Administration during an announcement ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House.
Maria Contreras-Sweet, the founder of a Latino-owned community bank in Los Angeles who was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, has a history of working with small businesses and has been an advocate for Hispanics. As California’s secretary of the state’s Business, Transportation and Housing Agency from 1999 to 2003, she was the first Latina to serve as a cabinet secretary in the state and oversaw 40,000 state employees and a $12 billion budget.
In 2006, she founded ProAmérica Bank, a financial institution that aimed to assist small and mid-size businesses. Before that, she was president and co-founder of a private equity firm that provided capital to small California businesses. Contreras-Sweet would become the second Hispanic in Obama’s second term Cabinet. The other is Labor Secretary Thomas Perez. She would also become the eighth woman in Obama’s current Cabinet.
First Lady Michelle Obama gestures while speaking in the State Dining Room of the White House where she hosted a screening of “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete,” a coming of age story about two inner-city youth who are left to fend for themselves in the Bronx.
Lesley Clark: First Lady Joins With Alicia Keys To Talk Education
First Lady Michelle Obama has earned accolades — and few brickbats — for her campaigns to improve the American diet and get people off the couch. She’s also championed hiring opportunities for returning veterans. And now, the first lady says, she’s adding another initiative to her roster: helping achieve President Obama’s goal that the U.S. by 2020 will have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. (It once was No. 1 but has fallen to 12th, she said.) Still, Obama, who turns 50 on Friday, says she’s not giving up her “Let’s Move,” food and exercise program or her “Joining Forces” campaign to help military veterans and their families.
“Nothing is going away, we’re just adding more on,” Obama said Wednesday, talking to a room full of educators at the White House. “I’m going to be doing my very best to promote these efforts by talking directly with young people. That’s my focus. Everybody else is going to be talking about resources, but the one thing I can bring to this is the message that we can give directly to young people.” Obama’s remarks came after a White House screening of “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete,” produced by the singer, Alicia Keys, who preceded Obama at the lectern in the State Dining Room.
Smithsonian political history curator Lisa Kathleen Graddy, left, and museum specialist Bethanee Bemis, show off First Lady Michelle Obama’s second inaugural gown in a storage area at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. The White House is lending Obama’s ruby-colored chiffon gown made by designer Jason Wu to the National Museum of American History for a year to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Smithsonian’s first ladies exhibition. It will be paired with Obama’s shoes designed by Jimmy Choo.
Smithsonian political history curator Lisa Kathleen Graddy shows off First Lady Michelle Obama’s second inaugural gown in a storage area at the Smithsonian Museum of American History