Michelle Obama: Being president 'reveals who you are'

First Lady Michelle Obama spoke about her family at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte Tuesday evening.
First Lady Michelle Obama spoke about her family at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte Tuesday evening.

CHARLOTTE — Mitt Romney may not be President Barack Obama’s biggest threat when it comes to competing for the hearts of Americans.

First lady Michelle Obama began her remarks at the Democratic National Convention by noting that she and her husband “will always have your back.” If the crowd’s reactions to the first lady’s heartfelt anecdotes and down-to-earth demeanor are any indication, the feeling among Democrats is mutual.

“I love you, Michelle!” yelled one man sitting on the floor-level of the arena, erupting unapologetically at a moment when the only other voice to be heard in the room was the first lady’s.

By the closing of Obama’s speech, delegates had traded posters reading the campaign slogan “FORWARD” for signs reading “We Love Michelle” that many convention attendees carried in bundles as they exited the Time Warner Cable arena in downtown Charlotte.

Obama wove accounts of her personal upbringing, relationship with Barack and role as a mother to tout the value of democracy while emphasizing belief in her husband’s aptitude for the presidency and support for his policies.

“Serving as your first lady is an honor and a privilege, but back when we first came together four years ago, I still had some concerns about this journey we’d begun,” she said.

Obama reflected on her experiences growing up in a household without a lot of money while noting the burden of student loan debt that the Obamas faced as newlyweds—examples not likely a coincidence in an election year where 74 percent of likely voters rate the economy as very important to how they will vote, according to a Rasmussen poll released July 5.

These experiences transitioned into a testament of the values that guide the Obamas in both their personal life and as public leaders: gratitude, humility, honesty, Obama said. She added that these are values the president has maintained from the start of his presidency until now.

“I have seen firsthand that being president doesn’t change who you are,” she said. “It reveals who you are.”

Speaking over the roars and ovations from an impassioned audience, Obama noted that the president’s resilience of character equips him to act in the best interest of the nation. She noted the president’s stances on women’s rights, health care, marriage equality and student loans as examples.

“Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it,” she said. “So when people ask me whether being in the White House has changed my husband, I can honestly say that when it comes to his character, and his convictions, and his heart, Barack Obama is still the same man I fell in love with all those years ago.”

This steadfastness drew not just tears but proclamations of support from audience members, particularly North Carolina delegate Denise Adams. Adams noted that Obama’s recollection of her life experiences align with those of so many average Americans. These parallels have helped Adams identify with the first lady and trust in the immense love and belief Obama has in the president, she said. The remarks gave her hope.

“She came to tell us about our president of the United States from her perspective,” said Adams, a member of the Winston-Salem, NC city council. “[Barack] Obama is a real person with real dreams who always held onto his dream. He remembers what it was like to be a student, what it was like growing up in a family where our parents struggled, and I can remember those things. She wanted us to know that.”

Another North Carolina delegate, Kennis Wilkins, noted that Obama’s remarks were successful in energizing the party and getting the Democrats prepared for the height of election season. He said that the first lady’s remarks were effective in that they covered the spectrum of American values, ranging from those instilled within a family to the importance of democracy.

“Her remarks covered what it is to be a good person,” he said.

Few have questioned the mass appeal of Michelle Obama, but after this speech it may be stronger than ever before. And in the wake of the Republican National Convention, where Ann Romney delivered a speech many experts considered both successful and relevant, the question remains just how much the wives of the presidential candidates will influence the election’s outcome, particularly as both parties hone in on voters in the middle of the partisan spectrum.


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