Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event
Inn on Fifth
5:30 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, please rest yourselves. (Applause.) That was a very powerful video. Very powerful. Every time I hear it I just think, wow, how much work has gotten done; how much more we need to do.
I just want to thank you so much. It is truly a pleasure and an honor to be with all of you. What time of the day is this? Is this evening? (Laughter.) It's not morning, I know that. I was in another state this morning.
I want to start by thanking our fabulous event chairs, Joe and Dee. (Applause.) You guys, thank you so much for all the hard work to make this event so successful.
And I also want to give a big hello and thank you to your fabulous co-chairs –- Phil, Ira, and Rose Ann. Thank you guys. Yay! (Applause.) Woo hoo! Way to go!
And finally, I'm here because I want to thank all of you, truly, for your support and for taking the time to be -- being here with us today. And I know that there's a reason why you all are here, and it's not just to get out of the heat and get into the air conditioning. It's hot! (Laughter.) It's hot and beautiful.
I know you’re here because you know that next November, we are going to make a choice that is going to impact our lives for years to come. And I know you’re here because you know that choice won’t just affect all of us, it's going to affect our children, our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren and the world we leave for them long after we’re gone. And truly, that is why I'm here today as well. That’s why I'm doing this.
As First Lady, I have had the privilege, the honor of traveling all across this great country. I get to meet folks from all different backgrounds and I hear what's going on in their daily lives. And I hear about how folks are struggling to keep it all together -- I hear about the bills they're trying to pay, I hear about the businesses they're trying to keep afloat, the home they love but are struggling to afford.
But regardless of the challenges they face, what they're going through, no matter what they see, they just keep on working, they keep sacrificing, because they want desperately to give their kids something better. They believe in that fundamental vision for our economy that we all share -- the idea, as Barack says, that hard work should pay off, that responsibility should be rewarded, and that everyone -- everyone in this country -- should get a fair shot and do their fair share and play by the same rules. And those values are the foundation of an economy that is built to last, and, more importantly, they're basic American values; the values that so many of us were raised with, including myself.
Many of you know my story already. My father was a blue collar city worker. He worked for the city water plant his entire life, and my family lived in a little-bitty apartment on the South Side of Chicago -- my mother still lives in that home. My bedroom looks exactly the same. (Laughter.) Literally -- same pictures, same bedspread.
Neither of my parents had the opportunity to go to college, but let me tell you what they did do, what so many people like my parents did -- they saved and they sacrificed everything for us -- everything -- so that they could give me and my brother something more. And really, more than anything else, that’s what at stake. That’s what we're working for -- that fundamental promise that no matter who you are in this country, no matter how you started out, if you work hard you can build a decent life for yourself, but, more important, an even better life for your kids. That’s what this is about.
And on just about every single issue, that’s the choice we face. Those are the stakes.
Let’s start with those tax cuts that my husband passed for middle-class families. What was that about? That was about whether people can heat their homes. That’s what that was about. That’s about whether they can send their kids to college, maybe retire with a little dignity and security. It’s about putting more 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 the Buffett Rule, that’s why -- to close tax loopholes so that millionaires and billionaires aren’t paying lower rates than teachers and firefighters. But that’s what’s at stake.
And how about everything my husband has been doing to create jobs? You saw the video -- that’s powerful. Think back to when those folks in Washington were talking about letting the auto industry go under -- that’s what their plan was -- and letting more than a million jobs go that were on the line.
But what did Barack do? He had the backs of American workers. He put his faith in the American people. And today, as a result -- you saw -- the auto industry is back. And more importantly, people are back at work, providing for their families again like my father was able to do.
And again, think back to when Barack first took office. When he set foot in that Oval Office, we were losing, on average, 750,000 jobs a month. That is what he inherited, as you saw. But for the past 25 straight months, we’ve actually been gaining private sector jobs –- a total of more than 4 million jobs in two years. Those are the facts. You saw the chart. That’s not made up.
So while we still have a very long way to go to rebuild our economy -- we have more work to do indeed -- millions of folks today are collecting a paycheck again. That’s a good thing, but that’s what’s at stake. That’s the choice that we’re facing.
And what about all that this administration has done for small businesses? These are companies that create two-thirds of all jobs in this economy. I’m talking about that mom that opens up the drycleaner to help provide for her kids -- that’s who we’re talking about. Or the family that’s been running that neighborhood diner for generations.
See, for these folks that small business tax cut that this administration’s passed, that means the difference between hiring new employees for these businesses or handing out pink slips. That means the difference between them keeping their doors open, or closing up shop for good. But that’s what’s at stake. That’s what we face.
And again, you heard -- the first bill, the very first thing my husband did as President of the United States, he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to ensure that women get equal pay for equal work. (Applause.)
And what I try to help people understand about my husband is he did this because Barack knows what it means when women aren’t treated fairly in the workplace. He watched his own grandmother –- I tell this story everywhere I go -- his grandmother had a high school education, and she worked her way up to become a vice president at a community bank. Imagine that. 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 actually trained -– be promoted up that ladder ahead of her.
So believe me, for Barack, this issue is not hypothetical. This is not an abstraction for him. 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 every paycheck, or having that money in their pockets to buy gas, groceries and put clothes on the backs of their kids.
And he did it because when so many women are now breadwinners for their families, he knows that women’s success in this economy is the key to families’ success in this economy. But that's what’s at stake. Those are the choices we face.
And I always talk for just a minute about health care, because two years ago we made history together. We all worked together to help finally pass health reform -- something that no other President was able to do. No one else was. And because we passed this law, insurance companies will have to cover basic preventive care -- things like prenatal care, mammograms, contraception at no extra cost. That's what that's about. (Applause.) They can no longer deny our children coverage for preexisting conditions -- things like diabetes, asthma. And since we passed this law, millions of our seniors have saved an average of $600 a year on their prescription drugs.
So we have to ask ourselves, are we going to take those savings away? Or will we allow insurance companies to refuse to cover our children? Or are we going to say that here in America, no one -- no one -- should ever have to go or choose between going bankrupt or watching their child suffer because they can’t afford a doctor. But that's the choice. That's why we’re here.
And think for a minute about all that we’ve been doing to give our kids and our grandkids a good education. Think about the investments that this President has made to raise standards and reform our public schools -- and to help people learn how to use their cell phones. (Laughter and applause.) I love you dearly.
But more importantly, though, in all seriousness -- yes, take it from Dad. Just take it from him, take it from him. (Laughter.) He’ll fix it. That's what we’re educating him to do. (Laughter.) Take our items and fix them for us because we don't know what to do. (Laughter.) And it is now turned off. (Laughter.) Thank you.
But in all seriousness, think about how my husband has been fighting for the DREAM Act –- (applause) -- so that responsible young immigrants who came here as children and were raised as Americans can earn a pathway to citizenship by going to college or serving in our military. Just think about that.
And think about how my husband took billions of dollars of taxpayer money that was going to middleman bankers and lenders and he sent it where it belongs –- to help millions of our young people go to college. I mean, these investments just won't determine our children’s success; they're going to determine nothing less than the success of our economy. They’re going to determine whether we’re prepared to make the discoveries and to build the industries that will allow us to compete with any country anywhere in the world. That's what this is about. That's what’s at stake.
And of course, we cannot forget -- I will never let anybody forget about those two brilliant Supreme Court justices that my husband appointed -- (applause) -- and how for the first time in history, our sons and daughters, our grandsons and our granddaughters 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 years to come –- on our privacy and security, on whether we speak freely, worship openly, and, yes, love whomever we choose. (Applause.) That’s what’s at stake. Those are the choices we’re facing.
And again, let’s not forget that all this administration has done to keep our country safe and restore our standing in the world. (Applause.) Thanks to our 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 terror.
My husband kept his word and ended the war in Iraq and brought our troops home. (Applause.) And we are working hard every single day to make sure that they, our veterans, their families get the benefits they’ve earned. (Applause.)
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 all of that is at stake. All of that’s at stake.
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 in this election will determine nothing less than who we are as a country, but more importantly, it will determine who we want to be. See, that’s what I -- who do we want to be? Who are we?
Will we be a country where opportunity is limited to just the few at the top? 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’ve done everything right but are struggling a little bit, are we going to look them in the eye and tell them, tough luck, you’re on your own? Is that who we are? Or will we honor the fundamental American belief that we are all in this together, and this country is strongest when we are all better off? (Applause.)
Will we continue all the change we’ve begun and the progress we’ve made? Or will we allow everything that 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 do. We know that we can’t turn back now. We can’t. We need to keep moving forward.
And believe me, nobody knows this better than Barack, your President. 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 catch that bus to the job at the bank. And even though she was passed over again and again for promotions, she never complained. How many people do we know like that in our lives? They just keep going. She just kept showing up every day, doing her best.
So believe me, 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. Those are the experiences that have made him the man, but more importantly, the President he is today. And we are blessed to have him. We truly are. That I know. (Applause.)
And what I hear with people everywhere I go -- that’s what I hear in Barack’s voice whenever he returns home. Whether he’s in the Oval Office or traveling around the country, he comes home and he tells me about the people he’s met. That’s what I see in those quiet moments late at night long after the girls have gone to bed, and he’s poring over the letters he receives from thousands of people.
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 little opportunity.
And I hear the passion and the determination in his voice. He says, "Michelle, you won’t believe what folks are still going through." That’s what he says. He says, “Michelle, this is not right. We know it’s not. We’ve got to fix this. There is so much more work to do.”
And what I want people to know is that when it comes to the people he meets, Barack has a memory like a steel trap. (Laughter.) He may not remember your name, but let me tell you, if he’s had a few moments and a decent conversation, he will never forget your story. It’s a gift. It becomes imprinted on his heart. And that’s what he carries with him every single day. It’s our collection of struggles and hopes and dreams.
And that is where Barack gets his passion. That’s where he gets his toughness and his fight. And that’s why, even in moments when it seems like all is lost and we’re sweating him, Barack never loses sight of the end goal -- never. Never lets himself get distracted by all the chatter and all the noise that is always there. Like his grandmother, he just keeps moving forward, never complaining.
But the one thing I have said, I said it in the last campaign, I will continue to say it: He cannot do this alone. That was never the promise. He cannot do this alone. He needs your help. He needs you to do a lot -- to make those calls, to register voters, to get people to sign those "I'm In" cards -- you've seen them. Pick them up, sign them yourselves, get your friends, your neighbors, the people in your lives to sign them. Convince them how important it will be for them to invest just a little part of themselves each week in this campaign.
Because we all know that this is not just about one extraordinary man -- although I admit, I think my husband's very cool. (Laughter.) I'm a little biased. But it has always been and will always be about us; about each and every one of us coming together for the values we believe in and the country we want to be. This is our country.
And I'm not going to kid you, this journey is going to be long, it is going to be hard, and there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way just like before. But the truth is that’s how change always happens in this country. The reality is, is change is slow, and real change never happens all at once. But if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight and doing what we know is right, then we always get there. We always do. Maybe not in our lifetimes, but maybe in our grandchildren's lifetimes; maybe in our great-grandchildren's lifetimes.
Because in the end, that’s really what this is all about. In the end, we are not fighting these battles for ourselves. Like dozens of generations before us, we are fighting these battles for our grandchildren, our children, our great-grandchildren. We’re fighting for the world we want to leave for them. And that's what’s at stake. That's why I’m in this. Whatever passion you see, it’s about the next generation. It’s about leaving something whole and wonderful for our children.
So all I have to say is that it is time for us to get moving. It is really time. It’s time for us to get to work. It’s time for us to roll up our sleeves and get involved.
So I have one last question. I need to know are you all in?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: Are you all in? Are you ready for this? (Applause.)
Let me tell you, I am so in this. I believe in this President not because he’s my husband, because I’ve seen what we’ve done. I know where we can go as a country, and I know that regardless of where we come from -- even our political beliefs -- the vision that we have for this country belongs to all of us. It really does. And we can get there.
So I want to thank you all. I want to thank you for everything you’ve done and all that you’re going to do. We’re going to be out there doing our part.
Thank you all. God bless.
5:54 P.M. EDT