Michelle Obama relays Barack’s message



Meredith Davisson

Michelle Obama, wife to presidential hopeful Barack Obama and potential first lady, spoke to an audience that filled the Jake Nevin Field House on March 13 at 6 p.m. in the Democratic Party’s first official appearance at Villanova.

Obama made three stops in Pennsylvania on March 13: St. George’s Church in Ardmore and Abington High School in Abington before her last stop at the Jake Nevin Field House.

She delivered an hour-long speech to the 2,500-member audience, which was composed of both Villanova students and area residents.

Dozens of volunteers swarmed the site, offering to register people to vote before they entered the gymnasium.

In her speech, Obama, a Princeton graduate, spoke about her personal upbringing as well as her husband’s, highlighting the fact that they both come from working-class families.

“I am the product of a blue collar family from the Southside of Chicago,” she said. “I am a product of public education. I am the product of hard-working people and parents who care.”

Among her most notable points in her speech were universal health care, student debt and the war in Iraq.

She also related the difficulties that her husband faced obtaining his Senate seat to the opposition that he is receiving now in the presidential race and the qualities that he will bring to the office.

“Just close your eyes and imagine a president who can respect other cultures and traditions without fear,” she said. “We haven’t seen that in a leader in a long time.”

“I think that Michelle visiting Villanova helped the campus realize that we are going to play a huge role in the upcoming election,” said senior Cait Taylor, campus coordinator of Villanova Students for Barack Obama. “Our generation has not experienced an election in which it seemed that every vote mattered and would help decide the winner.”

The turnout was much higher than anticipated by both the Obama campaign, as well as Villanova administration.

The student reaction inside the building to Obama’s appearance was also overwhelmingly positive.

“The rally was a wonderful experience,” sophomore Richard Riley said. “I can relate to Michelle Obama’s background, so she really spoke to my situation. I think she represented her husband and his campaign very well.”

“I was glad that she addressed No Child Left Behind, a specific policy issue,” senior Madeline Dorger said.

“I was happy to hear her mention student loans and the way that they affect the career decisions of recent gradates,” senior Amy Knop-Narbutis said.

There was, however, some opposition to the Obama campaign before the rally.

A few protesters, including Christians against Obama, made their presence known outside the Field House by voicing their displeasure with Barack and Michelle Obama’s stance on abortion as students were filing in.

“In my opinion Obama does represent Catholic values,” Taylor said of the controversy. “He stands for protecting the environment, preserving life by ending the war in Iraq and most importantly compassion towards others.  I think that is the keystone of the Catholic faith.”

Villanova Students for Barack Obama, a recently formed chapter of the national campaign, only had one week to plan the rally.

Taylor and student member Oscar Abello introduced Obama before her speech.

“Villanova’s chapter of SFBO was formally created in the middle of February when I returned to school from campaigning in South Carolina and Maryland,” Taylor said. 

The group has about seven student organizers, a core group of 20 who show up to every event and a growing mailing list that includes students and professors alike. 

They also have a Facebook group with around 150 members who receive bulletins regularly.

The three presidential nominees have been campaigning heavily in Pennsylvania recently in anticipation for the April 22 Pennsylvania primary. The primary will award 158 delegates to its winner, increasing its importance for the Democratic front-runners.

As Obama noted in her speech, “The only thing that really counts now is this state.”

On the same day, Sen. John McCain was also in Philadelphia fundraising.

“As the election gets closer, we will have many more events on campus,” Taylor said. “We are hoping that the campaign will recognize Villanova as the perfect location for Barack [Obama] to visit and energize the entire Main Line to vote.  As of right now, nothing official is scheduled.”