Have I ever said how much I love Michelle Obama? I have loved her from the beginning, because she has a grace, elegance and warmth that is truly genuine and sincere — it’s not something that can be faked and I think that warmth and sincerity came across so well in her Democratic National Convention speech on Tuesday. It was an absolutely fantastic speech and it made me proud to call her First Lady.
As I watched her speech, I was truly struck by the contrasts between her and Ann Romney. I’m not going to go into great detail about that, because this was Michelle’s night, but there were some stark moments where you realized how visceral those contrasts are.
At the Republican convention, there was a lot of talk about business and what makes a person a success, and how you shouldn’t demonize people for having money, but there wasn’t a lot of talk about value, and there’s a big difference between monetary worth and what is actually of value, and Michelle’s speech wasn’t about what’s successful, but what’s valued in her life, and those are things that money can’t buy, they’re things that you can’t put a price tag on.
She was introduced by Elaine Brye, a military mom whose children “are always deploying,” and who promised she wasn’t political, just a mom, who wrote a card to another mom, Michelle Obama. Between Ms. Brye and Michelle, we saw more recognition of America’s troops still serving overseas in five minutes than we did the whole of the Republican convention, and that’s because Michelle has made that one of her issues.
She spoke of how she’d seen “the very best of the American spirit,” in the people she’s met across the country, in the military families she’s visited and spent time with, and how they have inspired her. She then spoke of the honor and privilege of serving as First Lady, but also of her worry and concern about bringing two young girls into the political fray, how they would keep them grounded, and how they would make sure that their young lives would not change.
When she spoke of her father, who suffered from Multiple Sclerosis, but who never missed a day of work, that’s where you began to feel the true difference between what is valued, as opposed to what is merely a commodity or vehicle to make money, because her story is not that different from the majority of people in this country. She and Barack went to college – “We were so young, so in love, and so in debt.” – took out student loans, qualified for grants, and depended on their parents for the rest; parents who had sacrificed to make sure that their children had a better life than they did, which is the dream of every parent.
“You see, for my dad, that’s what it meant to be a man. Like so many of us, that was the measure of his success in life – being able to earn a decent living that allowed him to support his family.”
Who can’t relate to that? That’s what any person wants – a living wage and the ability to provide for yourself and for your family. Despite what Mitt Romney may think, not everybody aspires to be rich, and that is not the goal of the majority in this country. Most people just want to live a good life, a comfortable life, a decent life for their children.
And here’s where the value comes in, because she spoke of dignity and decency and how hard work matters more than what you make, how truth matters in your success more than how much money you have, among many other valuable things:
We learned about honesty and integrity – that the truth matters, that you don’t take shortcuts or play by your own set of rules, and success doesn’t count unless you earn it fair and square.
We learned about gratitude and humility – that so many people had a hand in our success, from the teachers who inspired us to the janitors who kept our school clean. And we were taught to value everyone’s contribution and treat everyone with respect. Those are the values Barack and I – and so many of you – are trying to pass on to our own children. That’s who we are.
And standing before you four years ago, I knew that I didn’t want any of that to change if Barack became president.
Well, today, after so many struggles and triumphs and moments that have tested my husband in ways I never could have imagined, I have seen firsthand that being president doesn’t change who you are– it reveals who you are.
You see, I’ve gotten to see up close and personal what being president really looks like.
And when she spoke of her husband, it wasn’t hard to remember the man we all voted for four years ago…and she slammed it out of the ballpark:
So when it comes to rebuilding our economy, Barack is thinking about folks like my dad and like his grandmother. He’s thinking about the pride that comes from a hard day’s work, that’s why he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to help women get equal pay for equal work. That’s why he cut taxes for working families and small businesses and fought to get the auto industry back on its feet.
That’s how he brought our economy from the brink of collapse to creating jobs again – jobs you can raise a family on, good jobs right here in the United States of America.
When it comes to the health of our families, Barack refused to listen to all those folks who told him to leave health reform for another day, another president. He didn’t care whether it was the easy thing to do politically – that’s not how he was raised – he cared that it was the right thing to do.
He did it because he believes that here in America, our grandparents should be able to afford their medicine…our kids should be able to see a doctor when they’re sick…and no one in this country should ever go broke because of an accident or illness.
And he believes that women are more than capable of making our own choices about our bodies and our health care…that’s what my husband stands for.
Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it…and he wants everyone in this country to have that same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we’re from, or what we look like, or who we love. And he believes that when you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity…you do not slam it shut behind you…you reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.
So, yes, there were a lot of differences to take note of between Michelle and Ann Romney – tangible, visceral and principled differences – but Michelle Obama has not changed since becoming the First Lady. She is still the Mom-In-Chief, who puts her daughters first, and who dreams of a better world for all of America’s children, not just her own:
You see, at the end of the day, my most important title is still “mom-in-chief.”
My daughters are still the heart of my heart and the center of my world.
But today, I have none of those worries from four years ago about whether Barack and I were doing what’s best for our girls.
Because today, I know from experience that if I truly want to leave a better world for my daughters, and all our sons and daughters…if we want to give all our children a foundation for their dreams and opportunities worthy of their promise…if we want to give them that sense of limitless possibility – that belief that here in America, there is always something better out there if you’re willing to work for it…then we must work like never before…and we must once again come together and stand together for the man we can trust to keep moving this great country forward…my husband, our President, President Barack Obama.
Her speech was stunning, she was stunning and if you want to look at an ideal for America, it’s not – and has never been for that matter – the mythical Mayberry that the Republicans try to put forth as our “golden days” that never existed in reality; instead, it is the reality of two people like Barack and Michelle Obama, who are the epitome, the realization of the American Dream and American values, and something we can all aspire to.
WATCH the First Lady’s speech (full transcript here):