The 3,100 students and local residents who crowded into McClendon-McDougald Gymnasium on N.C. Central’s campus were fired up long before First Lady Michelle Obama took the stage. Constant cheering, the display of “Forward.” or handmade Obama support signs and three attempts at the wave all preceded Michelle’s half-hour speech, in which she encouraged everyone to register to vote, and help others do the same.
The First Lady was greeted with a chant of “four more years” before moving into her speech. After thanking Lieutenant Colonel George Stephen Wilson for leading the Pledge of Allegiance, Mayor Bill Bell and Congressman David Price for their opening remarks, and Korey Mercer, an NCCU senior majoring in political science, for his introduction, she began by explaining why she married President Barack Obama, and how those same morals are reflected in his presidency.
“We have seen his values at work, we’ve seen his vision unfold, we’ve seen the depths of his character, courage and conviction,” the First Lady said. “He’s been working every day since the day he took office. He has been fighting for us, struggling with us. Together, slowly but surely, we have been pulling ourselves out of the hole we began in.”
She transitioned into common talking points, like the goals that President Obama has accomplished – ending the Iraq war, defending equal pay for women, cracking down on lending abuses, cutting taxes for small businesses and working families, saving the auto industry, reforming healthcare, fighting for Pell Grant funding etc.
“We have to step back and ask ourselves,” Michelle said after rounding out the list with the recent women’s healthcare changes. “Are we going to turn around and go back to the same policies that got us into this hole?”
“No!” roared the crowd.
“Are we going to sit back and watch everything we’ve worked for and fought for just slip away?”
“Or, are we going to keep moving this country forward?”
That part of the speech resounded most with Vernelle Massey, who works in the Registrar’s Office at NCCU.
“We can do this, we are moving forward,” Vernelle said after the rally, decked out in an Obama T-shirt and multiple campaign pins. “Having Michelle here fired us up, and now we’re ready to keep going forward.”
The First Lady wrapped up her speech by highlighting the fact that North Carolina went blue in 2008 by a margin of only 14,000 votes. That breaks down to about five votes per precinct. She asked her eager listeners to spend “a few evenings at a phone bank or a few weekends knocking on doors” to encourage others to register to vote.
“Young people, like so many of you, have always driven Barack’s campaigns with your energy and your passion,” Michelle said. “You have always been the ones. We need you.”
“From a student’s perspective, especially with education and how important financial aid is, it’s important for us to get out and vote,” said NCCU student Tanya Mitchell. She and friends Morgan Anderson and Ebony Sain said they were already registered, and would continue to ask others to register as well. They also said they fully believed that North Carolina would turn blue again in November.
“No worries here,” Morgan added.
Early voting starts October 18. No matter your politics, get out and vote.