Michelle Obama and about 500 of her closest friends converged on a Pasadena Monday morning, the first sunny day in what felt like months. While helicopters hovered, a patient crowd lined the sidewalks of Orlando Road as valets sprinted and the smart folks had friends drop them off at the end of the ever-lengthening line. Out of the four people I met in line, two were from Pasadena (one actually now living in Oakland) and two were from the westside; women at the event outnumbered men overall at least four to one. While we waited, we talked books; The Immoral Life of Henrietta Lacks and The Warmth of Other Suns came highly recommended.
Once we made it to the backyard of hosts Ron and Ann Hamilton’s drop-dead gorgeous Monterey colonial, the place felt like a luncheon-fabulous Coachella. The strategies were a drink, a photo op, and shade as anticipation built for the First Lady’s arrival at the podium (her very closest friends—who paid the truly big bucks—were having their photos taken in the house).
Mrs. Obama is a warm and engaging speaker, clearly passionate about her work as First Lady. But this was a fundraiser for the coming election (17 months away—does anybody else think this is kind of crazy?), so she downplayed her efforts at encouraging healthy eating to curb childhood obesity and her work with armed forces families and instead enumerated the gains of the Obama administration (admirable, numerous and, as we all know, hard-fought). She also gave us some insight into the ordinary moments of campaigning and life at the White House. The crowd truly hung on her depiction of the President as a focused, long-sighted, deeply caring and intelligent person, and cheered her remark that she thought her husband was a very smart guy—and not just because he chose to marry her.
I was glad I got there early, avoided the valet and what must have been the crazy traffic jam on the 110. I should have fought for my souvenir napkin and worn sunscreen. Cheers to the neighborhood for putting up with this invasion of Democrats (not our natural turf there, believe me), and to the committee that brought Michelle Obama to town for a wonderful kickoff to summer (and 2012, I suppose).