A sea of cell phones record Michelle Obama’s appearance in Orlando. (JAMES HARPER / FLORIDA COURIER)
BY JAMES HARPER
FLORIDA COURIER STAFF
Hundreds of people were turned away from entering the University of Central Florida Arena to hear the First Lady Michelle Obama speak, validating the fact that she is as popular – if not more popular – than her husband, President Barack Obama.
Orlando was the first lady‘s second stop in Florida speaking to grassroots supporters and volunteers. She stopped in Miami earlier in the day.
The event was free and open to the public, but tickets were required due to limited space. More than 2,200 people entered the arena (whose official capacity is 1,600).
Inside the structure, supporters were packed in with most standing shoulder-to-shoulder, with a selected few volunteers and workers sitting in the bleachers.
At least two supporters passed out from the heat in the room generated from so many bodies.
Another example of her popularity happened after she left the stage to greet supporters. Hundreds rushed to the barriers that were blocking them from her just to get a closer look or touch her. A lucky few got an autograph on whatever they had in their hands to have as a keepsake for the event.
Though there was a sea of Whites, Browns and Blacks, there appeared to be a higher percentage of Hispanics in the crowd. Before Obama spoke, there was a pep rally of sorts getting the energized crowd even more pumped up. Based on those who spoke before Obama, it appears the rally targeted Hispanics.
The majority of the speakers were of Hispanic descent. Pastor Jeffrey Rivera prayed and asked for strength and wisdom for the Obamas to help them find peace and clarity. He called the Obamas “a family of love and compassion.”
Lynette Acosta, national co-chair of Obama for America, urged Obama supporters to not sit on the sidelines this election year.
“Too much is at stake. The vision for a brighter future includes everyone. I’m a living testament of the American Dream,” said Acosta, who traveled from Polk County for the rally.
Florida State Rep. Victor Torres also told the crowd there is so much at stake if Obama isn’t re-elected.
“He believes everyone should do their fair share. We need a president who has our back in the White House,” Torres said.
‘We need help’
Michelle Obama, dressed in a turquoise dress with matching shoes and not a hair out of place, came on the stage and mesmerized the already electrified audience. Though there was a teleprompter in front of her, Obama rarely glanced at it, speaking mostly off the cuff about why her husband deserved another four years.
“We have come so far, but we have so much more to do,” Obama said. Just like four years ago, she said she and her husband will need help registering people to vote and then getting them to the polls.
“Don’t have any doubt about the difference you can make. It may come down to registering just one more person. That the kind of impact you can have,” she said.
Obama said she has seen up close and personal what being president feels like.
“We are all here for a reason. Our president is awesome. We are doing this because of the values we believe in and the vision we all share,” Obama continued.
“Real change takes time. We keep moving forward,” said Obama, as she listed some of her husband’s accomplishments over the past four years.
“He fought for women to get equal pay for equal work. He has been fighting for the Dream Act to help children of undocumented immigrants. He kept his promise to bring our troops home from Iraq. Barack cut taxes for businesses 18 times,” Obama said.
The first lady also noted for the past 28 months that there have been gains in private sector jobs and also because of her husband, “millions of our seniors have saved hundreds of dollars on prescription drugs.”
Obama also reminded the supporters “today our troops no longer have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love.” She was referring to the end of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” involving gays serving openly in the American military.
Obama also reminded the students in the office because of her husband most of them who are under 26, can stay on their parent’s insurance.
In a second term, Obama said her husband will work to make sure “our kids to have good schools that inspire them.” Speaking directly to the students in the crowd, Obama said re-election will allow him to help their parents and grandparents retire with dignity.
Lived the American Dream
She noted remembering when their student loan bills were higher than their mortgage, and concluded the speech talking about her father and mother and the impact they had on her and her brother’s life.
“I saw how my father saved and poured everything into me and my brother,” said Obama.
She said though most of her tuition came from grants and loans, her father, a blue- collar worker, was proud of what he could contribute to help send his kids to college. Her mom made sure they “handled their business,” such as getting their homework done.
“They held us to the same high standard of excellence because they wanted us both to have the kind of education they could only dream of. Education was everything in my family – everything. It was our ticket to the middle class. It was our pathway to the American Dream,” Obama said.