I know there are people* who are champing at the bit to call my best president (sorry Bill!) a neo-liberal sell-out, but I have a tiny bit of news for you--highly-qualified intelligent capable performers net a ginormous amount to get them to roll out of bed and do trifles for you, because honestly, they have done better work and expect to get paid for trifling.
This goes for paid speakers in much the same way it does for the cliché of pop stars doing private concerts for an Arabian prince's birthday or a Swiss banker's kid's. Sometimes this happens on the weirdly down-low, or right out in public. If you have a name to conjure with, you can conjure up some bank with it. I'm still trying to work out why it is a bad thing that Barack Obama (or Hillary Clinton, for that matter) gets paid big bucks for talking to rich people who can afford to pay, when they have listened to poor people in their lives for what we honestly know for free--and even tried to do stuff for them.
This conversation kind of makes me sick, because this is one of those "why we can't have nice things" conversations. If someone is a "sell-out" we have to start questioning whether they ever did any good. If Hillary Clinton took money from the big banks for speeches, how did that take away from trying to get women's rights recognized? If Barack Obama takes money from big banks for speeches, how does that take away from his accomplishments?
The thing is, it doesn't. Love of money might be the root of all evil, but getting paid isn't. Money is a tool. It can pay for nuclear warheads, or it can pay for hospital beds. It can pay for chemical warfare, or it can buy AIDS medication for children to live their lives. It can build bridges to a better tomorrow, or it can build walls to keep the concerns of the hungry, harried, and hurting away from the folks who have the means to help those people. Or it can even buy a moment of time from people who understand how to communicate the needs of a world to those who have a world to offer, and maybe even unleash a movement in the best of directions...
But no really. I understand why some people might get concerned with how some people get paid to speak. Sometimes I don't like how I do my piece for free, either. But I know what my little voice is worth. And I don't hate, I just keep on singing.
*Not to hate on Bernie Sanders, or Van Jones, or Elizabeth Warren. Much love--but wrong is wrong. And if Barack Obama has a thing to say, as the first black president, he gets his asking fee to say it. That is how it is, and for that, I have no concerns. Until he endorses some entirely dumb shit that isn't commensurate with the values we all came to admire him for. Then, I will have a problem.