(The Root) — If you thought that Michelle Obama was greeted like a star during her convention speech Tuesday night in Charlotte, N.C., you should have been at the meeting of the African American Caucus at the Democratic National Convention the morning after. "I love you so much," she said to cheers from hundreds of people — probably the largest crowd that has ever attended one of these caucus get-togethers — after word spread about the "special guest" who was coming.
"I'm a little sleepy," she admitted, to a crowd that was anything but sleepy in the aftermath of her electrifying convention speech. "Michelle is the driving force; she brought us to life," remarked caucus attendee Willie Williams, from Omaha, Neb.'s 2nd Congressional District, a "blue spot in a red state."
"Wasn't that something?" said the first lady's brother, Craig Robinson, at the Wednesday caucus meeting before she took the stage. "She tried to make a brother cry." He said he never tired of listening to her describe how their disabled father slowly climbed the steps — and "there were 14 of them bad boys" — after his swing shift.
Capturing the church mood of the gathering, Donna Brazile, vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, said, "There's nothing like having testimony on a Tuesday night."
The diverse crowd clogged the aisles to take pictures of Mrs. Obama, looking fresh and rested despite her quip about being tired. She appeared anxious to move forward the conversation she'd started Tuesday night.
"Last night truly set the stage for what's at stake in this election and what we need to guide us forward for the next four years," she said. "The evening reflected Barack's broad and inclusive vision" that anyone who's willing to work for it should have a chance. "This election, more than any other in history, is about how we want our democracy to function for decades to come," she continued.
Like other speakers, Mrs. Obama stressed the urgency of grassroots get-out-the-vote efforts and financial donations to a campaign that is being outspent by conservative political action committees and donors supporting Republican candidate Mitt Romney.
"Do we want to give a few individuals a far bigger say in our democracy than anyone else? Do we want our elections to be about who buys the most ads on TV?" she asked, and the audience shouted, "No."
"Do we want our kids and our grandkids to walk away from this election feeling like ordinary, hardworking voices can no longer be heard?" she asked, contrasting the differences between the parties without saying Romney's name out loud.
It was as though she were telling the folks in the room that Tuesday night is over and it's time to stop basking in the glow of her widely praised speech. Get to work, to "make sure that every single person that you know that is within the sound of your voice, your touch, your breath — make sure you get to them, your friends, your neighbors, that nephew you haven't seen for a while" — and make sure they're registered, get to the polls and cast a vote, she said.
Her urging reflects widespread concerns that black voter turnout could make a sizable difference in several swing states. The first lady painted alternate visions for Nov. 7, the day after the election: "Do you want to wake up wondering, 'Could I have done more?' or 'feeling the promise of four more years'?"
Joyce Rose-Harris, a delegate from Columbia, S.C., said that she was "encouraged and inspired to work even harder" by the first lady's remarks. Besides her full-time job as a systems analyst, Rose-Harris does digital media for Obama for America.
Michelle Obama "keeps it real but does it in an intelligent manner," said Rose-Harris, who is from Chicago and said she attended the high school rival of the first lady's alma mater. Rose-Harris said that she would heed the first lady's call to get out the vote in a battleground state — in this delegate's case, neighbor North Carolina, which the president won by only 14,000 votes in 2008 — or, as Michelle Obama put it on Wednesday, "five votes per precinct."
Anika Cobb, who is scheduled to graduate from Johnson C. Smith, Charlotte's historically black university, in December, said of the first lady, "She understands us." Cobb, who is coordinator of JCSU's Run DNC project, which chronicles the stories of Charlotte's west side, said that the description of the Obamas' history of once being so young, so in love and so in debt is something to which she can relate. Besides her school activities, Cobb works three jobs and has an internship — and said she is still going broke. Regarding the relationship between the first couple, "the fact that she believes in him" means a lot to Cobb.
The Obamas' story also struck a chord with Kelly Ganges, of Trenton, N.J. The first lady tells "what it's like to share love with a man. For black folks," he said, "that's important for us to hear."
Mary C. Curtis, an award-winning Charlotte, N.C.-based journalist, is a contributor to the Washington Post "She the People" blog, The Root, Fox News Charlotte and Creative Loafing. She has worked at the New York Times and Charlotte Observer and as national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter.
Mary C. Curtis is a Roll Call columnist and contributor to NPR and NBCBLK. She has worked at the New York Times, the Baltimore Sun, the Charlotte Observer and Politics Daily and as a contributor to the Washington Post. She is a senior facilitator for the OpEd Project at Cornell and Yale universities. Follow her on Twitter.