Former first lady Michelle Obama’s message to the Las Vegas crowd of roughly 2,600 was simple: It doesn’t matter to her whom you vote for, just as long as you vote.
People packed the Chaparral High School gymnasium Sunday evening to hear Obama, celebrities and local leaders speak on the importance of registering to vote. They called on audience members to be sure that they were registered and that their friends, family and colleagues were registered, with Election Day around the corner.
“The only way to make change in this country is to get out and vote for the change you’re looking for,” Obama said.
She spoke as part of an event put on by When We All Vote, a nonpartisan organization that Obama co-chairs and that aims to boost voter registration. The rally was part of the organization’s “week of action” campaign and was one of many similar events with celebrities and public figures held across the country this week.
At the Sunday rally, Obama urged people to participate in the political system and show up at the polls this November and every election year.
Obama said she feels frustrated and exhausted with “nastiness” in politics and understood that many felt that way, too. But staying home on Election Day ensures that others make choices about elected officials and issues that affect your community, Obama said.
“Democracy doesn’t wait for you to be bothered,” she said.
In a plea to young people, she jokingly compared not voting to “letting your grandma pick out your clothes for you.”
“You’re essentially putting your future in the hands of others. And the truth is that’s exactly what some folks are hoping you’ll do,” said Obama, then mentioning efforts to suppress voting, such as closing polling stations.
Without mentioning him by name, she appeared to allude to the 2016 presidential balloting won by Donald Trump in her exhortation to vote in every election.
“If we want qualified people that we trust, then you have to vote. You can’t vote some of the time and then sit out, you know? We saw that happen, and we experienced that. And we had a great president,” Obama said to loud cheers. “But every couple of years, folks sat out. They said, ‘Well, I did my part. I voted once. I’m done. I’m out.’ But I’m just telling you that democracy doesn’t work that way.”
Among the others who spoke at the event were actors Keegan-Michael Key, Kelly McCreary and Lana Parrilla. Speakers encouraged audience members to register to vote by texting “weallvote” to 97779.
Speaking to the media afterward, McCreary said it’s critical that the message of voting be nonpartisan because everybody benefits when everybody participates.
In a separate interview, Key urged people to try to vote despite voter-suppression tactics that could create a sense of hopelessness or apathy.
“It’s easy to buy into the cynicism, and we shouldn’t buy into the cynicism,” Key said. “It’s literally one of the greatest gifts that we get to vote.”
The line to get into the high school snaked out the entrance and around the school as people waited for the chance to hear the former first lady speak.
For some, the event’s draw was simple.
“Michelle Obama is a rock star,” Henderson resident Jaime Spotleson said.
Spotleson, 37, called the chance to hear the former first lady speak a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Obama’s visit, Spotleson said, could energize voters and sway people who are on the fence about voting.
“I feel like Nevada is one of the places where every little thing counts,” Spotleson said.
Also in line was 41-year-old Asha Taylor, who stressed the historical significance of getting the chance to vote.
“So many of our ancestors went through a lot for that chance,” Taylor said. “So that’s why I have to.”