Barack Obama photo

Remarks at a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Fundraiser in New York City

July 21, 2015

Thank you, everybody. Well, I want to thank, first of all, Jeff and Paula, who have just been long-time supporters and friends. I am so grateful to them. To the whole Katz family, we are so grateful to you.

And the stories of Lew Katz's generosity and what he's done for people who really needed a break, I think epitomizes what America is all about. And I can only imagine how excited he is to have a new granddaughter coming, and knowing that his legacy, his good name, all the great work that he did is going to be passing on to the next generation. So thank you. Thank you so much to all of you for helping to set this up.

I want to make sure people know Tom Lopach, who's heading up the DSCC. He's flying solo tonight because the Senators had to vote, and so duty called. So they called in me as a stand-in, basically. [Laughter] They figured maybe I could make the pitch, probably not as well as Chuck Schumer can, but I'm going to do my best.

In small settings like this, I like to spend most of my time in a conversation, and so I'm not going to make a long speech at the front. But I want to build on what Jeff said because it bears not just on the recent path, but on the future.

When I came into office, we were going through the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. And over the last 6½ years, not only have we taken the unemployment rate from 10 percent down to 5.4, creating close to 13 million jobs, over 5 years of consecutive job growth, an alltime record; not only did the stock market double, helping people with 401(k)s make sure that their retirement accounts hadn't been completely devastated; not only have we provided 16 million people with health care who didn't have it before, and by the way, driven health care inflation down to its lowest level in 50 years; not only have we doubled the production of clean energy, increased solar energy by 20 percent, reduced the pace of our carbon emissions, doubled fuel efficiency standards in cars, produced more traditional energy than ever before so that we're weaning ourselves off of foreign oil and doing something about climate change, which is going to be a critical issue for Drew and Rachel's daughter, and all our children and our grandchildren; but we did all that while cutting the deficit by two-thirds.

We've ended two wars. We have reestablished our alliances around the world in ways that make them stronger than they ever have been before. High school reading, high school graduation, college attendance—on almost every metric, the country is significantly better off than we were when I came into office.

Now that, apropos of Jeff's friend, I guess I'd like to take credit for all of that. But actually, he's on to something. The President, despite the office, despite the big plane and the fancy helicopter and all the bike racks in Manhattan, the President is just one person. And the reason I was able to accomplish what we have been able to accomplish was because in the first 2 years of office I had a Congress that actually wanted to solve problems. I had a Congress that was willing to do tough things. When we had to put a big slug of capital into the financial system to unlock it and to save the global economy, that was not popular, but we had people in office, in Congress at that time who were willing to responsible things even when it wasn't popular.

When we saved the auto industry, in Michigan that poll did about 10 percent. And as a consequence, now, we saved over a million jobs, and the auto industry is thriving like never before. But I couldn't do that alone. I did that because we had a Congress that was willing to do hard things.

And I want to be very clear. I'm an American, a father, a husband; there are a lot of titles I care about more than being a Democrat. And Democrats aren't perfect. But I will say this, that we have consistently been willing to do the right thing even when it's not expedient. And when you have a Democratic Congress, what you can count on is that when push comes to shove, and the question is, how are we going to make sure that the story of a Lew Katz replicates itself around this country, because there's some kid in Camden right now who's got talent. There's some kid up in the Bronx who's got drive. There's some young woman somewhere who's got an unbelievable idea for a business that could end up transforming our country. The question is, who's willing to work to make sure that we are giving those young people the opportunity they need to perpetuate this American dream?

And on issue after issue, that's where Democrats have been. That's what they've been willing to do: whether it's investing in early childhood education or rebuilding our infrastructure or making sure that we're investing in the research and development that keeps us at the cutting edge of innovation; whether it's making sure that people get paid the same if they're a woman as if they're a man for doing the same job; whether it's making sure that two people who love each other and are willing to make that commitment are able to marry.

On issue after issue, what we've shown is, is that when we have a Democratic Congress we make progress that ultimately benefits everybody, not just the folks who are down and out, not just the marginalized. Because when the economy is going good for folks at the bottom and in the middle, business turns out pretty good. Somebody is buying those cars right now, and it's not all the people in this room; it's a bunch of hard-working Americans out there. And when they're given opportunity, not only do they benefit, but everybody benefits.

So I guess my pitch would be this. I will not be on the ballot again, and my wife is super happy about that. [Laughter] But I do care about legacy. And I mean that in the broad sense, not the narrow sense. I'm not talking about any particular program or particular initiative and wanting to make sure that it continues. I think about it in terms of, are we leaving behind the kind of politics that continues to nurture the American Dream and gives everybody in this economy a shot.

And to do that, we've got to have a Democratic Senate. We need a Democratic Congress to really do what we could accomplish in this country. And so I hope that at the end of this conversation that we have, you're persuaded that the stakes are high and that you can't just pay attention to the name at the top, but you have to pay attention to the folks who are really going to be carrying the laboring oar to help make sure we've got a team that is moving America forward.

Thank you very much. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 6:14 p.m. at the residence of Drew and Rachel Katz. Audio was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

Barack Obama, Remarks at a Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Fundraiser in New York City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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