The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Michelle Obama rallies 4,500 in Leonard Center

By Peter Wright

Michelle Obama, the wife of the Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, Ill., spoke to a crowd of to nearly 4,500 people in Macalester’s Leonard Center fieldhouse on Oct. 13 in a call to action for the campaign’s supporters as it enters the final stretch.Strongly endorsing her husband, Obama said she believes he is the best person to take the White House because of his upbringing and because of the values she has seen in him during their 16-year marriage.

“For me,” Obama said, “it’s not just politics, but it’s personal.”

Obama made the appearance during a one-day stop in Minnesota; she spoke first in Rochester and left Macalester for a private fundraiser in Minneapolis. She opened her speech by recalling her last visit to the state in the summer, when her husband declared himself the Democratic nominee in the Xcel Center.

“The last time I was in Minnesota,” she said, “we were doing something special.”

Obama reflected on her husband’s campaign over the past year, thanking the supporters and sharing a couple of stories from the trail. She cited an 80-year-old campaign organizer as she discussed the range of supporters she has met around the country, saying that her husband’s campaign has persuaded thousands of non-voters to follow politics.

Much of that support, Obama said, comes from her husband’s own story.

She recalled several parts of Barack Obama’s biography, saying that he chose to work as a community organizer in Chicago when he could have been using his law degree to earn a higher salary, adding that her husband has experienced many of the big issues in this election first-hand throughout his life.

“Barack Obama gets it,” she said. “He gets it because he’s lived it.”

Obama also tried to connect to the crowd on a more personal level, presenting Barack Obama as a father and a husband and talking about how thankful they were to graduate from respected colleges but how much of a burden their student loans were until a few years ago-an issue that received a particularly loud cheer from the crowd.

“I know in my heart and my soul without a doubt,” Obama said, “he will be an extraordinary president.”

Aside from the personal stories, Obama discussed her husband’s loyalty to the middle class, saying that he would cut taxes for people with middle class income, and mentioning his proposed plan to address health insurance needs.

“There’s only one candidate who is talking about a healthcare plan that will cover all Americans,” she said.

Volunteering was the central message of Obama’s appearance. She said that the success of the Obama campaign so far has been because of the large number of supporters willing to donate their time to registering voters and campaigning for her husband.

“He has built a miraculous political organization that has attracted millions of new voters,” she said. “And they’re volunteering.”

It was a message that was echoed by the introduction speeches. St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman set the tone for the event as he called for the crowd members to do everything they can to help the Obama campaign.

“If on Election Day your knuckles aren’t sore from knocking on doors,” Coleman said, “you’re not working hard enough.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., echoed that statement, specifically calling for college and high school students to remain as active as possible in the campaign.

“For the young people in the election,” Klobuchar said, “this is their election.”

Obama’s appearance was announced Friday, Oct. 10, leaving the weekend and Monday morning to promote the speech, but that did not keep the standing-room crowd from filling the field house to capacity.

On Monday, the line to get into the field house began forming around 11 a.m. By 2 p.m. it had stretched north, following Snelling Avenue to Grand Avenue, where it turned the corner and continued part way across the campus towards Macalester Street. Many in the crowd waited for more than two hours in the rain before the doors opened at 2:30 p.m.

Among those in attendance were well over 120 volunteers assigned to guide the crowd and lead it in cheers before the speakers took the stage. Many of those volunteers were Macalester students, recruited by MacDems and MacObama. Although those groups helped with signing-up volunteers, the event itself was set-up and organized by the national campaign.

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