A group of ministers from around the city gathered last Friday at Apostolic Church of God, 6320 S. Dorchester, where Rev. Arthur Brazier is pastor, and heard a speech given by Michelle Obama, who represented her husband. Senator Barack Obama was scheduled to appear but he had to return to Washington, D.C. for an important vote.

Some of Chicago’s most prominent black ministers were on hand, including Civil Rights pioneer Rev. Al Sampson, who helped organize the large contingent of clergy. Prominent politicians such as state Senate President Emil Jones Jr., Cong. Danny Davis, County Board President Todd Stroger, Cong. Bobby Rush, and Secretary of State Jesse White also attended.

Prior to Mrs. Obama taking the podium, one of Chicago’s most influential ministers, Rev. Clay Evans took the stand and sang, “Joy to the world Obama has come/Let us receive our president/Let every heart prepare his room.”

Introducing Mrs. Obama, Rev. Arthur Brazier told the large crowd, “I see light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a long road, but Senator Obama is going to win Iowa, and he is going to win or come real close in New Hampshire. And if that happens, we’re going to sweep South Carolina, and the road to the White House will be wide open.”

Michelle Obama took to the podium and addressed the large, cheering crowd.

“Let me apologize because this guy I’m married to, he’s not here. I can draw a crowd every now and then, but I know you all were looking for him. He was supposed to get the Christmas tree today. So what happens, 12 o’clock at night he comes through the door “hang-dog.” I got a little problem, I got to go back to Washington, and I need you to represent me tomorrow, can you do that for me? And I said, no problem, baby, I got this. Hopefully, all of you will accept me as a humble surrogate.”

Then she talked about the campaign. “Let me tell you, it’s been an amazing journey for us and it is a journey that has required great sacrifice, determination and, most of all, faith-faith that we can do better, a faith that if we trust in the word of God that we can do anything. And what is clear to me, no matter where I go, what room I walk into, what is clear is that we need a Barack Obama as president right now. Not in four years, not in eight years, not in 12 years, right now.

“I think about my girls every single moment of this campaign. They give me passion for this, they keep us grounded. I think about the kind of world I want to hand over to these precious little girls. Anything should be possible. I think about our children because the world we are about to hand over to them is not the one I want. We are not where we need to be and we all know that. See the problem is we are living in a country, in a world, where in 2007 we are still too divided. We don’t know each other, we don’t talk to each other, we don’t trust each other, and we are living in a country that is still too cynical. We have become a mean people-it has become a source of entertainment for us. And we are also a nation that is guided by fear, afraid of everything and everyone. The problem with fear is that it clouds our judgment. The one thing my mother told me is you don’t make good decisions when you are afraid. Fear shuts us up-it cuts us off from one another within our own families, within our own neighborhoods. It’s cutting us off within our own communities, in our own country. It’s certainly cutting us off from the rest of the world.

“Fear is what is motivating us, and see, the frightening thing about fear, it’s like there is this veil of impossibility over our heads and, more importantly, over the heads of our children. We are raising a nation of children who are hearing you can’t do that.

“I want people to understand who Michelle and Barack Obama are as people, where we come from, how we think, what are our values-that’s what I talk about. And the first thing I tell them is forget Harvard and Princeton, forget those fancy degrees because who I am, who we are, I’m a little girl who was raised on the South Side of Chicago. I am the product of a working-class family. My father was a blue collar city worker all his life [Frazier Robinson], didn’t go to college, didn’t make a lot of money. But see what my father could do was take care of a family of four on a single salary. My mother stayed home because she could. She had that choice, that was a possibility back then. That wasn’t a lifetime ago, that was yesterday.

“Public schools all over the country are falling apart-on top of all that stress you have, you don’t know if your kids are getting a good education, even if you’re doing everything you are supposed to do. You don’t know if the resources are there. You don’t know if your kids are being tested out of enjoying learning. Health care is the biggest cause of debt in this country. People aren’t buying Jaguars, that is not why people are in debt. People are in debt because they got sick. And even if they have insurance, their deductibles and premiums are so high you’re feeling it. Child care-see the reason I’m here looking halfway decent is because I have my mother. She is home with those girls. She is picking them up, and there is nothing like moms. You can’t breath if your kids aren’t whole. That’s why most women are not breathing, because they don’t know that their kids are whole and healthy, because child care is inadequate.”

Mrs. Obama said that, as a nation, we have more in common than differences.

“When I walk into a little community in Iowa and tell my story, folks are nodding just like they are nodding in this room. They connect. It means something different because they don’t think they are supposed to connect with me, but we are closer to one another than we can ever imagine.”

Concerning the war in Iraq, she said: “We’re in a war right now where nobody is sacrificing except for the families and the soldiers who are dying over there. No one has asked us to do anything, not collecting cans, send a cookie. We’ve been told to go about your business, this war shouldn’t bother you. We don’t have the leadership we need. We need leadership that is going to challenge us to be a different nation, that is going to expect us to be better to each other. See that is why I’m here because I happen to be married to the only person in this race who has a chance of doing it, and his name is Barack Obama.

“The question is not whether Barack Obama is ready. Barack is the most qualified capable, hard-working, decent person we will ever see in politics. … The question for America is are we ready? Change requires us to sacrifice. We can, if we believe.”