Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Michelle Barack Visits Ma Ficher's in BrewTown

TUESDAY, Feb. 12, 2008, 3:24 p.m.By Erica Perez
Michelle Obama talks on work-life balance
Michelle Obama chatted this afternoon with a handful of women about the work-life balance at the east side diner Ma Fischer's, emphasizing her husband's focus on closing the gap between the "lucky few" and "ordinary people."Her stop was one of a round of visits here today with one week left until Wisconsin's presidential primaries. She will head to Sheboygan and De Pere later this afternoon.Obama spent an hour listening to stories at a table with six hand-picked women. Most were active supporters of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, but one was undecided until today. They are all working women with families who are friends and family members of campaign volunteers, spokeswoman Katherine Lyons said.Obama shared her own struggles with balancing children and work and, now, campaigning."I can barely sleep at night," she said. "I'm still worrying about whether I'm doing it right."Laura Manriquez, a local community organizer, told Obama how she had once been on welfare but had since managed to become a nurse at an assisted-living facility, all while raising six children between the ages of 11 and 23 on her own. "As a single mom, I can appreciate everything you're saying," Manriquez said.The women talked about how tough it is to strike a balance between work and family, including the difficulty of affording quality child care, the high cost of feeding kids healthy foods and the challenge of being a single mom and sole provider.Obama, in turn, talked about personal financial difficulties, saying it would be interesting to see a president who finally paid off his educational debt in the past three years because he worked in community organizing. "Our (combined student) loan payments were more than our mortgage on our first condominium," Obama said. "We were paying that debt off until Barack wrote two bestselling books..."It was like, how are you going to run for president? We're broke!" she said, getting a laugh from the women at the table.Heidi Maistelman, who lives in Glendale and is a music teacher at Milwaukee Jewish Day School, said she was chosen for the panel because she was undecided. Now, though, "I think the scale has been tipped," she said."I love the idea of a woman being in a position of power, but I think we need a fresh face, a fresh vision," she said. Barack Obama is scheduled to hold a rally tonight at the Kohl Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. On Wednesday, he has plans to visit Janesville, Waukesha and Racine.

It's always nice to see your town as the epicenter of a presidential race. Well, in this case it's the Democratic primary. Add to that the fact I've eaten a dozen or so meals at Ma Fisher's, well, you know how that goes.

It seems Mrs. Obama energized the "hand-picked" group of six. How convenient!

She also spoke of paying off school debt because Barack was in "community organizing." I'll take that to mean he worked mainly volunteer or low-paying beauracratic positions. Many of us don't have that luxury.

ANother luxury many of us don't have is the bail-out from a best-selling book. In America once you are a celebrity you can get your work published much easier than if you are an unknown writer. It doesn't matter how good a writer you are. Again, as a writer it's a craft I work at but I cannot pay off my student loans with the good graces Barack received.

Is that why Barack believes the "haves" should be robbed to give to "have-nots?"

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