Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event
1:20 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, it is so beautiful in here! (Applause.) We just need some hotdogs and a game. (Laughter.)
You all, thank you so much.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you all. You all keep us going. I am beyond thrilled to be with all of you today.
I want to start by thanking Reverend Bigelow for that very kind and impassioned introduction, so we need to give her another round of applause. (Applause.)
I also want to take -- I want to take a moment to recognize County Executive Ed Fitzgerald and his wife, who are here. I want to thank him and -- both of them for their leadership and for their service. (Applause.) We’re so glad that they could be here today, and proud of the work that they're doing.
And I want to give a big hello to Danielle for her remarks today, and for all the work that she's been doing on the campaign, as well. (Applause.)
But finally, I want to thank all of you, truly, for taking the time out of your busy lives and your busy days to join us here today. And I know that everyone is busy. All of us, we have amazingly busy lives. I know that folks have families to raise, they've got jobs to do. But I also know that there’s a reason why so many of you have taken time out of those lives to be here today, and it's not just because we all support one extraordinary man –- (applause) -- and I am a bit biased. (Laughter.) But I think we've got a pretty phenomenal President. (Applause.)
And we're here not just because we want to win an election -- which we do. We're here and 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. We’re doing this because we want our children -- all of our children -- to go to good schools -- those schools that push them, and inspire them, and prepare them for good opportunities in the future, right?
MRS. OBAMA: We want our parents and our grandparents to retire with dignity, because we believe that after a lifetime of hard work, in this country, they should be able to enjoy their golden years. Small things.
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; that folks shouldn’t lose their home because someone loses a job. Not in America. We believe, as Reverend Bigelow said, that responsibility should be rewarded, that hard work should pay off. We believe that everyone should do their fair share but play by the same rules.
And the truth is that these are basic American values. This is the basics, the foundation of this country. 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 worker, worked at the city water plant. And my parents, my family, we lived in a little apartment on the South Side of Chicago -- mother still lives there. And neither of my parents had the opportunity to go to college. But what I tell folks is what they were able to do -- which is probably more important -- they saved and they sacrificed everything. They poured everything they had into me and my brother because they wanted us to have the kind if education they could only dream of.
And while pretty much most of my college tuition came from student loans and grants, let me tell you, my Dad still had to pay a small portion of that tuition himself. And every semester, he was determined to pay that bill right on time. My dad -- like so many -- he was 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. And like so many people in this country, my father took great pride in being able to earn the kind of 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.
And the truth is, everyone, that more than anything else, that's what's at stake in this election. That’s what we're working for. That’s what we're fighting for. It’s that fundamental promise that no matter who you are or how you started out, in America, if you work hard you can build a decent life for yourself and an even better life for your kids.
And it is that promise that binds us together in this country. That’s what unites us. It's what makes us who we are. And from now until November, Cleveland, Barack needs all of you to get out there and tell everyone you know about our values and about our vision. (Applause.) They need to understand. They need to know about everything that is on the line in this election.
You can start by telling them how Barack fought for tax cuts for working families and small businesses. Why? Because an economy built to last starts with the middle class, and with folks who are creating jobs and putting people back to work. And remind people how, back when Barack first took office, remind them how this economy was losing, on average, 750,000 jobs every single month. Remind them that that’s what he walked into. That’s what he inherited.
But also let them know that for the past 26 straight months, we’ve actually been gaining private sector jobs –- more than 4 million jobs in just two years. They need to know that. (Applause.) Not everybody knows. So while we still have a long way to go to build this economy, millions of people are collecting a paycheck again. Millions of people like my dad are able to pay their bills again.
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. You've got to remind them about that. But Barack had the backs of American workers. He put his faith in the American people and as a result, the auto industry is back on its feet again, and, more importantly, people are back to work, providing for their families again. (Applause.) Remind people about that.
You can tell people how, because we passed health reform, insurance companies will now have to cover preventive care -- have to. Things like contraception, cancer screenings, prenatal care -- and they have to do it at no extra cost. People have to understand that’s what that fight was for. (Applause.) And because of this reform, millions of our senior citizens have saved an average of more than $600 a year on their prescription drugs, and our kids, they can now stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26 years old. (Applause.) And as parents, we all know that that is how 2.5 million of our young people in this country are getting the health care they need. Remind them.
You can tell them about how Barack is working to raise standards in our public schools and make college more affordable for millions of our young people, so that by the end of this decade, more Americans will hold a college degree than any other country in the world. Tell them about that vision. (Applause.) And also, you have to tell people about how Barack has been fighting so hard for the DREAM Act, because he believes that it is time to stop denying citizenship to responsible young people just because they’re the children of undocumented immigrants. It is time.
You can remind folks that Barack kept his promise and brought our troops home from Iraq. (Applause.) Remind them about that. And also tell them about how our brave men and women in uniform finally brought to justice the man behind the 9/11 attacks. (Applause.) Remind them about that. And 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.)
And again, as you know, it's now easier for women to get equal pay for equal work because Barack passed the very first bill he signed -- the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act -- (applause) -- because of that act, the first thing he did as President.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes, he did.
MRS. OBAMA: And they need to understand why Barack signed that bill. He signed that 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, or groceries, or put clothes on the backs of their kids. And he did this because when women are now breadwinners for so many of their families, women’s success in this economy is the key to families’ success in this economy. People have to understand the power of that. (Applause.)
And finally, don’t forget to tell people about those two brilliant Supreme Court Justices Barack appointed -- (applause) -- and how, for the first time in history, our daughters and sons watched three women take their seats on our nation’s highest court. (Applause.) First time in history.
And I could go on, and on, and on. But all of this is at stake this November. It's all on the line. And truly, 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 let everything we’ve fought for to just slip away?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: No!
MRS. OBAMA: No, we know what we need to do. We cannot turn back now. We need to keep moving forward -- forward.
And more than anything else, that is what we’re working for –- the chance to finish all the good work that we've started, the chance to keep fighting for those values that we believe in and that vision that we all share. That’s what my husband has been doing every single day as President of the United States.
And what I want people to understand is that over the past three years -- and a half -- it's been a little while -- I’ve had the chance to see up close and personal what being President looks like. I've seen it. I’ve seen how the issues that come across a President’s desk -- let me tell you -- they are always the hard ones. They're the problems with no easy solutions, the judgment calls where the stakes are so high and there is absolutely no margin for error.
And as President, you're going to get all kinds of advice and opinions from all kinds of people. But at the end of the day, when it comes time to making that decision, a President, all he has to guide him is that life experience; his values, his vision. In the end, when you’re making those impossible choices as President, it all boils down to who you are and what you stand for. That’s what's so important.
And the thing that I know, and we all know -- we all know who Barack Obama is, don't we? (Applause.) And we know what Barack Obama stands for, don't we?
See, 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 the bank. And Barack watched his grandmother worked hard to 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 what I want people to understand is that Barack knows what it means when a family struggle. This is not a hypothetical for him. He knows what it means when someone doesn’t have a chance to fulfill their potential. And believe me, today, as a father, he knows what it means to want something better for your kids. And those are the experiences that have made him the man, and, more importantly, the President he is today. And that’s who we're fighting for. That’s what we're working for. (Applause.)
So when it comes time to stand up for American workers and American families, you know what my husband is going to do. When there’s a choice about protecting our rights and our freedoms, you know where Barack is going to be, what he is going to do. And when we need a leader to make those hard decisions to keep this country moving forward for everyone, you know you can count on him because that is what he’s been doing every single day as President of the United States. And he has done a phenomenal job. (Applause.)
But I have said this before, and I will say it again and again: he cannot do this alone. That was never the promise. Barack needs your help. He needs you to do what you've been doing. Make those phone calls, have those conversations. Get out there, please, and register those voters.
He needs everyone in the range of this room and my voice, the people that you know, the lives that you touch -- all of you -- take those “I’m in” cards. Get folks to sign up -- your friends, your neighbors, your colleagues. Convince them to join you in just giving just a little part of themselves each week to this campaign. It is well worth it.
And as Barack has said, this election will be even closer than ever before -- closer than the last one. Understand that. Don't get discouraged by it, just know it is going to be close. And if you have any doubt about the difference that you will make, I want just you to remember that in the end, this could all come down to those last few thousand people who register to vote.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: In Ohio.
MRS. OBAMA: Those numbers. It could all come down to those last few thousand folks that you help get to the polls on November the 6th.
And I just want you to think for a minute about what those kind of numbers mean when they’re spread out over an entire state. It might mean registering just one more person in your community -- just one more; might mean just getting one more person in your community out and voting on Election Day -- just one more.
So with every door you knock on, with every person you pull into this fight, with every conversation that you have -- and the conversations are so important -- I just want you to have in your mind, just be thinking, this could be the one that makes the difference. This could be the one that makes the entire difference that moves this country forward. This could be it. The conversation I'm having, the messages that I'm delivering -- this could be it.
So there is no conversation that is unimportant. There is no one that we can afford to have left out. That is the kind of impact that each of us can have. That is true.
And I’m not going to kid you, this journey, it will be long, and it is going to be hard, and there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way. But remember that that is how change happens in this country. It always has and it always will. But if we keep showing up, and if we keep fighting that good fight, doing what we know is right, staying true to our value and vision, then we always get there -- we always get there. Maybe not in our lifetimes but maybe in our children’s lifetimes, maybe in our grandchildren’s lifetimes.
Because in the end, Cleveland, 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 I want to leave for them, and for all of our sons and daughters. I think about how I want to do for them what my Dad did for me, and so many other people did for us.
I want to give them that foundation for their dreams. I want to give them opportunities worthy of their promise. I want to give them that sense of limitless possibility –- that belief that here in America, there is always something better out there if you’re willing to work for it.
So, Cleveland, we cannot turn back now. Not now. We have come so far, but we have so much more to do.
So I've got one last question to ask you: Are you in?
MRS. OBAMA: Are you -- no, you've got to be really in! (Applause.) Are you in this?
MRS. OBAMA: It means rolling up your sleeves; you've got to roll them up. And you're going to have the hard conversations. You're going to find the people in your community who are not paying attention, who are a little bit confused, and you're going to shake them up. And you're going to know that with every conversation, you could be making the difference for our future.
So I hope you all are fired up and ready to go, because I am so fired up. (Applause.) We have only just begun. We have so much work to do. (Applause.) And I can't wait to get out there, to keep getting out there with you all on the campaign trail. We're going to spend time in this state. But this state is critical.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes, it is.
MRS. OBAMA: So we're going to need all of you working hard in the weeks and months ahead.
Thank you all. God bless.
1:40 P.M. EDT