After her flight from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, but before taking the stage at Pitt’s Fitzgerald Field House on Wednesday, First Lady Michelle Obama posed for photos.
When she got to Saket Rajprohat, she gave him a hug and asked “How are you doing?”
The Pitt sophomore was baffled.
“I didn’t know what to say,” he said, but responded by telling the first lady that he was happy to see her.
The 19-year-old from Moon Township has volunteered for the Democratic party since the summer and was selected to introduce Obama during her visit earlier this week.
When he took the stage, he told the crowd about the work volunteers were doing and how several years ago, his mom was laid off but able to go back to school thanks to grants from the Obama administration. He said President Barack Obama believes every vote matters.
And then, “I introduced Michelle Obama, and everyone freaked out,” he said.
The first lady told the crowd of several thousand about Hillary Clinton’s qualifications and criticized Donald Trump without using his name, as she has in past speeches. She said not voting or voting for someone who isn’t Hillary (aka a third party candidate) is a vote for Clinton’s opponent. (You can watch her whole speech here.)
Rajprohat — who votes for the first time this November — said he thought her speech was great.
Last spring, Rajprohat decided to start going to the rallies for presidential candidates in Pittsburgh. He saw Bernie Sanders and Clinton and planned to go to a Donald Trump rally just to hear what was said, but when he saw the protestors, he stayed outside with them. They were “my people,” he said.
And it was at a Clinton event that someone approached him about volunteering.
“I thought it would be an awesome opportunity to say I was part of electing the first woman [president],” he said. “… Even if I didn’t play a part in the campaign, this is one to remember for a lifetime.”
He said he hopes to study business and minor in political science, but wants to stay in politics if he can to help others. And so far, it’s voter registration where he’s found his niche.
Asking people to register isn’t selling them something, Rajprohat said. It’s about allowing people to express their freedom of speech and say what they think is broken. (Gov. Tom Wolf thinks you should register to vote, too. You have until Oct. 11 to do so.)
Rajprohat said he started by nervously approaching people and didn’t have a response when they tried to blow him off. But he learned. “It’s not that these people are rejecting me. They don’t know what I’m asking for.”
He also found that its easier to approach people who are sitting (instead of people who are walking) and have a conversation about why it’s important to vote.
And for people who say they don’t want to vote, Rajprohat said he tries to spend about 15 minutes with them, talking about voting and explaining, “Anything that happens with this president will impact you in your daily life.”