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DULUTH — First Lady Jill Biden, self-described as "Nana," made an appeal to older voters during a stop here Thursday at the Lincoln Park Senior Center — her kickoff to a campaign meant to draw the support of seniors in the current administration's bid for re-election in November.

Biden's 15-minute speech was a pro-aging pep rally that started with the reckoning around new wrinkles and the title of grandparent, then segued into the benefits of living a long life: grit, wisdom, fortitude, perspective, perseverance, dedication and determination, she said. Biden then leaned into the structures needed to allow people to age with dignity — Social Security, affordable medications, Medicare.

"Aging," she said, "is a gift."

Biden's words seemed to resonate with most of the 300-some audience members, some of whom arrived more than two hours early to hear her speak.

Seniors for Biden-Harris, billed as a grassroots program, started this week and will continue around the country into the November election, in which President Joe Biden will face the Republican presumptive nominee, former President Donald Trump. It is a push to draw older supporters for postcard and letter-writing campaigns; phone and text banking and votes. The national campaign will also include pickleball tournaments and bingo nights.

Biden touted her spouse's record with issues relating to seniors: capping insulin prices, making sure Medicare can negotiate drug prices directly, strengthening the Affordable Care Act. She asked the people in the room to sign up for phone banks and canvassing shifts and donate to the campaign.

"We cannot be defined by a number," she said. "And when people underestimate, they do so at their own risk."

Her speech was twice stalled by pro-Palestinian protesters. In both instances, the protesters were led out of the room — one waving the flag of Palestine — and the audience chanted "Four more years."

"Thank God we live in a democracy and we're able to voice our opinions," Biden said.

First Lady Jill Biden speaks Thursday at Lincoln Park Senior Center in Duluth, asking for seniors' support of President Joe Biden.
First Lady Jill Biden speaks Thursday at Lincoln Park Senior Center in Duluth, asking for seniors' support of President Joe Biden.

Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

Grandmothers for Peace gathered on the sidewalk outside of the Lincoln Park venue, a community meeting place and headquarters for Meals on Wheels.

In this region, one-third of people are over age 65 — a greater number than those 18 or younger, according to Georgia Lane of the Arrowhead Area Agency on Aging.

"We're honored she's coming here to talk to older voters," Lane said before the event.

Biden, 73, walked into the room, and left the podium, to a Hall & Oates soundtrack: "You're Making My Dreams Come True." She lingered afterward, disappearing into a circle of attendees, whose last-minute invitation to this midday event came via text and email on Wednesday night.

The First Lady flew to Duluth from Green Bay, Wis., where she spoke earlier in the day.

Frank Jewell, a former county commissioner, warmed up the crowd with a short speech about what he sees as the most pressing needs of St. Louis County's seniors: transportation and affordable medication.

"If you're not getting your medication, you aren't going to stay well," he said, earning applause.

Sandy Grandmaison, who described herself as an activist, was among the first to arrive for Biden's visit.

"I think President Biden is a phenomenal man," she said. "He's done more for the aging and middle class in the past three years than the last president. I'm all for living in a democracy with my grandchildren."