November 20th, 2007
01:20 PM ET
11 years ago

Michelle Obama says America will be viewed differently with a black president

Sen. Obama and his wife, Michelle, in February 2007 when he announced his White House bid.

ORANGEBURG, South Carolina (CNN) – Michelle Obama told an audience Tuesday that electing an African-American president will challenge America to "look at itself differently.”

"Imagine our family on that inaugural platform," she said. "America will look at itself differently. The world will look at America differently. There is no other candidate who is going to do that for our country. You know that."

Obama was campaigning on behalf of her husband, Sen. Barack Obama, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. Obama told the audience at the historically black South Carolina State University that she and her husband realize there are doubts among black Americans about whether an African-American can win a presidential election. But she called those fears "the bitter legacy of racism and discrimination and oppression in this country."

"We would never entered this race if we were not confident that America was ready," she said. "We're not crazy."

The Princeton and Harvard law school graduate paraphrased Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in describing her husband, saying he should be president "not because of the color of his skin, but because of the quality and consistency of his character."

"Imagine a president of the United States who actually has experience working with people on the ground," she said, referring to her husband’s background as a community organizer in Chicago. Obama said this background gives her husband the experience to confront racial disparities in income, health care and education.

"Inequality is not a burden we have to accept, it is a challenge we must overcome," she said, explaining that she herself overcame "voices of doubt and fear" about her race to now accept the challenge of possibly becoming first lady.

"I'm asking you to stop settling for the world as it is, and to help us make the world as it should be," she said.

- CNN South Carolina Producer Peter Hamby

soundoff (111 Responses)
  1. Graham, Detroit, MI

    Black people shouldn't doubt the sincerity and decency of the American people.

    I'm white and I'm voting for Obama because I believe HE'S THE MOST QUALIFIED to lead America at this time. Yes, I said it. HE'S THE MOST QUALIFIED. These other 'cowboys' are a low quality items in premium wrapping. If anyone disputes it, let them challenge it with well reasoned argument of facts. I'm ready to have that debate.

    And not that I care about his race, but I think the fact that he's black is a plus. He'll want to do an excellent job to prove the cynics wrong. It also helps that he's a man of uncompromising character. This is good for America.

    November 20, 2007 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  2. Steve, Landing, NJ

    Interesting issue raised here. Do you vote for a candidate because:
    A: They are the "best" candidate by whatever measure you rely on, or
    B: They are the candidate who will have the most positive on the country.

    If option A, then race and gender should be immaterial. If B, then race and gender could rightfully be a factor in your decision-making.

    Personally, I tend toward the latter. The country is more important than the candidate, and I will vote for a candidate I personally dislike over a candidate I think will hurt the country every time.

    November 20, 2007 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  3. Michael Torrance, CA

    It is sad to say but America isn't ready for a black or a woman president for that matter. Especially a black candidate that lacks the experience it takes to be president and a woman candidate that's a socialist. Sorry, Obama and Hillary maybe in a few more years.

    November 20, 2007 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  4. Dee, Murfreesboro, TN

    In the past 40 years, 4 presidents had more political experience than Barack Obama:

    Richard Nixon, who resigned in humiliation to avoid impeachment.

    Lyndon Johnson, who essentially was forced out of office by his own party because of the Vietnam war.

    Gerald Ford, who served less than one full term and was defeated for reelection.

    George H W Bush, who served one term and was defeated for reelection.

    Obama has more experience of the right kind than most recent presidents and those who have had more were not successful. When elected, he will have 12 years of experience in government, including 8 years in state government and 4 years in national government, during which he has served on the foreign relations committee.

    November 20, 2007 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  5. Theresa LV

    I'm voting for Barack Obama because he has the best judgement of all the candidates. Couple that with his honesty, integrity, and compassion and you have the best person for the position of president.

    The candidates with years in government, you can call it "experience" if you wish, didn't do much of anything to stop this mess from happening. From the Iraq war to education, to the environment.

    Then you take the one running on everything but her own record. She hasn't one of the qualities of Barck. She was married to a man during a do-nothing administration that lost the house and senate due to all their scandals.

    I have never said "wow, I'm voting for a black man". I have said "I'm voting for the best person for the job".

    November 20, 2007 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  6. J. Schmidt

    If Obama's elected, we are well on our way to becoming a Socialist state. Obamma will take from those that succeed and give to societal deadbeats who prefer to live off the success of the overachievers. 70/30 principal – 70% deadbeats living off the 30% that float this economy. Get a life – vote Republican!!!!

    November 20, 2007 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  7. Anthony Prasad, WA

    Everyone hold on please! Do your homework. All this talk about Hillary and Barack is doing nothing but self-limiting the options we have as voters. All because the corporate news networks will only carry candidates who cater to their agendas as business enterprises doesn't mean we don't have tools at our disposal that will give us (the voters) cleaner incite on the right candidate to bring us out of the muck that the Bush voters put us in. You will come to realize there are two good choices with partisan politics aside and simple voting for the person best for the job; Dennis Kucinich or Ron Paul. They have proved time and again they have the fortitude to make the tough decisions, the wisdom to get it right the first time, the fairness within themselves to not give in to the corruption and the patience to see us through to the next decade as the greatest country in the world. WE HAVE THE CHOICE! Either vote for the leading, most popular candidate that WILL lead us to the demise of this great nation, or vote for the one who is ready to make us strong and respectable once more. Kucinich or Paul.

    November 20, 2007 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  8. Major Man, Petersburg, VA

    Michelle Obama is classy, accomplished, and intelligent. I like most that she is a wife and mother-first. A lawyer and adminstrator-as lesser priorities.

    She exhibits traits of a Proverbs 31 woman.

    Monte Brown: It's black men like you who remind me that it was blacks in Africa who sold us into slavery. Please free your mind.

    November 20, 2007 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  9. Mia Santiago

    Hillary's an experienced leader? Two terms as First Lady and one and a half terms as a State Senator and people talk about her like she's a seasoned veteran? Amazing! With voter ignorance at an all time high, it's no wonder this country's run amuck!

    November 20, 2007 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  10. Ricarda, Boston, MA

    Well, I'm an african-american and I find it interesting that the Clinton campaign is pushing for Hillary to be elected because of "experience". Let us not forget that her husband was a GOVERNOR before he became President. Barack is a SENATOR down in DC playing with the big boys. Hmmmmm. Who has more experience now?

    You want real change vote Obama '08!!

    November 20, 2007 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  11. The Bozz, Chicago, IL

    Michelle is smart and well-spoken. Even she would make a better president than Hilary.

    November 20, 2007 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  12. Jonathan, Atlanta Ga

    Relative to Barack Obama's experience, PLEASE STOP ISOLATING HIM FOR HAVING LACK OF EXPERIENCE WHEN JOHN EDWARDS AND GUILLIANI HAVE LESS EXPERIENCE. Hillary was elected to the US Senate in 2000 (7 years of experience). Obama was a State Senator (8 years) and has been a US Sentor since 2004 (3 years totalling 11 years in politics. At Princeton, he finished first in his class. He tells the truth about his past mistakes–unlike others. When will America stop being dumb and blind and falling for canned phrases like "he has no experience" when Hillary doesn't have signifcantly more. NONE of the front runners have been governor except Mitt Romney and he is a part of a religion that thinks Blacks are inferior.

    November 20, 2007 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  13. Susan, St. Michaels, MD

    All of you who are screaming about the race card being used need to check yourselves. Michelle was speaking to an audience at a historically black college. She was speaking about, as she would well know, fear, doubt, and the negative influence our history has had on us. The black community has deep scars, horrible memories which have come rushing back with recent incidents such as the one in Jena LA.
    She was only asking them not to let those demons dictate their behavior. She was asking them to be brave and make an educated decision, not one influenced by the injustices and limitations of the past.
    All of ya'll are playing the race card, not Michelle.

    November 20, 2007 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  14. Lou, Miami Florida

    As a mixed race American I get what Obama and Michelle talk about but we are shoulder deep in trouble. I am 1/4 African descendant, 1/4 Native, and 1/2 Hispanic and I can see from different spectrums. I know that not only a black president will challenge America to "look at itself differently” but also perhaps a woman president. We have such candidate and she is more qualified. That’s the case in my mind… Hillary is more qualified and prepared to lead America.

    November 20, 2007 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  15. Christian, Tampa FL

    She's actually right, and not just because of his race. If we elect Hillary, things will be different only because she's a woman; however, she is the predictable nominee and president because she's a perfect Washington insider type, and most of the world will be like "wow, we never saw that one coming (sarcasm)." With Obama, it will be seen that America has elected a young, rookie African American who is different from any previous president, and the world will be intrigued.

    I think it would be great.

    November 20, 2007 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    I could care less if Obama is black, white, purple or green. I'm a white guy and I support Obama because he's hands down the best for the job. When he speaks, I believe him. I sincerely believe that he's listening, that he's paying attention, and that he's speaking from his heart about issues that I care about. He's fundementally the best leader I've seen in my lifetime. He's someone that I can see putting my life, indeed all our lives, in his care. I can see myself following him because i trust that he would do everything in his power to better this nation and this planet.

    he's the candidate of both my heart and my mind, and I've never believed in a political candidate in my life, not in the same way at least.

    For once, I'm for something, instead of against it.

    November 20, 2007 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  17. james,buda,tx

    Dee, Murfreesboro, TN

    obama didnt have more experience then daddy bush who was the VICE PRESIDENT, not a junior or state senator, he was the head of the CIA, dont think obama can say that, he owned and operated several businesses, did obama do that. please Im not a bush family supporter by any means but your comment wasnt exactly true.

    November 20, 2007 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  18. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    She's right, take a conscious look at the world around us.

    November 20, 2007 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  19. Bryan, CA

    I think there is a misunderstanding in many of those who have written critical comments about Michelle Obama's statements. I don't think she is attempting to "pull the race card" or rehash old feelings about prejudice in society in order to guilt voters into voting for Obama. I don't think that is what she is saying at all. I believe what she is saying is that that the United States is ready to have its first black president. She is also saying that America has an immense image problem around the world. While Michelle naturally believes that Barack is the most equipped for the position of the president regardless of skin color, she is talking about an added bonus that Obama would change the face of the nation positively. Something that the United States needs severely on an international level,

    November 20, 2007 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  20. Jimenez

    Michelle Obama is full of s****! God help us all. Soon this will be over. Obama will be out and we can hear something different other than voting for a black president "will challenge us on how we see this country and the WHOLE world will see us in a different light. Girl what planet are your from? It's not the skin color it's the man. And, that woMAN is CLINTON '08

    November 20, 2007 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  21. James Willis IOWA

    just not this black candidate! he is too inexperienced!!!!
    CLINTON 2008

    November 20, 2007 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  22. Leo, VA

    "If Obama's elected, we are well on our way to becoming a Socialist state. Obamma will take from those that succeed and give to societal deadbeats who prefer to live off the success of the overachievers. 70/30 principal – 70% deadbeats living off the 30% that float this economy. Get a life – vote Republican!!!!"

    Posted By J. Schmidt : November 20, 2007 4:02 pm

    This is half true. Although I disagree that Republicans are the solution, everything about Obama tells something scary about the direction he is going which is totally against the principles on which this country was founded. He is trying to use the marginalization card to gain votes. Its certainly unfair to have a polarization of rich and poor, but its even worse to have everybody poor.

    November 20, 2007 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  23. tom, ny, ny

    I thought Michelle is smart lady. I guess not. She is pretty dumb to make such statement. AMerica will be viewed differently with a "good president". Your husband doesn't deserve to be president just because he is black. You should be ashamed of yourself for being so stupid.

    November 20, 2007 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  24. tom, ny, ny

    Dear Dan
    WHy do you keep "cut and paste message everywhere. I have read this same surgeon message more than twice. that tells me you really don't have much to say other than keep going like a broken record.
    If I was married to a surgeon it does not qualify me to perform operations. Hillary was married to the President. She was never President. She was elected to the Senate 4 yrs before Obama and is also the junior senator from her adopted state. All the Hillary lovers saying that Obama doesn't have experience. Nonsense. He has been an elected official longer than her and has a list of legislative accomplishments longer than hers. Wake up Democrats. The Clintons are playing word games again.

    Posted By Dan, Albany NY : November 20, 2007 2:37 pm

    November 20, 2007 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  25. Cgeo, manchester, ct

    i am a obama supporter not because of the color of his skin but because he represents hope in a time when america needs it the most. barrack has strived to keep his message centered around the issues rather than about his race where as hillary is taking every opportunity to make it about gender. the bottom line is hillary represents everything that is wrong with our government she is under the finger of corporate special interests and would rather talk about making changes in our policy than actualy doing something. if elected she will do more harm then the current administation. the only real choice is barrack obama his true grass roots campaign (hasn't taken a dime from special interests) and fresh ideas may be the only hope this country has of regaining the respect of the world which GB has lost

    November 20, 2007 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
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