Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event
4:28 P.M. CDT
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you! (Applause.) You all are fired up. (Applause.) First of all, just let me say thank you. Thank you so much. I am thrilled to be with all of you today, really thrilled.
I want to just share with you -- as you can all imagine -- this state has a very special place in my heart, and in Barack's as well. I am fortunate enough to see so many old friends, folks who were with us right from the very beginning and every step of the way.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you, Michelle! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: Well, it feels great to be back here in Iowa, it really does.
I want to start by thanking CeCe for that very kind introduction, and very powerful introduction. (Applause.) I just want to thank her for her outstanding work on our campaign, she has just been amazing. Let's give her another round of applause. (Applause.)
I also want to recognize Mayor Jerry Sullivan; your state party chair, Sue Dvorsky; and our good friend, Ruth Harkin. (Applause.) I'm so glad that all of you could be here today.
And finally, to all of you, truly, our extraordinary volunteers and organizers -- I just want to say two words that my husband and I simply cannot say enough, and that is thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you for knocking on those doors. Thank you for making those calls. Thank you for organizing all the events and registering those voters. Thank you for getting out there and giving folks the information they need about the issues they care about.
I understand that we now have volunteers in all 99 counties of this state. (Applause.) That is amazing. And you all are holding phone banks every day; you’re out canvassing every weekend. And I want you to know that the grassroots work that you all are doing to get people focused and fired up? That work is the core of our campaign, it truly is. Because that’s who we are. That’s what we do.
We reach out. We bring folks from all different backgrounds into this democratic process, right?
MRS. OBAMA: And that’s how we did it four years ago, and that’s how we're going to get it done again today. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: But the one thing that I know is that all the work you're doing, it isn't easy. And I know you all are putting in long hours -- that I know. We've been through this. I know that you’ve got families to raise, you have jobs to do, classes to attend.
But I also know that there’s a reason that you all are devoting so much of your lives to this cause. I know there’s a reason why I’m here in Des Moines today, and it’s not just because we all support one extraordinary man –- (applause) -- although I admit, I am a little biased, right? (Laughter.) And it’s not just because we want to win an election.
We’re doing this because of the values we believe in. We’re doing this because of the vision for this country that we all share, right?
MRS. OBAMA: We’re doing this because we want our children to have schools worthy of their promise -- schools that push them and inspire them, and prepare them for good jobs where they can make a good living. We want them to have clean air and safe streets, and we want them to grow up in a world that’s peaceful and secure. Yes we do. (Applause.)
We want our parents and grandparents to retire with a little dignity, because we believe that after a lifetime of hard work, they should enjoy their golden years. Yes indeed.
We want to restore that basic middle-class security for our families, because we believe that folks shouldn’t go bankrupt because someone gets sick. They shouldn’t lose their home because someone loses a job.
We believe that responsibility should be rewarded, right?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: We believe that hard work should pay off, and that everyone should do their fair share and play by the same rules. (Applause.)
And really, those are basic American values. And they’re the values that so many of us were raised with, including myself.
And I share this often -- as many of you know, my father was a blue-collar worker at the city water plant. My family lived in a little bitty apartment on the South Side of Chicago, and neither of my parents had the opportunity to go to college. But they did do something important: they saved, and they sacrificed so that my brother and I could get a good education -- an education they could only dream of. And while pretty much all of my college tuition came from student loans and grants, my dad still paid his little teeny portion of his -- of it. And every semester, I remember he was determined to pay that bill right on time. He was so proud to be sending his kids to college, and he couldn’t bear the thought of me or my brother missing that registration deadline because his check was late. (Laughter.)
And really, more than anything else, that is what’s at stake. It’s that fundamental promise that no matter how you started out, if you work hard you can build a decent life for yourself and an even better life for your kids. (Applause.) And that’s what you need to tell people.
With every door you knock on, with every call you make, with every conversation you have, you need to tell folks about our values. Tell them about everything that’s at stake next November.
You can tell them how Barack fought for tax cuts for working families and small businesses -- (applause) -- because an economy built to last starts with the middle class, and with folks who are creating jobs and putting people back to work. (Applause.)
You can remind them how, back when Barack first took office, this economy was losing an average of 750,000 jobs a month. But for the past 25 straight months, we’ve actually been gaining private sector jobs –- (applause) -- a total of more than 4 million jobs in two years. So while we still have a very long way to go to rebuild our economy, today, millions of people are collecting a paycheck again.
You can remind people about how so many folks in Washington told Barack to let the auto industry go under with more than a million jobs on the line. But remember, Barack had the backs of American workers -- remember that? (Applause.) And as a result, today, the auto industry is back on its feet again, and, more importantly, people are back to work providing for their families again. (Applause.)
You can tell them how, because we passed health reform, as CeCe was saying -- (applause) -- insurance companies can no longer deny our children coverage because they have a pre-existing condition like asthma. (Applause.) They have to cover preventive care -- things like contraception, cancer screenings, prenatal cost -- at no extra cost. And because our kids can now stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26 years old -- (applause) -- because of that, 2.5 million young people in this country are getting the health care they need. Tell them about that.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you!
MRS. OBAMA: You can tell people about what Barack has done to raise standards in our public schools, and make college more affordable so that our young people can get the education that they need for the good jobs that they need, right?
MRS. OBAMA: Tell them that. (Laughter.) Please, tell them that. (Laughter.)
You can tell people how Barack has been fighting for the DREAM Act, so that responsible young immigrants 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. (Applause.)
You can tell people that because my husband finally 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.)
Because of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act –- (applause) -- the very first bill my husband signed into law, it’s now easier for women to get equal pay for equal work.
And of course, with those two brilliant Supreme Court Justices that Barack appointed, for the first time in history, our sons and daughters watched three women take their seats on our nation’s highest court. (Applause.)
But all of this is at stake next November. It's all on the line. And in the end, it all boils down to one simple question: Will we continue the change that we’ve begun and the progress we’ve made, or will we allow everything we’ve fought for to just slip away?
MRS. OBAMA: We know what we need to do, right?
MRS. OBAMA: We cannot turn back now. We need to keep moving forward. Yes, indeed. Because while we’ve come a long way these past few years, we have so much more to do -- so much more.
And more than anything else, that is what we’re working for –- the chance to finish what we started, the chance to keep on fighting for the values we believe in and the vision we share.
And that’s what my husband has been doing every single day as President -- every single day. (Applause.)
And over the past three-and-a-half years, I’ve had the chance to see up close and personal what that looks like. I’ve seen how the issues that cross a President’s desk are always the hard ones –- the problems with no easy solutions, the judgment calls where the stakes are so high and there is no margin for error.
And as President, you can get all kinds of advice and opinions from all kinds of people. But at the end of the day, when it comes time to make that decision, all you have to guide you are your values, and your vision, and your life experiences. In the end, when you’re making those impossible choices, it all boils down to who you are and what you stand for.
And we all know who my husband is. (Applause.) He’s the son of a single mother who struggled to put herself through school and pay the bills -- that’s who he is. He’s the grandson of a woman who woke up before dawn every day to catch a bus to her job at a bank. And even though Barack’s grandmother worked hard to help support his family and she was good at her job, she hit that glass ceiling, and men no more qualified than she was were promoted up the ladder ahead of her.
So Barack knows what it means when a family struggles. He knows what it means when someone doesn’t have the chance to fulfill their potential. And today, as a father, he knows what it means to want something better for your kids. See, those are the experiences that have made him the man and the President he is today, and we are blessed to have him. (Applause.)
So what you need to know is that when it comes time to stand up for American workers and American families, you know what my husband is going to do, right? When there’s a choice about protecting our rights, our freedoms, you know where Barack stands. (Applause.) And when we need a leader to make the hard decisions to keep this country moving forward, you know you can count on my husband, because that is what he’s been doing since the day he first took office. (Applause.) That’s what he's been doing.
But I have said this before, and I know, Iowa, you heard me say it: He cannot do this alone.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We'll help you!
MRS. OBAMA: He cannot do it alone. He needs your help. He needs all of you to keep giving just a little part of your life each week to this campaign. And he needs you to keep pounding that pavement, and signing up your friends and your neighbors and your colleagues with those “I’m in” cards. You've seen them, right?
He needs you to recruit even more volunteers and even more organizers, and show them how their day-to-day efforts will absolutely make a difference. And he needs you to send people to the website gottaregister.com -- you all heard about that?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes.
MRS. OBAMA: It's a website that was created to help folks from every state in this country register to vote and find out where to cast their ballots. It's an important piece of information -- gottaregister.com. Gotta -- a little grammatically challenged -- gotta. G-O-T-T-A. (Laughter.) Gottaregister. (Laughter.)
And if you have any doubt at all, if you have any doubt about the difference that you’re making, I just want you to remember that in the end, this all could come down to those last few thousand people that we register to vote. (Applause.) It's important to remember that it could all come down to those last few thousand folks we need help get to the polls on November -- on the 6 of November to be precise. (Laughter.)
And I want you all to just think for a minute about what those numbers mean when you spread it out over an entire state. It might mean registering just one more person per town -- just one more. It might mean helping just one more person in your community get out and vote, right, on Election Day. Just one more.
So understand -- with every door you knock on, with every call you make, with every conversation that you have, I just want you to remember that this could be the one that makes the difference. Treat it that way. This could be the one. You could be the one who inspires someone to make their voice heard next November. That is the impact that all of you have been having and continue to have, right?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes!
MRS. OBAMA: Just understand it in those terms. One more person can make the difference. And that’s up to all of you.
So I have one last question for you -- are you all in? Are you all -- are you in? (Applause.) Are you ready to do this? Because I am in. I am so in. (Applause.)
So I hope that you all are fired up. (Applause.) Are you fired up?
AUDIENCE: Fired up!
MRS. OBAMA: Are you fired up?
AUDIENCE: Fired up!
MRS. OBAMA: Let's get this done. Thank you all. God bless you. (Applause.)
END 4:48 P.M. CDT