alonzo-mourning-overtown-yc_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

The 22 students from former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning’s Overtown Youth Center in Miami didn’t take their eyes off President Barack Obama Monday night as he told a mostly friendly audience why he should be re-elected.

Sitting in the large theatre at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami gave the children an opportunity to see the man they had heard and seen on television and know as “the first black president.”

Lydona Lewis couldn’t contain herself afterwards. Dressed in a blue Overtown Youth Center t-shirt, like the rest of the group, she excitedly grabbed the chance to tell about her experience.

“It was so cool!” Lydona, 11, of Miami, exclaimed with a big grin. “It was the greatest!”

Keno Tate, 13, was also beaming with excitement, after displaying his youth center’s t-shirt for the cameras. “It was nice – fun and exciting. I really enjoyed it,” he said.

Tina Brown, the center’s interim executive director, credits Mourning for the opportunity the children had to see and hear their president in person. Mourning was on the stage Monday night rallying the crowd to support Obama in his bid to remain president. Last fall, the ardent Obama supporter hosted a pricey fundraiser at his Miami mansion, raising more than $1 million for the campaign.

Dynasty Hopkins, 12, got the message.

“Obama needs to be re-elected,” she said. “I think he can make a change.”

That was the basic message of the two-hour major fundraising program.

“There are some of you who probably have felt at times during the last two and a half years, gosh, why isn’t this happening faster?  Why isn’t this easier?  Why are we struggling?  And why didn’t health care get done quicker?  And why didn’t we get the public option?  I know the conversation you guys are having,” Obama told the gathering.

“There have been frustrations and I’ve got some things to show for it over the last two and half years.  But I never said this was going to be easy.  This is a democracy.  It’s a big country and a diverse country.  And our political process is messy.  Yes, you don’t always get 100 percent of what you want, and you make compromises.  That’s how the system was designed,” he said.

The president praised Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz,  D-Florida, a Pembroke Pines resident, who is the new chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.

Basketball legend Bill Russell sat in the front row, along with other dignitaries. Two additional youth groups were also there, among them some members of the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Organization.

Daphne Taylor may be reached at