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August 29, 2014, 2:01 am

First lady speaks of middle class values

Supporters of President Barack Obama, who gave first lady Michelle Obama an enthusiastic reception in Philadelphia this week, were confident that he would win a second term — while admitting he has a tough battle ahead of him.

The first lady spoke to a crowd of about 1,100 vocal Democratic supporters on Wednesday at the National Constitution Center.

“Nothing is ever easy,” said Zakiyyah Abdul-Raheem of West Philadelphia, who said she came to see Michelle Obama as a way to show her support for the president.

“He’s done a wonderful job,” she said. “But, he’s been blocked ever since he took office. He’s tried to do everything he’s promised.”

Michelle Obama urged Philadelphians to get out the vote for the president on Nov. 6.

The upcoming election will be a first for Pennsylvania — in that for the first time voters will be required to show a valid, state-approved photo identification before they are permitted to cast their ballot. Critics say the measure will keep the young, the poor, senior citizens and minorities from the polls. Abdul-Raheem said she had a photo ID and was ready to vote.

“I’m making it my personal mission to make sure every senior citizen in Philadelphia has one,” she said.

The first lady wrapped her appeal for support in the narrative of her and the president’s working class roots, appealing to all age groups and demographics to throw their support to her husband.

“It’s not just because we want to win an election — which we do. We’re doing this because of the values that we have. We’re doing this because of the vision for this country that we all share,” she said. “We want to restore that basic middle class security for our families in this country.”

Her vision sprang from her own family roots, she said.

“You all know my story. My father was a blue-collar worker at the city water plant. My family, we lived in a little-bitty apartment on the South Side of Chicago,” she said. “My parents never had the kinds of educational opportunities that me and my brother had. But let me tell you, growing up, I saw how they saved and they sacrificed, and they poured everything they had into me and my brother — because they wanted us to have the kind of education they could only dream of.”

Achievement like that is more difficult today, she said, adding that she and the president hoped to restore it.

“We believe that responsibility should be rewarded and that hard work should pay off. We believe that everyone should do their fair share and play by the same rules,” she said. “These are basic American values. They’re the values that so many of us were raised with, including myself.”

Speaking just 152 days before the election, Michelle Obama visited the city on the day that Franklin & Marshall released a poll showing the president with a 12 point lead in Pennsylvania.

Her speech seemed to galvanize supporters.

Reynold Gordon of Mount Airy compared the speech to Barack’s 2004 speech at the Democratic Convention.

“Hope for changes started that day,” he said, acknowledging that the president has a long road ahead of him. “As tough as it will be, we will eventually win.”

Gordon too, said he had a photo ID and would not be barred from voting.

“I would show them two or three IDs,” he said. “Everyone has the right to vote.”

Victoria Jones of Center City said she too intended to vote for the president in the fall.

“He’s helping all people,” she said. “He’s trying to get people jobs.”

Jones was already prepared for Election Day with a photo ID as required by a new state law.

“It was inspiring,” said Mohamed KaKay, 23, of West Philadelphia. “She is a great advocate for her husband. She touched on a lot of political issues that are relevant to me.”

KaKay said he voted for Barack in 2008 and intends to do so again.

“I was so close to her — I have to vote for her husband,” he said. “She’s definitely a good first lady.”

Obama, in a broad acknowledgement of the importance of the people in the audience, said her husband couldn’t do it “without the kind of grassroots work that you all are doing. That work is at the core of this campaign. It’s everything we’re about.”

It was the second time in just a few months that the first lady has visited Philadelphia.

In April, she visited the University of Pennsylvania to roll out one of the administration’s health care initiatives.


Contact staff writer Eric Mayes at (215) 893-5742 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .