Michelle Obama on President’s Upbringing: He Knows Economic Struggles

US First Lady Michelle Obama introduces US President Barack Obama at a DNC fundraiser at Gotham Hall on Sept. 20, 2011 in New York City.

First lady Michelle Obama says her husband deserves re-election not only for his first term accomplishments and vision for the future, but because of his genuine empathy for families dealing with tough economic times.

“He understands these issues, not just because he’s smart but because he’s lived them,” Obama told a group of 100 campaign donors at a $2,500-a-plate luncheon in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.

“He was raised by a single mother who struggled to put herself through school and pay the bills.  And when she needed help, who stepped in?  His grandmother, waking up early every morning to take a bus to her job at the bank,” she said.

Michelle Obama said a young Barack Obama learned to understand the sacrifices his grandmother made in raising him and the prejudices she endured as a woman.

“Believe me, Barack knows what it means when a family struggles,” she said. “He knows what it means when someone doesn’t have a chance to fulfill their potential.”

The first lady said Obama’s upbringing has allowed him to identify with the stories of thousands of Americans who write to the president about their situations and speak with him personally at events around the county.  She said those stories motivate him and influence his decisions in office.

“I hear the passion in his voice and the determination.  He says, ‘You won’t believe what these folks are going through.’ That’s what he tells me.  He says, ‘Michelle, this isn’t right.  We have to fix this.  We have so much more to do,’” she told the crowd.

“What you all need to understand is that when it comes to the people Barack meets, he has a memory like a steel trap.  He might not remember your name, but if he’s had a few moments and a decent conversation with you, he will never forget your story.  It’s as if it becomes imprinted on his heart.”