Michelle Obama urges young voters to ‘stay focused’


Originally published in The Metropolitan. Sept. 25, 2008

Michelle Obama said she is impressed with the young people she’s met while traveling the country campaigning for her husband, Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama.

“They’ve been everything you hoped our young people would be,” she said on a conference call with college media.

She said her husband’s campaign would never have succeeded without its young supporters.

“We need all the young people who have been involved to stay focused,” she said. “This election will determine the course for an entire generation.”

The lack of involvement by young people in previous elections has been because politicians haven’t paid attention to them, Obama said.

“Young people have already made a huge impact on the election,” she said. “We’ve taken the grassroots aspect of this campaign very seriously.”

“Many young people have seen the future in this candidate,” she said.

The fact that students are leaving college with an average of $22,000 in debt and that the average age of

American fatalities in Iraq is 21 has caught the attention of young people and their vote, Obama said.

“As you can imagine, the next president will have a huge opportunity to make a difference between war and peace,” she said.

Obama said it’s important that everyone votes and, more importantly, is informed about the issues and candidates.

Her husband wants to raise the money awarded in Pell Grants to keep up with the cost of higher education and end in the war in Iraq responsibly, she said.

Other goals include improving health care and creating new jobs with clean energy.

Republican camps are also working to attract the youth vote. Spokesman Tom Kise said the campaign has been reaching out across the country to college Republican groups on the Internet.

“We’re engaging with them and talking to them about the issues that impact them,” Kise said.

Kailei Higginson, Chairman of Metro’s College Republicans, said his party’s officials have refocused their efforts to the younger generation.

“There’s been a reawakening in the party, largely due to the success of Sen. Obama’s success on campuses,” he said. “Once upon a time, college Republicans used to be the largest nationwide organization on campuses due to Ronald Reagan.”

Kise, however, was more skeptical about the youth vote having a major impact on the election. He said his party is going to wait and see what happens on Election Day.

“We’ve yet to cast our votes,” he said.