Michelle Obama shares husband's personal side
Michelle Obama declared "I love this country" at the Democratic National Convention yesterday, as she sought to reassure the country that she and her husband, Barack, share Americans' bedrock values. In the first major address at the convention, Mrs Obama described herself as a daughter, a sister, a wife and a mother, no different from many women. She told a boisterous crowd waving signs reading "Michelle" that she and her husband feel an obligation to "fight for the world as it should be" to ensure the promise of a better life for their daughters and all children.
Mrs Obama talked about tucking in her daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, at night. "I think about how one day, they'll have families of their own. And one day, they - and your sons and daughters - will tell their own children about what we did together in this election. They'll tell them how this time, we listened to our hopes, instead of our fears. How this time, we decided to stop doubting and to start dreaming," she said.
Mrs Obama's mission was to humanise her husband and persuade sceptical voters to look past his unusual name and exotic background to envision him as the next president. Barack Obama has repeatedly faced questions about whether he is a real American. She also used the address to dismiss questions about her patriotism. Republicans have criticised her comments earlier this year that she was "really proud" of her country for the first time in her adult life. Her answer at the convention was to express her love of country.
The Obamas' two daughters joined their mother on stage after the speech as Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely" blared inside the convention hall. They spoke to Barack Obama, who appeared by satellite connection from Missouri. "How about Michelle Obama?" he asked the crowd. "Now you know why I asked her out so many times even though she said no. You want a persistent president." The girls responded to their father on the giant screen with "Hi, Daddy!" and "I love you, Daddy."
Mrs Obama did not explicitly address race, but allaying concerns among white voters was part of the strategy for the first black nominee of a major party. "Barack doesn't care where you're from, or what your background is, or what party - if any - you belong to. That's not how he sees the world," she said. "He knows that thread that connects us - our belief in America's promise, our commitment to our children's future - is strong enough to hold us together as one nation even when we disagree."
She joked about his love of basketball and his overcautious driving when he drove their first daughter home from the hospital. Some in the audience could be seen crying as she spoke. She also described her husband's upbringing by a single mother and grandparents who "scrimped and saved so that he could have opportunities they never had themselves." E-mails and videos circulating on the internet criticised him for attending a church that promoted black culture, for not wearing a flag pin on his lapel, for not putting his hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance.
They suggested - falsely - that he was secretly Muslim. Michelle Obama's job was to show voters they have nothing to fear. She said little about his policies beyond quickly mentioning his goal of ending the Iraq war, improving the economy and providing health care for those who need it. Michelle Obama drew enthusiastic cheers by praising Hillary Clinton for putting "those 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling" - a reference to the failed Democratic candidate's vote total in the primaries.
The crowd also roared when she was introduced by her brother, Craig Robinson, the head basketball coach at Oregon State University. Mr Robinson noted that she memorized every episode of "The Brady Bunch" TV comedy and praised her passion for helping others. Mr Robinson also offered a political analysis of Barack Obama's basketball skills: "He's a team player who improves the people around him, and he won't back down from any challenge." * AP
Published: August 26, 2008 04:00 AM