First lady visits UCF on campaign tour
Published: Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 11, 2012 17:07
Did you attend the rally?
First lady Michelle Obama visited UCF on Tuesday during a campaign tour in Florida. Prepared to get attendees “fired up,” she discussed topics relevant to the student vote including health care reform, the immigration policy and student loan interest rates. The crowd of 2,251 people, ready with their Obama-Biden signs and adorned with Obama 2012 T-shirts and campaign buttons, was ready to hear what she had to say.
“Fired up,” a phrase commonly used by campaigners to describe their passion for getting involved in the grassroots movement, was frequently called out by audience members as she spoke.
Tickets to the event were distributed by UCF’s College Democrats and Organizing for America at four locations in Orlando over the weekend to those who had pre-registered online. Attendees started lining up to enter The Venue at UCF around 1 p.m. While they waited, water was passed out and voter registration cards were offered.
Among those in attendance were members of the College Republicans, who came to the rally to protest.
“Another four years of liberal policies will take us further away from what is needed," College Republicans Secretary Andrew Risavy said. "The fate of the nation hangs in the balance. This is one of the most politically tumultuous times in our nation’s history, and every vote counts.”
To ensure that people were getting involved with the election, there were Organizing for America volunteers speaking to students outside about how they can get involved in the campaign and register to vote if needed.
Freshman psychology major Amanda Matioli, who just turned 18, signed up to volunteer with Organizing for America after the rally. Upon starting at UCF this summer, she joined the College Democrats and is excited to be able to exercise her right to vote in this election.
“I’ve always wanted to get involved," Matioli said. “I lived in a small city before I came here and now was my opportunity.”
Although Obama wasn’t scheduled to speak until 5:30 p.m., doors opened for general seating at 3 p.m. and the rally began about 30 minutes later.
Lynette Acosta, national co-chair for the Obama campaign, began the rally by discussing how important this campaign has been for her, as a Puerto Rican woman. She highlighted the opportunities she’s been given because of Obama’s policies. Retired Army Sgt. Joseph Washington Jr. led the audience in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, which was followed by Pastor Jeffrey Rivera, who recited a prayer for the president and the voters on this election year.
Jennifer Gillespie, an Orlando neighborhood team leader with Organizing for America, continued to rile up the crowd by discussing all the ways she has assisted in the grassroots movement to re-elect the president while the regional field director, Milagro Padilla, spoke in both English and Spanish about how important this election would be for the Hispanic community.
State Rep. Victor Torres was the last to speak prior to Obama taking the stage.
“The president is focused on getting more Americans back to work and creating an economy that’s built to last. There are students like those here at UCF that want to compete in the global economy,” Torres said. “President Obama’s words to the students are: ‘Yes your hard work pays off.’”
Before a 30-minute break, Torres incited the crowd to chant “four more years.” The energy in the room built with anticipation of the first lady coming on stage.
Obama took the stage around 6 p.m. to fight for her husband’s campaign and get the word out to the audience that all he has done, and will continue to do, is always with the public in mind. She flaunted his policies in health care reform that have allowed more than 6 million students to remain on their parents’ health insurance policies until they are 26, allowed women easier access to contraception and provided people the ability to receive preventative care more affordably.
Obama said her husband has worked to secure the middle class and continues to support those who have worked throughout their lives and deserve to enjoy retirement.
“We are here because we want to restore that basic middle class security for our families. … We believe, in America, that responsibility should be rewarded and hard work should pay off,” Obama said. “The truth is these are basic American values.”
“The biggest thing Michelle Obama focused on was what the government has given you. She said the risk is that [Mitt] Romney and the Republicans are going to come take that away from you,” Risavy said. “This is how they get people to vote — because of their dependency on the government – and the Democratic Party has been very effective with that."
Aubrey Marks, president of the College Democrats, had the opportunity to meet Obama before the rally.
“She was a very inspiring lady to be around,” Marks said. “I told her about all the great things we are doing here on campus, and she told us to keep it going and keep up the good work. She reminded me that everything her and her husband do is for us. We just have to keep working to get him re-elected.”
Obama made two stops prior to attending the UCF rally. Her first was in Miami and her second at the Blanchard Park YMCA.
“I hope students are really fired up about her call to them," Marks said. "It’s something that the College Dems have always been a part of. We work hard every day to re-elect the president.”
In her closing remarks, Obama reminded the audience that, in America, there is always something better for you as long as you are willing to work for it.
She left the audience with one question: “Are you all in?”
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