APPLETON -- First Lady Michelle Obama used her address today at Lawrence University to urge the audience – which was filled with students – to stay active throughout the presidential campaign and get out the vote.
"We need to turn the energy from this rally into action," she said while speaking to a boisterous crowd of about 2,400 people packed inside Alexander Gym. "We need to keep working right up to the very end. We cannot turn back now. We've come so far, but we have a lot more to do."
With the election less than 40 days away, the first lady said that a handful of votes could make all the difference in the result and encouraged students to vote early so "they don't procrastinate or forget" once Election Day comes.
Obama said her husband faced enormous challenges when he took office back in January 2009, but that much progress has been made. She pointed to economic growth – "we are now adding jobs, no longer losing jobs" – the end of the war in Iraq and the passage of the Affordable Care Act. "What we accomplished with health care shows you a lot about the character of Barack. He didn't care about doing what was easy; he cared about doing what was right."
The first lady focused much of her 30-minute speech on her husband's character and said he's always thinking about the American people in every decision he makes.
"Barack believes in the value of hard work and that if you do that, you will be able to build a better life for your children and grandchildren. He also believes you don't slam the door of opportunity behind you, but that you reach back and help other people through," Obama said. "He also knows that truth matters and it's important we have a president who tells us the truth, not just what we want to hear."
With so many women and college students in the crowd, she targeted some of her comments directly at them.
"Barack is a man who will always have your back," she said, addressing the women in the crowd. "He has improved your access to health care and realizes you should be the ones to decide what's right for your bodies."
For the college students present, Obama talked about the president's efforts to increase the amount of Pell Grants available to students. "We know what it's like to graduate from college with tons of debt. We've been there and lived that," she said.
Before Obama took the stage, former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, who lost in 2010 to Republican Ron Johnson, warmed up the crowd and talked about the importance of re-electing the president. Feingold is currently a visiting professor at Lawrence.
"We still have work to do and we can't go back to the failed policies that got us in such a terrible mess," he said.