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My Lunch with Obama

Comfortable shoes be damned, a San Francisco editor gets to meet the man.

Thanks to some dear friends who happen to be longtime Obama supporters, I had the rare chance to attend an exclusive fundraiser in the president’s honor at the Julia Morgan Ballroom yesterday afternoon. The lines inside 465 California Street were long—though nothing like being caught in traffic when the presidential entourage pulled into town, my cabbie assured me on the way back to the office.

The security was more dignified than at SFO; I didn’t have to take off my jacket, much less my belt or shoes. Only seven people were allowed in each elevator going up to the ballroom, which is opulent in an elegant, old-school way. First, though, we had to get our nametags and bright green wristbands, which kind of ruins the elegant part. My nametag was right under Willie Mays’, so I snapped a picture. The security people didn’t seem to think this was weird, though they were a little alarmed when I took a photo of the room where they stash the president when he’s not working the crowd. (How could I resist a sign that says "POTUS Hold"?)

Though there were plenty of famous politicians—Jerry Brown, Gavin Newsom (holding court at the opposite end of the room), Ed Lee, George Gascon, and John Burton (wearing a linen-y leisure shirt instead of the requisite sharp suit, and carrying a humongous camera), my favorite sighting was two little girls in Cinderella blue and princess pink, being entertained by iPads. For anyone worried that Obama’s support among big donors might be slipping—Susie Tompkins Buell was there, looking elegant in black and white and sensible shoes.

Clearly she’s a political fundraiser pro because comfortable footwear is key. We spent the majority of our time waiting to get in or out of the building or standing in line. Not that I’m complaining—I didn’t expect to actually get a photo with Obama, but somehow my friends had managed to snag this ultracool perk (the reason for the not cool wristband). When I finally made it to the front of the room to receive my own personal POTUS Hold and handshake, I got choked up.

The speech itself—after Ed Lee said a few words and Willie Mays, quite a few more—wasn’t especially eloquent or newsy.  I’ve heard Obama say most of those things before. But as he reminded the room what his administration has managed to accomplish despite the challenges of the last four years, I felt a sense of calm come over me. Not a “we’re going to win this” calm—the calm you feel in the presence of someone who is determined and capable, someone who makes you feel whole-heartedly proud.

Oh, and despite Michael Bauer’s nasty review a couple of years back, the coho salmon from Credo (the nearby restaurant owned by Democratic bigwig Clint Reilly) was very good. As for dessert, by the time I finished my Obama op, it had been whisked off the table.