During Wednesday's presidential campaign rally at Carnegie Mellon University, Michelle Obama spoke with three voices. She spoke as herself; as her husband, Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama; and as his critics. The senator's wife said that critics keep setting new bars for her husband to reach and that they continuously belittle his achievements.
According to Mrs. Obama, critics believed the test of a real candidate was the ability to raise money. Then the test became the Iowa caucus. After that, Obama was challenged by New Hampshire.
"They move the bar. They snatch it from under you," Mrs. Obama said. "No matter how much money he raises, no matter how many wins he pulls together, no matter how many delegates he accumulates, that's the way it works."
Theresa Heinz Kerry, wife of Massachusetts senator and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, introduced Mrs. Obama at the rally. Mrs. Kerry endorses Mr. Obama and told the crowd of approximately 2,000 people in CMU's Skibo Gymnasium what she thinks about his experience.
"I think in our society, everything is so numerical. Everything is in inches or dollars or whatever. And no one counts that eight years he was working in the state senate of Illinois or the years he was in the South Side of Chicago working as a community organizer," Mrs. Kerry said. "The most important thing is not so much what you know but what you do with what you know."
Mrs. Obama was excited about how people have become more engaged with politics.
"We've learned that the American people are hungry for a change," she said. "People are talking about delegates, pledge delegates and super-delegates. When was the last time people even knew there were any delegates?"
Mrs. Obama returned to the theme of a bar that lies just out of reach for her husband and for the American people. She touched on issues such as the rising cost of food, gas and education.
"Folks are struggling so hard every day, and their struggles are not amounting to what they'd hoped would happen," Mrs. Obama said. "You feel like your pain and struggle is all your own and you're alone in your failure."
The crowd nodded in agreement as Mrs. Obama discussed how the days when a family could survive with one working-class income are gone. She detailed her blue-collar upbringing and the faith that her family once had in public schools. Obama said that if her advancement depended on a few standardized tests mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act, then she would not be where she is today.
She also said that if it were not for her husband's two bestselling books, they both would still be paying off their college debt, even though they are beginning to save for their daughters' college funds. Mrs. Obama jokingly said that she's still hoping for Mr. Obama's trust fund to kick in.
"Maybe we've got some coming from cousin Cheney," she said remarking on the recent discovery that Mrs. Obama and Vice President Dick Cheney are eighth cousins.
Considering the state of the economy, Mrs. Obama stressed that people cannot be apathetic to the plights of others when it comes to joblessness, health care or the war.
"We are in a war right now where the only people who are sacrificing on a daily basis are the soldiers and their families. Our leadership has told us don't worry about it. The rest of you all just keep shopping," she said.
Mrs. Obama reminded the audience that the decision to invade Iraq was voted upon by people in Washington who had a lot of experience and that her husband opposed the war from the beginning. Responding to remarks of critics that his opposition did not count because he was not in the U.S. Senate, Mrs. Obama said that at the time, her husband was running for he U.S. Senate.
She said that her husband built an organization to match that of an "Illinois dynasty" when cynics said he couldn't.
Mrs. Obama then questioned if her husband could prove newer cynics wrong by getting elected.
"Can we do this?" she asked, to which the crowd responded, "Yes, we can."
© 2008 The Pitt News via U-WIRE