DURHAM, N.C. — President Barack Obama doesn't take shortcuts for political expediency, his wife said Wednesday, extolling his values to hundreds of students and others at North Carolina Central University.
Michelle Obama returned to central North Carolina to build support on college campuses for her husband's re-election – she was to appear at East Carolina University later in the day – and to encourage a techno-savvy method the Obama campaign is using to register voters.
Much as she did in a speech at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte two weeks ago, she painted a picture of the president as a man whose values make him an ideal husband and father, as well as national leader. They share a sense that people should work hard but help one another along the way, she said.
"We learned that no one gets where they are on their own, that each of us has a community of people who were lifting us up all the time," Michelle Obama told the cheering crowd. "We learned to value everyone's contribution and to treat everyone with respect."
Such values give President Obama the "strong inner compass" that is needed to lead the U.S., his wife said. She cited his efforts to help the economy recover from a global recession and his work to pass health care reforms into law.
"Instead of pointing fingers and placing blame (about the sour economy), Barack got to work," she said. "Barack didn't care whether health reform was the easy thing to do politically. That's not the way he is. He cared that it's the right thing to do."
Freshman Khadijah Henderson said she appreciates the president's support for student financial aid because he used loans and other aid to go to college.
"It helps with him as president knowing that he knows what we have to go through because he's been through it too," Henderson said.
Michelle Obama made a not-so-subtle reference to comments made by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney that have roiled the campaign in recent days. Romney was secretly videotaped during a fundraiser telling supporters that he doesn't care about half of the American population because they believe they are victims and entitled to a range of government support.
"When everyone's urging you to do what's easy, what polls best or what makes good headlines, as president, you have to be driven by the struggles, hopes and dreams of all of the people you serve," she said.
During her stops Wednesday, she also encouraged voter registration through a campaign website called www.GottaVote.com. The site gives smartphone and tablet users the ability to write their signatures on voter registration forms.
Michelle Obama also urged the students to rally support before the November election, noting that her husband won North Carolina by only 14,000 votes in 2008 out of more than 4 million votes cast.
"Young people like so many of you have always driven Barack's campaigns with your energy and your passion, so we need you," she said. "What we do for the next 48 days – it's not that much time – will absolutely make the difference between waking up on Nov. 7 and asking ourselves, 'Could we have done more?' and feeling the promise of four more years."
Sophomore Joey Brown took her message to heart, saying he already is volunteering with a voter registration drive at N.C. Central.
"I'm definitely ready to go out there," Brown said. "We have a big surge of voter registrations going on right now."
The first lady has visited North Carolina several times going back to Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign. In August, she campaigned at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro as part of her "It Takes One" initiative, which calls on supporters to encourage friends and neighbors to volunteer in the election and get to the polls in November.