Michelle Obama wants you to know that she lived in a political household well before she moved into the White House. When she tells you to get out there and vote, she's not just saying it because she's the former first lady. Michelle Obama's story of why she always votes goes much farther back than that, and you can really see why it's so important to her to take part in our democracy.
As part of the When We All Vote Week of Action, Obama recorded a short video telling the story of what got her involved in politics all those years ago. Spoiler alert: it wasn't Barack. Instead, it all began with another important man in her life: her father.
"I grew up in a household where voting was just something you did all the time," she says to start the story. She then went into the story of how, as a kid, she used to go to the polling place with her father. He had multiple sclerosis, a disease which made it very difficult for him to move around. She recalled the effort that it took for him to get to the polling place and cast his ballot — but he still did it every time.
"I remember my father doing this exercise every single election," Obama said. "And not worried about whether it was raining, or snowing, or whether he was tired."
She might not just be making casual connections here, either. As an Oxford professor of politics told Vice, bad weather can drive down voter turnout among some segments of the population, specifically among people who are less educated and who are in lower socio-economic classes.
"I would watch my dad vote and I would think, "Wow, what a special responsibility that must be, and it must be something important for him to take this much time out and push himself to get to the polling place," Obama went on. "So that's one of the reasons why I don't take voting for granted."
Obama said that she makes sure to vote in every election that comes up — a pretty clear reference to the midterms, which are just about as important as the presidential election, but which historically have much lower turnout. The 2014 midterms, for example, had the lowest voter turnout since 1942, when a decent percentage of eligible voters were off fighting the Nazis in Europe. However, it looks like things could be changing this year. According to a Pew Research Center poll, turnout is already up in the 2018 House primaries, and voter enthusiasm is already higher than it's been in any of the previous four midterm elections.
Obama, in her work with When We all Vote, is doing everything she can to help drive that enthusiasm up even higher — and she's not alone in that. Other celebrities like Tom Hanks, Faith Hill, Janelle Monáe, and Lin Manuel Miranda have all also contributed their voting stories to the cause.
"You gotta vote!" Obama said. "You gotta vote often, and you gotta vote every election."