Michelle Obama Focuses on Voting at CBC Dinner

First Lady Michelle Obama stressed the importance of reaching out to non-registered voters during the Phoenix Awards Dinner on Saturday at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislative Conference in Washington.

Obama encouraged the audience to do more than vote on Election Day, but also to stay involved in politics year-round.

“We cannot let anyone discourage us from casting our ballots; we cannot let anyone make us feel unwelcome in the voting booth,” said the First Lady, who has been campaigning for her husband, President Barack Obama, and was also a keynote speaker at the recent Democratic National Convention.

“It is up to us to make sure that in every election, every voice is heard, and every vote is counted. That means making sure our laws preserve that right – means monitoring the polls to ensure that every eligible voter can exercise that right.”

Obama told the estimated 3,000 attendees in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center that this is the movement of their era, protecting the fundamental right for every election and for generations to come.

 “This is the march of our time,” she said. “Marching door-to-door registering people to vote, marching everyone you know to the polls, every single election. See, this is the sit-in of our day. Sitting at a phone bank, sitting in your living room calling everyone you know-making sure they all know how to register; where to vote every year, in every election.”

The co-hosts for the evening were actor-director Robert Townsend, who starred in the ’90s sitcom “Parenthood,” and actress Sharon Leal, who appeared in “Dreamgirls” and regularly in the “Guiding Light” TV series. Entertainment featured performances by After 7, the Clarence Knight Orchestra and Jalyssa James, a 2012 recipient of a CBC Spouses Scholarship.

The Phoenix Award recipients were:

  • U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., and Harvey B. Gantt, mayor of Charlotte, N.C. Both received the Harold Washington Award for contributing to African-American political awareness, empowerment and advancement in the election process.
  • Film director and producer George Lucas, who received the CBCF Chair’s Award for high standards of dedication, ability and creativity.
  • U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who received the CBCF Chair’s Award for his work and accomplishments.

Charmaine Crutchfield covers politics for the Howard University News Service and 101Magazine.net.