Michelle Obama Recruiting Visit to S. Fla. School Ruffles Feathers
On a swing through South Florida on Tuesday, First Lady Michelle Obama drew criticism from school board members for stopping at Barbara Goleman Senior High School in Miami Lakes to motivate and recruit volunteers for her husband's reelection efforts.
"Get it done in Florida," Obama said, shouting to the crowded gymnasium. "Get this state done."
However, the location of the event became the focus even before Obama's visit took place. Miami-Dade School Board members Renier Diaz de la Portilla and Carlos Curbelo protested the first lady's visit and asked the board's attorney to advise them if holding the event on school grounds was legal.
"The use of public schools whose only focus should be to educate our children for political gain is downright wrong," Diaz de la Portilla said in a statement. "Don't these liberals have boundaries? Our schools are places for learning, not places for politicking."
Nonetheless, the event took place as planned and Obama stood in front of the mostly black and Latino crowd and encouraged them to work for the Obama-Biden ticket in November.
"You're out there knocking on those doors, registering those voters, giving them information on the issues they need to know about," Obama said. "That's how we did it four years ago and that's exactly how we're going to do it this time."
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However, Curbelo argued in a letter to the board's attorney the reasons why he felt the visit was not in the school's best interest.
"Allowing the first lady of the United States to use one of our schools explicitly to benefit the president's reelection campaign is inappropriate and sends the wrong message to our students, employees, and to taxpayers – even if the president's campaign is willing to pay for all costs resulting from the event," Curbelo wrote in the letter to attorney Walter Harvey.
The first lady's visit to the key swing state was likely an effort to mobilize the minority vote that her husband carried handily in 2008 when he captured an amazing 96 percent of the black vote.
But even supporters at the rally were cautious in their prediction that the same would hold true in 2012.
"I think this time we're going to have a fight on our hands," retired school counselor Mary Salary told The Palm Beach Post. "There's a lot of apathy out there."
President Obama is even facing opposition from some African-American pastors since he came out in support of same-sex marriage.
Last week, the Coalition of African-American Pastors called on black voters to withhold their support until President Obama agrees to meet with the group to explain his decision.