UAW Local 1097

Women the focus as delegates hear inspiring speech from Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama's speech touched the delegates at the Democratic Convention. UAW delegates say that will be important as Democrats reach out to voters. Photos by John Davis/UAW Local 2195.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Perhaps the old saying about a woman scorned needs to updated to reflect the 2012 presidential campaign: “Hell hath no fury like a woman whose rights are messed with.”

Convention delegates Kelli Harrison of UAW Local 2488 and Mary Bingenheimer of UAW Local 1268 appreciated the speeches Tuesday at the 2012 Democratic National Convention (DNC), given by first lady Michelle Obama, Lily Ledbetter and others. They loved seeing the many female officeholders who gathered on the stage. Women, they believe, may well hold the key to President Obama’s victory in November.

Lily Ledbetter
Lily Ledbetter’s lawsuit over pay discrimination became the basis of the first law President Obama signed.
The 2012 Republican platform would outlaw abortion – even in cases of rape and incest.

It seeks to make contraception harder for women to obtain, and says nothing about paycheck equity.

Ledbetter’s lawsuit over pay discrimination became the basis of the first law President Obama signed.

“They ticked off the wrong gender because they’re all going to come out and vote in November,” Harrison, a Mitsubishi worker from Normal, Ill., said as she got ready for the convention’s second day and a prime-time speech by UAW President Bob King on Wednesday night.


Mary Bingenheimer
Bingenheimer: Inspired by women officeholders on DNC stage.

Bingenheimer, a Chrysler worker from Belvidere, Ill., loved seeing the women who gathered on the stage, which is a testimony to how far female elected officials have come.

“That was very inspirational to me, to see all the women that ran and were elected,” she added.

Both Illinois women, naturally, were very excited to see Michelle Obama, not only because she is an excellent speaker who relates the president’s humble beginnings so well, but because as political activists in President Obama’s home state, they have followed her for years.

As usual, the first lady didn’t disappoint.

“She really speaks from the heart,” Harrison said. “She still speaks today the same way she did before he was president. I think they [voters] are going to relate to her. How can you not relate to someone who is as compassionate as she is?”

Daraka Larimore-Hall, a teaching assistant at the University of California and a member of UAW Local 2865, also thought Michele Obama connected well with the audience. He was pleased that the first lady reminded delegates that her husband hasn’t changed and neither have the values he holds dear.

“I think the message of Michele Obama’s speech is that President Obama is the same man who excited the country in 2008. He’s the same man who has a passion for justice and he’s the same man who turned down lucrative jobs to help unemployed steel workers,” the Santa Barbara, Calif., resident said.

“Around me every other set of eyes were tearing up,” he added. “She really touched people in a personal way. That’s crucial for cutting through the lies and rhetoric we get from the other side.”

Larimore-Hall said he was anticipating tonight’s activities, including King’s remarks.

“Yesterday was a lot about addressing the accomplishments of the past, and tonight will be about hope for the future,” he said.

Chris Roberts, a University of Washington graduate assistant and instructor, and member of UAW Local 4121, said: “The first lady knows it’s important that we help others who come after us – to ensure that everyone is able to achieve the American Dream. As an educator and a new father, my most important responsibility is to my son and the next generation of Americans. We must continue to invest in the future.”

UAW delegate Bonnie Lauria was inspired not only by the first lady’s address, but also by the speakers who addressed women’s issues that have come up in the presidential campaign.

Lauria, 70, is attending the DNC for the fifth time in her life and still finds excitement in hearing the variety of speakers talking about issues important to her.

“Democrats get it,” said Lauria, a UAW Local 362 retiree.

“The speakers talked about issues that were relevant to me and the diverse audience, issues that affect the middle class and why we need the middle class to thrive,” said Lauria. “What’s important to me are Medicare, women’s rights and the auto industry. All of those areas were talked about. It made me feel good to hear the speakers talk about President Obama saving the auto industry.”

Michelle Obama’s address hit home in personalizing President Obama, said Lauria, calling it one of the evening’s highlights. Now, it’s on to President King’s address tonight.

“I can’t wait,” Lauria said.

Vince Piscopo and Joan Silvi

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