He didn't sing this time, but President Barack Obama did do his own version of a two-step dance as he hit the stage Friday evening. The occasion was a fundraiser for his 2012 re-election bid, at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta.
The event was the second fundraising stop President Obama made during his trip to Atlanta. Soon after his arrival, he attended an event at local businessman McKinley "Mack" Wilbourn Jr.'s home, where 100 guests paid $10,000 each to attend. He then traveled to Southwest Atlanta, where several people lined Greenbriar Parkway in the predominantly African-American neighborhood to get a glimpse of the commander-in-chief as his motorcade headed to Tyler Perry Studios.
Ticket prices for the event ranged from $250 to $10,000. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, U.S. Reps. John Lewis, David Scott, Hank Johnson and Sanford Bishop, along with Rev. Joseph Lowery, were among the 1,000 people who attended. Later in the evening, Perry hosted an intimate gathering at his residence for about 40 guests that carried an eye-popping $35,000 per ticket price tag.
Although President Obama's approval ratings may rise and fall, one thing was evident during his Atlanta visit: He is still a rock star in many Americans' eyes. And Friday's crowd at Tyler Perry Studios was proof of that.
As attendees of the affair waited for President Obama to hit the stage, the crowd started cheering, "four more years," and once the president began speaking, people intermittently shouted out, "I love you."
Southwest Atlanta has been stigmatized as crime-ridden, although it's home to low-income and multimillion dollar residences alike, and many of Atlanta's African-American politicians have ties to the area — including Mayor Reed — and either grew up or live there. So the presidential visit to the area was a big deal for some, as Perry pointed out just before he introduced Obama. Who would have thought, he asked the audience, that "there would be a day when the presidential motorcade would come through Southwest Atlanta?"
President Obama addressed the mostly African-American crowd for about 30 minutes, reminding them of how they supported his presidential campaign the first time around and highlighting his administration's accomplishments. Change and the progress he said his administration achieved were central themes of his address.
"Change is the fact that for the first time in history, you don't have to hide who you love in order to serve the country you love. We ended 'Don't ask, don't tell,' " Obama told the audience. He also pointed out that after nine years, "there are no Americans fighting in Iraq" and that "Osama bin Laden is not walking the face of this earth," using both as examples of change that took place during his tenure.
But even with some progress, Obama reminded the audience, change takes time and implementing change hasn't been easy.
"We still have a lot of work to do, because there are a lot of folks who are still hurting out there. A lot of folks still pounding the pavement looking for work, a lot of people whose homes — values have dropped. A lot of people who are still struggling to make the rent," he said. Georgia has been one of the states hardest hit with home foreclosures, with 12,356 properties having foreclosure filings in February, according to a recent article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
And with the tax filing deadline approaching (April 17), President Obama also spoke of a recent meeting he had with Warren Buffett, during which they discussed the "Buffett Rule," now formally called, "Paying a Fair Share Act," and how people earning a higher income could afford to pay higher taxes.
"We've said if you make less than $250,000 a year, which is 98 percent of Americans, your taxes shouldn't go up. But folks like me — we can afford to do a little more. Tyler can afford to do a little more. Tyler?" he joked.
Aisha I. Jefferson is a contributor to The Root.