Speaking before the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual awards dinner, First Lady Michelle Obama implored the nation’s African-Americans to show up on Election Day with a sense of urgency.
“Make no mistake about it, this is the march of our time, marching door to door, registering people to vote,” the First Lady said to applause in Washington, D.C. on Saturday night.
“Marching everyone you know to the polls every single election,” Obama said during her speech at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. “See, this is the sit-in of our day — sitting in a phone bank, sitting in your living room, calling everyone you know, your friends, your neighbors, that nephew you haven’t seen in a while, that classmate you haven’t spoken to in years — making sure they all know how to register, where to vote — every year, in every election.”
Michelle Obama filled in for President Barack Obama who was campaigning last weekend. Polls show Obama’s lead widening over Republican Mitt Romney in some key battleground states, while other national polls still show the race is razor-thin close.
The First Lady has been traveling the country speaking at fund-raisers, colleges and universities, and keynoting luncheons to women’s groups and Hispanic organizations.
Michelle Obama's address to the Congressional Black Caucus comes as black lawmakers and civil rights activists promote National Voter Registration Day on Tuesday to ensure that potential voters will be able to cast their ballots in the Nov. 6 presidential election.
Civic groups are calling on folks to register no later than Oct. 9, which is the deadline in many states for voters to be able to cast ballots in the upcoming election.
“The right to vote is a critical and sacred constitutionally protected civil right," Rep . Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) said in a statement.
We cannot let the rhetoric of an election year destroy a fundamental right upon which we have established liberty and freedom.”
Meanwhile, some political strategists call Michelle Obama the campaign’s secret weapon because polls show she is more popular than President Obama and she remains the president’s most effective surrogate.
The First Lady’s call for black voters to turn out strong on Election Day also coincided with last week’s conference that featured a town hall meeting specifically designed to address voting rights and voter suppression tactics.
Thirty-four states have pending laws that call for voters to present government-issued photo identification before casting a ballot. Conservatives insist that the new rules will prevent voter impersonation fraud, but civil rights activists maintain the laws are specifically designed to keep minorities from voting.
The debate over voter ID laws has become a flashpoint racial issue leading up to the presidential election in November. More than five million people of color could be impacted by these voter suppression laws, low-income and elderly citizens who cannot afford multiple forms of ID.
The First Lady also told her audience last week that the health of African American children should be a national priority.
“While there are no more "whites only” signs keeping us out, no one barring our children from the schoolhouse door, we know that our journey is far, far from finished,” Michelle Obama said.
“But in many ways, the path forward for this next generation is far less clear,” she said. “I mean, what exactly do we do about children who are languishing in crumbling schools? What about kids growing up in neighborhoods where they don’t have opportunities worthy of their dreams? What about the 40 percent of black children who are overweight or obese, or the nearly one in two who are on track to develop diabetes in their lifetimes? What court case do we bring on their behalf? What laws can be passed to end those wrongs?”
Avis Thomas-Lester, the Executive Editor of the Afro Newspapers, said she was inspired by Michelle Obama’s crusade for healthy eating.
“Restricting diet to fruit, veggies, poultry and fish,” Thomas-Lester posted on her Facebook page. “Wish me luck sticking to this.”
And while some grumbled privately that they would have preferred to see President Obama speak at Saturday’s Phoenix Awards Dinner, the 3,000 folks who attended the dinner embraced Michelle Obama’s message of hope for America’s young black boys.
“I want you to think about a photo that hangs in the West Wing of the White House,” Michelle Obama said. “Some of you may have seen it. It’s a picture of a young black family visiting the President in the Oval Office. The father was a member of the White House staff, and he’d brought his wife and two young sons to meet my husband. In the photo, Barack is bent over at the waist. And one of the sons — a little boy, just about five years old — is reaching out his tiny little hand to touch my husband’s head.”
“And it turns out that upon meeting Barack, this little boy gazed up at him longingly and he said, "I want to know if my hair is just like yours." And Barack replied, "Why don’t you touch it and see for yourself?" So he bent way down so the little boy could feel his hair.
And after touching my husband’s head, the little boy exclaimed, "Yes, it does feel the same!"
“So if you ever wonder whether change is possible,” Obama said, “I want you to think about that little black boy in the office — the Oval Office of the White House — touching the head of the first black President.”