Michelle Obama: We’re like you

September 4, 2012

Convention-goers applaud Michelle Obama's entrance. (Ed O'Keefe, Washington Post)

Michelle Obama took the stage as one of the most popular figures in the Democratic Party. Her self-described task was simple: “remind” voters of the values that drive her husband.

She did just that, using her time in the spotlight to say she has “seen firsthand that being president doesn’t change who you are – it reveals who you are.”

Her speech had many echoes of the well-received one she gave in 2008 – with a few personal updates and her assessment of the administration’s accomplishments.

On the personal: “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.”

On the political, she touted her husband’s signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, his bailout of the auto industry, push to keep student loan interest rates low and pass the health care law.

“When it comes to the health of our families, Barack refused to listen to all those folks who told him to leave health reform for another day, another president,” said the first lady who was reportedly one of the figures in the White House who encouraged the president to pursue the health care law early in his term. “He didn’t care whether it was the easy thing to do politically – that’s not how he was raised – he cared that it was the right thing to do.” 

She did not mention Mitt Romney by name and said the word Republican only once. But she did make reference to the GOP nominee’s wealth. “For Barack, success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives,” she said earning one of her biggest rounds of applause. 

She also talked about who she and her husband are – not an easy task given that they are one of the most visible couples in the country. To do that, Michelle Obama talked about she and Barack Obama’s middle-class roots, repeating stories about her father and his grandmother that she has told often at campaign events.

At some points the first lady sounded a bit like Ann Romney, who told of her hard-luck newlywed stories at the RNC convention. The first lady said her husband was still “the guy who’d picked me up for our dates in a car that was so rusted out, I could actually see the pavement going by through a hole in the passenger side door. He was the guy whose proudest possession was a coffee table he’d found in a dumpster.”

Michelle Obama also had her own riff on love. “I didn’t think it was possible, but today, I love my husband even more than I did four years ago…even more than I did 23 years ago, when we first met. … I love that he’s never forgotten how he started.  I love that we can trust Barack to do what he says he’s going to do, even when it’s hard – especially when it’s hard.”

This speech did end differently than the one in 2008. Michelle Obama’s daughters, Sasha and Malia, were not present for her remarks – though a teary-eyed Obama made clear her “most important title” is still “mom-in-chief.” They started school this week and won’t be in Charlotte until Thursday when their dad speaks.

Krissah Thompson began writing for The Washington Post in 2001. She has covered local businesses, traveled to El Salvador and Guatemala to tell stories of immigrants’ connections to their home countries and reported from the newsroom’s Prince George’s County bureau. More recently, she has written about civil rights, race and politics.
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