After coming so close to meeting President Barack Obama when he came to Racine, 13-year-old Michelle Payne's dreams came true Thursday when Michelle Obama finished a campaign speech at Bradley Tech High School, patted her on the head, hugged her and told her she was proud of her.
"It was an ecstatic feeling, something I will probably never feel again in my life," the Racine girl said. "She's my role model. I just started crying, and when she hugged me I didn't want to let go."
Payne's emotional experience was echoed by many in the crowd of roughly 2,500 Obama supporters from across Milwaukee and the world who attended the First Lady's speech at Bradley Tech High School Thursday afternoon.
In her speech, she recalled growing up lower class in Chicago and working hard to get through school. Obama said she always had her eye on the American dream, and she married her husband Barack because his life was on a similar journey. After four years in the White House, Michelle Obama said her husband remains the same man, determined to keep the American dream alive by making sure the same opportunities he had are still open to today's youth.
"Like me, Barack knows the American dream because he's lived it. He knows something very important. When you work hard and you do well — and there's nothing wrong with doing well — and you walk through that doorway of opportunity, he believes that you do not slam it shut behind you," Obama said to a thunderous applause in the high school's gymnasium.
Obama went on to talk about the importance of her husband's accomplishments while in office, including the Affordable Care Act (dubbed ObamaCare by his Republican colleagues), funding Pell Grants, openly allowing gays in the military, the execution of Osama bin Laden and ending the war in Iraq.
When Obama took office, she said the country was losing 750,000 jobs per month. The country has since gained 4.5 million jobs over the past 29 months, she said. The First Lady also said he has cut taxes for small businesses 18 times.
"All this I just talked about, it's all at stake this November; all of it is on the line. Are we going to change all the progress we made? Are we going to sit back and lose everything we've worked so hard for?" she said. "You know what we have to do. We have to keep moving this country forward."
She said at the end of the day, the president's decisions are made based on life experiences and values.
"In the end it all boils down to who you are and what you stand for," she said. "The thing you want to remind you is we all know who my husband is, and we know who he stands for."
'My husband has your back'
While not mentioning Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney by name, the First Lady said voters in Wisconsin and America have a stark difference on the ballot come November.
"Before you step into that voting booth on Election Day, you've got to ask yourself, "Who will stand up for me? Who is looking out for my family? ... You know my husband has your back," she said.
She was introduced to the crowd after speeches from Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Congresswoman and US Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
During her time in Milwaukee, Obama met with several state leaders, including First Lady Tonette Walker and families of victims of the Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek.
Supporters dazzled by First Lady
She also met with many of her supporters after the speech, who said they were inspired by their female role model.
"It was powerful to shake her hand and look her in the eye," said Gale Davis of Milwaukee.
"You saw truth in her eyes," added Milwaukee's Gwenda Lawson. "It was something we will never get to experience again in our lives."
Others, such as Ruby Jones, said she "felt like she was talking to us."
"We feel like she understands where we're coming from," said Jones, a retired Bradley Tech teacher.
Although the First Lady visited today, the Republican Party of Wisconsin released a statement today chiding the president for not visiting Wisconsin in 189 days.
“President Obama talks a great game on how important Wisconsin is in his race to the White House, yet hasn’t set foot in the Badger State in more than six months,” said Nathan Conrad, communications director for the Republican Party of Wisconsin. “Wisconsin has consistently been in play on a national level and the most recent polls have shown Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan with all the momentum."