America has bounced back from the edge of economic oblivion but still has a long way to go toward restoring the American dream, President Obama told enthusiastic supporters and contributors at a pair of Silicon Valley fundraisers Wednesday night.
"I'm here because your country needs your help," he said at a rally in Redwood City's Fox Theatre. "Four years ago we came together ... because we want to reclaim the basic bargain that built the most solid middle class and the most prosperous nation on Earth."
The American dream, he said, means everyone should have an equal chance to get a good education and prosper, "no matter who you look like ... no matter who you love."
Obama attacked his GOP opponent, Mitt Romney,
for proposing tax cuts that would be paid for by ordinary Americans, as well as further diminishment of institutions such as Social Security and Medicare.
"On issue after issue, these guys want to go backward," the president said of the Republican opposition.
The streets outside the theater were filled mostly with supporters such as Joey Vlazny, who was with his family and friends holding "Obama/Biden 08" signs. But others were no fans of the president.
Charles Cagnon held a sign reading, "Hope you like the Change," and wore a giant foam finger reading, "Nobama."
"Basically, I think Obama has diminished our freedoms economically" and politically, Cagnon said.
"He won't see" the sign, chimed in Susan Hart. "He's
a totalitarian. He doesn't want information. Trust me."
Obama arrived in the Bay Area for his latest fundraising swing at 6:18 p.m., when Air Force One touched down at Moffett Field in Mountain View. Greeting him were Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Sunnyvale Mayor Tony Spitaleri; Mountain View Mayor Mike Kasperzak; Simon "Pete" Worden, director of the NASA Ames Research Center; and Col. Steven Butow, commander of the 129th Rescue Wing of the California Air National Guard.
The president shook hands with a few invited guests along a rope line before the motorcade departed for the Atherton home of Doug Goldman -- a software company founder who is an heir to the Levi Strauss fortune -- and his wife, Lisa.
"We almost got a chance to shake his hand," said Stacy Griffiths, holding her sleeping 14-month-old baby, Simon, in her arms, while her two other children, Chloe and RJ, played behind her.
"For them, it was close enough," Griffiths said.
After the president's motorcade departed, a crowd of about 25 onlookers, not invited to the event, peered around a chain-link fence to get a glimpse of Air Force One.
"It's always special to see an awesome plane come land here," said Jessica Marquez, who works in human-factors engineering at NASA Ames.
The president's plane touched down next to the nearly skeletal Hangar One, which the Navy has been dismantling over the past few months because its PCB- and asbestos-laden skin has been leaking chemicals into the soil.
Among the guests at the Atherton fundraiser were Jan Brandt, vice chairwoman emeritus of AOL; Dennis Troper, Google product management director; Tim Westergren, Pandora Media founder; and Susan Wojcicki, Google senior vice president. The cost was $35,800 a plate.
Doug Goldman told Obama that his Atherton home has been in his family since 1906. He said he and his wife tried to welcome the Hawaii-born Obama with a Hawaiian decoration theme: floral arrangements, tablecloths, potted palms, hurricane lanterns and leis.
Goldman called Obama's stimulus program a "brilliant" move that saved more than a million jobs. "It worked so well, some of your opponents are trying to take credit for it," he said.
Goldman also credited the president for ending the Iraq War, killing Osama bin Laden and voicing support for same-sex marriage, the last of which drew the loudest cheers and applause from the audience.
Obama thanked the Goldmans for their hospitality and legendary rockers David Crosby and Graham Nash for coming to perform.
"It's not every day you get Rock and Roll Hall of Famers strumming the guitar for you," the president said.
He also thanked actor Don Cheadle for his presence and support, but promised not to talk about their recent basketball game.
Cheadle responded: "Thank you."
Obama said his signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act, has begun making health care more affordable and accessible; fuel economy standards for cars have been doubled; clean-energy production has doubled; and foreign oil imports are at a 15-year low.
The Iraq War is over and the Afghanistan War is ending, while the U.S. is regaining international respect, he said.
"We continue to be the agenda setters," shaping international rules and norms on issues from terrorism to climate change to poverty, Obama said. "People are paying attention, people are listening, and people are hungry for our leadership."
But, Obama said, he needs another term to seal the deal.
"This is a country full of decent people who believe in America and are generous and kind and tolerant," the president added.
He talked about being at a high school graduation this week in Joplin, Mo., which last year was ravaged by a tornado. One teenager he met had lost both his parents, spent five weeks in physical rehab and had to care for his sister, yet still is graduating and going on to college, Obama said.
"That captures who we are and what we're about" as a nation, he said, leaving him "more determined than I was in 2008" to carry on.
Obama is set to participate Thursday morning in a round-table discussion with 20 people to support the Asian-American/Pacific Islander community at 8:30 a.m. at the Fairmont hotel in downtown San Jose. The cost of that event is also $35,800 per person.
By outward appearances, Obama was likely spending the night at the Fairmont: San Jose police cars late Wednesday blocked all roads to the hotel while motorcycle cops cruised the area.
For "logistical reasons," the fundraiser was moved from Palo Alto's Garden Court Hotel at the last minute, Obama campaign officials said Wednesday.
In downtown San Jose, police cordoned off Cesar Chavez Plaza with red tape as a growing number of people gathered to watch. Angelica Broady, a San Jose State political-science student, sat on the plaza's concrete stage in hopes of catching a glimpse of Obama.
"It would be a dream to meet him, but that's never going to happen," she said.
San Francisco Republican Party Chairwoman Harmeet Dhillon said it's ironic that Obama is in the Bay Area "to scoop up millions of dollars in contributions from donors, many of whose wealth flows directly from early investments by private equity, and many of whom are now venture capitalists themselves," even as his campaign attacks Romney's record at Bain Capital, a private equity firm.
"The hypocrisy of taking from the coffers of successful entrepreneurs at lavish Silicon Valley events, yet retreating inside the Beltway to bash the very hands that feed the campaign, is inescapable," she said. "No amount of campaign money from whatever source -- big money cronies, lobbyists, special interests, unions -- is going to fool the American people this November."
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, was in Silicon Valley, too, attending a Wednesday evening fundraiser at a Woodside home with Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Gold River.
Staff writer Eric Kurhi contributed to this report.
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