Tales from the Trail

Fundraising and the American dream of immigrants

October 19, 2010

immigrantsThe trials and triumphs of immigrants to the United States were an unexpected theme of a pricey fundraiser in Rockville, Maryland, where President Barack Obama helped raise $400,000 for Democratic Senate candidates on Monday night.

It started with Obama’s introduction by the house party’s host, Rajeev Sharma, chairman of a company, who told the crowd how his parents and in-laws had moved to the United States many years earlier and had worked hard to build a life for their families — one cleaning stalls and one with only 8 dollars in his pocket when he arrived. “They worked hard, became Americans… And now they’re meeting the leader of the free world at the home of their children,” Sharma said, obviously moved.

Obama, whose father was from Kenya, picked up the theme in his comments, making the case to the audience of donors that supporting Democratic candidates would preserve the American dream of immigrants like the Sharma parents.

Obama’s remarks were similar to those he has made at other recent fund-raisers. He touted achievements such as his healthcare overhaul and education reform and acknowledged the difficult political and economic environments.

“We’ve still got to get control of our deficit in a serious way and that’s going to require more than just platitudes, it’s going to require tough choices,” he said, arguing that Democratic candidates, not those beholden to “special interests” would make those choices. “I’ve got to have some partners in Congress who understand what’s at stake,” he said.

He returned to the immigration theme again as he ended his remarks by telling his audience about the “science fair” in the White House State Dining Room earlier on Monday, showcasing the work of young Americans who had made projects such as robots and water filtration systems. Obama said the fair had been the highlight of his day, his week, and probably his entire month.

And then he told the story of a 16-year-old Chinese American girl who was at the fair for her work on developing a new type of cancer drug.

“So I’m talking to her, pretending like I understand every thing she’s saying,” Obama said, to laughter. “And I’m thinking to myself, ‘Think about what this means. You’ve got the portrait of Lincoln looking down over us. You’ve got an African-American president named Barack Obama. You’ve got a young Chinese-American girl, 16 years old, who is designing cancer drugs, having taught herself chemistry in high school.’ ”

He then segued into an appeal for attendees at the event to keep faith, and to vote, and encourage others to vote for Democrats in the November 2 mid-terms.

Photo Credit: REUTERS/Robert Galbraith (A group of immigrants takes the oath of citizenship near San Francisco, Sept. 17, 2010.)

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