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President Obama Visits Wayne State to Campaign for Dems (video)

President Barack Obama Visits Wayne State to Campaign for Dems (video)sidebar01sponsor

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Nov. 1, 2014)

Among the 6,000 people who came to Wayne State University on Nov.1 to support Democratic candidates in Michigan was a 102-year-old woman with brown skin and a big smile who insisted upon taking determined footsteps to make it to and from her place in the crowd.

Ida Austin, widow of former Secretary of State Richard Austin, had a front row seat as Godfrey Dillard, an attorney from Detroit, spoke in hopes of honoring her husband’s legacy. Mr. Austin had come from Alabama to Detroit early last century to find success as the first-ever black CPA and an active member of the Democratic Party. When Mr. and Mrs. Austin were born, women did not even have the right to vote. And though black men legally had the right, there were still many obstacles to it.  The Austins’ lives coincided with a time of great change for many disenfranchised citizens. In 1969 Mr. Austin ran unsuccessfully for Mayor of Detroit, but then in 934_8600_Gen-Online_Banners21971 he became the first – and thus far only – black man to hold statewide office. He served as Secretary of State from 1971 to 1994. He also served as a source of inspiration to Dillard and countless others.

Dillard, a civil rights attorney, spoke of his vision for reclaiming the Secretary of State office for the Democrats.  “I want to change the way we vote in Michigan. No longer will we have one day to vote, I want to give folks 30 days to vote, so that your voice can be heard, so that your voice can be guaranteed. I want to be the first lawyer to hold the office of Secretary of State. I want to enforce the campaign finance laws. Are you sick and tired of these mom and pop Secretary of State offices in strip malls? With no bathrooms? With no seats? Are you sick and tired of these fees that they’re charging you? As a son of Detroit, I’m trying to be the first African American in 30 years to win a statewide office,” Dillard said. “I am trying to follow in the footsteps of Richard Austin.” Dillard acknowledged Ida Austin, calling her the “matriarch of the Democratic Party,” and ending his speech with the challenge “If a 102-year-old woman is going to vote, I know you can!”


A rousing invocation by NAACP President Rev. Wendell Anthony set the tone for a rally full of nicholas-schrock-allstateenergy and the repeated call of “When people vote, we win.” Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer and US Senate hopeful Gary Peters top the ticket while folks like Senator Debbie Stabenow, Lt. Governor hopeful Lisa Brown, and the Democratic candidate for Attorney General Mark Totten spoke on the importance of getting out the vote.

But the man of the hour was of course the President of the United States Barack Obama, who too seed020_heather_coleman_vossacknowledged Mrs. Austin in his speech and made the point to go speak with her once his remarks were complete.  Watching the first black President of the United States, and talking with him afterward, left the 102-year-old woman with a glow unmatched by anyone else in the Wayne State arena. As she left she shared simple words with the media, “Go vote.”

Along the lines of the Democrat’s “When people vote, we win” rally cry, President Obama’s speech focused on get out the vote efforts. He spoke of his younger days, being a community organizer in Chicago, and telling people that they were giving away their power by sitting home and complaining but not making the effort to vote. “You’re giving away your power. You’re giving away your precious right to help determine the course of your nation,” he said.

“Three days. Three days until you get to chose a new Governor. And a new Senator.   And here’s what you’ve got to do until then. If you came to this rally I know you are also going to go vote. I dinos02sidelogo3don’t worry about you. I need you to grab a friend. I need you to grab some classmates. I need you to grab some coworkers. I need you to visit Find your polling place. Take everybody you know to cast their ballot for Gary Peters and Mark Schauer,” he said.

President Obama also talked about differing polices about women’s issues, chiding Republicans for blocking fair pay legislation and criticizing those who think the government should dictate a woman’s health choices. “If you’re going to strengthen the 21st century economy, you need to be in the 21st century. You got to understand women now make up an increasing part of the workforce, and bring home more of the bacon… It’s funny if you ask a Republican in Congress if they believe in Congress, they say ‘no, no, I’m not a scientist,” but when it comes to a woman’s right to choose, suddenly they’re a doctor. They got to update their attitudes… When women succeed, America succeeds.”

Polls show that in the Governor’s race, incumbent Rick Snyder and challenger Schauer are in a dead heat.  For more election stories and resources, visit For more of the President’s speech, see

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