NASHVILLE, Tenn. – First lady Michelle Obama brought an audience of 10,000 African Methodist Episcopal Church members to their feet as she exhorted them to get involved in the issues that affect their lives.
Speaking at the AME Church's 49th General Conference at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville on Thursday, Obama praised the church for its role in fighting slavery, segregation and disenfranchisement of blacks at the ballot box.
How to tackle challenges like childhood obesity, poor schools and unsafe neighborhoods can be less clear-cut, she said. But she told the crowd that laws still matter and still shape our lives.
She asked them not to get overwhelmed by today's problems.
Appealing to their faith, she said, "If a simple fisherman could become the rock upon which Christ built his church, surely we can do our part."
The conference, which runs through July 4, was expected to bring 30,000 people from around the world.
Security was tight surrounding this event as officials are getting ready to welcome the First Lady. The Metro Bomb squad was on the scene Thursday morning to help make sure the scene was clear before her arrival.
Not only is the AME Church Conference providing its own security, but Secret Service agents inspected Opryland Hotel.
Organizers said the AME Church is the oldest, historically black denomination in the Western Hemisphere with three million members around the world, and the First Lady's visit will go down in their history books.
"It is a special session. It is an official White House visit and she will be talking to us about families and children and it's just an honor that they thought it worth their time to come and make a presentation to the African Methodist Church Episcopal church denomination," said Phyllis Qualls-Brooks with the AME conference.
President Barack Obama addressed the AME Conference in 2008 when he was a U.S. Senator.
The conference assembles every four years to vote on new rules and elect new officials. It hasn't been hosted in Nashville since 1872.
(The Associated Press Contributed To This Report.)