Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event
1:49 P.M. CDT
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you all so much. (Applause.) Let me tell you, it is a pleasure and an honor to be here with all of you.
I want to start, of course, by thanking Warren for that very kind introduction. Oh my goodness. Every day, he reminds us that it’s not just enough to do well for ourselves -- we also have an obligation to reach back and to lift up others. And we are so grateful for Warren's service to those in need, both here in America and around the world. (Applause.) Yes, indeed.
I also have to recognize Warren’s wonderful daughter, Susie, who’s doing plenty of her own great work to lift up our children and our families. (Applause.) Susie, you are amazing. That event -- as much as I gave those girls, they gave it right back. I mean, that is truly what we're here for, and it was well worth the flight to come down and spend time with all of you and with those amazing girls who are going to change the world. I am confident in that. (Applause.)
And I also want to thank Mayor Suttle, Mayor Beutler, and your state party chair, Vic Covalt. (Applause.) Yay! Thank you all. And former Senator Bob Kerry is here as well, and we’re so pleased that he could join us. (Applause.) He was here, he may -- busy. He's got stuff to do. (Laughter.)
I also want to give a shoutout to David Dover. Yay. (Applause.) To Noelle Obermeyer, and to the rest of the host committee, thank you all for making this even such a huge success. Well done. (Applause.) Well done.
And finally, I want to thank all of you for your support and for taking the time out of your lives to be here today. And I know there's a reason you all are here -- it's not just to hang out with me. (Laughter.) You’re here -- me too. But you're here because you know that next November we’re going to make a choice that will impact our lives for decades to come. And you’re here because you know that choice won’t just affect all of us, but it's going to affect those girls we just saw, and it's going to affect our children and our grandchildren and the world we leave for them long after we're gone. And truly, that is why I'm here, and that is why it was such an honor for me to spend time with those girls.
As First Lady, I have had the privilege of traveling all across this country, meeting with folks from all different backgrounds and hearing what’s going on in their daily lives. And every day, I hear how people are working to keep it all together -- how they're trying to pay the bills, about the businesses they're trying to keep afloat, about the home they love but are struggling to afford. But let me tell you something -- no matter what folks are going through, no matter what challenges they face, they just keep on working, keep on sacrificing. Why? Because they desperately want something better for their kids. (Applause.) Absolutely. That’s what keeps us all going.
They believe in that fundamental vision for our economy that we all share –- the idea, as my husband says, that hard work should pay off, that responsibility should be rewarded, and that everyone should get a fair shot and everyone should do their fair share and play by the same rules. Those are values that are fundamental. They're at the foundation of an economy built to last. They are basic American values. They're the values that so many of us were raised with, including myself.
My father was a blue collar city worker at the water filtration plant, and my family lived in a teeny little apartment on the South Side of Chicago. I've been joking lately that my room is exactly the same as it was -- my mother still has the house -- same bed sheets, same pictures on the wall, flowered pictures I bought when I was 16. But neither of my parents had the opportunity to go to college, but as I told the girls earlier, what my parents did for us is that they saved, and they sacrificed everything for us because they wanted something more for me and my brother.
And more than anything else, that’s what’s at stake -- that fundamental promise that no matter who you are or how you started out, if you work hard you can build a decent life for yourself, and an even better life for your kids. And let me tell you, on just about every issue that is the choice that we face.
Let’s start with all those tax cuts that my husband has passed for middle-class families. What you have to understand is that’s about whether people can heat their homes, whether they can send their kids to college, whether they can retire with a little dignity and security. It’s about putting money in people’s pockets, which means more money in our economy, which means more jobs. And it’s about making sure that everyone pays their fair share.
That’s why Barack proposed a rule named after our friend Warren. It’s called the Buffett Rule, and it closes some of those tax loopholes -- (applause) -- it closes some of those loopholes so that millionaires and billionaires aren’t paying lower tax rates than firefighters or teachers -- or their secretaries for that matter. That’s what’s at stake.
And how about everything my husband has been doing to create jobs? (Applause.) Absolutely. I want you to remember back when all those folks in Washington were telling Barack to let the auto industry go under with more than a million jobs on the line. But Barack had the backs of American workers. He put his faith in the American people, and as a result, today the auto industry is back on its feet, and, more importantly, people are back at work providing for their families. (Applause.)
And think back to when Barack first took office. When he came into office, this country was losing an average of 750,000 jobs a month. That’s what he inherited. But for the past 25 straight months, we’ve actually been gaining private sector jobs –- a total of more than 4 million jobs in just two years. (Applause.)
So while we still have a very long way to go to rebuild our economy, today, millions of folks are collecting a paycheck again. But that’s what’s at stake. That's the choice we face.
And what about all we’ve done for our small businesses? These are the companies that create two-thirds of all new jobs each year in this economy. And I'm talking about the mom who opens up a drycleaner to provide for her kids -- that’s who we're talking about. We're talking about families that have been running that neighborhood diner for generations. See, for these folks, the small business tax cuts this administration has passed, it will mean the difference between those folks hiring new employees or handing out pink slips; the difference between keeping their doors open or closing up shop for good. But that's the choice that we face.
And how about the very first bill my husband signed into law -- the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to help women get equal pay for equal work? (Applause.) Now what you have to know is that he did this because he knows what it means when women aren’t treated fairly in the workplace. He watched his own grandmother, a woman with a high school education, work her way up to become a Vice President at a little community bank. And she worked hard, and she was good at what she did, but like so many women she hit that glass ceiling, and watched men no more qualified than she was -- men she had actually trained -- be promoted up that ladder ahead of her.
So believe me, for Barack, this issue isn’t abstract. This isn't hypothetical. And he signed this bill because he knows that closing that pay gap, that can mean the difference between women losing $50, $100, $500 from each paycheck, or having that money in their pockets to buy gas and groceries and put clothes on the backs of their children. He did it because when so many women are now breadwinners for our families, women’s success in this economy is the key to families’ success in this economy. (Applause.) And he did it because he believes that here in America, there are no second-class citizens in our workplaces. That’s what’s at stake here. That’s what we're working for.
And let’s talk just a minute about health care. See, two years ago, we made history together by finally passing health reform. (Applause.) And because we passed this law, insurance companies will now have to cover basic preventive care -- things like prenatal care, mammograms, contraception -- at no extra cost. (Applause.) And they can no longer deny our children coverage because they have a pre-existing condition like diabetes or asthma.
Kids now stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26 years old, so that when our kids graduate from college, they won’t have to go without health care while they’re trying to find a job and build lives of their own. And that’s how 2.5 million young people today are getting their coverage today. (Applause.) And since we passed this law, millions of our senior citizens have saved an average of more than $600 a year on their prescription drugs.
So let me ask -- will we take all those savings away? Is that what we're going to do?
MRS. OBAMA: Are we going to allow insurance companies to refuse to cover our children, or will we say that here in America, no one should ever have to choose between going bankrupt or watching their child suffer because they can’t afford a doctor? That's the choice that we face.
And think for a moment about all that we’re doing to give our kids a good education. Think about the investments we’ve made to raise standards and reform our public schools. Think about how my husband has been fighting for the DREAM Act so that responsible young immigrants -- (applause) -- who came here as children and were raised as Americans can earn a path to citizenship by going to college or serving in the military.
And think about how my husband took billions of dollars in taxpayer money that used to go to middleman banks and lenders and he sent it where it belongs –- to help millions of young people go to college. (Applause.) But these investments won’t just determine our children’s success -- they’re going to determine nothing less than the success of our entire economy. They’ll determine whether we’re prepared to make the discoveries and to build the industries that will let us compete with any country anywhere in the world. But that's what’s at stake.
And we cannot forget how my husband appointed those two brilliant Supreme Court justices -- (applause) -- and for the first time in history, our daughters and sons watched three women take their seats on our nation’s highest court. (Applause.) And let’s not forget the impact the Court’s decisions will have on our lives for decades to come –- on our privacy and security; on whether we can speak freely, worship openly, and, yes, love whomever we choose. That’s what’s at stake. That's the choice we face. (Applause.)
And finally, let us not forget all this administration has done to keep our country safe and restore our standing in the world. Thanks to the brave men and women in uniform, we finally brought to justice the man behind the 9/11 attacks and all those other horrific acts of violence. (Applause.)
My husband kept his promise. He ended the war in Iraq, he brought our troops home, and we are working very hard to give them and their families the benefits they’ve earned. And finally, because my husband ended "don't ask, don't tell," our troops will never again have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love. (Applause.) But that’s what's at stake. Those are the choices we face.
So make no mistake about it -- whether it’s health care or the economy, whether it’s education or foreign policy, the choice we make will determine nothing less than who we are as a country, but, more importantly, who do we want to be? Who do we want to be?
Will we be a country where opportunity is just limited to the few at the top?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: No.
MRS. OBAMA: Is that who we are? Or will we be a place where if you work hard, you can get ahead no matter who you are or how you started out? Who are we? Will we tell folks who have done everything right but are still struggling, are we going to look at them and say tough luck, you're on your own? Who are we? Or will we honor that fundamental American belief that we’re all in this together, and that this country is strongest when we’re all better off? (Applause.) Who do we want to be?
Will we continue all the change we’ve begun and the progress we’ve made? Or will we allow everything we’ve fought for to just slip away? See, but those are the choices we face. And we know what we need to do. We know that we cannot turn back now. We need to keep moving forward. Am I right? (Applause.)
See, believe me, what you have to know is your President, Barack, he knows this. He knows this all too well. He understands these issues because he's lived them. He was raised by a single mother who struggled to put herself through school and pay the bills, and when she needed help, who stepped up? His grandmother, waking up every morning before dawn to take that bus at her job at the bank. And even though she was passed over for all those promotions, like so many people in our lives, she never complained. How many people do we know like that, who just never complain? She just kept on showing up and doing her best.
So believe me, Barack knows what it means when a family struggles. Believe me, he knows what it means when someone doesn’t have a chance to fulfill their potential, and how much that hurts. Those are the experiences that have made him the man and the President he is today. And we are blessed to have him. (Applause.)
And what I share with people is, that is what I hear in my husband's voice when he returns home after a long day traveling around the country and he tells me about the people he’s met. That’s what I see in those quiet moments late at night after the girls have gone to bed and he’s up poring over the letters people have sent him -- the letter from the woman dying of cancer whose insurance company won’t cover her care, the letter from the father struggling to pay his family’s bills, the letters from far too many young people with so much promise, but so few opportunities.
And I hear the passion and the determination in his voice. He says you won’t believe what people are still going through. That’s what he tells me. He says, Michelle, this is not right. We have got to fix this. We have so much more work to do.
See, what people need to know in this election, when it comes to the people Barack meets, he has a mind like a steel trap -- Warren's seen it. (Laughter.) He might not remember your name, but if he's had a few minutes and a decent conversation, he will never forget your story. It becomes imprinted on his heart. And that is what he carries with him every single day. It's our collection of struggles, and hopes and dreams.
That's where Barack gets his passion. That is where he gets that toughness and that fight, that steadiness. That’s why, even in the hardest moments when it seems like all is lost, Barack Obama never loses sight of the end goal. He never lets himself get distracted by the chatter and the noise. (Applause.) Like his grandmother, he just keeps moving forward. He just keeps moving forward.
But I have said this before -- said it in the last election -- and I will keep saying it: He cannot do this alone. He cannot do this alone. That was never the promise. He needs your help. He needs you revved up, making those calls; more importantly, registering those voters. He needs you to take those “I’m in” cards -- you seen them? Sign them up! Sign up. Sign your friends and your neighbors and your colleagues up. You need to convince them how important it is just to invest a little bit of themselves each week in this campaign.
Because we all know that this isn’t about one extraordinary man. It never was. Although I’ll admit my husband is awesome. (Applause.) But it has never been about him. It has always been about us -- all of us. All of us coming together for the values we believe in, and the country we want to be. (Applause.) The country we want to be.
And I’m not going to kid you -- this journey is going to be long. It is going to be hard, I can guarantee you, and there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way. But the truth is, and what we have to remember, is that’s how change always happens in this country. That’s how it works.
The reality is that change -- real change -- is slow, and it never happens all at once, never does. But if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight, then eventually we get there. We always have, we always will. Maybe not in our lifetimes, but maybe in our children’s lifetimes, maybe in our grandchildren’s lifetimes. Because in the end, that’s what this is all about. Remember those girls?
In the end, we are not fighting these battles for ourselves. Like so many who came before us and fought for us to be right here, we are fighting them for our sons and our daughters; for our grandsons and our granddaughters. We’re fighting for the world we want to leave for them -- for them. That's what's at stake. That’s why I'm here.
So let me tell you something -- it is time for us to get moving. It's time for us to get to work. So let me ask you one last question -- are you in?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: I can't hear that, are you in?
MRS. OBAMA: You have to be really in! (Applause.) I am so in. I am so fired up. We have a vision, and it's a vision we share. And we can come together and work hard and bring this home and get back to the business of giving our children the country that we know we want them to have.
Thank you all so much. We're going to work hard. God bless you. (Applause.)
END 2:11 P.M. CDT