News Column

Michelle Obama Rallies Supporters at VSU

Nov. 5, 2012

Markus Schmidt

With just four days until the election, Michelle Obama fired up the crowd on a solo campaign appearance at Virginia State University by making a pitch to the many students in the audience.

The first lady said she and her husband know what it is like to deal with student debt.

"When it comes to giving our young people the education that they deserve, understand this, Barack knows, like me, and like so many of you, that there is absolutely no way that we could have gone to college without financial aid," Obama said. "We would not be standing here today without financial aid," she told a cheering crowd of more than 3,000 at Daniel Gymnasium.

Obama not only cited her husband's administration's efforts to expand access to college loans but also access to health care as a part of a broader governing philosophy that economic inequality shouldn't have to hold people back.

"When you've done well and you've finally walked through that doorway of opportunity, you don't slam it shut behind you. No, you reach back and give others the same chances that helped you succeed," Obama said. "That is how Barack and I and so many of you were raised. More than anything else, that's what this election is about. It's about choices, about our values, hopes and aspirations," she said.

"This is the American promise," Obama continued. "If you work hard and you do what you're supposed to do, then you should be able to build a decent life for yourself and an even better life for your kids and grandkids," she said.

Obama's visit at VSU was her second campaign stop in Virginia yesterday, after an appearance at Hampton University, another historically black college. For the Obama campaign, winning Virginia and its 13 electoral votes is crucial in the race to reach the 270 benchmark in order to win the president a second term in the White House.

Obama urged her audience to not take her husband's 2008 victory in the commonwealth for granted. She said his comfortable 235,000-vote margin last time equates to a mere 100 votes per precinct as she implored the crowd to keep up the intensity through Tuesday night. "It may come down to just one vote in your precinct, and that vote could be in your apartment next door," she said.

"If we win a few more precincts, we win this state, and if we win this state we'll be well on our way to putting Barack back in the White House for four more years," Obama said. "It will all come down to what happens in a few battleground states, like right here in Virginia," she said.

Obama also pitched to the many women in her audience, telling them about what made her fall in love with the president. "My heart is taken," she said. "I love how he was so devoted to his family, especially the women. I saw the respect that Barack had for his mother. I know how proud he was that she put herself through school while still supporting him as a single mom. And I saw the tenderness that he felt for his grandmother," she said. "With Barack, I found a real connection because in his life story I saw so much of my own."

The first lady said that the first bill the president signed into law was the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. She said that because of the president's health care reform, insurance companies can no longer charge women more than men for the same coverage, and they can no longer discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, like diabetes and asthma.

Obama said that in four days, Virginians will get the opportunity to re-elect a man who is decent and honest. "This is a man whose courage and integrity we have seen for the last four years," she said.

Reminding the crowd that when her husband took office, she said the economy was "on the brink of collapse." Obama said that the auto industry was in a crisis. "The economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month. A lot of folks were wondering what would happen if we were get into another Great Depression. This is what Barack faced on day one as president. But instead of pointing fingers and placing blame, your president got to work," she said.

Obama never mentioned her husband's challenger, Republican candidate Mitt Romney, by name. But she took a snipe at him when she said that "cutting 'Sesame Street' is no way to balance our budget," referring to Romney's remark in the first presidential debate that he likes Big Bird, but that he does not want to continue funding PBS.

Her husband, however, cut taxes for small businesses and working families, "because he believes that teachers and firefighters should not pay higher tax rates than millionaires," Obama said. "And that's while some folks were willing to let the auto industry go under. More than a million jobs would have been lost. Barack had the back of American workers, and that's why today, the auto industry is back on its feet," she said.

Obama said America was on the right track under her husband's administration. "For the past four years, together, slowly but surely, we've been pulling ourselves out of that hole," she said. "Are we going to turn around and go back to the same policies that got us in that hole in the first place?"

The crowd answered in unison, yelling "no!"

Source: (c)2012 The Progress-Index (Petersburg, Va.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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