Charlottesville: Michelle Obama talks change
Story by Chris Graham
It’s time for new solutions, Michelle Obama told a rally of 2,500 people on Grounds at the University of Virginia Wednesday afternoon, “because we know that the old ways just won’t do.”
Obama, the wife of Democratic Party presidential nominee Barack Obama, and Jill Biden, the wife of Delaware senator and Democratic Party vice-presidential nominee Joe Biden, were in Charlottesville as part of their Women for the Change We Need tour. They were joined by Lilly Ledbetter, an Alabama woman who fought Goodyear over a pay-discrimination issue that went all the way to the United States Supreme Court and is now the focus of congressional legislation that has been backed by Obama-Biden and opposed by Arizona senator and Republican Party presidential nominee John McCain. Ledbetter endorsed the Obama-Biden ticket at the rally, and said her choice was actually an easy one to make. “There is only one candidate who has stood up for women like me, who has consistently fought to help women who are working hard every day for our families and aren’t being paid fairly,” Ledbetter said.
The dignitaries also included astronaut Kathryn Thornton, who led the assemblage in the Pledge of Allegiance, and UVa. student Emily Blakesmore, the campus coordinator for the Obama campaign, who told the University students in attendance that the campaign will need their help over the next 48 days to “change the country.”
“We have come a long way, but we are not done yet. Since August, we have registered thousands of new voters, knocked on hundreds of doors. But all of this is not enough. We need to keep going. We need to push on,” Blakesmore said.
Charlottesville community organizer – yes, community organizer – Kristin Szakos was also on hand to rally the troops. “I hope that what you hear today will inspire you and get you fired up,” said Szakos, a volunteer who has been working full time with the Obama campaign since February, and who comes from a family of Obama supporters – including a grandmother who when she turned 100 turned down a birthday card from President Bush. “She said she would wait for the next president, thank you very much,” said Szakos, whose grandmother received a handwritten birthday card from Obama last week on the occasion of her 104th birthday, and whose mother hosted her first Obama house party in Charlottesville in March 2007.
“We’re working because this candidate has made us believe that it is time for ordinary Americans from all walks of life to come together and reclaim the heritage of this nation – the idea that all people are created equal, that we should be guided by our principles, not our fears, that our nation can be a beacon to the world, for justice and integrity,” Szakos said.
Michelle Obama paid tribute to women like Szakos who “have shaped this campaign with their ideas and their strategies and their energy, women who have come to rallies like this who have brought their young daughters and their nieces and putting their babies on their shoulders so that they could witness this time in history.” “There’s one thing that I know for certain. It’s that women, children, students, workers, all of us, we need an advocate in the White House now more than ever,” said Obama, a lawyer and mother of two.
“The policies that affect our families aren’t just political issues. This isn’t just politics. This is personal,” Obama said. “The people in Washington have been talking about these issues for a long time – health care, education, the economy. They’ve been talking a lot, but it’s been hard to see where we’ve been making a whole lot of progress around these issues, and we are all feeling the effects of the lack of movement on these issues.
“We feel it when we go to shop for groceries. We feel it when we go to put gas in our tanks. We feel it when we think about how we’re going to pay for our kids’ college educations. And we think about it and worry about it and feel it when we think about paying back these student loans. We think about it when we think about getting that mammogram that we’ve been putting off, but we put it off because we look at those copays, and we realize that they just keep getting higher and higher and higher. And that’s if you have insurance. That’s true,” Obama said.
“Everywhere that I go, everywhere that Barack goes in this country, we hear stories of people doing everything that is asked of them, and more, and still finding it harder and harder to get ahead,” Obama said.
“This is such an exciting moment in our nation’s history. You know that. When we have the chance to change the face of this nation for a long time to come. We can build a better future for our families, for our communities, for our entire country. We can do that. What we decide on Nov. 4 is going to change the world. You do realize that? And I’m here today because there’s no more powerful force for change than all of you,” Obama said.