Photo essay: Michelle Obama makes her 2016 debut on the trail in Virginia

See the best photos from the first lady’s first campaign rally of the season

On September 17, First Lady Michelle Obama hit the trail for the first time in this campaign season, hosting a rally for Hillary Clinton at George Mason University in Fairfax.

During her speech, the first lady emphasized the importance of young people getting involved in this election by registering to vote, making sure their friends and family members are registered, and volunteering for Hillary Clinton in their communities. Follow her advice: Register to vote or update your registration at iwillvote.com, and click here to join our team!

Thousands of Virginians showed up to see FLOTUS, some waiting in line for hours. They shared their stories of why they had come to see her speak, what this election means to them, and how they’re getting involved here in Virginia.

“VirWINia on three!” Hillary for Virginia volunteers and staff go hands-in before heading to register voters in line at the rally.
“We’re here for women’s empowerment!” — Nailah, Desia, and Erin
¡Juntos se puede! Con Hillary porque es con ella que podemos triunfar. — José
“We support Hillary and her stand for the working individual.” — Monika, who attended the rally with a group of SEIU members supporting Hillary.
“Michelle lives in the White House. Next year, we want Hillary to live there!” — Nesta, age 4
“Michelle supporting Hillary is a great way to empower women and get us girls out to the polls to vote. We’re with Hillary (and Michelle)!” — Cidney
On the left, Jennifer with her sons, Tay and Pharell: “As a newly forever family, we are with her because she will keep America safe, and make sure this country is welcoming for everyone.” On the right, Dennis: “She is already well educated in diplomacy and what’s going on in the world. It’s the experience that matters.”
George Mason University students pose while waiting for the rally to start.

Once the doors were opened, people packed in to watch the first lady speak — and when Michelle Obama took the stage, she electrified the crowd.

“Back in 2012, Barack won Virginia by about 150,000 votes. Now, that may sound like a lot, but when you break that down, the difference between winning and losing the state was only 31 votes per precinct. Thirty-one votes. … Each of you could swing an entire precinct and win this election for Hillary Clinton just by getting yourselves, your friends, and your few family members registered and out to vote. But it’s going to take work.” — First Lady Michelle Obama
“From now until November, I’m going to work as hard as I can to make sure that Hillary and Tim Kaine win this election. I need your help to do that as well. … Virginia will make the difference in this election. Are you ready, Virginia?”

Then, when her speech was over, First Lady Michelle Obama stuck around to give some famous FLOTUS hugs …

… and people who’d seen the speech took her words to heart.

“Listening to Michelle reminded me that it’s easy to speak out against things you hate. It’s harder to step up and do work for people you support. Because of her, I’m stepping up.” — Busola

Follow Busola’s lead: Register to vote at iwillvote.com and sign up to volunteer.