She’s a fitness enthusiast who has shined the light on the need to reduce the incidence of childhood obesity. She has single-handedly made it trendy to grow veggies and to eat green. She’s a fashion icon who had made it popular to mix a designer dress with an off-the-rack cardigan.

And, supporters said, she may be the best thing her husband, President Barack Obama, has going for him on the campaign trail as he attempts to win a second term in the White House.

Six weeks before the election, First Lady Michelle Obama made two high-profile appearances in the Baltimore-Washington region, both of them generating the kind of electric moments campaign managers dream of.

She delivered the keynote address at the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference Phoenix Awards Dinner on Sept. 22. That appearance followed by a day her stop at Morgan State University for a fundraiser that raised $500,000, organizers said.

As polls show President Obama inching up in battleground states over Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney, Obama campaign managers are pulling out all the stops. The president and first lady appeared on the nationally televised program {The View} recently.

And while the president is striking at Romney at appearances around the country, the first lady is making her own mark. She’s scheduled to make several other appearances in the coming weeks in locations as far away from the Capital Beltway as Seattle, Wash. The {Seattle Times} reported that the first lady will travel there on Oct. 2 for a fundraiser where ticket prices range from $500 to $10,000. It will cost $5,000 to take a picture with her.

If the CBC dinner is any indication, Seattle residents will be standing in long lines to take a photo with the first lady. At the dinner, guests were giddy with anticipation as they waited for her to arrive at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in the District.

“I have never seen her before and I had to see her,” said Carmela Watkins, 47, of Arlington. “I spent three days’ pay for this ticket just to see her, and two more for the dress, shoes and hair. It was worth every penny. She’s a superstar and I had to be here.”

As Michelle Obama walked in, an awed cheer went up. Dressed in an off-the-shoulder long black gown with a crystal-studded belt, she delighted the audience. As she started to speak, a hush settled throughout the ballroom.

We fought hard for the progress we’ve made, she told the CBC dinner audience. We have to make sure to vote on Nov. 6 to continue to advance. Contrasting significantly with the speech she gave at the Democratic National Convention, when she highlighted her husband’s character, this time Michelle Obama talked about the threat to voting rights and the danger that poses to democracy.

“As the great Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm once said, ‘You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines.’ Active and passionate citizen engagement is at the core of our democracy — that’s the whole point,” she told the audience. “It is the first three words of the Preamble to our Constitution—‘”We the people.’ And over the past two centuries, so many righteous men and women toiled and bled and sacrificed so that every last one of us could be included in that ‘we.’ And today, we owe it not just to ourselves, but to them, to exercise the rights they fought and died for.”

The applause was thunderous.

“So when it comes to casting our ballots, it cannot just be ‘We the people’ who had time to spare on Election Day,” she continued. “Can’t just be We the people’ who really care about politics, or ‘We the people’ who happened to drive by a polling place on the way home from work. It must be all of us. That is our birthright, as citizens of this great nation. That fundamental promise that we all get a say in our democracy, no matter who we are, or where we’re from, or what we look like — yeah, or who we love.”

She was similarly enchanting when she appeared at Morgan on Sept. 21. In a historic visit, Michelle Obama called for a repeat of the massive voter turnout in 2008 that helped make her husband the nation’s first Black president, warning a thrilled crowd that the 2012 race is still very close.

In her speech—the first by a sitting first lady at Morgan—she addressed the Obama administration’s accomplishments in health care, job creation and education. She stressed that her husband took over the Oval Office at a time when the U.S. economy was in dire straits.

“Mortgages were underwater, banks weren’t lending, companies weren’t hiring and the auto industry was in crisis,” Michelle Obama said. “This economy was losing 800,000 jobs every single month and a lot of people wondering if we were headed into a great depression.”

The nation’s “Mom-in-Chief” told the audience that because of the Affordable Care Act, seniors pay less for prescriptions and those with pre-existing medical conditions are guaranteed the right to medical care.

To ensure that the initiatives her husband has fought for continue, vote, she urged the audience,

“We won Virginia by about 235,000 votes ,” said. “That might sound like a lot, but when you break that number down- that’s just 100 votes per precinct,” she said.

In North Carolina, the margin was also narrow. “We won that by just 14,000. That’s just five votes per precinct,” she said. “That could mean just one vote in a neighborhood or one vote in a dorm room.”

“If there is anyone that thinks for one second their vote doesn’t matter, think about this, you can swing one precinct for Barack Obama all by yourself.”
At the CBC and at Morgan, her message hit the mark.

“I wanted to support the campaign and I’m a fan of Mrs. Obama,” said Isahq Rana, 18, a freshman physical therapy major at Morgan.

Morgan alumnae Barbara A. Sawyer, a retired administrator for Baltimore City Public Schools, received her tickets as a surprise from her daughter.

The 61-year-old said she also thought it was important to help the re-election effort and support the woman she called an “articulate and elegant” speaker.

“It’s up to us, the voters, to make change in Washington and get those people out of office are stifling change,” said Sawyer, who wore her Sigma Gamma Rho pin and an outfit in the sorority’s royal blue and gold. “I have every faith that President Obama is going to make it four more years.”


Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer