The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
First lady says nation’s progress slow, but sure
BY CHELYEN DAVIS
First lady Michelle Obama told local supporters Thursday that her husband understands their struggles because he lived them.
And she urged them to spread the message that the country needs to re-elect President Barack Obama to continue moving forward with the slow but certain economic progress made over the past three years.
Speaking at a rally of about 2,100 people at the University of Mary Washington’s William Anderson Center, Mrs. Obama started with a reference to the killings of the American ambassador to Libya and others this week.
She said she wanted to say “truly how heartbroken Barack and I are about the horrific tragedy that occurred.”
“These brave Americans, and so many men and women just like them, they are the face of American diplomacy,” Mrs. Obama said. “Often times, they do it in harm’s way.”
Her speech echoed the one she made at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte last week. She described President Barack Obama as someone who came from good values but little money, who understood the need for government policies that help people succeed.
When a door of opportunity opens, Mrs. Obama said, “You don’t slam it shut behind you. You reach back and you give folks the same chances that helped you succeed.
“That’s how Barack and I and so many of you were raised. We learned that how hard you worked matters more than how much you make. We learned that the truth matters, so you don’t take shortcuts. You don’t game the system. You don’t play by your own set of rules. And we learned that no one gets where they are on their own.”
Those values, she said, are important in a leader.
“The issues that come across a president’s desk are always the hard ones,” Mrs. Obama said. “I’ve seen that when it comes time to make those tough calls, when everyone’s urging you to do what’s easy or what polls best as president, you need to truly be driven by the struggles, hopes, and dreams of all the people you serve.
“Since the day he took office on issue after issue, crisis after crisis, that’s what we’ve seen in my husband.”
The crowd at UMW cheered the first lady frequently, at times drowning out her words.
Her visit to UMW highlighted Virginia’s role as a key battleground state in this year’s presidential election. Mrs. Obama was in Richmond earlier in the day; Republican nominee Mitt Romney was campaigning in Fairfax.
Mrs. Obama told supporters to point out Obama’s accomplishments to those who ask what Obama has done with his 3 years in office.
“I want you to tell them about the millions of jobs Barack has created, the health reform he has passed, the millions of kids who can finally afford college, how he ended the war in Iraq, how we got Osama bin Laden how our brave men and women in uniform will no longer have to lie about who they are to serve the country,” she said. “And please make sure they understand that Barack Obama knows the American dream because he’s lived it, and he’s fighting every day so everyone in this country can have that same opportunity.”
She said Obama isn’t satisfied with the country’s economic progress, but, “It’s going to take a lot longer than four years to rebuild an economy.
“Slowly but surely we have been pulling ourselves out of a hole that we started in,” Mrs. Obama said. “For 3 years, we have been moving forward and making progress and we are beginning to see that change.
“Are we going to turn around and go back to the same policies that got us here in the first place? Or are we going to finish what we started?”
Before coming to the UMW rally, Mrs. Obama stopped at the Ron Rosner YMCA in Spotsylvania County, visiting two after-school classes of middle- and elementary-school children.
Neither class was told she was coming. The children and staff were equally surprised, with one girl repeatedly screaming, “Oh, my God, I’m going to die.”
Mrs. Obama went from table to table, asking children their names, grade level and how school was going.
In the elementary-grades class, one boy asked her if she thought Obama would be beaten by Romney.
“I watch TV,” he said by way of explanation, adding that he sees a lot of Romney on TV.
“He does have a lot of commercials,” Mrs. Obama answered.
Another girl asked the first lady where she and her family will live if Obama doesn’t win. Mrs. Obama said they could figure that out later.