Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event
National Constitution Center
3:39 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Yes! (Applause.) Wow! Thank you so much. What a great crowd! I am beyond thrilled to be here with all of you today. Wow!
Let me start by thanking Erin for that very kind introduction and for all of her terrific work not just on this campaign, but working for our kids. Let’s give her another round of applause. Yay, Erin! (Applause.) I also want to recognize your outstanding Mayor and my dear friend, Mayor Nutter. Mr. Mayor. (Applause.) I also want to recognize your outstanding District Attorney, Seth Williams, who is here. (Applause.) And Kathleen Kane, who is here -- she's going to make an outstanding Attorney General here in Pennsylvania. (Applause.)
And finally, I want to thank all of you, our extraordinary volunteers and organizers. Thank you for everything you all do -- oh, day in and day out -- to make this campaign possible. Especially you all down there. (Applause.) Thank you all. I want to thank you for doing all that hard work, knocking on those doors, making all those phone calls, registering those voters. (Applause.) And I want to thank you for giving folks the information they need about the issues they care about.
And I want you to know that the kind of grassroots work that you all are doing to get people focused and fired up -- you know, that kind of work -- that work is at the core of this campaign. It's everything we're about. And that’s how we did it four years ago; that’s how we’re going to do it again today. (Applause.)
And let me tell you something. What I know is that what you all are doing isn’t easy, that kind of work. I know that you all are putting in long hours. And I know that you're doing it although you have busy lives. I know all of you have families to raise, jobs to do, classes to attend. But I also know that there is a reason why all of us are here today. And it’s not just because we all support one extraordinary man -- (applause) -- and I have to admit I’m a little biased about our President. (Applause.) And it’s not just because we want to win an election -- which we do. 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 all of our children, all of them, to have good schools -- (applause) -- the kind of schools that push them and inspire them, and prepare them for good jobs -- right? (Applause.) We want our parents and our grandparents to retire with dignity -- because we believe that after a lifetime of hard work, they should be able to enjoy their golden years -- right? (Applause.) We want to restore that basic middle-class security for our families in this country, because we believe that folks shouldn’t go bankrupt because somebody gets sick, they shouldn’t lose their home because someone loses a job -- right? (Applause.)
We believe that responsibility should be rewarded and that hard work should pay off. We believe that everyone should do their fair share and play by the same rules. (Applause.) These are basic American values. They’re the values that so many of us were raised with, including myself.
You all know my story. My father was a blue-collar worker at the city water plant. My family -- we lived in a little- bitty apartment on the South Side of Chicago. My parents never had the kinds of educational opportunities that me and my brother had. But let me tell you, growing up, I saw how they saved and they sacrificed, and 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 -- some of you know how that feels -- (applause) -- my Dad still paid a tiny portion of that tuition himself. Now, let me tell you, every semester he was determined to pay that bill and pay it on time. See, because he was so proud to be sending his kids to college. He couldn’t bear the thought of me or my brother missing that registration deadline because his check was late.
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, to take care of his responsibilities to his family, to pay all of his bills and to pay them on time. That meant something to my dad.
And really more than anything else, that's what’s at stake in this election. That's what this all this work is about. It’s that fundamental promise that in America, 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. (Applause.) And it is that promise -- that promise -- that binds us all together as Americans. It’s what makes us who we are. It's what makes this country special.
Now, let me tell you something. From now until November, Barack needs all of you to get out there and tell everyone you know about our values and about our vision, and about everything that’s at stake in this election. That's what he needs you to do. And you can start by telling 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.
And remind people how, back when Barack first took office, our economy was losing an average of 750,000 jobs a month. That's what he inherited. But for the past 27 straight months, let them know, we have actually been gaining private sector jobs -- a total of 4 million jobs -- 4 million jobs -- in just two years. (Applause.) So while we still have a long way to go to rebuild our economy, today millions -- millions -- of people are collecting a paycheck again. Millions of people like my dad are able to pay their bills again. (Applause.)
You can also remind people about how all those folks in Washington were telling Barack to let the auto industry go under -- remember that?
MRS. OBAMA: With more than a million jobs on the line. But what did your President do? Barack had the backs of American workers. He put his faith in the American people. And as a result, today the auto industry is back on its feet again, and more importantly, people are back at work, providing for their families again. (Applause.)
And I want you to tell people how, because this administration passed health reform, tell them how insurance companies -- because of that reform, insurance companies will now have to cover preventive care. (Applause.) Things like contraception, cancer screenings, prenatal care at no extra cost. Let them 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. Let them know. (Applause.) And our children can now stay on their parent's insurance until they’re 26 years old. (Applause.) And that’s how 2.5 million young people are now getting their health care, the care that they need.
You can also tell people how Barack is working to raise 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. (Applause.) That’s Barack’s vision for us.
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. It’s time to give them a chance. (Applause.)
You can remind folks that Barack kept his promise to bring our troops home from Iraq. (Applause.) And you can remind them about how our brave men and women in uniform brought to justice the man behind the 9/11 attacks. Remind them about that. (Applause.) And also tell them that now our troops do not 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 tell people that it is now easier for women to get equal pay for equal work -- (applause) -- and that’s because of the very first bill Barack signed into law, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Remind them about that. And understand that Barack signed this bill because he knows that closing that pay gap can mean the difference between women losing $50, $100, $500 from each paycheck, or having that money in their pockets to buy gas and groceries and put clothes on the backs of their kids. He did it because when so many women are now breadwinners for our family, women's success in this economy is the key to families' success in this economy. (Applause.) Let them know.
And finally, don’t forget to tell people about those two brilliant Supreme Court justices that my husband appointed, and how, for the first time in history, our daughters and sons watched three women take their seat on our nation’s highest court. (Applause.) Let them know. We need you to tell them about it.
But we also need to make sure that people know that all of this -- and so much more -- is at stake this November. It’s all at stake. And 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? No, we know what we need to do, right?
MRS. OBAMA: We cannot turn back now -- not now. We have 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 believe in and the vision that we all share.
And let me tell you, that’s what my husband has been doing every single day as President. And I have to tell you, over the past three and a half years, I have had the chance to see up close and personal what being President looks like. So let me tell you what I’ve seen. I have seen how the issues that come across a President’s desk are always the hard ones -- always. The problems with no easy solutions, the judgment calls where the stakes are so high and the margin for error absent.
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, as President, all you have to guide you are your life experiences. All you have to guide you are your values, are your visions for this country. And in the end, when you’re making those impossible choices, it all boils down to who you are and what you stand for. (Applause.)
But, Philly, we all know who my husband is -- right? (Applause.) And we all know what Barack Obama stands for. (Applause.) See, Barack is the son of a single mother who struggled to put herself through school and pay the bills. That's who he is. He is 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 her family and she was good at her job, like so many women, she hit that glass ceiling, and watched men no more qualified than she was promoted up the ladder ahead of her.
So let me tell you something. Barack Obama 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, trust me, as a father, he knows what it means to want something better for your kids.
Those are the experiences that have made him the man -- and more importantly, the President -- he is today. (Applause.) So the thing I want you all to remember is that 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 between protecting our rights and our freedoms, you know where Barack stands. 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, your President, because that is what he has been doing every single day in the Oval Office as President of the United States. (Applause.)
But I have said this before and I will say it again, and again, and again -- he cannot do this alone.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We got your back! Yes, we can! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: Yes, we can. Barack needs your help. He needs you to keep doing what you're doing, making those calls -- more importantly, register those voters. He needs you to take those commit-to-vote cards -- you know those? Find them, get them, sign up your friends and your neighbors and your colleagues. Convince them with every ounce of energy in your soul to join you in giving a little part of your life each week to this campaign.
And then, send them to BarackObama.com. Send them to that website for more information on how they can get started making that difference. As Barack has said -- and don't forget, this election will be even closer than ever before. And if you have any doubt about the difference that you can make, I just want you to remember that in the end, this could all come down to those last few thousand people that we register to vote.
It could all come down to those last few thousand people we help get to the polls on November the 6th.
And so I want you to just take a minute to think about what these kinds of numbers mean when they’re spread out over an entire state. It might mean registering just one more person in your town, in your community, in your neighborhood -- just one more. It could mean helping just one more person get out and vote on Election Day -- just one more.
So just think about this: With every door you knock on, with every event you host, with every conversation that you have with anyone, I want you to just think -- think, this could be the one -- right? This could be the one that makes the difference. (Applause.) And that is the kind of impact that each of us can have. That’s why you’re so important.
And I am 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 just remember that’s how change always happens in this country. And if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight, then eventually we get there. We always do. Maybe not in our lifetimes, but maybe in our children’s lifetimes, maybe in our grandchildren’s lifetimes.
Because, in the end, that’s what this is all about. That’s what I think about when I tuck my girls in at night and I think about the world I want to leave for them, and all our sons and daughters. I think about how I want to do for them what my dad did for me. I want to give them a foundation for their dreams. I want to give them opportunities worthy of their promise -- all of our children. (Applause.) I want to give them a 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. (Applause.)
So we cannot turn back now. Not now. We have come too far -- but we have so much more work to do. So I have one last question to ask you: Are you in?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: Are you ready for this?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: Are you ready to do the work? Are you ready to roll up your sleeves? Are you ready to fight for our children? (Applause.)
I hope you are fired up, because if you can’t tell, I am fired up. (Applause.) I am going to be working so hard over the next couple of months. We need you more than you can ever know. You will make the difference in this election. Keep working. We love you. God bless.
4:00 P.M. EDT