At inaugural ball, Obama honors deceased staffer

January 23, 2013

President Obama on Tuesday night paid tribute to a staffer who died last summer after collapsing at the campaign’s Chicago headquarters.

Alex Okrent was 29 when he died in July. He had worked in the campaign’s paid media department and was a veteran of Obama’s 2004 Senate and 2008 presidential bids, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

At a Staff Ball hosted by the Presidential Inaugural Committee on Tuesday night, Obama told the more than 10,000 attendees that Okrent “was one of you -- this incredibly thoughtful, talented, compassionate, caring young person who decided to get involved because he thought he could make a difference.”

“And tragically, he ended up leaving us while working on the campaign … It was heartbreaking. It reminded us of how precious our time on this earth is,” Obama said.

The event’s $10 admission fee went to a memorial fund set up in Okrent’s name.

Performing at Tuesday night’s event at the Washington Convention Center were Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett. First lady Michelle Obama also attended.

The president told the crowd that they “have come to represent for me and Michelle our deepest of hopes for America” and that they were more capable and serious than he was at the same age.

“It makes me know that America’s future is in good hands, as long as all of you understand the immense and incredible power that you possess when you work together when you join voices,” he said.

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Natalie Jennings · January 23, 2013