Courtesy of MCT
Elaine Brye is not a politician, a celebrity or a Democrat, but the Ohio military mom’s sacrifices for her country earned her the opening speech for first lady Michelle Obama at the Democratic National Convention last week.
Brye, an Ohio resident and former teacher, was “blown away” when the first lady’s campaign committee asked her to speak, not only because of the tremendous honor but because they knew she was an undecided voter.
“I’m a registered Republican, but I’ve never voted a party line,” Byre said.
Brye first contacted the Obamas by sending them a Christmas card last year.
“I just really wanted to thank (Michelle Obama) for taking the time to show care and concern (for the military) and oversee this initiative,” Brye said, referring to the first lady’s Joining Forces initiative.
Joining Forces helps military families and veterans receive the support and resources they need. Brye, her husband, Courtney, and four of her five children have been in the military.
“I never expected to hear another thing,” Byre said of her card.
That all changed a few months later when Brye received a surprise invitation to the state dinner. According to Brye, Michelle Obama was moved by the card, and “wanted to do something to honor her.”
The Bryes attended the State Dinner along with celebrities like George Clooney and Warren Buffett, and they were seated at the head table, right next to the Michelle and President Barack Obama.
“She’s just genuine,” Brye said. “She really is a super nice lady. We just sat there and talked about raising kids.”
“We thought that (the dinner) was the experience of a lifetime. What could ever top that?” Brye said with a laugh.
Then in August, less than two weeks before the Democratic National Convention, Brye received a call from the first lady’s campaign press secretary asking her to introduce Michelle Obama in Charlotte, N.C.
After “a lot of prayer and consideration,” Byre agreed.
Brye said she was nervous right before giving her speech, but Michelle Obama was there to encourage her.
“I said, ‘I don’t understand why you picked me, I’m just this mom from Ohio,’ and Michelle Obama said, ‘I wanted people to hear about your marvelous family and your sacrifices, and I couldn’t have picked a better person.'”
With that reassurance, Brye took the stage before about 30,000 people and a national television audience. Her speech, which briefly explained her connection with the Obamas and Michelle Obama’s work with military families, also focused on her children. Four of them are officers in the military, each in a different branch, while the youngest is still in high school.
“They are a mom’s most precious treasures,” Brye said in her speech.
Caitlin Jones, a second-year in psychology, thought having Brye speak was a smart move by the Democrats.
“I think it’s a great political ploy,” Jones said. “Ohio is a major state in terms of the election, so they’re definitely trying to target female Ohioans.”
Although Brye fully supports the Obamas’ military initiative, she is keeping quiet about who she will vote for. However, she said she believes in the importance of educating yourself and voting, regardless of who you vote for.
“Especially your generation,” Byre said. “Vote with your head, vote with your heart, just vote!”