First Lady Michelle Obama addressed a crowd of approximately 1,100 supporters and volunteers yesterday at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. She emphasized the high stakes of the elections, urged the audience to register to vote and thanked them for their hard work in trying to re-elect President Barack Obama.
The event was an effort to motivate Democrats to register to vote in Pennsylvania, a historic battleground state even though it has voted Democrat in the last five presidential elections. Franklin and Marshall College predicted Obama to hold up to a 12-point lead in the state.
A primary theme in Obama’s speech was the high stakes of losing significant progress if Obama is not re-elected in November. She used several of the president’s initiatives as examples of what is to be lost, underlining the significance of healthcare reform, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” equal pay for equal work, ending the war in Iraq, saving the auto industry and the rebuilding of the middle class.
“I want to give [our children] a foundation for their dreams,” she said. “I want to give them a sense of limitless possibility. So we cannot turn back now. We have come so far, but we have so much work to do.”
Obama reiterated it was quintessential to encourage others to register to vote. “I want you to remember that it could all come down to a couple of thousand people who you helped to register to vote,” she added.
Audience members shared similar concerns over voter registration. Bernadette Ingrid Wyche, leader of the 24th Ward for Philadelphia’s Democratic Party, stressed the importance of informing people of the new voter ID laws. “Even if your name is in the book and you’re registered, if you do not have a picture ID, you will not vote.”
Dana Brown, a staff member from Penn’s Psychiatry Department, was concerned that while “there are young people registered, but there is a new youth population who just turned 18 who we need to get to vote.”
Corbin Booker, a student at Brown University and an intern at Independence Blue Cross, added that “There is a lack of awareness of the youth. A lot of people do not say ‘I’m 18, I can finally vote.’ Voting gets thrown under a rock.”
Audience members were very receptive of the speech. Beverly Thomas, a Temple University student, said the speech was “very inspiring, it gave me goosebumps.”
“What I really loved about her is her passion,” said Margie Ellison, a 20-year veteran with the Philadelphia Police Department. “She’s so relatable because she wants the same that we do for our children and grandparents.”
However, a group of around 10 Republicans protested the speech. Brian McCann, a 2007 College graduate and Political Science major, said it was “a matter of principle why we’re here. We want to show that we’re not afraid to be here.”
Roman Sosalski, the Pennsylvania Republican Party victory director, said “we are here to protest the First Lady’s appearance for fundraising purposes. It is a gross misuse of the Constitution Center and tax-payer money to hold this event.”