John McCain and Barack Obama may be the headliners in this year’s presidential election. But Frasier Robinson may impact the election more than many of the political figures who make the rounds on the Sunday morning news shows.
Frasier Robinson is Michelle Obama’s late father.
She credits him with introducing her to politics and teaching her how everyday life is shaped by public policy. Her early experiences, following her father as he went door to door, helping people register to vote, are part of the reason she has been so involved in her husband’s effort to register new voters and get them to the polls.
“My father took great pride in helping people have a choice in their lives,’’ she said during a conference call with members of the black press on Wednesday. “I am grateful to him for teaching me about the importance of voting. I remember sitting in people’s kitchens for hours. Sometimes I was bored, but I realized that this was important.”
Michelle Obama hosted Wednesday’s conference call with the Rev. Joseph Lowery, an Obama supporter and civil rights leader, as they kicked off the campaign’s nationwide voter registration efforts in African-American communities.
Last week, on July 24, the campaign opened its Fort Lauderdale offices at 733 Sistrunk Boulevard to help Obama share his vision for bringing about change in America.
During the conference call, Michelle Obama and Lowery discussed the importance of increased African-American engagement and involvement in this year’s election.
Obama spoke of the need to engage 8 million unregistered African-American voters in the political process, considering the numerous issues facing the country, from healthcare, to education, to economic opportunity.
The campaign said it has registered more than half a million voters, and has made educating citizens about their rights and responsibilities as participants in America’s rich democracy a priority.
Obama’s conference call came as a CNN-Opinion Research Corp. poll released on Wednesday showed her husband with a 51 percent to 44 percent lead nationwide over Republican presidential candidate John McCain, according to The Associated Press.
Barack Obama has a particularly strong lead over McCain among young and newly registered voters. The campaign is looking to register these young voters and mobilize them to get out the vote.
“We all recognize the world as it is,’’ Michelle Obama told reporters on Wednesday. “We know that things are a little less fair and a little less just. I think that people have lost the belief that they can affect their future through voting. When we vote, we are casting ballots to get us to the world as it should be.”
The Obama campaign is also counting on strong African-American voter turnout in November. In 2004, 14 million African Americans voted in the presidential election.
But as many as 1.3 million black voters reported a lack of interest as their reason for not voting, while 400,000 said they were too busy to vote.
Rick Wade, national senior advisor to the Obama presidential campaign, is heading up the effort to register and turn out new voters. Wade said that voter education is a big part of getting potential voters interested in the process.
Obama said she hopes that African Americans and other disenfranchised voters see this year’s election as an opportunity to change the world as it is. A decision not to vote is a vote for keeping the world as it is, she said.
“Voting should be a family affair,’’ she said. “We all know people in our own family who are not paying attention. We need as much help as we can get. We need to involve everyone in the process.’’
“I consider it a holy mission to encourage people to register and vote,’’ he said. “Voting is a sacred right for all Americans. However, in African- American society, it is a moral obligation. We vote out of reverence for the past and hope for the future.”
Wade said the Obama campaign is not just looking to register and turn out voters for this election, but to assure that new voters continue to vote in future elections. He cited the need for a short-term and long-term outlook to engage a younger generation.
“I know that this is one of the things that Barack thinks about, sustaining this energy,’’ Michelle Obama said. “He thinks of this in terms of a community organizer. Part of what we think will keep people involved beyond this campaign, is the continuous presence of the (Obama) administration in the communities.’’
She continued: “We do not want an administration where Barack disappears into the White House. If we are out in the communities, and our administration is accessible to people, we think, voters will remain interested. If people believe that their voices are heard, they will stay involved.”
Photo: Michelle Obama