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First lady: Barack Obama knows what it’s like to struggle

Updated: October 6, 2012 1:52PM



CHARLOTTE, N.C. — My Kind of Town, Chicago is.

First lady Michelle Obama wowed the Democratic National Convention on its opening night Tuesday, leading a blazing lineup of Chicago political stars in making the case for President Barack Obama’s re-election.

The radiant-looking South Sider, wearing a stunning pink silk print dress, headlined a night that included nationally televised Obama testimonials from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Gov. Pat Quinn, wounded Iraqi War veteran and congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth and a cameo by U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).

In her address to delegates, interrupted by chants of “four more years,” the first lady jabbed Republican Mitt Romney for snubbing U.S. troops in Afghanistan during his GOP convention speech last week in Tampa and outlined how her husband best understands America’s economic plight.

“Barack knows what it means when a family struggles. He knows what it means to want something more for your kids and grandkids,” she said, drawing a roar from the crowd. 

“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,” she said in an even bigger applause line.

Chicago has been pretty much a dirty word in the presidential campaign as far as Republicans are concerned amid a rising murder rate, looming teachers strike and punchline-inducing corruption scandals embodied by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who went to federal prison just months ago.

But convention organizers allowed voters across the country to hear from another side of the City of Big Shoulders, a lineup of political glitterati who loved, knew and worked with Obama and could explain why he deserves a second term.

Emanuel, who served as Obama’s first presidential chief of staff, gave the White House insider’s view, describing his friend and former boss as a “once-in-a-generation president” who saved the auto industry, aimed to fix the nation’s broken health-care system and brought troops home from an unjust, misguided war in Iraq.

Quinn was the attack dog, accusing Romney and running mate Paul Ryan of trying to gut Medicare, lying about Obama’s role in a Janesville, Wis., auto plant closure and smearing Obama’s record on welfare work requirements.

And Duckworth, the wounded Iraqi War veteran running in the 8th Congressional District, was the emissary to the disabled and those in the military or who once served, speaking glowingly of the president’s devotion to veterans’ causes.

But it was the first lady, who is more popular among Americans than her husband, who stole the show with her intimate memories of the man she married and with whom she has two daughters while being a pillar behind his unlikely ascent to the presidency.

“I’ve gotten to see up close and personal what being president really looks like,” the first lady said.

“For Barack, success isn’t about how much money you make, it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives,” she said in yet another applause line.

The first lady focused on the early days of her marriage, a humbling time when they were swimming in student loans.

“We were so young, so in love and so in debt,” she said, adding later: “I love that he’s never forgotten how he’s started.”

She told a story about a young Barack Obama who was raised by a single mother who struggled to pay the bills. And when they began dating, Obama picked her up in a car that was so rusted out: “I could actually see the pavement going by through a hole in the passenger side door.”

She told of how in her most important role as “mom-in-chief” she made sure Sasha and Malia still had quality time with their father.

Even if he happened to be the most powerful man in the world, he didn’t let that get in the way of being with his children, she said.

“That’s the man who sits down with me and our girls every night, patiently answering their questions about issues in the news and strategizing about middle school friendships,” she said. 

The first lady also spoke about the “American spirit,” a point early in her speech when she delivered a slam against Romney, who neglected to mention anything about the sacrifice American troops in Afghanistan have made last week in his convention speech.

Michelle Obama told the story of a “young man blinded by a bomb in Afghanistan who said, simply, ‘…I’d give my eyes 100 times again to have the chance to do what I have done and what I can still do.’”

She ended her speech in a rousing crescendo, playing off the repeated question that at one point was trending on Twitter Tuesday: Were Americans better off than they were before her husband was elected?

Her answer, delivered emotionally and with a few tears:

They will be once her husband is finished with it.

“I know from experience that if I truly want to leave a better world for my daughters and all our sons and daughters … then we must work like never before and we must once again come together … for the man we can trust to keep moving this great country forward, my husband, our president, President Barack Obama.”

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