By Jim Stanford on August 11, 2012
The upcoming election offers a clear choice in values, and President Obama is best suited to preserve opportunity for all Americans because of his upbringing, First Lady Michelle Obama said during a campaign stop in Jackson today.
“He knows the American dream because he’s lived it,” Obama told a standing crowd of nearly 500 people in the Snow King ballroom.
The first lady recounted her own story of growing up the daughter of a pump operator in Chicago. Neither of her parents had a college degree.
“He saved for us and sacrificed for us,” she said of her father. “Education was everything for us.”
Barack Obama was the son of a single mother who struggled to put herself through college, and his grandmother hit glass ceilings in the workplace because she was a woman, Obama said. When it comes time to make tough decisions in the White House, the president relies on his life experiences, she said.
And once you have walked through the door of opportunity, “You do not slam it shut behind you,” Obama said, in a pointed rebuke of Mitt Romney.
The approximately 40-minute speech was a stark contrast to last month’s Romney fund-raiser in Jackson Hole hosted by Dick Cheney. Attendees at the Romney event at Teton Pines Country Club had to pay a minimum of $2,500.
At Snow King, a modest hotel and community hub, the crowd was a mix of donors, activists and grassroots Democrats. Most of the people paid as little as $25 or $100 to attend. Outside, at the resort entrance, a group of supporters held a sign that read, “We ♥ Obama.”
Women outnumbered men three or four to one, and kids lined the first row in front of the stage. Venerable naturalist Bert Raynes also sat up front and received a warm handshake from the first lady.
Michelle Obama touted her husband’s achievements in office, particularly health care reform, under which it is now illegal for an insurance company to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions. Women’s expenses for birth control also are covered, she pointed out.
“Barack believes women should be able to make our own choices,” she said, to some of the loudest applause of the event.
She also touted his support for student loans and making college more affordable. Obama recalled she and her husband after college being “so young, so in love, so broke.” They had student loan bills higher than their monthly mortgage payment, she said.
Obama spoke as a mother, as a working woman and as a leader, in a genuine and enthusiastic way that left a profound impact on many in the audience. Although there was a lot of the rah-rah cheerleading and campaign boilerplate to be expected, at times, as Obama talked about the power of one person to make a difference in their community, she took listeners back to the night of the Iowa caucuses from 2008.
“Never underestimate the power of your individual voice,” she said.
“Real change takes time,” she said. “It takes patience and tenacity.”
She pledged she would be back with her family to Grand Teton National Park some day, after taking care of a few things in the coming months. In the meantime, she urged everyone to do their part — “one person stepping up” — to re-elect the president.
“Have you noticed? I am very fired up,” she said, after clenching her fists for emphasis.