Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event
Hilton Lincoln Centre
4:12 P.M. CDT
MRS. OBAMA: Wow! (Applause.) Thank you so much. See, now, usually when I come on stage I have to pull the mic up. With Vince, one of the few people I have to pull the mic down for.
You all, thank you so much. Thank you. (Applause.) Let me tell you, I am beyond thrilled to be with all of you today.
Let me start by thanking Vince, not just for that kind introduction -- now, I feel bad now. (Laughter.) He was not with his mother to come introduce me. I just love -- don’t you love him?
MRS. OBAMA: Let me tell you, my husband loves Vince Carter. So he has just been amazing. We are so proud of him not just for the athlete that he is, but for the citizen, the man, the father the role model. Let's give him a round of applause. (Applause.)
I also want to recognize a couple of other people. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson for her leadership -- who is here looking good -- and her service. And I want to give a big shoutout to my dear friend and his family, Hall-of-Famer Emmitt Smith -- (applause) -- your family. They are here. They have just been amazing. They brought their mentees with them, as well as their kids. And they are just -- they have just been tremendous supporters and friends. And I love you all so dearly. I really do.
And finally, I want to thank all of you -- truly -- for taking the time out of what are I know busy lives to be with me today. And I know that you all are here and busy, but I know you've got families to raise and jobs to do. But there is a reason why you all have taken the time to be here, and it's not just because we all support one extraordinary man who is our President. And I am biased. (Applause.) I think we have an amazing President.
And it’s not just because we want to win an election -- which we do. But we’re here because of the values we believe in. We're here because of the vision for this country that we all share. We’re doing this because we want all of our children to have good schools –- the kind of schools that push them, and inspire them, and prepare them for good jobs and an excellent future. We want that for all our kids.
We want our parents and our grandparents to be able to retire with dignity because we believe that after a lifetime of hard work, these people who have given us everything should be able to enjoy their golden years. (Applause.)
We're here because we want to restore that basic middle-class security for all of our families because we believe that in America, folks shouldn’t go bankrupt because somebody gets sick, and that folks shouldn’t lose their home because someone loses a job. Not in America. We believe that responsibility should be rewarded, and hard work should pay off. And we believe that everyone should do their fair share and play by the same rules.
These are basic American values -- basics. They’re the values that so many of us were raised with, including myself. As many of you know, my father was a blue-collar city worker, worked for the city water plant his entire life. My father grew up -- my family grew up on the South Side of Chicago in a little-bitty apartment -- South Side! South Side! (Laughter.) And neither of my parents had the chance to go to college.
But let me tell you something they did do, which was just as important -- they saved and they sacrificed, and, let me tell you, they poured everything they had into me and my brother because they wanted us to have the kind of education they could only dream of.
And while pretty much all of my college tuition came from student loans and grants, my Dad still had to pay a small portion of that tuition himself. And every semester, he was determined to pay his portion on time. My Dad was so proud to be sending his kids to college, and he could not bear the thought of me or my brother missing that registration deadline because his check was late. Like so many people that we all know in this country, my father took great pride in being able to earn a living that allowed him to handle his business, his responsibilities to his family, to pay all of his bills and to pay them on time. That’s what gave him a sense of being.
And really, more than anything else, that is what’s at stake in this election. That’s what we're fighting for. It’s 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. It is that promise that binds us together as Americans. That is it. That’s what makes us who we are.
And from now until November, let me tell you, Barack needs all of you to get out there and tell everyone you know about our values, about our vision, and about everything that’s at stake in this election. That’s what we need you to do.
You can start by telling them about how Barack fought for tax cuts for working families and small businesses, 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.) I want you to remind people how back when Barack first took office -- remember -- our economy was losing an average of 750,000 jobs a month. That’s what he inherited. But let them know that for the past 26 months, we’ve actually been gaining private sector jobs –- a total of more than 4 million jobs in two years. (Applause.) Make sure they know that.
So while -- let's be clear -- we still have a long way to go to rebuild our economy, we still have more work to do, today, millions of people are collecting a paycheck again. Millions of people like my dad are able to pay their bills again. Make sure they know that.
You can also remind people about how so many folks in Washington were telling Barack to let the auto industry go under with more than a million jobs on the line. Remember that?
MRS. OBAMA: But what happened? Your President had the backs of American workers. He put his faith in the American people. And today, as a result, the auto industry is back on its feet again and people are back to work, providing for their families again. (Applause.) Make sure people understand.
You can tell people how, because we passed health reform, insurance companies will have to cover preventative care -- things like contraception, cancer screenings, prenatal care at no extra cost. (Applause.) Because of health reform, millions of our senior citizens have saved an average of more than $600 a year on their prescription drugs. Make sure they understand that. And because of that reform, our kids can now stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26 years old. And that is now how 2.5 million of our young people are now getting the health care they need. 2.5 million. (Applause.)
You can tell people how Barack is working to raise standards in our public schools and make college more affordable for millions of young people so by the end of this decade, more Americans will have a college degree than any other country in the world. That’s his vision for this country. (Applause.)
You can tell people how Barack has been fighting hard for the DREAM Act because he believes that it’s time to stop denying citizenship to responsible young people just because they’re the children of undocumented immigrants. (Applause.)
You can remind folks that Barack kept his promise to bring our troops home from Iraq. (Applause.) And remind them about how our brave men and women in uniform finally brought to justice the man behind the 9/11 attacks. Let them know, remind them. And we need you all to make sure you tell them that our troops no longer have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love because Barack finally ended "don't ask, don't tell." (Applause.)
You can tell people that it’s now easier for women to get equal pay for equal work, and that’s because of the very first bill he signed into law -- the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Remind them about that. And let them know that Barack signed this bill because he knows that closing that pay gap can mean the difference between women losing $50, $100, $500 from every paycheck, or having that money in their pockets to buy gas and groceries, and put clothes on the backs of their kids. You let them know that Barack did this because when so many women in this country are now breadwinners for our families, women’s success in this economy is the key to families’ success in this economy. (Applause.) They have to understand.
And finally, don’t forget to tell them about those two brilliant Supreme Court Justices Barack appointed, and how for the first time in history our daughters and our sons watched three women take their seats on our nation’s highest court. (Applause.)
But also let people know that all of that -- and more -- is what's at stake this November. It's all on the line. In the end, it all boils down to one simple question: Will we continue the change we’ve begun and the progress we’ve made? Or will we allow everything we’ve fought for to just slip away?
I mean, we in here, we know what we need to do, right?
MRS. OBAMA: We cannot turn back now. We need to keep moving forward, keep moving forward. (Applause.)
And more than anything else, that’s what we’re working for –- the chance to finish what we started; the chance to keep fighting for the values we believe in and the vision we all share. That’s what my husband has been doing every single day as President.
And let me tell you something -- over the past three and a half years, I have had the chance to see up close and personal what being President looks like. (Laughter.) So let me share something with you. I’ve seen how the issues that come across a President’s desks -- 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. I have seen this.
And as President, you're going to get all kinds of advice and opinions -- I tell you -- from all kinds of people. Going to flood you. But at the end of the day, when it comes time to make that decision, as President, all you have to guide you are your life experiences, are your values, is that vision. That’s all you have in the end.
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, don't we?
MRS. OBAMA: And we certainly all know what he stands for. (Applause.)
He’s the son of a single mother who struggled to put herself through school and pay the bills. That’s who Barack is. He’s the grandson of a woman who woke up before dawn every day to catch a bus to a job at the bank -- his grandmother. And she worked hard to help support his family, and she was good at her job. But like so many women she hit that glass ceiling, and men no more qualified than she was were promoted up the ladder ahead of her.
So let me tell you something -- Barack knows what it means when a family struggles. He knows what it means when someone doesn’t have a chance to fulfill their potential. And today, as a father, let me tell you, he knows what it means to want desperately something better for your kids. 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 remind people of that. Remind people that when it comes time to stand up for the American workers and American families, you know what my husband is going to do. When it's time to make that choice about protecting our rights and our freedoms, you know where Barack stands. And when we need a leader to make those hard decisions to keep this country moving forward, you know you can count on Barack Obama, because that is what he’s been doing every single day as President of the United States. He has proven.
But I have said this before, and I will say it again, and again, and again -- he cannot do this alone. Barack needs your help.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes, we can!
MRS. OBAMA: Yes, we can. Yes, we must. Yes, we must.
He needs you to make those calls. He needs you -- more importantly -- to register those voters. He needs you to take those “I’m in” cards -- because I know you've got them. Take them. Use them. Sign up your friends and your neighbors and your colleagues. Sign them up. Convince them to join you in giving just a little part of their lives each week to this campaign -- just a little bit.
And as Barack has said, this election will be even closer than the last one -- that you can count on. And what I want you all to know and really understand -- if you have any doubt about the difference that you can make, I just want you to remember that in the end, this election could all come down to those last few thousand people we register to vote. That is true. It could all come down to those last few thousand folks we help get to the polls on November the 6th.
And I just want you to think for a minute about what these kinds of numbers mean when they’re spread out over an entire state. It might mean that registering just one more person in your community. It means that helping just one more person get out and vote on Election Day. That could be the difference -- one more person.
So consider this as you're working and as you're bringing people into the fold and you're multiplying yourselves. With every door you knock on, with every event you host, with every conversation that you have, I want you to remember that this could be the one that makes the difference. Think like that -- this could be the one. Because that is the kind of impact that each of us can have. That’s why we invest so much time in our grassroots work and people on the ground connecting, and talking, and explaining, and reminding, and educating, and giving people the information that they need. Because all it takes, potentially, is one more person from each of you -- one more person.
But I’m not going to kid you, this journey is going to be long and it is absolutely going to be hard, and there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way. But just understand that that is how change always happens in this country. It always happens that way. Real change can be slow, but if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight, keep doing what we know is right, then eventually we’ll get there. You know why? Because we always do. We always have, we always do, we always will. Maybe not in our lifetimes -- remember this -- but maybe in our children’s lifetimes, maybe in our grandchildren’s lifetimes.
Because in the end, when it's all said and done, that’s what this is all about. That’s what I think about when I tuck my girls in at night. I think about the world that I want to leave for them. Everything I do is for the next generation -- all these kids in this room. It is about them.
I think about how I want to do for them what my Dad did for me, and so many who came before. I want to give them a foundation for their dreams. I want to give them opportunities worthy of their promise. I want to give them that sense of limitless possibility –- all of our kids -- that belief that here in America, there’s always something better out there if you’re willing to work for it. (Applause.) That’s what we're doing for our kids. That is our vision. (Applause.)
So let me tell you something Dallas, we can’t turn back now. (Applause.) We have come so far, but we have so much more to do for our children.
So let me ask you one last question: Are you in?
MRS. OBAMA: Are you -- no, no -- are you in in? (Laughter.) I mean, are you ready to roll up your sleeves and work, and talk, and get people signed up, and call on the phone, and talk to the people who don’t want to talk to you, and convince the neighbor that doesn’t understand? Are you ready to do that work? Are you ready to find 10 more people like you -- all the kids out there, there's stuff you can do, right? Young people, talk to your parents. Make sure they're registered to vote. This is about your future right? We are fighting for you.
So if you're in, I'm way in. If you haven't noticed, I am so far in. (Laughter.)
So I hope that all of you are fired up. (Applause.) I hope you all are ready to go. I cannot wait to see you out there in the campaign trail in the weeks and months ahead.
Thank you all for your prayers, your love, your work. (Applause.) God bless you all.
4:32 P.M. CDT