Winston-Salem, N.C. — First lady Michelle Obama added her star power to Democrat Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign on Thursday, urging a raucous crowd in Winston-Salem to get to the polls by Election Day to build a better future for the nation's youth.
"If Hillary doesn't win this election, that will be on us," Obama told an estimated 10,000 people inside the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum. "It will be because we did not stand with her. It will be because we did not vote for her. That is exactly what her opponent is hoping will happen. That's the strategy – to make this election so dirty and ugly that we don't want any part of it."
Using a line she made famous at the Democratic National Convention, Obama said Clinton's opponents are going low with talk of rigged elections, and the best way to go high is by voting.
"They are trying to convince you that your vote doesn't matter, that the outcome has already been determined," she said. "Just for the record, in this country, the United States of America, the voters decide our elections. They've always decided. Voters decide who wins and who loses – period, end of story."
The rally was the first joint appearance by the two women this campaign season. North Carolina also was the site of the first joint appearance by Clinton and President Barack Obama in July.
The state's importance in the election is reflected in the number of recent visits by the candidates.
Clinton had Sunday rallies on the campuses of St. Augustine's College in Raleigh and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, while Republican rival Donald Trump held events Wednesday in Charlotte and Kinston.
Michelle Obama lauded Clinton for her extensive political background and her relentless efforts for children and families, saying the election will help shape the future lives of children and that the president needs to be someone who is a good role model for them.
"What kind of president do we want for them?" she asked. "We want someone who is a unifying force in this country, someone who sees our differences not as a threat but as a blessing.
"We want a president who understands that this nation was built by folks who came here from all corners of the globe," she continued. "We want a president who sees the goodness in all our communities, not just the brokenness."
Clinton has "the temperament and the maturity" to be president, Obama said, calling her "a policy wonk" who will not only set a vision for the country but gets into the details of getting it done.
"When you're president, that's a good thing because policies matter," she said.
Clinton joined in the mutual admiration by praising Obama's work over the past eight years as first lady and a mother.
She also urged the crowd to vote, citing issues from immigration reform to marriage equality to the economy as issues that could drastically change if Trump is elected.
"I believe everything we care about is at stake in this election," she said, vowing that she would fight every day for the youth of America as president.
"Starting right now, let's come together. Let's work together. Let's be hopeful and optimistic and unified in the face of division and hate," she said. "Let's have each other's backs, lift each other up, not tear each other down."
Although Clinton was putatively the headliner of the event, many of those at the rally said they came to see Obama.
"She showed what a first lady should really be, and that’s what it’s all about," Anson County Commissioner Vancine Sturdivant said.
"She brings a lot of getting the people involved and letting us know that Hillary is for the people," Winston-Salem State University student Kierra Pittman said of Obama. "It’s very important to me to see that the first lady is supporting her."
"I think (she) potentially has brought people out today that wouldn’t otherwise be here, and that’s exciting," said Katherine White, who brought her 4-year-old twins, Charlotte and Eleanor, to the rally.
"They’re young woman, and I think it’s really important for them to see two amazing, strong women that are here in Winston-Salem today. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity," White said.