I admit it: While I am delighted that we again have a MOMocrats contingency at the Democratic National Convention — I’ve been somewhat whiny about the fact that this time around, I didn’t get to go.
While my colleagues are in Charlotte attending caucus meetings and meeting delegates and legislators, I am holding down the fort – managing this blog, our newsletters and our podcast. And I’m trying really, really hard not to feel jealous every time one of them posts a photo of an event that looks amazing to be part of.
But I got a consolation prize this morning: The opportunity to sit in on a conference call with First Lady Michelle Obama, who gave us a preview of what she’ll be saying in her keynote speech tonight.
I did not record the call, so what follows are my furiously typed notes, which I’ve managed to clean up a little. So these are not direct quotes — but do relay the gist of what she said and what we can expect to hear from her this evening:
Tonight I’m looking forward to reminding people across the country about the qualities and experience that make my husband the man and President he is.
I’ve had an upclose look at what Barack has done to move this country forward and rebuild the economy.
[Tonight I will be reminding us] why we need to give him the chance to finish the job he was elected to do four years ago.
[I will be talking about] what’s on the line for women in this year’s election. I know that moms are busy with school starting up, I’m wondering how Malia and Sasha’s first day is going. This is a busy time of year. I think this time of year puts everything into perspective because we’re doing everything that we can to prepare our children for the next coming school year, but many of the issues we are debating in this election are going to affect them in the future and affect their children’s futures as well.
Barack knows every single woman in this country should have access to the full range of health services… because he fought so hard for historic healthcare reform, insurance companies now have to cover basic preventive care at no extra cost. And they can no longer charge women more for our coverage just because we’re women. Our kids can now stay on our insurance until they are 26 years old, so our young people right when they are starting out in life don’t need to lose their coverage.
All of that comes on top of the other benefits included in health reform: stopping insurance companies from discriminating against folks because they have what the insurance companies call a pre-existing condition – which could be asthma or [another ailment]. If you get breast cancer, right when you need expensive treatment, the insurance compapny can’t say sorry, you’ve reached your limit [and cut you off].
We as voters are to choose whether we want to keep these reforms and all these accomplishments or whether we’re going to see these repealed.
Barack believes a woman who puts in the same days’ work as a man deserves the same pay. That ‘s why the first thing he did in office was he signed the Lily Ledbetter Act.
When so many women are now breadwinners for our families in this country, women’s success in the economy is key to families’ success in the economy.
Barack understands these aren’t just women’s issues, they’re really family issues, that affect our communities and the economy.
That’s why he’s investing in good schools and making college affordable, so all our kids can attend without a mountain of debt – so hard work pays off so all our daughters and sons can have a fair shot.
[It’s important] that we all understand what’s at stake in November, because while we’ve come a long way in Barack’s first term, it is critical that we continue moving forward – not just in the next four years but in decades to come.
In all fairness, we owe this to women to really understand what health reform means for us and the differences in these candidates in issues like education so that women across the country are voting on facts and not misinformation.
The First Lady finished her remarks and took a couple of calls. The first was from Essence magazine news editor Wendy Wilson: “What has the last four years meant to you personally?” Mrs. Obama replied:
I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to meet some really amazing people all over the country. If I think about it, getting to meet these people has been the most meaningful part, because the stories they have shared have really inspired me and kept me focused and reminded me, as Barack said, that we have so much more in common than the differences.
Some of the moments that stand out for me over the last four years…I think about that first moment when I heard about the Supreme Court decision to uphold healthcare reform. I remember because I was with my team traveling on the plane… we all erupted in cheers. I thought well, I wanted to give Barack a call, because I wanted to congratulate him and I thought this would be our high five moment. [But] his reaction was calm, level headed and he wasn’t in a high five mood. [He said] the victory belonged to the people around the country who fought [for the healthcare law]. It wasn’t about him, it was about the people who didn’t have the coverage they need when they were sick. This is why Barack inspires me. He’s always focused on how he’s going to make people’s lives better.
I also learned – because we had young people on the plane – several young people on that plane in their 20s and early 30s were breathing a sigh of relief, because several of them unbeknonwst to me had a pre-exisiting condition, like asthma. Here they were – talented young people who weren’t sure they’d get coverage when their jobs in government ended.
Barack never loses sight at times when many of those around him do.
The second question was asked by a reporter from Yahoo! Shine (I believe it was Lylah M. Alphonse): A candidate’s wife is supposed to make candidate more likable, but President Obama’s likability rating is high, so what is your role now?
I think my job tonight is to remind people of who my husband is, because even though he’s a very likable President, he is the President and it’s a very serious role and sometimes it is important to remind the room of who he is; his character.
I want people to know Barack is still that leader driven by core values and principles that made him want to do this incredibly tough job in the first place.
It gives me an opportunity to reminisce about our lives together and how both of our upbringing have affected us today, and how it affects his policy position in everything he does. And why he’s committed to building the economy from the middle class out, because both of us were brought up in working class families. I’m going to spend some time talking about that.
Hopefully they will receive my remarks well. That is my hope in the end.