Michelle Obama speaks on husband’s plan for presidency

Mrs. Obama entered Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall to standing ovations and deafening applause of a diverse crowd of supporters, from university students and professionals to parents and their children, octogenarians, and a group of “firefighters for Obama” wearing matching yellow T-shirts. Mrs. Obama was introduced by several local and state representatives, including Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato, and Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner, all Obama supporters. Also introducing the wife of the democratic candidate were the campaign’s field organizers in Pittsburgh, as well as Teresa Heinz Kerry, a close friend of Mrs. Obama’s, whose family is a Pittsburgh institution.

“It’s the people who make this city great. Everyone in Pittsburgh knows we need a change in Washington, a real change,” Heinz Kerry said to thunderous applause.

“We need a president who will reinvest in our infrastructure, reinvest in our young people, reinvest in our cities. That’s what going to make our country strong again,” Onorato said.
Wagner noted that the time has come for change.

“This rally is to listen to Michelle, but also to energize us ... to get other students to vote, our families to vote, our co-workers to vote,” Wagner said. “[Democratic vice presidential candidate] Senator Biden is the best choice for a vice president in my lifetime.... He’s for the common person. It’s our time to take back America. Let’s go out and do it.”

Mrs. Obama discussed the challenges working families are facing in the wake of the current economic crisis, including rising gas and food prices and restricted access to health care.
“Folks are having to choose which member of the family gets to go to the doctor, and that’s not right,” she said.

She emphasized that Sen. Obama was the product of a single-parent household with a mother who worked hard to make ends meet, and that this upbringing makes it easy for him to identify with the frustrations of the working class and hopefully, she said, alleviate them.

“We’re here because of that sacrifice, and that’s the American dream,” she said. “Barack Obama gets it. He gets it because he lived it.”

Directly addressing the large number of college students in the audience, Mrs. Obama spoke about the mounting costs of higher education for students today, saying that student debt is a fact of life for the vast majority of young people who want to attend college. She noted that she and Sen. Obama had just recently paid off their own student loans. She also spoke about the creation of more charter schools to increase competition in the nation’s public school system, providing better education for more students.

“Isn’t it time for us to have a leader who knows the challenge of trying to get an education when you don’t have any money?” she asked the crowd. “Don’t we deserve a president who brings that kind of experience? Barack Obama has a comprehensive plan for education for all our young people.”

Amy Nichols, a junior psychology, urban history, and education policy major and Carnegie Mellon Students for Barack Obama board member, was one of several Carnegie Mellon students who attended the rally.

The members of Students for Obama, a student organization formed last year, are working to bring students and other student organizations together to take an active role in politics.
“Sometimes students think they can’t make an impact,” Nichols said.

She explained that the organization was trying to mobilize students by using contacts at about 20 other student organizations to encourage students to attend or sponsor political events on campus, such as the recent debates held by Spirit and The Triple Helix.

“Finally students are realizing that the issues the candidates are talking about are really going to affect them. In the economic crisis, students looking for internships or jobs on Wall Street and not being able to find them, or students who have accrued major student debt,” Nichols said.

Nichols cited the historical nature of the campaign, the chance to gain respect in the global community that the United States has lost, and a plan to get out of the country’s current economic crisis as some of the reasons she supports Obama.

“I’ve never felt so moved to support a candidate,” she said. “This feels like a last chance to turn this country around.”

As the election nears, Nichols said the organization’s focus will shift to a bipartisan effort to make sure as many students as possible vote on Election Day.

“We’re trying to eliminate confusion about where students go, telling them to get to their polling places early, remind their friends to vote, and what to do if you feel intimidated or threatened or if you’re at the wrong polling location,” Nichols said. “We’re trying to emphasize the importance of voting in a nonpartisan way. If students haven’t shown an interest in making educated decisions about voting or have decided not to vote, that’s a bigger problem, and I hope something resonates with them before Election Day.”

After the election, Nichols said that Students for Obama will still have a political presence on campus to encourage students to stay interested in politics after the election and stay informed about political issues.

“Even if McCain wins, politics needs people to support liberal issues and follow Obama’s platform,” she said.