Michelle Obama visits UF

The first lady and a cast of Gator Democrats campaigned for President Obama. 
Obama speaks

First lady Michelle Obama spoke to a crowd of about 10,750 people Monday. She campaigned for her husband’s reelection and encouraged the audience to register to vote. Photo by Wade Millward.

Chants of “orange and blue” and “I said it’s great to be a Florida Gator” erupted from the O’Connell Center along with several full-stadium waves, making the political rally resemble a rowdy Gator basketball game.

Students and Gainesville residents welcomed first lady Michelle Obama to the University of Florida Monday.

Eric Conrad (BA ’10), Obama for America’s deputy press secretary for North Florida, tweeted that 10,750 people came to the event.

Mitt Romney supporters picketed outside the event. According to WUFT News, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s eldest son, George P. Bush, spoke at the nearby Swamp Restaurant.

Gainesville Mayor Craig Lowe (MST ’89), Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith (JD ’75) and Congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) gave speeches before the first lady.

The speakers encouraged the crowd to reelect Barack Obama, highlighting his healthcare act, work with student financial aid and handling of the economy while criticizing the president’s opponent and Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan.

“Gators aren’t satisfied with trying, Gators are satisfied with winning,” Chairman Smith said.

Congresswoman Brown (EDS ’74) held a Gator bracelet she said she’d give to the first lady for her trip to Tallahassee today.

“The fate of this country is in your hands,” she said. “Do it Gators, do it, do it, do it.”

Gainesville Church of God by Faith Bishop James McKnight led the invocation and Obama for America members encouraged the crowd to register to vote.

Romney supporters

Mitt Romney supporters gather outside the event Monday. George P. Bush, son of former Governor Jeb Bush, spoke at the Swamp Restaurant that day as well. Photo by Wade Millward.

Alex Masi (4PR, CLAS), a Gators for Obama co-chairman, introduced the first lady. The 21-year-old said the roar of the crowd drowned out the last words of his speech.

“It was just electrifying,” he said. “I was very proud to represent The Gator Nation today.”

Taking a stage about a half-hour late, the first lady chomped for the crowd and spoke of her husband’s character and values and the importance of family and community. She praised her husband’s decision making and policies, including those related to students, women, immigrants and gays in the military.

“Tell them Barack Obama knows the American dream,” Obama said, “because he’s lived it.”

The first lady directly addressed some mid-speech responses from the crowd, including shouts of “yeah,” “tell them, Michelle” and “love you.”

“I love you, too,” she said to one spectator. “Go vote.”

The first lady acknowledged Florida as a battleground state for this election and said how important voting is and encouraged crowd members to register themselves and convince people they know to register.

“Elections are always about hope,” she said.

Early in her speech, Obama addressed the Gator marching band, which played for her at the Olympics this year.

Bailey Quinn (3CLAS), a 19-year-old saxophonist in the band, said Obama was a “phenomenal speaker.”

“She’s a respectable lady,” Quinn said.

Quinn said playing for the first lady in London was awesome and the band was invited to the event by Obama and didn’t have to wait for tickets.

“It’s nice to be recognized for the work you put in.”

— Wade Millward (3JM)

Michelle Obama chomps
Congresswoman Corrine Brown
Gainesville Mayor Craig Lowe
Rod Smith
Rod Smith
Crowd chomping
Security
Romney supporters
Obama chomp
Crowd holds letters
Obama hugs Masi
Cheering crowd
Obama speaks
Obama speaks
Crowd
Obama greets crowd
Obama greets crowd

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