First Lady fires up the crowd at VSU
By Caitlin Davis
Nov 5, 2012, 14:53
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson Michelle Obama greeted an enthusiastic crowd of supporters at VSU, where she stressed her husbands policies related to financial aid.
With just days left to go before the election, first lady Michelle Obama made a local stop on Friday afternoon, visiting Virginia State University in Ettrick to campaign for her husband, President Barack Obama.
All eyes have been on Virginia during this election season, as the state’s 13 electoral votes remain up for grabs. Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Joe Biden and Paul Ryan have all campaigned extensively in Virginia and the local area this year. In fact, Joe Biden was expected to speak in Richmond on the eve of election day.
On Friday, Michelle Obama had come from an earlier stop at Hampton University, where she was firing up young voters and stressing the importance of going to the polls on Tuesday.
In 2008, Barack Obama won the state by 235,000 votes. Michelle said while that figure sounds large, it breaks down to only 100 votes per precinct.
“Just think about that,” Michelle said. “That could mean just one more vote in a neighborhood, just a single vote in an apartment building on your campus. I want you to think about those 100 votes.”
Former first lady of Virginia, Anne Holton, wife of former governor and current Senate candidate Tim Kaine, also spoke on the critical role Virginia voters will play in deciding the next election.
“Do everything you can in the next few days to bring us to victory,” Holton said. “The number of zeros at the end of a check cannot determine our elections, not in this great democracy.”
Holton asked the over 3,000 supporters packed into the Daniel Gymnasium to help send her husband to Washington to work with President Obama.
“Your votes will be what drives us to victory,” Holton said.
Michelle urged the capacity crowd of students and community members assembled on campus on Friday to give her husband another four years in the White House.
She said Barack needs more time in Washington to help finish what he started in 2008.
“Let’s be clear,” Michelle stated. “While he is very proud of all we’ve achieved together, my husband is nowhere near satisfied. He knows too many people are still hurting.”
Though she never brought up Republican candidate Mitt Romney directly, she indirectly drew a contrast between the two candidates, referencing one specific proposal Romney made during the first presidential debate.
“Everybody in here knows good and well that cutting ‘Sesame Street’ is now way to balance our budget,” Michelle said. “We know better than that.”
She touted the accomplishments of her husband’s first four years, citing the new jobs added to the economy, the auto industry bailout that revived General Motors and the Affordable Heath Care Act, which allows young people to stay on their parents’ healthcare plans until they are 26.
“What I know is for the past four years, we’ve been pulling ourselves out of that hole and making real, meaningful change,” she said, referencing the economic woes her husband inherited when he took office.
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson Michelle Obama paused to talk to several of her husband’s supporters personally.
Directing her message at her audience, Michelle said one of the biggest accomplishments of the administration has been making college more affordable, by raising the maximum Pell Grant award, expanding the number of Pell Grant recipients, establishing the American Opportunity Tax Credit for students and their families and keeping student loan interest rates low. She said those achievements have personal significance for both president and first lady.
“We would not be standing here today if it weren’t for financial aid,” Michelle said. “Understand that when it comes to student debt, we’ve been there.”
Brandon Randleman, a senior political science major at VSU and President of the Student Government Association, also spoke to the importance of an affordable education in his introduction speech for the first lady.
“There are many reasons I support President Barack Obama,” Randleman said. “Much of it has to do with everything he’s done for young people. He understands the key to a good future is a good education. That’s why he is making education a national priority. He knows that a higher education should not be a luxury for a few.”
Randa Darwood, a sophomore political science major at VSU said she has seen the change since Barack took office and wants that change to continue for the next four years.
“You have to be more dependent on yourself and Obama is more about offering a helping hand and understanding that students need more financial aid and more help,” Darwood said. “He always talks about helping young people.”
Michelle spoke about the opportunities she and Barack were given so many years ago by their parents and said that with hard work and dedication, young people can build a decent life for themselves and their families.
“They believed when you’ve worked hard and done well that when you finally walk through that door of opportunity, you don’t slam it shut behind you,” Michelle said. “You reach back and give other folks the same chances.”
Michelle said Barack gave many people in this country chances and opportunities to succeed, and said he will continue to do that if he has another four years in office.
“Barack understands the American Dream because he’s lived it,” Michelle said. “He’s been fighting every day so everyone in this country can have that same opportunity.”
Throughout her speech, Michelle emphasized the importance of exercising the right to vote, a theme both campaigns have been pushing in the final days.
With her husband campaigning in Prince William County that evening, Michelle quoted some lines that have become an unofficial slogan for her husband’s campaign.
“There is always something better out there if you are willing to work for it,” Michelle said. “We cannot turn back now, not now, we will not turn back now. We have come so far. We’ve got so much more work to do. So let me ask you this, are you fired up, are you ready to go? Four more days for four more years. Let’s get to work.”
photo by Sarah Steele Wilson The speech drew a diverse crowd, including soldiers.
Speaking after the speech, Dr. George Lyons, Pastor of Gillfield Baptist in Petersburg, said Michelle reached out the young people at the college. Lyons said Michelle gave her audience a wake up call, reminding them that voting was important and that there are issues in Washington that matter to them.
“She invigorated all of us,” Lyons said, also alluding to a future campaign he would like to see. “I told her I would help her manage her 2016 campaign. She is more delightful in person. She is articulate, charming and warm. I can see why the President has her on the campaign trail.”