President Barack Obama is taking time out of his European vacation to give a speech in Ireland at a dinner and fundraiser. Average folk who want to see him need not bother, however. Ticket prices ensure that only rich elitists can hear him speak. Don’t worry, because organizers are busing in nine average schoolchildren to hear him speak. It is not clear if they will be busing tables.
Obama is speaking tonight at a fundraiser for the Hunter Foundation in Edinburgh, a charity organization headed by billionaire Sir Tom Hunter. It has not been announced how much Obama is being paid for the speech. The Obama Foundation refused to comment on his fee for the speech.
In the past, Obama’s paid speech events come at a fee of as much as $400,000. With a speaking fee like that, it is no wonder the Hunter Foundation is charging insane prices for tickets to the event. General admission tickets cost as much as £2,000 (over $2500 U.S.) each. It is likely that tickets to added events like a meet-and-greet are unadvertised and cost much more.
More than 1,000 people are expected to attend, but it isn’t all bad news for us common folk. Nine schoolchildren were chosen to attend as well. They will likely be seated next to the door to the kitchen.
The speech, one of Obama’s first big addresses since leaving office, has been paid for by a charitable trust founded by the Scottish entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter.
Hunter, who has pledged to give at least £1bn to charity but has so far donated only £51.7m, said it would be a “true honour” to hear about Obama’s “epic, historic journey” from the Chicago to the White House.
The media will be excluded from the Hunter Foundation event at the Edinburgh international conference centre, which will also feature performances by Annie Lennox and the pop-rock band Texas.
Ewan Hunter, the chief executive of the Hunter Foundation, said this was because “the aim is not to raise awareness of the charity but to raise funds for charities across Scotland”.
He said all profits from the event, which is sponsored by the Royal Bank of Scotland, would be donated to charities supported by the Hunter Foundation, including the STV Children’s Appeal and the Kiltwalk.
Top tables at the dinner cost £20,000 for 10 diners, while tables at the back cost £5,000. One of the 120 tables will be occupied by the winner of a secondary school essay-writing competition, eight of their friends and a teacher.
Further funds will be raised in an auction, with prizes including two walk-on parts in the next JK Rowling Fantastic Beasts film, naming rights to the Gleneagles hotel’s American bar, and a private tennis session with Roger Federer and Andy Murray.
Ewan Hunter, who is not related to Sir Tom, declined to state how much Obama was being paid for the speech, and the Obama Foundation did not respond to requests for comment.
Obama has previously commanded as much as $400,000 (£312,000), for a speech at a healthcare conference organised by the Wall Street firm Cantor Fitzgerald. It is possible to directly request a speech from Barack or Michelle Obama by completing a form on the Obama Foundation website.
Hunter did not explain how Obama had been booked for the appearance, but said that for a small charity the Hunter Foundation had a good record of attracting big names. “We’ve had [Bill] Clinton, George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio and Sir Richard Branson,” he said. “Sir Tom has got a very strong network.”
Obama’s paid speech fee comes at a time when he and other Democrats are speaking out about pay inequality and the need for a $15-an-hour minimum wage that would cripple many entrepreneurs.