Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event
New York, New York
12:10 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you so much. (Applause.) Yes! It's good to see that this crowd is already fired up. I can go back to D.C., right? (Applause.) Oh, my goodness! It is a thrill to be here this afternoon. This hotel is amazing. (Laughter.) One day I will come back and have tea -- or do something. (Laughter.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you!
MRS. OBAMA: I love you all, too. We are going to get this done, right? (Applause.) Absolutely.
I want to start by thanking Caroline for that very kind introduction and, more importantly, for all of the consistent support and friendship she has provided to me and to Barack. And, yes, I do have a crazy dog. (Laughter.) But he is very adorable, too, and we wouldn't know what to do without him. So, for that alone, the Kennedys hold a special place in our heart. So let's give Caroline another round of applause. (Applause.)
I also want to recognize Cecile Richards for her outstanding leadership -- (applause.) Thank you, Cecile. Way to go! (Applause.) It's great to have you here today. Thank you so much.
I want to also thank Jane Hartley for moderating today’s panel and for all of her hard work. (Applause.) And Laura Tyson and Heather McGhee for participating in the panel. I heard that that was really good. (Applause.) I missed it. I just flew in, so I missed it. But I heard that it is actually Heather’s birthday today. So, Heather, I know I'm going to see you after this, but wherever you are, happy birthday. (Applause.) And thank you for spending your birthday with a roomful of amazing women. (Applause.) And are there any men here today? (Applause.) All right -- and a few good men, too. There you go -- stand proud. Stand proud. (Laughter.)
I know you all are busy -- which is why events like this are so special, because I know that people have busy lives. You all have families to raise, jobs, careers, whatever it is that is filling up your calendars. But I know there’s a reason why all of us have taken time out to be here today.
And it’s not just because we all support one extraordinary man -- (applause.) I am the President's biggest fan. I'm a bit biased. (Laughter.) I think he's been phenomenal. (Applause.) And I know we're not just here because we want to win an election -- which I know we do. We’re here, we come together like this, with all this passion and fire, 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 all our kids to have wonderful schools -- those kind of schools that push them and inspire them, and prepare them for good jobs and phenomenal futures. We want our parents and our grandparents to be able to retire with dignity -- because we believe that here in America, after a lifetime of hard work, these folks should be able to enjoy their golden years. We want to restore that basic middle class security for our families, because in this country we believe that folks shouldn’t go bankrupt because someone get sick -- (applause) -- that people 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. We believe that everyone should do their fair share and play by the same rules. But what we do know is that these kind of things, these are all basic American values. They’re the values that so many of us were raised with, including myself.
Most of you know my story by now. My father was a blue-collar city worker at the city water plant, and my family lived in a little-bitty apartment on the South Side of Chicago. My mother still lives there. My bedroom looks exactly the same. (Laughter.) Same bed sheets, same pictures on the wall. (Laughter.)
And one thing I know is that my parents worked very hard and they saved and they sacrificed, and they poured everything they had into us. They didn’t have the types of educational opportunities the kinds of educational opportunities we had, so we saw how they had to save and how they had to work for me and my brother -- because they wanted for us something that they couldn't have for themselves; they wanted 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 paid a small portion of that tuition himself. And every semester, 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.
And like so many people in this country, my father took great pride in being able to earn a living that allowed him to handle his business, handle his responsibilities, to pay his bills -- all of them -- and to pay them on time.
And really, everyone, what we have to remember is that more than anything else that is what’s at stake in this election. It’s that fundamental promise that no matter who you are or how you started out, in this country you can build a decent life for yourself if you work hard, and an even better life for your kids. And it is that promise that binds us together as Americans. It’s that promise. It's what makes us who we are. That's why this country is special.
And from now until November, Barack is going to need all of you -- all of you to get out there and tell everyone you know about our values and our vision, and everything that’s at stake in this election.
And you can start by telling them how Barack fought for tax cuts for working families and small businesses -- because an economy that is built to last with the middle class and with folks -- it begins with the middle class and folks creating jobs and putting people back to work. And you can also remind people, back when Barack first took office, how our economy was losing an average of 750,000 jobs a year [sic]. That's what he inherited. But for the past 28 -- 27 straight months, we have 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 long way to go to rebuild our economy, today 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. Remember that? With more than a million jobs 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, the auto industry is back on its feet again, and people are back at work, providing for their families again. (Applause.)
You’ve got to tell people that because we passed health reform, insurance companies will have to cover preventative care -- things like contraception -- (applause) -- cancer screenings, prenatal care, all at no extra cost. (Applause.) You see, my husband knows that women need access to the full range of health services -- right? And he believes that women should be able to make their own choices about their health care. (Applause.) We all know that.
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 can now stay on their parent's insurance until they’re 26 years old -- (applause) -- and that is how 2.5 million young people in this country are now getting the health care they need.
Tell people how Barack is working to also raise the standards in our public schools and make college more affordable for millions of young people, so that by the end of this decade, more Americans will hold a college degree than any other country in the world. That’s his goal.
You can tell people how Barack has been fighting 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. (Applause.)
And you can remind folks that Barack kept his promise to bring our troops home from Iraq. (Applause.) And please remind them about how our brave men and women in uniform fought to bring to justice the man behind the 9/11 attacks. (Applause.) And you can 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 please make sure that people understand that it’s now easier for women to get equal pay for equal work -- and that’s because of the very first bill my husband signed into law, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. (Applause.) But it’s also important for people to understand why Barack 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 or groceries or put clothes on the backs of their children. And he did it 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. We all know that. (Applause.)
And let me tell you, he’s going to keep on fighting for common-sense measures like the Paycheck Fairness Act to make sure that women can finally get paid what they deserve. (Applause.)
And finally, don’t forget to tell people about those two brilliant Supreme Court justices that Barack appointed. (Applause.) And how, for the first time in history, our daughters and our sons watched three women take their seat on our nation’s highest court. (Applause.)
You know I could go on and on and on. That’s just three and a half years worth of work. But all of that is at stake this November. It’s all on the line. And in the end, it all boils down to one simple question: Are we going to continue the change that we’ve begun and the progress that we’ve made, or will we allow everything we fought for -- not just over these past few years, but over these past few decades -- are we going to allow all of that to just slip away?
MRS. OBAMA: No, we know what we need to do, right?
MRS. OBAMA: We cannot turn back now. We need to keep moving forward. We need to keep moving forward. 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 all believe in and the vision we all share.
That’s what my husband has been doing every single day as President. And I’ve watched him. Let me tell you, over the past three years and a half -- can’t believe it’s been that long -- (laughter) -- but I have had the chance to see up close and personal what being President really looks like. And let me tell you, I’ve seen how the issues that come across a President’s desk, they’re always the hard ones -- the problems with absolutely no easy solutions, the judgment calls where the stakes are so high, and there’s 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 make that decision, as President, all you have to guide you are your life experiences; all you have to guide you are your values and your vision. In the end, when you’re making those impossible choices, it all boils down to who you are and what you stand for.
See, one of the things you don’t have to wonder is who my husband is -- right? (Applause.) We all know who he is. We 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 her job at the bank. And even though Barack’s grandmother worked hard to help support his family and she was good at what she did, 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 believe me, Barack knows what it means when a family struggles. That he understands. He knows what it means when someone doesn’t have a chance to fulfill their potential. And today, as a father, believe me, he knows what it means to want something better for your kids.
You see, those are the experiences that have made him the man and, yes, the President he is today. And that’s who you’re working for. So when it comes time to stand up for American workers and American families, you know what Barack is going to do. When there’s a choice about protecting our rights and our freedoms, you know where Barack is going to stand. And when we need a leader to make the hard decisions to keep this country moving forward, you know that you can count on your President, because that is what he has been doing every day in the Oval Office since he’s taken that oath -- every, single day. (Applause.)
But for those of you who've met me, have seen me, I have said this before and I will say it again and again -- Barack Obama cannot do this alone. That was never the promise. He needs your help. He will always need your help.
He needs you to make those calls. Yes, write the checks, but make the calls -- (laughter) -- and register those voters. He needs you to take those "I’m in" cards -- and, hopefully, you have some here, and if not, you will get some -- take them and sign up your friends and your neighbors and your colleagues. Convince them, with all the passion you have in your heart, to join in, just giving a little part of themselves each week to this campaign.
And be sure to go to our Women for Obama website at BarackObama.com/women. It's a wonderful website that you can go to, to find out what else you can do to help. It's a great resource.
As Barack has said, this election will be even closer than the last one. That you can count on. And 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 that we register to vote. Just think about it. It could all come down to those last few thousand folks we help get to the polls on November the 6th. So consider that. With every event you host, with every conversation you have, I want you to remember that this could be the one that makes the difference. This could be the kind of impact that each of us can have in this election.
And I’m not going to kid you, this journey is going to be long and it is going to be hard. And there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way. But as I always say, as Barack has always said, that is how change always happens in this country. We as women know that. Change happens because of women like us, who stand up and speak out and work day and night, because we know what’s at stake. (Applause.)
We know what’s at stake for our health and for our economic security and for the basic rights that we all hold dear. And we know that if we keep showing up, the way we always have, if we keep fighting the good fight for the values we believe in, then eventually we get there. We always do. Maybe not in our lifetimes, but maybe in our children’s lifetimes, and maybe in our grandchildren’s lifetimes -- because as I always remember, we are in this for them. That's what this is all about.
That’s what I think about -- every night when I tuck my girls in at night, I think about the world I want to leave for them. This is about them and for all our sons and daughters. That's how big this election is. I think about how I want to do for them what my Dad did for me. I want to give them that foundation for their dreams -- all of our kids. 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, their country, there is always something better out there if you’re willing to work hard for it. (Applause.)
So, ladies, we cannot turn back now. Not now. (Applause.) We have come so far, but we have so much more work to do. So I have one last question for you. I want to know, are you in?
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Yes!
MRS. OBAMA: I need to hear this -- are you in?
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Yes!
MRS. OBAMA: Because I am so in this. Can you tell? (Laughter.) Can you tell how fired up I am? How ready to go I am? How much I know we can do? How much more I know we can accomplish? We need you. So we want you to stay fired up.
I cannot wait to see all of you out there on the campaign trail in the weeks and months ahead. Thank you all and God bless. (Applause.)
12:32 P.M. EDT