(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) — First lady Michelle Obama lit up the Democratic National Convention Tuesday night, telling the nation in an emotional speech that President Obama knows what it is to struggle, and for him the economic hardships facing the country “aren’t political, they’re personal.”
The self-described mom-in-chief recalled her own father who went to work almost daily despite suffering from multiple sclerosis, but worked through his illness in order to help pay the college tuition for Mrs. Obama and her brother.
She also spoke about President Obama’s family.
“Barack was raised by a single mother who struggled to pay the bills and by grandparents who stepped in when she needed help,” she said.
Later she recalled the early days of their marriage when their college tuition debts were larger than their mortgage.
“We were so young, so in love, and so in debt,” Mrs. Obama said.
And it’s those memories that guide President Obama’s decision-making in the White House. “When it comes to rebuilding our economy, Barack is thinking about folks like my dad and his grandmother,” she said.
“Barack knows what it means when a family struggles … Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it,” she said.
She also defended the controversial health care reform law, framing the president as a politically brave leader, who “refused to listen to all those folks who told him to leave health reform for another day, another president. He didn’t care whether it was the easy thing to do politically,” she said. “That’s not how he was raised — he cared that it was the right thing to do.”
Mrs. Obama took center stage Tuesday night in a sleeveless metallic pink dress designed by Tracy Reese, and the president watched his wife at the White House with their two daughters Sasha and Malia. Speaking Tuesday morning in the battleground state of Virginia, he praised his wife, saying that the convention is “just like a relay, and you start out with the fastest person.”
The first lady never mentioned Mitt Romney’s name, but gave a clear rebuttal to Republicans who claim that Obama has tried to demonize Romney’s wealth.
“They didn’t begrudge anyone else’s success or care that others had much more than they did. In fact, they admired it,” Mrs. Obama said.
She also made a subtle dig at Romney and the Republicans, saying her husband “believes that when you’ve worked hard and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you.”
Like Ann Romney a week ago, Michelle Obama made a play for the women’s vote, saying, “[Obama] believes that women are more than capable of making our own choices about our bodies and our health care — that’s what my husband stands for.”
Towards the end of her remarks, Michelle Obama offered a valentine to her husband. “I didn’t think it was possible, but today I love my husband even more than I did four years ago, even more than I did 23 years ago.”
Obama will head to North Carolina Wednesday afternoon ahead of his acceptance speech Thursday night.
Michelle Obama was introduced by Elaine Brye of Winona, Ohio. Brye is a mother of five, four of whom are currently serving in the military. “A teacher, wife, and mom, Elaine’s connection to the service is deep-rooted: She grew up with a father who served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam,” the campaign said.
After entering the hall to Stevie Wonder, Michelle Obama exited to wild applause and Beyonce’s “Move Your Body,” a re-mix of the singer’s “Get Me Bodied” made specially for the first lady’s “Let’s Move” fitness campaign.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Eric Bradner, CNN
Cimaron Neugebauer, KUTV
Eric Bradner, Jeff Zeleny and Shimon Prokupecz, CNN