GOLDEN, Colo. - President Obama today credited an affordable college education with helping a "mixed kid from Hawaii" and a "little black girl from the South Side of Chicago" make history in the White House.
"Education was a gateway of opportunity for me," Obama told the crowd here. "Let's face it. You know, a mixed kid from Hawaii born to a single mom is not likely to become president of the United States. But in America, it can happen because of education, because somebody gave me opportunity.
"You know, a little black girl from South Side of Chicago whose mom's a secretary and dad's a blue-collar worker, you know, not likely to become first lady of the United States," he said, referring to his wife, Michelle. "But it happened because she got a great education even though her folks didn't have a lot of money."
It's a story that has become a focal point of Obama's pitch in Colorado and other swing states, part rebuttal to GOP challenger Mitt Romney's call to curtail federal aid for higher education; part proof that he better understands struggles of the middle class.
Education is "the gateway of opportunity for middle-class families, for those who were willing hard to get into the middle class and stay there," Obama said.
By infusing his story with references to race, something Obama does not often speak about publicly, he also reminds voters of color that they too can defy the odds. In states like Colorado, the inspirational message could help turn out women, Hispanics and African-Americans, on whom Obama is relying to win.
In an interview last month with Parade magazine, Obama said being a black man in the White House has made him "more determined" as president to assure "that everybody's getting a fair shot."
"By virtue of being African-American, I'm attuned to how throughout this country's history there have been times when folks have been locked out of opportunity, and because of the hard work of people of all races, slowly those doors opened to more and more people," Obama said.
"Equal opportunity doesn't just happen on its own; it happens because we're vigilant about it. But part of this is not just because we're African-American; it's also because Michelle and I were born into pretty modest means."