Former President Barack Obama rallied for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other Democratic candidates running for office in Michigan at Renaissance High School in Detroit Saturday afternoon.

At the event, titled “Get Out the Vote”, Obama delivered remarks for roughly an hour, talking primarily about the importance of electing Democrats and calling on the few thousand attendees to encourage their friends and family to go to the polls.

“These days, just about every Republican politician seems obsessed with two things: owning the libs … and getting Donald Trump’s approval,” Obama said. “They are not interested in actually solving problems.” 

Former President Donald Trump visited Macomb Michigan earlier this month to campaign for Republican gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon and other Republican candidates. He criticized Whitmer for her policies during the COVID-19 pandemic and her stance on crime and abortion. Two hecklers attempted to interrupt Obama’s speech, the first shouting at him while he spoke about the violent attack on Paul Pelosi, husband of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. Paul Pelosi underwent surgery in San Francisco for a skull fracture and injuries to his arm. Another protester yelled in response to Obama’s discussion of rising inflation throughout the country. Both hecklers were escorted out by event staff.

A heckler shouts at Former President Barack Obama during the Michigan Democrats’ Get Out the Vote Rally in Detroit Saturday afternoon. Julianne Yoon/Daily. Buy this photo.

Following the first interruption, Obama spoke about how it is important to remain focused on issues that matter to voters and to avoid getting distracted by partisan spectacles or becoming apathetic about politics, no matter how tempting it might be.

“We get distracted instead of focusing on what’s important,” Obama said. “I understand why people are anxious. I understand why you might be worried about the course of the country. I understand why sometimes it’s tempting just to tune out, watch football, watch ‘Dancing With The Stars.’ But I’m here to tell you that tuning out is not an option.”

Obama then referred to Republican gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon’s views on funding for public education, which received boos from the crowd. Obama immediately responded by shushing the crowd and encouraged them to use their vote as their voice.

“Do not boo, vote,” Obama said. “Booing doesn’t help. They can’t hear you boo, but they can hear you vote.”

Former President Barack Obama responds to the heckler in the crowd at the Michigan Democrats’ Get Out the Vote Rally in Detroit Saturday afternoon. Julianne Yoon/Daily. Buy this photo.

The “Get Out the Vote” rally also featured a number of elected officials throughout the state, including U.S. Representatives Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Senators Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), and Lieutenant Gov. Garlin Gilchrist. 

Incumbent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was also present at the rally, where she discussed the significance of this election and the issues in contention, particularly reproductive rights.

“Our economic future is on this ballot,” Whitmer said. “Our democracy is on this ballot. And the right to choose is on this ballot. If you don’t think the right to choose is an economic issue, you don’t have a uterus.”

Protecting voting rights and access to abortion were recurring themes across all of the event’s speakers. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson spoke on the importance of protecting democracy, noting that hundreds of candidates who have denied the results of the 2020 election are running for office across the country.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer during the Pledge of Allegiance at the Michigan Democrats’ Get Out the Vote Rally in Detroit Saturday. Selena Sun/Daily. Buy this photo.

“The anti-democracy forces are carrying out a coordinated strategy to spread lies, to deceive voters and tell them all mistruths about their elections and their democracy,” Benson said. “We’re not going to let them succeed. No amount of threats, lies, deceit, vitriol is going to stand in the way of us and our democracy.”

Attorney General Dana Nessel spoke to the crowd about reproductive rights, discussing her Republican opponent Matthew DePerno’s “no exceptions” abortion stance and extreme views on birth control.

“He also opposes birth control (and) says he wants to treat it the same as illegal shipments of fentanyl that come into our borders,” Nessel said. “I’m going to continue to fight for all Michiganders and to make sure that women in our state can make their own medical decisions.”

Energy in the Renaissance High School gymnasium remained high throughout the event as the school’s marching band performed energetic interludes between speakers, at one point garnering praise from Obama himself.Obama’s appearance was one in a series of visits to battleground states ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm election.

Daily Staff Reporter Irena Li can be reached at