Michelle Obama portrays president from personal angle
Photo by Elizabeth Mendoza, Story by Vinayak Balasubramanian for the Daily Tar Heel
DURHAM, N.C. — Thousands of enthusiastic students and local residents gathered Wednesday at N.C. Central University to hear Michelle Obama make the case for her husband’s re-election.
Despite the political undertones in her speech, the first lady sought to portray President Obama from a personal angle — echoing a theme from her Sept. 4 speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.
As many as 3,100 people gathered in the McDougald-McLendon Gymnasium at NCCU, filling it to capacity.
The event — which was sponsored by Obama for America — was one of two speeches that the first lady gave to students on Wednesday. Obama later spoke at East Carolina University.
Obama told attendees of the personal struggles and moral lessons she and the president faced growing up, what motivated them and how this has influenced the president’s world view.
“Like so many families in this country, our families weren’t asking for much. They didn’t begrudge anyone else’s success,” she said.
“They simply believed in that fundamental American promise that even if you don’t start out with much, if you work hard and do what you’re supposed to do, then you should be able to build a decent life for yourself and an even better life for your kids,” Obama said.
The first lady also reminded audience members of the struggles she and the president faced in paying for college.
“When it comes to student debt, believe me, Barack and I, we’ve been there,” she said. “He never could have attended college without financial aid.”
Speaking before Obama, U.S. Rep. David Price, D-N.C., mentioned to students that the president’s higher education policies helped pay for about 16,000 N.C. veterans and 250,000 N.C. students to attend college.
The speech received a positive reaction from the audience, many of whom said they were moved.
Jacqueline Futrell, an adult basic education teacher at Durham Technical Community College, personally accompanied one of her deaf students to the event.
“I told her that since she was able to get a ticket, that I would personally bring her with me, to make sure that the interpreters were here and everything, so that she could also enjoy hearing Mrs. Obama as well,” she said.
Tania Irwin, a sophomore education major at NCCU, said she nearly cried when she got to shake the first lady’s hand.
“She is my idol, and I was just so inspired by her words.”