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First lady tells Chicago donors why to re-elect Obama: He’s ‘awesome’

First lady Michelle Obamhugs woman audience after Illinois Gov. PQuinn signed inlaw measure allowing military personnel their spouses quicker transfer

First lady Michelle Obama hugs a woman in the audience after Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law a measure allowing military personnel and their spouses a quicker transfer of their professional licenses to Illinois during a military relocation, Tuesday, June 26, 2012, in Chicago. Illinois becomes the 23rd state to enact such legislation. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

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Updated: July 28, 2012 6:30AM

First lady Michelle Obama came home to Chicago Tuesday to raise money and rev up two of the top fan bases for her husband’s re-election: women and students.

She also looked on approvingly as Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill to make life a little easier for military families — a cause she and Dr. Jill Biden have championed.

Obama started her day underneath the chandeliers of the Standard Club downtown where a mostly female crowd paid $250 to $5,000 a plate for lunch.

Referring to her husband, who Obama said in her own biased opinion is “awesome,” the first lady said, “He has the wisdom and good judgment to understand why, as women, we must be able to make our own choices about our health care.”

The enthusiastic crowd cheered but not always as loud as she’d like.

“My father was a blue-collar worker at the city water plant, and my family lived in a very small apartment on the South Side,” she said, and waited for South Siders to cheer. The cheers weren’t loud enough.

“South Side!” she said. “It’s fine. It’s fine. Just because I’m the first lady —I know where I’m from: South Side, yes.”

At one point she had to tell donors to sit down, saying, “Don’t act like you don’t know me.”

Obama was introduced by “Glee” star and Dolton native Jane Lynch, who reminded the crowed that the first lady used to be President Barack Obama’s boss when he was an intern at her law firm.

“Will we allow everything we’ve fought for… to just slip away? Is that what we’re going to do?” Obama asked.

“No,” the donors shouted.

“No, we can’t turn back now, not with our daughters sitting here,” she said.

At the Illinois National Guard Armory, Obama said she has toured the country hearing complaints from military spouses — teachers, nurses, social workers, accountants, real estate agents — that every time they land in a new state, it takes them months or as long as a year to activate their professional licenses.

“Every time our country asks them to pick up their families and move across the country on a moment’s notice, they do it, and they do it with pride,” Obama said. “I want all of our military people to know that America does have your backs. We are working every day to make sure we serve you as well as you have served our country.”

Uniformed military applauded and Obama looked on approvingly as Quinn signed legislation creating six-month temporary licenses for military spouses they can use while applying for their permanent licenses.

Her last event of the day was to a young, diverse crowd of about 375 was at the hip Near West Side Venue One, where tickets went for as little as $44.

She connected with the crowd by talking about student loans.

“Most of my tuition came from student loans and grants,” she said, then added, “Yes, a lot of head-nodding going on there. You can relate to that.”

“Tell folks that Barack knows what it’s like to be drowning in student debt,” she said. “Back when we first ... got married, our combined student loan bill was actually higher than our mortgage. And that’s why Barack has worked to double Pell Grants, helping 4 million more students afford the education they need for the jobs of the future.”

The audience went up for grabs as Obama said, “in the end, when it comes time to make that decision as president...” and an audience member interrupted her to say, “He listens to his wife.”

While the first lady raised funds in Chicago, the president did the same in Georgia and Florida.

At both find-raisers the first lady told women to talk to fellow women around the country and students to talk to fellow student.

“If you’re feeling like, ‘Oh, you know what? Chicago is locked down,’ then pack a bag and spend some time in a battleground state. Go to Iowa,” she said.

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