Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Sunday, Aug. 26, 2012 | 2 a.m.
When Natalie Portman took the stage at the Obama for America Nevada Women Vote Summit on Saturday, she realized this visit to Las Vegas was nothing like her previous trips.
“This was a more inspiring experience just to see how active all these women are in the community,” Portman said.
Portman gave the final speech to a crowd of more than 400 women, and a few men. She followed President Barack Obama political strategist Valerie Jarrett, Nevada Assemblywoman Irene Bustamante Adams and other campaign activists.
The last time Portman was in Las Vegas, she was in a food lover’s paradise. Two years ago she came as a guest judge on "America’s Top Chef." Later, she sampled the abundance of gourmet meals the city had to offer. That opened her eyes to our food; this trip opened her eyes in a different way.
“I know how important this state is to the election, and it’s the least I can do for what the president has done for us and can do for us,” Portman said. “It was an honor and privilege to share the stage with these other incredible women too and be in a room full of women who are really active.”
The auditorium of the Historic Fifth Street School was packed with people who cheered as the speakers highlighted Obama’s actions in office, from health care reform to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which grants women equal pay to men, to the nomination of two women to the Supreme Court. Mentions of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney or his running mate Paul Ryan received boos.
Portman opened her speech to a standing ovation. She spoke for nearly 10 minutes about the work Obama has done for women and America. She touched on the death of Osama bin Laden, the Affordable Health Care Act and Obama’s efforts to support women’s rights.
“We are creating a future for our children, and I want them to see a president like President Obama in the office, who respects and loves women,” Portman said. “And who is all for creating an equal world for others and all of our children.”
Obama campaign volunteer Celeste Downey said she loved the experience. She brought an undecided friend, who she said seemed persuaded by the speakers.
Leslie Rogers said the event left her motivated and full of new talking points to help persuade her friends to vote for Obama. Though she liked Portman’s speech, she said she really came for Jarrett.
“(Portman) provided a name for the event and brought more people, but for me the best speaker was Valerie Jarrett,” Rogers said. “Because of her connections to Obama in the last 21 years.”
Portman was the third celebrity to visit Las Vegas to campaign for Obama. “Scrubs” stars Zach Braff and Donald Faison helped register voters on July 28.
Nevada Republican Party communications director Darren Littell did not attend the event, but he said the use of celebrities for the Obama campaign wouldn’t impact the election.
“Nevadans want to see a president focused on economy,” Littell said. “Not one that brings in a celebrity to help him win an election.”
The actress had campaigned for Get Out The Vote in 2008, but Saturday was her first campaign event for the 2012 election.