The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Speech stirs supporters to work for president’s re-election
BY KATIE THISDELL
For several years, Debra McNeil has looked for a full-time job with good benefits to support her two daughters.
The Fredericksburg woman hopes four more years with Barack Obama as president will help end what she said is a vicious cycle of unemployment.
McNeil, her two daughters and her father were among the crowd who turned out to hear first lady Michelle Obama during a campaign stop in Fredericksburg Thursday.
Mrs. Obama’s speech echoed what she said at the Democratic National Convention—a speech that inspired many in attendance at the University of Mary Washington’s William Anderson Center to come see her in person.
“She reiterated a lot that she said during the
convention that people need to get out there to work,” McNeil said.
McNeil, 50, has been distributing yard signs for the campaign, and her daughter, Ashley, 19, is ready to start volunteering in Richmond.
Ashley McNeil studies political science at Virginia Commonwealth University and, like many of the students in the crowd, is eager to vote in her first presidential election.
“If [Republican Mitt] Romney is elected, I’m screwed. Women won’t have any rights,” said Ashley McNeil, who was sporting an Obama “Progress” T–shirt.
Health care, women’s issues, taxes, student debt, jobs and the economy were some of the issues the first lady addressed at UMW, her second campaign stop in Virginia Thursday.
“I think they’ve made more progress than people think. Things don’t happen overnight,” Ashley McNeil said about criticism of Obama’s handling of the economy. “His presidential veto can only go so far.”
She said she hopes Obama wins the election to ensure that she and her family can have affordable health care.
For Beatrice Kerr, Michelle Obama’s visit was a good reason to pull her 11-year-old daughter, Eva, out of school early.
“I wanted to bring my daughter because Michelle is a great role model,” said Kerr, who called the first lady a well-rounded, well-educated woman who cares about health.
Zakaria Kronemer, a 19-year-old UMW sophomore, picked up one of the 3,000 available tickets on campus Tuesday because he wanted to be part of history.
“I think politics is at one of its most-heated moments in history since the beginning of America,” he said.
Kronemer, who attended the presidential inauguration in 2008, said some professors encouraged students to skip classes to hear Mrs. Obama.
Mrs. Obama called for supporters to help the campaign spread its message, and to help get out the vote.
“They have a positive attitude toward the country’s direction,” said Andrew Nicholson of Bowling Green. “[Obama is] more in line with with the common man than big business.”
Nicholson, 47, said he’ll be out knocking on doors for the president’s campaign this weekend.
Catherine–Melissa Fletcher, a 21-year-old political science major at UMW, stood out in the crowd because she was wearing an anti-Obama shirt. She said she had just come from volunteering at Romney’s appearance in Fairfax and figured the “Obama” shirt with a slash through the “O” wouldn’t stand out as much as a Romney shirt.
Even though she won’t vote for Obama, Fletcher said she wanted to hear his wife speak.
“It’s awesome that UMW gets exposure,” she said.
Before the first lady spoke, several locals participated in the program.
Fredericksburg Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw gave opening remarks. Nathaniel Young, the pastor at Shiloh Baptist Church (New Site) gave the invocation. Elizabeth Johns sang the national anthem. University of Mary Washington Professor Denis Nissim-Sabat also gave remarks that encouraged people to get involved in the campaign.
Erin Gianopoulos, a Marine Corps reservist and the wife of a Marine stationed at Quantico, introduced the first lady. She said she and her husband support the president because of all he’s done for military families.
“I really believe in what they want to do for the rest of the country,” Gianopoulos said.
Staff reporter Robyn Sidersky contributed to this story.