BY MACKENZIE REAGAN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama spoke at Mason on Friday, Sept. 16 on behalf of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Supporters lined up as early as 8:30 a.m. for the afternoon event. The crowd stretched from Johnson Center, where the event took place, to the Northern Neck residence hall on the north side of campus. The Center, the atrium level of which holds little more than 300 people, would soon be filled to the brim with students, campaign volunteers and local politicians.
Brenda Hooper, a volunteer with AARP’s Take a Stand campaign, called Clinton “Well-experienced; she’s a real people person. … Experience means a lot.” Clinton is an ardent supporter of Social Security.
The crowd was upbeat and occasionally cheering for Clinton, who was campaigning in North Carolina the previous day after a bout of pneumonia.
The only visible non-supporters were Tom and Mary Ellen McElfresh, who quietly passed out anti-abortion literature.
“[Our goal is to] educate people who might not know that the candidate they support supports killing babies,” Mary Ellen McElfresh said.
At 1 p.m., the doors opened, and supporters poured into the Johnson Center. Girl-power anthems, a staple of the Clinton campaign, blasted over the PA system.
U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly stepped up to the podium around 2:20 p.m.
“Imagine if our founders were listening to [Trump]—They would say the choice in this election is no choice at all,” he said. “Virginia is for lovers. … We’re gonna choose love over hate in this election.” Rep. Connolly represents Virginia’s 11th District, which encompasses much of Northern Virginia.
Interim Democratic National Committee Chairman Donna Brazile and U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott (VA-3) both gave brief speeches following Connolly touting Clinton’s experience.
“Are you registered to vote?” asked Brazile, to thunderous applause from the crowd. Volunteers were placed throughout the Johnson Center with clipboards to register students.
Just after 3:00 p.m., the First Lady took the stage in her first campaign appearance for Clinton. While never mentioning Donald Trump by name, Obama denounced many of his positions, including his longstanding claim—which he’d renounced just hours prior to Obama’s speech—that the President was not born in the U.S
She took another jab at the GOP candidate, declaring, “the presidency [and campaigning] does not change who you are. It reveals who you are.”
Obama chastised Trump’s propensity for social media squabbles.
“We need someone who is steady and measured. …A president can’t just pop off,” she said, too cheers. “We need someone who’s compassionate, someone who’s unifying, someone who will be a role model for our kids.”
“Well, for me, I’m just saying, it is excruciatingly clear that there is only one person … with the the qualifications and the temperament for that job,” Obama said.
She listed various phases of Clinton’s political career: lawyer, first lady, senator and most recently, Secretary of State during President Obama’s first term.
“[W]hen [Clinton] gets knocked down, she doesn’t complain or cry foul. No, she gets right back up and she comes back stronger for the people who need her the most,” Michelle Obama said.
“So, George Mason, Virginia, as you prepare to make this decision, I urge you, I beg of you to ignore the chatter and the noise and ask yourselves, which candidate really has the experience, the maturity, and the demeanor [for the presidency]?” she asked.
After the speech, junior Amanda Jackson mulled the speech on her way through the crowd exiting the building.
“It was different. I’ve never been to a campaign rally before,” she said, before adding, “I’m still stuck on Bernie.”
For supporters, the speech only reaffirmed their support of the First Lady and of Clinton.
“[Obama’s] the bomb. Number one. The best,” organizer Drew D’Alelio said after the event.