By Christina Elias / Elon News Network
RALEIGH, N.C. – During First Lady Michelle Obama’s Tuesday rally for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, Obama spoke about the importance of the 2016 presidential election and how key issues will unfold over the course of the next presidency.
Obama spoke at Reynolds Coliseum at North Carolina State University after delivering remarks in Charlotte earlier in the day. There was mixed attendance of university students and older voters from the area, totaling an estimated 6,000 people.
She regularly referenced the importance of voting and told attendees how to get involved, as volunteers registered students before and after the event on the behalf of the Clinton campaign.
Obama also referenced the frustration felt by supporters of former Democratic presidential nominee Bernie Sanders and the subsequent lack of interest by some in the political system.
“We can’t afford to be tired, or turned off, not now,” Obama said. “…While this might feel like a time of uncertainty and division, when I look out at crowds like this – at our young people, I have never felt more hopeful about the future of this great nation.”
Obama recognized that some voters may not feel excited about Clinton’s candidacy, but said she is “inspired by her lifelong record of public service.”
“It is not about voting for the perfect candidate,” Obama said. “There is no such thing. Presidents are human.”
She said this is her last campaign event before election day.
“What I want you to understand is I don’t have to be here,” she said. “I do this because I truly believe that this election matters. I truly want for our young people to have a president they can look up to.”
Obama indirectly criticized Trump’s behavior and treatment of certain groups in the United States – specifically women, minorities, those with disabilities and veterans – saying his behavior now will carry onto his presidency if he were to win in November.
“Sadly, that’s who that candidate is and that’s the kind of president they will be,” she said. “So trust me, a candidate is going to suddenly change once they’re in office.”
During the rally, students in the crowd showed their support for the Obamas and Clinton by clapping and cheering throughout.
Catie Mason, a junior studying neurobiology at NC State, said while there has been much discussion of getting young people involved in the election, all of her friends are planning on voting.
“I don’t think a lot of people my age are abstaining from voting,” she said.
She said she admires the First Lady’s stances because they align with her own views.
“I like that she supports Hillary because she has a real understanding of what the job entails,” Mason said.
Junior natural resources major Kelly Paige Arrup said she enjoyed hearing Obama’s idealism about the future.
“I liked her statement about not letting anyone take away your hope, and [to not] let anyone tell you that prejudice is what makes America great,” she said.
Junior Iveth Gomez, who is studying nursing, said she appreciated Obama’s comments about college affordability and attempts to reach out to the younger crowd members.
“She really supports us not having any debt when we graduate,” she said. “I feel like it is geared a lot toward us because student debt is a big problem for many students here.”
Mason said she was originally planning on voting for former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, but changed her mind when he didn’t win the nomination.
“A lot of their stances are similar, so it wasn’t much of a transition,” she said.
Clinton has been criticized as not appealing to young people throughout her campaign, something former Democratic rival Bernie Sanders tried to exploit in the primaries, but Mason disagreed. Junior Sreeja Sridharan, a neurobiology major, also said she doesn’t think it’s an issue for Clinton.
“She’s gotten better at [relating to young people],” Sridharan said. “A lot of millennials were with Bernie Sanders, and as soon as she was running against Trump, people were like, ‘We can’t have him as president.’”
Former governor of North Carolina Jim Hunt also emphasized the future when he spoke before Obama.
“We have an obligation to leave a better world for the next generation,” Hunt said. “Hillary Clinton understands that obligation.”