The Washington Times - January 11, 2012, 05:02PM

First lady Michelle Obama hit the hustings for the first time in 2012 Wednesday, making a direct appeal to women at an event in Richmond.

President Obama wants to hold onto Virginia, a traditionally red state he won by 6 percentage points in 2008, and to do so he needs to ensure a good turnout in Richmond, the largest concentration of Democratic voters in the state outside of Northern Virginia.


On Wednesday, the first lady gave a special shout out to Richmond Women for Obama, thanking them for all their hard work behind the event.

Casting the campaign in dire terms, Mrs. Obama argued that the very future of American ideals and the ability of people to work hard and pursue the American dream, as her parents’ sacrifices had allowed her to do, is at stake.

She also reminded voters that the very first bill that Mr. Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which helps ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work.

“He did this because he knows what it means when women aren’t treated fairly in the workplace,” she said. “He watched his own grandmother — woman with a high school education — work her way up from being a vice president at a little community bank. She worked hard and she was good at her job, but like so many women, she hit a glass ceiling, and she watched men no more qualified than she, men she had actually trained, be promoted up that ladder ahead of her.”

“He did it because when nearly two-thirds of women are breadwinners or co-breadwinners, your president knows that women’s success in this economy is the key to families’ success in this economy,” she continued.

The first lady also cited her husband’s appointments of Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

“So Richmond, make no mistake about it,” she said. “Whether it’s health care or the economy, whether it’s education or foreign policy, the choice we make will determine nothing less than who we are as a country, but, more importantly, who do we want to be. Who are we?” she asked. “Will we be a country where opportunity is limited to the few at the top? Or will we be a place where if you work hard, you can get ahead, no matter who you are or how you started out?”