Baltimore, Md– In a historic visit to Morgan State University, First Lady Michelle Obama Sept. 21 called for a repeat of the massive voter turnout in 2008 that helped make her husband the nation’s first Black president, warning an electrified crowd that the 2012 is still a close one.
In a speech—the first by a sitting first lady at Morgan– that addressed, in detail, the Obama administration’s accomplishments in health care, job creation and education, she stressed that her husband took over the Oval Office at a time when the U.S. economy was in dire straits.
Her appearance at Morgan was the first of two stops for the first lady at Maryland fund raising events Sept. 21. Tickets were $250
The Morgan event was chaired by Calvin H. Baker, a managing director and senior portfolio manager, of Brown Capital Management and co-chaired by Mike Cryor, the former chair of the Maryland Democratic Party and a graduate of Morgan.
Charnelle Bacon, a senior at the university, had the unique experience of introducing the star of the evening.
The crowd erupted as the first lady took the podium attired in a black dress with a tan pattern, completed by black pumps.
"Mortgages were underwater, banks weren’t lending, companies weren’t hiring and the auto industry was in crisis, said Mrs. Obama. “This economy was losing 800,000 jobs every single month and a lot of people wondering if we were headed into a great depression."
Rallying the crowd behind the man she said she married because of his “character” and “integrity,” the first lady pointed out that Pell Grants, the primary source of student financial aid, have been doubled for college students, that more than four million jobs that have been created and restored, and that the nation has seen a surge in environment enhancing green energy sources.
The woman who described herself as "Mom-in-Chief" also explained how the Affordable Care Act has already resulted in reduced prescription prices for senior citizens and the assurance that health insurance cannot be denied for a pre-existing medical condition.
But the first lady also voiced a stern warning: the November election will be a close one.
"We won Virginia by about 235,000 votes [in 2008]. That might sound like a lot, but when you break that number down- that's just 100 votes per precinct,” she said.
She underscored her warning by pointing out the narrow margin of votes that changed North Carolina into a win for Obama on election night in 2008.
"We won that by just 14,000- that's just five votes per precinct," she said. "That could mean just one vote in a neighborhood or one vote in a dorm room."
"If there is anyone that thinks for one second their vote doesn't matter- think about this- you can swing one precinct for Barack Obama all by yourself."
The massive crowd began to form hours before the doors opened at the 2,036-seat James H. and Louise Hayley Gilliam Concert Hall for the 3 p.m. event.
Young and old of all colors wrapped around the Carl J. Murphy Fine Arts Center to hear First Lady Michelle Obama speak on the campus of Morgan State University today.
Chatter and laughter filled the air as people crowded down the sidewalk outside of the venue on Argonne Boulevard all the way to the intersection at Hillen Road.
Students showed their pride as they came out in every shade of orange and blue to hear the words of the first African-American woman to ever call the White House “home.”
"I wanted to support the campaign and I'm a fan of Mrs. Obama," said Isahq Rana, 18, a freshman physical therapy major at the university. " I like the way she speaks," he said, adding that he was very impressed with the delivery of the first lady’s speech at the Democratic National Convention.
Students from other area universities, such as Johns Hopkins and Loyola, could be seen mixed in with the crowd of university alumni, faculty, staff, area residents and staunch Obama fans from around the city and state.
Secret Service agents, along with officers from Baltimore and Morgan State’s police forces were in heavy presence. Helicopters flew overhead and dogs routinely searched the building and area parking lots.
The appearance was not heavily advertised and a message to the Morgan community from President David Wilson was only sent out on Sept. 18
Morgan alumnae Barbara A. Sawyer, a retired administrator for Baltimore City Public Schools, received her tickets as a surprise from her daughter.
The 61-year-old said that she also thought it was important to help the re-election effort and support the woman she called an "articulate and elegant" speaker.
"Its up to us, the voters, to make change in Washington and get those people out of office that are stifling change," said Sawyer, wearing her Sigma Gamma Rho Inc. pin and dressed in her finest royal blue and gold.
"I have every faith that President Obama is going to make it four more years."
For many, the chance to hear the first lady speak was viewed as a once in a lifetime opportunity.
"I've never see any first lady so I thought it would be a good experience, said area resident Candace McCray, 20.”I heard about it on the radio Tuesday and got my ticket online."
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake and other city and state officials could be seen socializing in the James E. Lewis Museum of Art before the event.
Senators Barbara Mikulski (D) and Ben Cardin (D), Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), and Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) all took to the stage prior to the first lady.
"We've got to give the president a better Congress to work with," said Gov. Martin O'Malley (D- Md.), citing an uncooperative Republican party that voted down Obama’s bills on everything from jobs to education simply because they didn’t want to see him take another term.
The former mayor of Baltimore got a hearty laugh out of the crowd when he shared his belief that Republicans "wouldn't pass gas if they thought it would help the president."
Registration in the Baltimore area for the 2012 election will close on Oct. 16 at 9 p.m.