She wasn’t the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention, but millions of supporters noted her with keen interest on the first night in Denver. Michelle Obama delivered a remarkable speech that made the audience shed tears of joy, and gave a smile of hope with her firm support for her husband, Barack Obama. The leading lady of the first day of the convention, Obama tried to connect with the common American through her personal story. She shared her moments of pains and gains to let everyone know she was not different, but one of them.
Throughout her speech, Michelle Obama made a personal connection with the people. She didn’t stand there like a celebrity but as any other American woman who had her share of good and bad times in life, just as the Obama campaign wanted her to appear.
“I come here today as a sister,” Obama said, “as a wife who loves my husband and believes he will be an extraordinary president…as a Mom whose girls are the heart of my heart and the center of my world…as a daughter – raised on the South Side of Chicago by a father who was a blue collar city worker, and a mother who stayed at home with my brother and me.” Her rhetoric was clear. She wanted people to know her family values and commitment, moreover, her faith in her husband. She also mentioned Barack Obama’s childhood, how he was raised by his grandparents and a single mother who struggled to pay the bills. Michelle Obama wanted people to know about their struggle and their aspirations that brought them to where they stand today. She wanted people to feel they would know the challenges a common citizen faces to survive. She was trying to connect to people through their story and tell them they knew what they were talking about and would do their best to change the dire situations for millions of people; she did it with all her elan and elegance. Michelle Obama also had to connect to the white voters in places like Ohio where they’re still oblivious to who the Obamas really are. According to the Gallup Poll (Sept. 1-7), only 39 percent of non-Hispanic whites support Obama, 14 percent lower than McCain. Thus, one of Michelle Obama’s missions was to let people know of their background; she had to reflect on her values and upbringing and be a storyteller. She surely did a good job.
So, what place does Michelle Obama hold in her husband’s campaign? Would her speech make any difference to the voters? The answer is yes. According to the latest Gallup Poll, over half of Americans say a presidential candidate’s spouse is an important factor in their vote. Over the summer, another Gallop Poll showed her favorable ratings increased among the voters; only 22 percent of Americans had never heard of her or didn’t know much about her. However, she is better known than the Republican candidate John McCain’s spouse, Cindy McCain. In Denver, Michelle Obama also had to answer to critics who had been nudging her when she said, “For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country.” Many tried to misconstrue she was never proud of her country. However, she hit the right notes at the convention speaking on the American dream she has lived, and will continue to strive as her fellow Americans.
But not everyone seemed happy with her speech, especially some hardheaded Republicans.
Ben Stein, a political and entertainment personality, seemed utterly unhappy with Michelle Obama’s speech.
“Well, I though that Mrs. Obama’s speech was a – just a mass of cliches,” Stein said while talking to Larry King on CNN. “I don’t get what’s so impressive about her.”
He said Michelle Obama presented herself as a loyal wife at the convention, and “she did anything much more than do what any wife is supposed to do.”
But what more was she supposed to do? Was she obligated to deliver her four-year plan when she becomes the first lady? That wouldn’t have done any good because she would then be representing her power and status, which would have failed to connect with people. Her intention was just to connect with people, and that’s what she did.
Michelle Obama is no political figure, and she has no obligation to present herself in such a position. She is a mother and a wife who firmly supports her husband to be the next president of the United States. She is one of America’s citizens who knows what it’s like to grow up in poverty and struggle for success. All she wanted was to let people acknowledge her by her roles as a determined woman and to realize her husband could be the change.
In Denver, Michelle Obama stood for her husband and millions of people whose lives he would change. She was there, as herself, to speak her mind. She spoke and definitely conquered the hearts and minds of many.
Bibek Bhindari is a senior international communications major.