September 5, 2012 by David K. Sutton
DNC – Notable Passages from First Lady Michelle Obama’s Speech
First Lady Michelle Obama delivered a heartfelt speech mostly neutral on policies, but there were a few specific mentions of first-term achievements as well as lines that spoke in contrast to Republican National Convention speeches. But the most politically effective lines in the speech were also the most personal when she described a caring human being, a loving husband and a devoted father called Barack Obama. She drove home a message that you cannot separate what makes Barack Obama the man and Barack Obama the president. This is a direct appeal to the fact that a large majority of Americans like President Obama as a person even if they don’t agree with him on the economy or other policies.
Here are a few notable passages (key lines in bold) from First Lady Michelle Obama’s DNC speech:
You see, even though back then Barack was a Senator and a presidential candidate…to me, he was still the guy who’d picked me up for our dates in a car that was so rusted out, I could actually see the pavement going by through a hole in the passenger side door…he was the guy whose proudest possession was a coffee table he’d found in a dumpster, and whose only pair of decent shoes was half a size too small.
But when Barack started telling me about his family – that’s when I knew I had found a kindred spirit, someone whose values and upbringing were so much like mine.
My father was a pump operator at the city water plant, and he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when my brother and I were young.
And even as a kid, I knew there were plenty of days when he was in pain…I knew there were plenty of mornings when it was a struggle for him to simply get out of bed.
But every morning, I watched my father wake up with a smile, grab his walker, prop himself up against the bathroom sink, and slowly shave and button his uniform.
And when he returned home after a long day’s work, my brother and I would stand at the top of the stairs to our little apartment, patiently waiting to greet him…watching as he reached down to lift one leg, and then the other, to slowly climb his way into our arms.
But despite these challenges, my dad hardly ever missed a day of work…he and my mom were determined to give me and my brother the kind of education they could only dream of.
And as I got to know Barack, I realized that even though he’d grown up all the way across the country, he’d been brought up just like me.
Barack was raised by a single mother who struggled to pay the bills, and by grandparents who stepped in when she needed help.
We learned about dignity and decency – that how hard you work matters more than how much you make…that helping others means more than just getting ahead yourself.
We learned about honesty and integrity – that the truth matters…that you don’t take shortcuts or play by your own set of rules…and success doesn’t count unless you earn it fair and square.
We learned about gratitude and humility – that so many people had a hand in our success, from the teachers who inspired us to the janitors who kept our school clean…and we were taught to value everyone’s contribution and treat everyone with respect.
Those are the values Barack and I – and so many of you – are trying to pass on to our own children.
That’s who we are.
Well, today, after so many struggles and triumphs and moments that have tested my husband in ways I never could have imagined, I have seen firsthand that being president doesn’t change who you are – it reveals who you are.
You see, I’ve gotten to see up close and personal what being president really looks like.
And I’ve seen how the issues that come across a President’s desk are always the hard ones – the problems where no amount of data or numbers will get you to the right answer…the judgment calls where the stakes are so high, and there is no margin for error.
And as President, you can get all kinds of advice from all kinds of people.
But at the end of the day, when it comes time to make that decision, as President, all you have to guide you are your values, and your vision, and the life experiences that make you who you are.
So when it comes to rebuilding our economy, Barack is thinking about folks like my dad and like his grandmother.
He’s thinking about the pride that comes from a hard day’s work.
That’s why he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to help women get equal pay for equal work.
That’s why he cut taxes for working families and small businesses and fought to get the auto industry back on its feet.
That’s how he brought our economy from the brink of collapse to creating jobs again – jobs you can raise a family on, good jobs right here in the United States of America.
When it comes to the health of our families, Barack refused to listen to all those folks who told him to leave health reform for another day, another president.
He didn’t care whether it was the easy thing to do politically – that’s not how he was raised – he cared that it was the right thing to do.
He did it because he believes that here in America, our grandparents should be able to afford their medicine…our kids should be able to see a doctor when they’re sick…and no one in this country should ever go broke because of an accident or illness.
And he believes that women are more than capable of making our own choices about our bodies and our health care…that’s what my husband stands for.
Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it…and he wants everyone in this country to have that same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we’re from, or what we look like, or who we love.
And he believes that when you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity…you do not slam it shut behind you…you reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.
So many of us stand here tonight because of their sacrifice, and longing, and steadfast love…because time and again, they swallowed their fears and doubts and did what was hard.
So today, when the challenges we face start to seem overwhelming – or even impossible – let us never forget that doing the impossible is the history of this nation…it’s who we are as Americans…it’s how this country was built.
And if our parents and grandparents could toil and struggle for us…if they could raise beams of steel to the sky, send a man to the moon, and connect the world with the touch of a button…then surely we can keep on sacrificing and building for our own kids and grandkids.
And if so many brave men and women could wear our country’s uniform and sacrifice their lives for our most fundamental rights…then surely we can do our part as citizens of this great democracy to exercise those rights…surely, we can get to the polls and make our voices heard on Election Day.
Chris Hayes offered this critique on MSNBC last night:
The speech was remarkably well crafted from a political perspective. It made this one argument. — The president has incredibly high favorability ratings personally. — Handling of the economy is the thing he’s lacking on. And the argument Michelle Obama made said there is no distance between the two. The personal is political, to re-appropriate a second-wave feminism term. — She was saying if you like the man Barack Obama but feel a little “eh” about where the country is, you can’t separate who that person is once they get in the Oval Office. — The speech made a very explicit argument that the things that are the biggest political strengths of the president should be the controlling, determining factor in casting your vote.
My succinct assessment:
Barack and Michelle Obama embody the very essence of the American Dream that Republicans talk about. It is for this reason that it’s remarkable to hear the level of vitriol from the Right with regard to President Obama’s stewardship of the nation.