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'Exhausted' Obama questioner has her headline moments

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By Krissah Thompson
Wednesday, September 22, 2010; 10:52 PM

Velma Hart's exhaustion has become exhilaration.

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She had spent most of the year telling friends that she was going to write to President Obama. "I'm going to write a letter to the president and tell him what I'm thinking," she would say. "I'm going to write a letter."

She never got around to it.

So, when the Upper Marlboro resident was chosen to sit in on a town hall meeting Obama held this week with businesspeople, friends told her: Finally, you can tell him what you have to say in person.

She did on Monday during the CNBC town hall, declaring to the president that she was "exhausted of defending" him.

Since then, she has been a regular on broadcast and cable networks as the latest every-person to become an of-the-moment political figure and the personification of the political problem Obama faces. In 2008, Hart was "fired up and ready to go," one of many who took up the Obama campaign's chant. In 2010, she is tired.

Hart spent just a few minutes deciding how she would ask her question, which was also a testimonial. When the microphone was passed, the words her friends had heard over and over spilled out.

Hart said: "I've been told that I voted for a man who said he's going to change things in a meaningful way for the middle class. I'm one of those people, and I'm waiting, sir. I'm waiting. I don't feel it yet. . . . I'm exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for, and deeply disappointed with where we are right now."

Her words have been featured on cable news shows and have made bold headlines. Her face was plastered across the cover of the New York Post with this headline: "BETRAYED: Bam fan is now frank-ly fed up." (Hart said "betrayed" went too far.)

"I've been able to, in a meaningful way for the first time in what I think is a long time, talk about the issues that really matter to me as a consumer and an American," Hart said from her office in Lanham, where she is chief financial officer of AmVets, a veterans service organization. "When this opportunity came along, I said, well, this must be divine intervention."

She was a vocal Obama supporter during the campaign, putting up signs at her home and wearing every Obama button she could find. She stayed late nights at the office, trying to convince her co-workers that he was a different kind of leader.

"I talked him up," Hart said. "I was thinking that the people who were against him and didn't believe in his agenda were completely insane. I was trying to win them over."


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