Michelle Obama Wins the Crowd in Charlotte

BlogHer Original Post

For the second time in a week, a woman has gone on national television telling other women to love her husband. In a much anticipated kick-off to the Democratic National Convention, First Lady Michelle Obama took to the stage in front of an enthusiastic crowd at the Time-Warner Arena in Charlotte last night.

Like her Republican challenger Ann Romney did last Tuesday, Obama talked about why we should re-elect her husband as President. Both were beautiful and charming.

Like her rival, the First Lady recounted tales from when she was dating her husband:

“…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.”

And their early married days when college loans were higher than their mortgage.

“We were so young, so in love,” she quipped. Then quickly deadpanned, “And so in debt.”

Sound familiar?

Not exactly.

While Ann Romney may have made a similar appeal on behalf of her husband, GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, there was a completely different energy in Charlotte than Tampa. And not just the absence of giddy outbursts of “I love you, women!”

Before she delved into her personal story, Obama saluted the working people of America -- from the teachers “who vowed to keep teaching without pay” to “men and women in uniform and our proud military families.” Without once invoking the name of Mitt Romney, she gently called attention to the stark differences the President and the Republican contender. And Michelle Obama hit on a crucial element that I found missing from Ann Romney’s speech: acknowledgment of privileges in life.

“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.”

And compassion toward others:

"It’s not about how much you money you make, but the difference you make in people’s lives."

While Republicans repeated railed against “entitlements” at the RNC last week, the First Lady’s speech echoed the messages of many other of the evening’s speakers, such as Illinois Congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth or San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro – a story of perseverance and responsibility.

“They simply believed in that fundamental American promise that, even if you don’t start out with much, if you work hard and do what you’re supposed to do, then you should be able to build a decent life for yourself and an even better life for your kids and grandkids.”

Tuesday night's presentation was no reinvention. We already know that Michelle Obama is a mother who attends parent-teacher conferences and insists on family dinners. We know that she is the daughter of a working class black family. We also know that she was an attorney who paid off her college loans just a few years before the 2008 election. And we know that she’s an advocate for health and fitness who planted a garden at the White House.

If Ann Romney was bidding the public to fall in love with her husband, Michelle Obama was reminding voters --- Democrats, Republicans, and "none of the above" -- why they fell in love with her husband four years ago. And while critics may say the Democratic base has grown battle-weary and disillusioned over the past four years, the First Lady drew standing ovations and cheers that forced cameras to pan the audience while they chanted “Four more years!”

The First Lady acknowledged that sense of weariness, not just in the female condition, but in the political arena.

“And he reminds me that we are playing a long game here…and that change is hard, and change is slow, and it never happens all at once.”

Heralding the tough choices we must all make this election season, she ends on a classic Obama call to get out the vote.

"...in America, there is always something better out there if you’re willing to work for it…then we must work like never before…and we must once again come together and stand together for the man we can trust to keep moving this great country forward…my husband, our President, President Barack Obama.

It's like 2008 all over again.

News and Politics Editor Grace Hwang Lynch blogs at HapaMama and A Year (Almost) Without Shopping.

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