CRANSTON – First Lady Michelle Obama stopped in Rhode Island Friday to help raise money for her husband’s re-election campaign next year.
Mrs. Obama attended a pricy function at the East Side home of former Providence Mayor Joseph Paolino. Tickets for the function ranged from $1,000 to attend the event, $5,000 to get a photo taken with Mrs. Obama to $35,800 for a private reception and photo opportunity. Among those expected to attend was Gov. Lincoln Chafee, a Republican turned Independent who served in the Senate with the president.
Paolino said earlier in the day he hoped the event would bring in about $300,000 for Obama and the Democratic National Committee.
According to pool reports, Mrs. Obama told the more than 200 guests that the 2012 election is about “nothing less than who we are as a country" and is “about a choice between helping others or not.”
She was introduced at the event by former Congressman Patrick Kennedy.
Guests noshed on “heavy hors d’oeuvres” of steak and lamb in a tent in the Paolinos’ backyard.
Earlier in the day, Mrs. Obama engaged in a roundtable discussion with military spouses at the National Guard headquarters in Cranston.
Mrs. Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joseph Biden frequently meet with military wives in what they call the “Joining Forces” program.
The First Lady said the idea grew from meetings she had during her husband’s first election campaign with working women “because one of the things I wanted to be able to do is collect the stories of the challenges and struggles and highs and lows of working women and make sure that those voices were part of my husband’s campaign.
“Not coming from a military family,” she told the dozen or so women gathered around the table to talk to her, “some of the voices I always heard were military spouses, mostly women. I was surprised by how surprised I was that I wasn’t familiar with your stories.
“While most of us women and mothers were talking about our challenges trying to balance it all, keep it together, finding good schools for our kids, trying to hold down a job -- what I realized is you all had the same challenges plus you were dealing with a third or fourth or seventh deployment, hearing that many of you have moved 10 or 12 times, that your kids were in their seventh, eighth or ninth school in that same number of years.
“Those stories really took my breath away,” she said. “I knew if those stories were taking my breath away, it would be the same for any other citizen in America. So I vowed then and there that if my husband got elected, I would use this platform to make sure your voice was heard.”
“The main piece of this is that America knows the unique challenges that you face,” Mrs. Obama noted, “because one of the things I learned from all of you is that, number one, you don’t complain, and that’s part of the challenge because you all keep it together so well and you have strong support systems. But it is still hard.”
“We love our lives, we wouldn’t change it for anything,” Teresa Cristenson, wife of Adm. John Christenson, commanding officer of the U.S. Naval War College in Newport. “We do have challenges we face on a daily basis that we do sometimes need help with. Those things that are out of our control, the school systems, the PTSD in our families, licensure, transferring jobs, even being welcomed into a new community. That’s where a thing like Joining Forces comes in.
“We know the power of a strong social network,” she said.
“We’ve been married for 15 years and this is our eighth move,” said Amy King, wife of a U.S. Marine. “It’s a challenge, we accept it, we acknowledge it, we rise to the challenge and overcome it.”
Reporters were allowed to observe only the first few minutes of the meeting, then were ushered out so the women could talk among themselves.