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Michelle Obama joins Illinois governor as he signs measure assisting military spouses

Published: Thursday, June 28, 2012 11:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, June 28, 2012 11:30 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Photo by Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/MCT)
First lady Michelle Obama greets audience members after Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed the Military Family Licensing Act into law Tuesday, June 26, 2012, at the Illinois National Guard Armory in the South Loop in Chicago, Illinois.

CHICAGO (MCT) — First lady Michelle Obama returned to Chicago Tuesday for a pair of campaign fundraisers, squeezing in an appearance with Gov. Pat Quinn as he signed a measure that will make it easier for military spouses to get professional licenses when they move to Illinois.

The new law will allow regulators to issue temporary licenses for military family members who are licensed in another state to practice everything from nursing to plumbing. By doing so, they are able to search for jobs and start working without delay as the state checks out their credentials — a process that could take months.

The measure is aimed at making the transition from state to state smoother for military families, an issue Michelle Obama has made a priority in her effort to support military families and highlight the role they play as their loved ones serve the country.

“They’re folks who are giving their heart and soul to this country every single day. Every time our country asks them to pick up their families and move across the country at a moment’s notice, they do it and they do it with pride,” she said during her remarks at the Illinois National Guard Armory in the South Loop. “So we owe it to these individuals to get this licensing issue right.”

Earlier in the day, the first lady spoke at a “Women for Obama” fundraiser at the Standard Club, where she was introduced by “Glee” actress Jane Lynch, who’s from Dolton, Ill. About 500 people attended, with tickets starting at $250, according to a campaign official.

The first lady pointed to friends in the crowd, telling audience members to sit down when they rose to their feet.

“Don’t act like you don’t know me,” she said. “It’s wonderful to be home with so many familiar faces.”

The first lady offered a sales pitch on behalf of President Barack Obama, who is being challenged by Republican Mitt Romney on Nov. 6. “Will we allow everything we’ve fought for ... to just slip away? Is that what we’re going to do?” she asked.

Donors shouted “no” in response.

The second fundraiser skewed toward a younger crowd, with tickets starting at $44 and reaching $2,500 for a group photo opportunity. About 375 people packed into a hip meeting space on the city’s Near West Side, where Michelle Obama spoke about the need for Congress to move quickly to keep interest rates on student loans from rising, saying the president “knows what it’s like to be drowning in student debt.”

Acknowledging the next few months will be hard-fought, she encouraged attendees in the president’s hometown to “pack a bag and spend some time in a battleground state.”

“There’s only 130-something days left, but it is going to be long,” she said. “And it is going to be hard.”

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