On Sunday a young American president intrepidly withstood the elements of the Pacific Northwest. He traversed a floating bridge like Gen. Patton crossing the Rhine and de-camped to a remote lakeside village, name of Medina. There he sat and listened to the real-world concerns of everyday Northwesterners, most of whom salted away money for a decade to pony up the price of admission ($35,800 a couple.)
Jealous not to be there? Indeed, this writer would have bartered his mother and wife to the Visigoths to attend.
Thankfully, penurious writers benefit from well-heeled friends (who do you think pays for their meals)? Here's what I learned from one of the many grateful attendees:
The Medina shindig was hosted by philanthropist and former Microsoft president Jon Shirley and his spouse, Mary. Despite living in a tiny hamlet, they have quite a spread, including one of the most impressive art collections around (the Shirleys were generous benefactors of the Olympic Sculpture Park). Approximately 80 folks attended, including a handful of children. The tech industry was heavily represented.
The president ran several minutes late, although no refunds or discounts were in the offing. (The good news: tickets included brunch). Once the president arrived, the photo-ops began. Everyone got their pic with "a very charming, very witty" president. Post-photos, Obama spoke for 20 minutes, underlining the country's economic challenges in a mostly apolitical "statesmanlike" spiel. Then came a half-hour of Q&A.
The questions were relevant, the source said, and somewhat confrontational when it came to the environment. The president has been criticized by the conservation community, for example, for retreating on EPA clean-air regulations.
The president acknowledged the importance of galvanizing the progressive community, a constituency that has felt marginalized of late. Democrats need to rally and be vigilant, he said. Obama also alluded to the Republican presidential candidates and some of the "frightening" and unreal aspects of their agenda. The source said, "He didn't say it, but there was an unspoken sense that 'these folks are nuts."
The brunch ended with a teenage girl asking about the role of youth. A spot-on question: President Obama will not get reelected if complacent younger voters sit on their hands in 2012.
Obama bid adieu, braved Lake Washington again, and headed west to the Paramount Theatre for a less-ritzy fundraiser ($100 for the cheap seats). Facebook lit up. "Kissing babies and telling the truth in Seattle," one attendee wrote. There, sports legends Lenny Wilkins and Bill Russell made a pitch.
"I need you guys to shake off any doldrums," the president said near the end of his Paramount address. Unfortunately, President Obama was behind schedule. At this event, alas, there was no time for questions.