The first lady was the keynote speaker at the AME Church’s General Conference, a gathering of delegates and leaders from around the world held every four years to discuss, debate and pass legislation impacting the denomination’s mission.

Obama delivered a message of social and civil activism, rallying the crowd by speaking about the civil-rights movement and the accomplishment of electing the first black president. She did not address the Supreme Court’s ruling, released shortly before the meeting, that President Obama’s signature healthcare reform legislation is constitutional.

Instead, she spoke of the similarities between living out faith and living out a democracy.

“You see, living out our eternal salvation is not a once-a-week kind of deal,” she said. “And in a more literal sense, neither is citizenship. Democracy is also an everyday activity. And being an engaged citizen should once again be a daily part of our lives.”

She compared that “real work of democracy” to the real work of faith.

“It’s kind of like church,” she said. “Our faith journey isn’t just about showing up on Sunday for a good sermon and good music and a good meal. It’s about what we do Monday through Saturday as well, especially in those quiet moments, when the spotlight’s not on us, and we’re making those daily choices about how to live our lives.”

She went on to describe the ministry of Jesus Christ as “fighting injustice and speaking truth to power every single day.” 

“And our charge is to find Him everywhere, every day by how we live our lives,” she said of Christ.

She urged the church group to be “informed” of the daily issues, and to show up to vote “every year in every election.”

“[T]oday, how many folks do we know who act like that right doesn’t even matter?” she asked. “After so many folks sacrificed so much so that we could make our voices heard, so many of us just can’t be bothered.
“But let’s be very clear, while we’re tuning out and staying home on Election Day, other folks are tuning in,” she warned. “I know that in the face of all of that money and influence, it can start to feel like ordinary citizens just can’t get a seat at the table. And that can make you feel helpless and hopeless. It can make you feel or think that you’re powerless.”

Obama did not specifically refer to the outside spending groups known as super-PACs, many of which have formed to support Republicans including her husband’s GOP rival Mitt Romney. But Obama’s campaign has warned that such influential groups will be outspending him in the election.

“For the first time in modern American history, the incumbent (that's us) will get outspent in a re-election campaign — by some estimates as much as 3-to-1,” Deputy Campaign Manager Stephanie Cutter wrote in an email to supporters earlier this week.

“Time and again, history has shown us that there is nothing — nothing — more powerful than ordinary citizens coming together for a just cause,” Obama told the AME Church audience. “And I’m not just talking about the big speeches and protests that we all remember. I’m talking about everything that happens between the marches, when the speeches are over and the cameras were off. … That is the real work of democracy: what happens during those quiet moments between the marches.”

She added that she knew she was “preaching to the choir” to a denomination that was founded, in 1816, out of a protest against slavery.

“I'm here today to urge you to continue that work and bring others along with you,” she said. “Because we know that the only way to be heard above all the noise is to lift our voices up together.”