Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event
VFW Post 1503
Dale City, Virginia
2:08 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Four more years! Four more years!
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you all. My goodness! They told me you all were fired up. (Applause.) They were right. We’re going to get this done.
I want to thank you all so much. Let me tell you how thrilled it is [sic] to be here with all of you. I am just thrilled to see you all. (Applause.)
I want to start by thanking Lisa, first of all, for that very kind introduction and for her outstanding work as our Women for Obama co-chair. We’ve got to give her a round of applause. Lisa, thank you so much. (Applause.)
I want to thank a couple of other people. I want to recognize State Delegate Luke Torian -- (applause) -- Lieutenant Colonel John Jenkins -- (applause) -- Christine Tian. And I want to thank them. Thank you all for being here today. I also want to give a special thanks to Woodridge Supervisor Frank Principi -- (applause) -- and the members and families of VFW Post 1503. (Applause.) We are proud and grateful for our veterans and their families, and we all should be working very hard to make sure they know they live in a grateful country, right? (Applause.)
And finally, I want to thank all of you. I want to thank you for your outstanding work as our volunteers and organizers. Thank you so much for everything you do, day-in and day-out, to make this campaign possible. Truly. I want to thank you for doing all of the hard work that goes into a campaign -- knocking on those doors, making all those phone calls; most importantly, registering voters. I want to thank you for giving people the information they need about the issues they care about. And I want you to know, truly, that the grassroots work that you all are doing to help people get focused and fired up, that work is at the core of everything we do. It’s at the core of this campaign. That’s how we did it four years ago, and let me tell you, that’s how we’re going to do it again today. (Applause.)
And one thing that I do know is the work you’re doing is not easy. I know so many of you are putting in long hours, and I know how busy you all are just taking care of your own lives. I know you have families to raise and jobs to do, and you guys have summer to enjoy, right?
MRS. OBAMA: A lot of playing to do, and you’re here, right? But I also know that there’s a reason why all of us are here today. And it’s not just because we all support one extraordinary man, our President -- (applause) -- and I am his biggest fan. I’m a little biased, but I think our President is phenomenal. (Applause.) And it’s not just because we want to win an election -- which we do, and we will. (Applause.) But 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 kids, all of our kids, to have good schools. You know what those schools look like -- the kind of schools that push them, and inspire them, and prepare them for life in the future, those good jobs and those good opportunities. We want our parents and our grandparents to retire with dignity and respect -- because we believe that after a lifetime of hard work, they should be able to enjoy their golden years. (Applause.) We want to restore that basic middle-class security for our families, because we believe that here in America folks shouldn’t go bankrupt because they get sick; folks shouldn’t lose their home because someone loses a job. Not in America. (Applause.)
We believe that responsibility should be rewarded, that hard work should pay off. We believe that everyone should do their fair share and play by the same rules. And the thing that we know: These are basic American values. They’re the values that so many of us were raised with, including myself.
I share my story everywhere you go. My father was a blue-collar city worker, worked for the city water plant. And my family lived in a little-bitty apartment on the South Side of Chicago. My mother still goes home there every time she’s not with us. My room is the same -- same bed sheets, same pictures. (Laughter.) Everything is the same. I don’t know how long she’s going to keep it like that, but -- (laughter) -- I’m okay with it, it’s her house. But my parents never had the kinds of educational opportunities that my brother and I had. And growing up, though, I saw how my parents saved and sacrificed. It gets quiet here, because we all have people in our lives like this -- how they poured everything they had into me and my brother -- (applause) -- because they wanted us to have the kind of education they could only dream of. That’s where I came from.
And while pretty much all my college tuition came from student loans and grants -- can I get an Amen?
MRS. OBAMA: My dad still paid a very small portion of that tuition himself. And every semester, he was determined to pay that bill, and pay it on time. He was proud to be sending his kids to college, and he couldn’t bear the thought of me or my brother missing the 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 responsibility to his family, to pay all of his bills, and to pay them on time. That’s who my father was. That’s what America is. And really, more than anything else, that is what’s at stake in this election. It truly is. 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. (Applause.) And what we have to understand here in America -- it is that promise that binds us together here in this country. It is what makes us who we are. It’s what makes this country so special.
And from now until November, Barack needs all of you to get out there and to tell everyone you know about the values that we share. Tell them about our vision. Tell them about everything that’s at stake in this election. Remind them. And you can start by telling them how Barack fought for tax cuts for working families and small businesses -- (applause) -- because he understands that an economy that’s built to last starts with the middle class and with folks who are creating the jobs and putting people back to work. And remind them how, back when Barack first took office -- remember? -- our economy was losing on average 750,000 jobs a month. That’s what he inherited. Remind them about that. But also let them know that for the past 27 straight months, we have actually been gaining private sector jobs -- a total of more than 4 million jobs in just two years. Let them know. (Applause.) So while we still have a long way to go to rebuild our economy -- we have more work to do -- today, millions of people are collecting paychecks again; millions of people like my dad are able to handle their business and pay their bills again.
And please 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. They said, let it go. But what did your President do? He had the backs of the American workers. He put his faith in the American people. (Applause.) 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. Remind them.
Tell them. Tell them how, because we passed health reform, with all of your support -- (applause) -- remind them what that means. Because of that reform, insurance companies will have to cover preventative care -- things like contraception, cancer screening, prenatal care at no extra cost. That’s what that reform means. And you can tell people that for Barack, protecting women’s health is a mission that has nothing to do with politics. (Applause.) It’s about ensuring that women have the screenings we need to stay healthy, and the care we need when we’re sick. And it’s about ensuring that women can make basic health decisions for ourselves -- plain and simple. (Applause.) You can also tell people that because of health reform, millions of our seniors have saved on average more than $600 a year on their prescription drugs. Let them know. (Applause.) And also because of that reform, our children, young men and women, can stay on their parent's insurance until they’re 26 years old. (Applause.) We know how that feels, right? And that is how 2.5 million young people in this country are getting the care they need.
You can tell people how Barack has been working on education 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, his vision is that we will have more Americans holding a college degree than any other country in the world. (Applause.) That is his vision.
You can also 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 stop that. It’s time to take care of those young people. (Applause.)
You can remind people that Barack kept his promise -- he brought our troops home from Iraq. (Applause.) And you can remind them about how our brave men and women in uniform finally brought to justice the man behind the 9/11 attacks. (Applause.) And you can tell them everything about our President and what he is doing to make sure that our veterans and our military families get the benefits they’ve earned and the respect and support they deserve. (Applause.) And please remind them that our troops no longer have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love -- because Barack passed [sic] "don't ask, don't tell." (Applause.)
You can also tell them that -- this is some good stuff -- (laughter) -- that it’s now easier for women to get equal pay for equal work. (Applause.) And that’s because of the first bill my husband signed into law -- that was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. That was the first thing he did as President of the United States. (Applause.) And 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 and groceries and put clothes on the backs of their kids. (Applause.) But it’s also important for people to know why he did it. He did it because when so many women are now breadwinners in our families, women's success in this economy is the key to families' success. We know that. (Applause.) We know that.
And finally, don’t forget to tell people about those two brilliant Supreme Court Justices that your President appointed, and how, for the first time in history, our sons and daughters watched three women take their seat on our nation’s highest court. (Applause.)
I could go on and on and on. But we’ve got four little people who need to get outside and play I see right here. (Laughter.) They need some ice cream or something. But what I want you to understand, and make sure you share as well, that all of this -- all these wonderful accomplishments and so much more -- they’re all at stake this November. All on the line. And in the end, it all boils down to one simple question: Are we going to continue the change we’ve begun and all the progress that we’ve made, or are we going to allow everything we’ve fought for not just over the last three and a half years, but for the last several decades -- are we going to let it all just slip away?
MRS. OBAMA: No! We know what we need to do, right?
MRS. OBAMA: We simply cannot afford to turn back now. We have to keep moving forward. (Applause.) Keep moving forward. And more than anything else, that is what we’re working for, all of us. That’s what this work is about. 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 share. We all share this vision. This is an American vision.
And that’s what my husband has been doing every single day as President. (Applause.) But let me share something with you. I just want to share -- over the past three and a half years, as First Lady, I’ve had the chance to see up close and personal what being President looks like. So let me tell you what I’ve learned. 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 there is no margin for error.
And I have seen that, as President, you’re going to get all kinds of advice and opinions from all kinds of people. But let me tell you, at the end of the day, you’re sitting alone in that Oval Office -- 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 that vision that you have for this country. In the end, when that President is making those impossible choices, it all boils down to who that person is and what he or she stands for. (Applause.)
And we all know who Barack Obama is, don’t we? We all know what Barack Obama stands for. (Applause.) Remind people that Barack is the son of a single mother who struggled to put herself through school and pay the bills. That’s who your President is. Barack 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 mother [sic] 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 -- men she had actually trained -- were promoted up the ladder ahead of her. So, believe me, your President understands what it means when a family struggles. 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. (Applause.)
Those are the experiences that have made him the man -- and the President -- he is today. (Applause.) So remind people when you’re out there, when it comes time to stand up for American workers and American families, you know what your President is going to do, right?
MRS. OBAMA: When there’s a choice between protecting our rights and our freedoms, you know where Barack Obama stands. And when we need a leader to make the hard decisions to keep this country moving forward, you know you can count on Barack Obama, because that is what he has been doing every single day as President of the United States. That’s what he’s been doing. (Applause.) But you have to remind people.
But I have said this before, and I will say it again and again and again and again: Barack Obama cannot do this alone. That was never the promise. He needs you to keep on doing that hard work -- to make those calls. Call people! Register those voters. You know those folks who aren’t registered -- find them, shake them, get them ready. He needs all of you to multiply yourselves. Multiply yourselves! He needs you to sign up even more super-star volunteers, more super-star organizers. Find them. So reach out to your friends, and your neighbors, and your colleagues, and your congregation members, and your social club members, and the other ladies you have tea with, and the people you walk with in the morning, and the yoga people, and the people in the grocery store line. Convince them to join you in giving just a little part of their lives each week to this campaign. Remind them what’s at stake, and then send them for more -- to barackobama.com. You can take them to the website. There they’ll be able to find everything they need to get started, to sign up and make a difference.
Because what’s important -- and Barack says this a lot -- this election will be closer than the last one. That we can count on. And if you any of you -- if anyone here doubts what a difference you can make, I just want to remind you that, in the end, this election could all come down to those last few thousand people who register to vote. Just think about that. It could all come down to those last few thousand folks we help get to the polls on November the 6th. And I want you to just think 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 -- that’s how important it is -- just one more person in your community. It might mean just helping one more person get out and vote on Election Day -- one more.
So as you’re doing this work and wondering, is it working, just think as you knock on those doors and as you host those events and think about every conversation you have, I want you to remember that this could be the one. Treat it like that: This could be the one that makes the difference. That is the kind of impact that each of you can have. That is why you all are so important. That is why we’re going to win in November -- because of you. (Applause.)
But I am not going to kid you. Remember, 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 know, that is how change -- real change -- always happens in this country -- always. But also remember that if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight and doing what we know is right, then eventually we get there. We always have, we always will. Maybe not in our lifetimes, but maybe in our children’s lifetimes. Maybe in our grandchildren’s lifetimes.
Because in the end, that is what this is all about. It’s not about us, it’s about them. And let me tell you, that is what I think about every night when I put my girls to bed. I think about the world I want to leave for them, and for all of our children, all our sons and daughters. I think about how I want for them what my dad did for me. I want to give them that foundation for their dreams. I want to give them opportunities worthy of their promise -- because all our children are special. 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 hard.
So if you wonder what keeps me going, if you wonder what gives me and my husband passion, it is that belief. It is that reality. So we can’t turn back now. No, we have come so far, but we have so much more work to do. So, Virginia, let me ask you one last question: Are you in?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: No, no, no, no. Are you in?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: Are you in? Because I am so in. I am so fired up. And I look forward to being out there delivering this message, reminding this country what’s at stake, reminding them what our President has done, what he will continue to do. And I look forward to being out there with you all every step of the way. I can’t wait to keep it going. Thank you all. You keep us going in more ways than one.
God bless. (Applause.)
2:32 P.M. EDT