By Lily Wan
First Lady Michelle Obama takes the stage at the O’Connell Center at the University of Florida on Monday afternoon to deliver a speech to nearly 11,000 supporters, her “biggest event yet.” Photos by Lily Wan and Maria Correa.
If you didn’t go yourself, you certainly know someone who did.
Nearly 11,000 people flooded into UF’s O’Connell Center Monday afternoon to share the stadium with Michelle Obama as her biggest audience to date.
Students and other Gainesville residents were surprised with the news of her visit just four days before, waited hours to get their free tickets and. come Monday, even longer to see her speech. Those who arrived around 8 a.m. were ecstatic to see her take the stage eight hours later.
Punctuated with “I love you, too”s, the First Lady’s speech only lasted half an hour, but was densely packed with reminders of her husband’s most notable achievements in office and sentimental anecdotes about Barack’s character.
She catered her speech to the student population, logically so.
“When it comes to giving young people the education they deserve, trust me, Barack knows that, like me and so many of you, he could’ve never attended college without financial aid. Never,” she said, “that’s why Barack doubled funding for Pell grants.”
She also highlighted the president’s health reform, reminding the students of the reason they’re allowed to stay on their parents’ health care plan until the age of 26.
“Your president will always, always fight to ensure that women can make our own decisions about our bodies and our health care. That’s what my husband stands for,” she asserted.
And more on women’s rights, Obama assured everyone “when it comes to understanding the lives of women, and when it comes to standing up for our rights and our opportunities, we know that my husband will always have our backs.”
We’ve got to have his, she told the wildly applauding crowd.
She especially emphasized a simple request: ensure your neighbors will vote, your teachers, parents, grandparents, “that cousin you haven’t seen in awhile.”
“Start by telling them about the millions of jobs Barack has created, tell them about the health reform he’s passed, tell them about those kids who can finally afford college, tell them how Barack ended the war in Iraq,” Obama listed, “Tell them about young immigrants brought to America on no fault of their own and how they will no longer be deported from the only country they’ve ever called home. Tell them how brave men and women in uniform will never again have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love.”
Florida is a battleground state, she reminded everyone. “In this stadium,” she said, “you all could swing an entire precinct for Barack Obama.”
She then deviated from her script and asked the crowd to imagine something.
“Pretend I’m not the first lady,” she said, “I’m like your mother. You’ve got to vote.”
By this point, the entire stadium was alight with applause, fired up and ready to go.
Obama reminded everyone, as Florida residents, that they can vote early, starting 10 days before election day. It’s just absolutely essential to take the first step and register register.
Democrat, Republican or otherwise — you’ve got to vote. The First Lady came here and demanded it herself.