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Former Chicagoans host $1.4 million fundraiser for Obama in D.C.
by Tracy Baim, Windy City Times
2012-02-09

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Dr. Nan Schaffer (left) and Karen Dixon, at Chicago's Center on Halsted. Photo by Tracy Baim


Dr. Nan Schaffer and Karen Dixon, a married couple formerly of Chicago, hosted a $35,800-per-person LGBT fundraiser for President Obama's re-election campaign Feb. 9 in their Washington, D.C. home.

Chicago Cubs owner Laura Ricketts, also a lesbian, introduced the president at the event, which raised about $1.4 million from the estimated 40 people in attendance. Ricketts said the event was being held "to show the president that the LGBT community stands strongly behind his reelection," according to a White House reported filed by print pool reporter David Boyer. "I know the president stands with us," she said.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was also at the fundraiser.

Chicagoans Fred Eychaner, Wally Brewster and his partner Bob Satawake, who coordinated the dinner, all attended as well. Ricketts, Satawake and Brewster are LGBT co-chairs of the re-election campaign.

Schaffer is a veterinarian who specializes in rhino insemination techniques. She is a minority shareholder in Windy City Media Group. Schaffer co-founded Outlines newspaper in Chicago in 1987 ( with this reporter ) , and Outlines purchased and merged with Windy City Times in 2000. Windy City Times is owned by Windy City Media Group.

Her partner Dixon is an attorney, and serves on the national board of Lambda Legal, a legal organization working for the rights of LGBTs.

The couple are well-known in Chicago for their support of LGBT causes.

Schaffer and Dixon were legally wed in Vancouver in 2008, and held a "Celebration of Marriage" with hundreds of friends and family later that summer in Chicago.

"It was an honor and privilege to host President Obama and many of the esteemed leaders of the LGBT community in our home for this historic event," Schaffer and Dixon said. "The Obama presidency has marked a decisive positive change in the advancement and standing of the LGBT community, which is unprecedented in the history of this country. Every American that values fairness must utilize the resources at their disposal to ensure that President Obama serves a second term. Many of our basic human rights are at stake in this election and the contrast between Barack Obama's leadership and the Republican frontrunners' agenda could not be starker. As the President stated at the event, fairness is 'at the heart of the American Dream.' In the LGBT community--that is all we've ever sought."

Andrew Harmon of The Advocate reported that other event hosts were David Bohnett, former U.S. Ambassador James Hormel, Henry van Ameringen, Tim Gill and Scott Miller.

David Boyer, the pool reporter covering the event for print media, reported that an official said the money would go to Obama Victory Fund, a joint committee authorized by Obama for America and the Democratic National Committee.

Outlines is the newspaper that covered Obama in 1996 during his first run for office, when he expressed his full support of same-sex marriage. So it is ironic that Schaffer hosted Obama in her home some 16 years later, when he is "evolving" on his positions, perhaps closer to his original full support of same-sex marriage.

Schaffer was inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 2004. As reported on the Hall of Fame Website, Schaffer's LGBT philanthropy began when she moved to Chicago in 1981: "In the years since, she has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to causes, political candidates, and organizations such as IMPACT, Equality Illinois, Horizons Community Services, Center on Halsted, AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Open Hand Chicago, Lesbian Community Cancer Project, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Howard Brown Health Center, About Face Theatre, Gerber/Hart Library, and Windy City Media Group."

Horizons honored Schaffer with its Human First Award in 1995.

The Hall of Fame also noted: "As a veterinary doctor, Schaffer is internationally renowned as the foremost expert on rhinoceroses and reproduction. During more than two decades, she has published numerous articles in academic journals and has lectured around the world on dwindling rhinoceros and other mammalian populations and how to preserve them through reproductive management." She founded SOS Rhino to help protect the animals.

Schaffer told one interviewer: "One of the great tragedies of the 21st century will be humanity's homogeneity. Everywhere, everything will be the same. That which we could not tame or imitate will be gone. No matter how hard we try, we cannot 'build' nature. We can build another bridge, paint another picture, but we cannot make another rhino. Look into a really wild animal's eyes. When the wild things have gone, we will lose our place, our way; for whose eyes will we look into to find our humility, our humanity?"

Here is a link to a related story and photo spread from Schaffer and Dixon's 2008 wedding at Chicago's Drake Hotel: www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Schaffer-and-Dixon-wedding/18860.html .

Here is a video interview with the couple for the Chicago Gay History project: www.chicagogayhistory.com/biography.html .

Also see: "Obama once backed full gay marriage, Windy City Times releases 1996 survey answers," www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/Obama-once-backed-full-gay-marriage/20229.html .

Following are Obama's remarks at the event:

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. ( Applause. ) Thank you, Laura, for the wonderful introduction—the best introduction that a Cubs fan has ever given me. ( Laughter. ) The rivalry is fierce in Chicago, but I'll make an exception here.

And I want to thank Karen and Nan for opening up their incredible home. ( Applause. ) To all of you, and to everybody who helped put this together, thank you so much. I am very grateful.

I'm going to be very brief at the top, because I want to—usually in these things I like to spend most of my time in a conversation. I do want to acknowledge that I have as good a Cabinet as I think any President in modern history has had. And one of the stars of that Cabinet is sitting right here, Kathleen Sebelius. ( Applause. )

All of America has gone through an incredibly difficult, wrenching time these last three years. And it doesn't matter whether you are black or white, whether you are Northern or Southern, rich or poor, gay or straight; I think all of us have been deeply concerned over these last three years to making sure that our economy recovers, that we're putting people back to work, that we stabilize the financial system. The amount of hardship and challenge that ordinary families have gone through over the last three years has been incredible. And there are still a lot of folks hurting out there.

The good news is that we're moving in the right direction. And when I came into office, we were losing 750,000 jobs a month, and this past month we gained 250,000—that's a million job swing. ( Applause. ) And for the last 23 months, we've now created 3.7 million jobs. And that's more than any time since 2000—or, yes, since, 2005—the number of jobs that we created last year, and more manufacturing jobs than any time since the 1990s.

So we're making progress on that front now, but we've still got a long way to go. Today, we announced a housing settlement, brought about by our Attorney General and states attorneys all across the country. And as a consequence, we're going to see billions of dollars in loan modifications and help to folks who are seeing their homes underwater. And that's going to have a huge impact.

In my State of the Union, we talked about the need for American manufacturing—companies coming back, insourcing, and recognizing how incredibly productive American workers are; and our need to continue to double down on investments in clean energy; and making sure that our kids are getting trained so that they are competing with any workers in the world, and are also effectively equipped to be great citizens and to understand the world around them.

And we talked about the fact that we've got to have the same set of values of fair play and responsibility for everybody—whether it's Wall Street or Main Street. It means that we have a Consumer Finance Protection Board that is enforcing rules that make sure that nobody is getting abused by predatory lending or credit card scams. It means that we have regulations in place that protect our air and our water.

And it also means that we ensure that everybody in our society has a fair shot, is treated fairly. That's at the heart of the American Dream. For all the other stuff going on, one thing every American understands is you should be treated fairly; you should be judged on the merits. If you work hard, if you do a good job, if you're responsible in your community, if you're looking after you family, if you're caring for other people, then that's how you should be judged. Not by what you look like, not by how you worship, not by where you come from, not by who you love.

And so the work that we've done with respect to the LGBT community I think is just profoundly American and is at the heart of who we are. ( Applause. ) And that's why I could not be prouder of the track record that we've done, starting with the very beginning when we started to change, through executive order, some of the federal policies. Kathleen—the work that she did making sure that hospital visitation was applied equally to same-sex couples, just like with anybody else's loved ones. The changes we made at the State Department. The changes we made in terms of our own personnel policies. But also some very high-profile work, like "don't ask, don't tell."

And what's been striking over the course of these last three years is because we've rooted this work in this concept of fairness, and we haven't gone out of our way to grab credit for it, we haven't gone out of our way to call other folks names if they didn't always agree with us on stuff, but we just kept plodding along—because of that, in some ways what's been remarkable is how readily the public recognizes this is the right thing to do.

Think about—just take "don't ask, don't tell" as an example. The perception was somehow that this would be this huge, ugly issue. But because we did it methodically, because we brought the Pentagon in, because we got some very heroic support from people like Bob Gates and Mike Mullen, and they thought through institutionally how to do it effectively—since it happened, nothing's happened. ( Laughter and applause. ) Nothing's happened.

We still have the best military by far on Earth. There hasn't been any notion of erosion and unit cohesion. It turns out that people just want to know, are you a good soldier, are you a good sailor, are you a good airman, are you a good Marine, good Coast Guardsman. That's what they're concerned about. Do you do your job? Do you do your job well?

It was striking—when I was in Hawaii, there is a Marine base close to where we stay. Probably the nicest piece of real estate I think the Marines have. ( Laughter. ) It is very nice. And they have this great gym, and you go in there, you work out, and you always feel really inadequate because they're really in good shape, all these people. ( Laughter. ) They're lifting 100-pound dumb bells and all this stuff. At least three times that I was at that gym, people came up, very quietly, to say, you know what, thank you for ending "don't ask, don't tell."

Now, here's the thing. I didn't even know whether they were gay or lesbian. I didn't ask—because that wasn't the point. The point was these were outstanding Marines who appreciated the fact that everybody was going to be treated fairly.

We're going to have more work to do on this issue, as is true on a lot of other issues. There's still areas where fairness is not the rule. And we're going to have to keep on pushing in the same way—persistently, politely, listening to folks who don't always agree with us, but sticking to our guns in terms of what our values are all about. What American values are all about.

And that's going to be true on the issues that are of importance to the LGBT community specifically, but it's also going to be true on a host of other issues where we're just going to have to make persistent steady progress. Whether it is having an energy policy that works for America; whether it is having an immigration policy that is rational so that we are actually both a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants; whether it's making sure that as we get our fiscal house in order we do it in a balanced way where everybody is doing their fair share to help close this deficit. It's not just being done on the backs of people who don't have enough political clout on Capitol Hill, but it's broadly applied and everybody is doing their fair share.

On all these issues, my view is that if we go back to first principles and we ask ourselves, what does it mean for us as Americans to live in a society where everybody has a fair shot, everybody is doing their fair share, we're playing by a fair set of rules, everybody is engaging in fair play—then we're going to keep on making progress.

And that's where I think the American people are at. It doesn't mean this is going to be smooth. It doesn't mean that there aren't going to be bumps in the road. It's not always good politics—sometimes it's not. But over the long term, the trajectory of who we are as a nation, I believe that's our national character. We trend towards fairness and treating people well. And as long as we keep that in mind, I think we should be optimistic not just about the next election, but about the future of this country.

Thank you. ( Applause. )


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