Michelle Obama wows crowd at Utah re-election fundraiser
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
PARK CITY — First lady Michelle Obama visited Utah Tuesday to host a quick fundraiser for her husband's re-election campaign at a private home.
She did not make any public appearances before leaving the state less than two hours after arriving, but did plan to stop in Aspen, Colo., for another campaign event on her way home to Washington, D.C.
The fundraiser for President Barack Obama was held at the home of Mark Gilbert, a major Democratic fundraiser who served on Obama's 2008 finance committee and has the same role for the 2012 campaign.
Gilbert helped convince then-candidate Obama to visit Utah in August 2007 for a fundraiser. The now-president also appeared then at an impromptu campaign rally at Kimball Junction.
The first lady last campaigned in Utah for her husband in February 2008. Then, she spoke to supporters at the Salt Palace and met with leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
State Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis said the first lady wowed the crowd at Tuesday's fundraiser, telling them she hopes to return to Utah soon with time for a public appearance and another meeting with LDS Church leaders.
"She comes off as astonishing," Dabakis said.
Michelle Obama, wearing a sleeveless pink dress, said she "was not entirely enthusiastic" when her husband told her he was planning a bid for the White House because of her concerns about what "the president thing" would mean for their family, according to the pool report of her speech at the fundraiser.
But then she met people on the campaign trail who reminded her of their parents and the hard work it took for them to get ahead. "In so many ways, their stories were my stories," she said. "They were Barack's family values."
Also during her speech, the first lady recounted some of the president's accomplishments during his first term, including getting health care reform passed, ending the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy for gay troops and bringing terrorist leader Osama bin Laden to justice.
"I think it is fair to say we have made some significant progress over these last couple of years and we should be proud of what we've accomplished," she said. "But we should never be satisfied because we know we still have so much work to do."
There were loud cheers after the first lady ended her speech with a challenge for the donors. "Are you in? Are you ready for this? Because I am in this. I am in this. I want you all fired up. I want you working like nothing else," she said.
About 250 people reportedly attended the fundraiser, paying at least $1,000 for a breakfast spread that featured a souffle and smoked trout. Contributors were urged to give more than $30,000, well beyond the $5,000 federal campaign contribution limit for individuals, to help the Democratic National Committee.
Former Team USA Olympic bobsledder Ivan Radcliff, now a neighbor and friend of Gilbert, was among the contributors. He said it was the first time he'd given to a political campaign.
"I've very excited to be able to meet the first lady," Radcliff told reporters. He said he didn't have any particular message for her. "Just to be able to say hello and get a handshake is going to be awesome," Radcliff said.
Other American Olympians at the event included moguls skier Shannon Bahrke, Nordic skier Bill Demong, skelton sliders Katie Koczynski and Jimmy Shea, bobsledder Shauna Rohbock and freestyle skier Trace Worthington, according to the pool report.
The Gilbert home is located in the exclusive Colony at White Pine development near the Canyons Ski Resort. Guests were ushered into the community through a gate next to a man-made waterfall.
A motorcade arrived just before 9:15 a.m. off state Route 224 and headed up towards the event. But instead of the first lady, police were escorting about a dozen children from the Christian Center of Park City.
The children were lining up just outside the gated community to wave to the first lady. The center sponsored an event earlier today marking Michelle Obama's efforts to curb childhood obesity.
The first lady, who was almost two hours behind schedule, drove quickly past the children in her own motorcade about 11:15 a.m. to join the fundraising participants, who'd already been there for several hours.
Another, smaller group of area residents gathered at the turnoff off state Route 224 tried to get a glimpse of the first lady as the motorcade whipped by. She was not visible behind the tinted windows of the vehicles, however.
"I understand. It's a security thing," retired paralegal Sue Razzetti said. She spotted the news media gathered for the event earlier and returned with a flag to wave.
"I just wanted to be here to show my support, and that I'm with her and the president all the way," Razzetti, a Park City resident, said.
The first lady's trip to Utah was paid for by the president's campaign.
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