Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event
Barbara Goleman High School
2:19 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, my goodness! (Applause.) Yes, we can! (Applause.) Well, thank you so much. Well, thank you so much. Thank you so much. (Applause.) You all, I am -- (applause) -- you all are fired up. Get it done. (Applause.) Oh, my goodness, thank you! You all, I am just thrilled. Four more years! Yes, indeed! (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: My goodness. Four more years -- with your help. With your help. Four more years. (Applause.)
I am beyond thrilled to be with all of you today. This welcome was just -- you’re going to make me cry, and I have makeup on. (Laughter and applause.)
I want to start by thanking José for that wonderful introduction, but for his work in making sure that all our communities are healthy. Let’s give him a round of applause. José, you did a great job. (Applause.)
I have a few more thank-yous, because I know there were several people who helped get you all fired up. I want to thank Simone Worsdale. (Applause.) I also want to thank Sergeant First Class Johnnie Pattison and -- yes, that’s your man -- (applause) -- that’s your -- and Reverend Hafner, because I know they spoke earlier. I want to thank them for their words. I also want to thank Steven Montoya for working and getting you guys fired up. (Applause.) And I got to meet Nestor Zurita and his band backstage, and I want to thank them for their wonderful performance as well. (Applause.)
And finally, I want to thank all of you. (Applause.) You all are extraordinary volunteers and organizers. Thank you for everything that you do -- everything that you do. (Applause.) Everything you all do day-in and day-out, because what you do makes this campaign possible. Everything. And I know that work is hard. You all are knocking on those doors. You are registering those voters, which is critical. And you’re giving people the information they need about the issues they care about. And I just want you to know that that kind of grassroots work that you all are doing to get people focused and fired up, that is the work that’s at the very core of this campaign. And that’s how we did it four years ago, and that’s exactly how we’re going to do it again today. (Applause.)
And I say this to all of our volunteers around the country: I know that the work you do isn’t easy, and -- no, right? It’s hard work. (Laughter.) And I know that you’re doing it with all of the busy lives you all are leading. You’ve got lives of your own -- you’ve got jobs you’ve got to get to, you’ve got classes to attend, hopefully. We’ve got young people attending their classes. (Applause.) All right. We’ve got -- I know you all have your families that you’re trying to raise.
But I also know that there’s a reason why all of you are here and doing this work, and it’s not just because we all support an extraordinary man, who happens to be my husband. (Applause.) I’m a little biased. (Laughter.) I think our President is awesome. (Applause.) And I know you’re not just doing this because we want to win an election -- which we will. (Applause.)
But we’re all doing this because of the values we believe in. That’s the thing we have to remember: 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 to have those good schools -– the kind of schools that push them, and inspire them, and prepare them for the good jobs and opportunities for the future. (Applause.)
We’re doing this because we want our parents and our grandparents to be able to retire with a little dignity -- (applause) -- because we believe that after a lifetime of hard work, they should be able to enjoy their golden years, right? (Applause.)
We are doing this because we want to restore that basic middle-class security for our families, because we believe that in America folks shouldn’t go bankrupt because someone gets sick. (Applause.) They shouldn’t lose their home because someone loses a job. (Applause.) We believe that responsibility should be rewarded, and that hard work should pay off. (Applause.) We believe that everyone should do their fair share, but play by the same rules. (Applause.)
And these are basic American values, right? They’re the values that so many of us were raised with, including myself.
You all know my story by now, right? My father was a blue-collar city worker. He worked at -- with MS -- he worked at the city water plant his entire life, and my family lived in a little-bitty apartment on the South Side of Chicago. (Applause.) And growing up -- I know we’ve got some South Siders here. (Applause.) And growing up, I saw how my parents saved and sacrificed, and poured everything they had into me and my brother. They held us to the same high standard of excellence because they wanted us both to have the kind of education they could only dream of. How many people can relate to that? (Applause.)
Education was everything in my family. It was everything. It was our ticket to the middle class. It was our path to the American Dream. So my mom spent hours volunteering in our neighborhood public school, and she made sure we finished every bit of our homework, young people. Right? Every night. (Applause.) And my -- finish your homework. (Laughter.) Yeah, I’m talking to you, in the pink shirt. (Laughter.) You, too -- all of you young people, get your education. (Applause.)
But my parents, they did everything in their power to support my college education. And while pretty much all of my tuition came from student loans and grants -- can I get an Amen on that? -- (applause) -- my dad still paid a tiny portion of that tuition himself. And let me tell you, every semester, he was determined to pay that bill and to pay it on time. He was so proud to be sending his kids to college, and he did all that he could within his power to lessen our financial burden by ensuring that neither me nor my brother ever missed a registration deadline because his check was late.
See, and what I want us all to remember is that, more than anything else, that is what’s at stake. That’s what we’re fighting for -- 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.) That is the American Dream. That is it.
And we have to remember that from now until November, we are going to need all of you to get out there and tell everybody you know about how Barack is on our side, fighting for the values that we believe in and the vision that we all share. (Applause.) You’ve got to tell them.
And you can start by starting with the economy. You can tell them how Barack is fighting for working families, starting with tax cuts so folks can keep more of their income for the things they need, like gas and groceries and school clothes for their kids. (Applause.)
I want you to remind people that Barack cut taxes for small businesses 18 times. You know the record -- 18 times. (Applause.) Because he knows that rebuilding our economy, it starts with folks who are running the restaurants and the shops, and the companies that create the jobs we need in this economy.
But be sure to remind people how, back when Barack first took office, this economy was losing an average of 750,000 jobs every single month. Remind them about that. That’s what he walked into. That’s what he inherited. But also let them know that for the past now 28 straight months, we’ve actually been gaining private sector jobs -– a total of more than 4 million new jobs in just the last couple of years. (Applause.)
So folks should understand that while we 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. (Applause.)
Let them know about health care. (Applause.) You can tell folks that because of the reform that my husband passed, the people we love will no longer have to skip important health screenings because they can’t afford them. That’s what it means. (Applause.) And instead, insurance companies will have to cover preventative care -- things like contraception, cancer screenings, prenatal care, and cover it at no extra cost. That’s what you can tell people. (Applause.) Because of this reform, millions of our seniors have saved hundreds of dollars on their prescription drugs. (Applause.) And our young people can stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26 years old. (Applause.) Everyone can feel that, right? And that’s how 6.6 million of our young people are getting the health care they need.
Now, when it comes to education, you can tell people that Barack knows what it’s like to be drowning in student debt. See, remind them -- back when we started out, he and I, together, and we were trying to build our life together when we first got married, our combined student loan bill was actually higher than our mortgage. And that’s why Barack fought so hard to prevent student loan interest rates from increasing. (Applause.) That’s why he doubled -- doubled -- Pell Grants, helping 4 million more students afford the education they need for the jobs of the future. (Applause.)
And when it comes to tapping into the promise of our young people, please tell people how Barack has been fighting for the DREAM Act, because he believes that it is time to stop denying responsible young people opportunities in this country just because they’re the children of undocumented immigrants. (Applause.) And you can tell them how he’s lifted the shadow of deportation from so many of these young people who came here as children and were raised as Americans and have so much to contribute to our country. (Applause.) Let them know.
When it comes to keeping our country safe, you can remind people that Barack kept his promise -- he brought our troops home from Iraq. Yes, he did. (Applause.) And he’s working to make sure that they get the benefits and the support that they’ve earned.
And today 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.)
Now, ladies, when it comes to supporting women and families -- right? -- tell people about your President, how he fought to make it easier for women to get equal pay for equal work. And that’s because of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act -- (applause) -- the very first bill he signed into law. But it’s also important for folks to know why he signed this bill. Because Barack knows that when so many women are now breadwinners for our families, women’s success in this economy is the key to families’ success in this economy, right? We know that. (Applause.)
And finally, when it comes to the Supreme Court, don’t forget to tell people about those two brilliant Supreme Court Justices -- Justice Elena Kagan and Justice Sonia Sotomayor -– (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.)
I could go on and on and on and on. But I am not going to, because you all are standing up and I don’t want anybody to pass out. (Laughter.) But it is important that people understand that all of this is at stake this November. It’s all on the line. All these gains are 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 the progress we’ve made? (Applause.) Or are we going to let everything we’ve fought for just slip away? What are we going to do?
MRS. OBAMA: No, we can’t turn back now. We have to keep moving forward. (Applause.) Forward! Forward! (Applause.)
And more than anything else, that’s what we’re working for. That’s why we’re here: 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. And that’s what my husband has been doing every single day as President of the United States. (Applause.) I am so proud of him.
And let me just share with you -- because over the past three and a half years of being your First Lady, I’ve had the chance to see up close and personal what being President looks like. And let me tell you, I’ve seen how the issues that come across a President’s desk are 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. And as President, you are going to get all kinds of advice 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 direct you are your values and your vision. In the end, it all boils down to who you are and what you stand for. (Applause.)
And we all know who my husband is, don’t we? (Applause.) We all know what Barack Obama stands for, don’t we? (Applause.) Barack Obama -- he is the son of a single mother who struggled to put herself through school and pay the bills. He is the grandson of a woman who woke up before dawn every day to catch that 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 her job, but like so many women, she hit that glass ceiling, and men no more qualified than she -- men she had actually trained -- were promoted up the ladder ahead of her. But she never complained. She just kept getting up, just kept giving her best every single day to help support her family.
So, believe me, Barack Obama knows what it means when a family struggles. (Applause.) This is not a hypothetical for him. He knows what it means to work hard because you want something better for your kids and for your grandkids. Like me, and like so many of you, he knows the American Dream because he’s lived it. And he wants everyone who is willing to work hard to have that same opportunity. (Applause.)
So when there’s a choice about our children’s future -- about investing in their schools and helping them attend college without a mountain of debt, you know where Barack Obama stands. (Applause.)
When it comes time to stand up for our workers and our families, so folks can make a decent wage, save for retirement, see a doctor when they’re sick, you know what Barack Obama is going to do. (Applause.)
When we need a President to protect our most basic rights -- no matter who we love, or where we’re from, or what race or what gender we are -- you know you can count on my husband, because that’s what he’s been doing every single day as President of the United States. (Applause.) Every day, he has been working for us -- every day. (Applause.)
But I have said this before, and I will say it again and again: He cannot do this alone. You know that. Barack has said this election will be even closer than the last one. So he needs your help. Yeah. (Applause.) He needs you to keep doing what you’re doing. He needs you to keep making those calls, doing that hard work knocking on those doors -- treacherous work, right? Tiring work. He needs you to keep registering those voters. You know, the ones that aren’t registered -- you’ve got to get them and shake them. Find them, get them registered. (Applause.)
And even more importantly, he needs you to multiply yourselves. Think about it like that: multiply yourselves. Reach out to everybody you know -- your friends, family, neighbors -- and tell them to go to barackobama.com, find out how they can roll up their sleeves and get involved.
And let me just say that if anyone in here has 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. Think about it like that. (Applause.) It could all come down to those last few thousand folks we help get to the polls on November the 6th, right? (Applause.) And I want you to think just for a minute about what those kinds of numbers mean when they’re spread out across an entire state. It might mean registering just one more person in your town. Think about it -- one more. It might mean just helping one more person in your community get out and vote on Election Day -- just one more person.
So I want you to think, with every door you knock on, with every event you host, with every conversation you have, just think in your mind -- say, this could be the one. Can you hear me? Say, this could be the one.
AUDIENCE: -- could be the one!
MRS. OBAMA: That is the kind of impact that each of us will have. And that’s why you all are so important. That is what’s going to make the difference.
But I’m not going to kid you, this journey is going to be long, so buckle in. (Laughter.) And it is going to be hard. And there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way. But we have to remember, that’s how change happens. That’s how it always happens. (Applause.) But if we keep showing up, and if we keep fighting that good fight, then we always get there. We always get there, don’t we? (Applause.) Maybe not in our lifetimes, but maybe in our children’s lifetimes, right? Maybe in our grandchildren’s lifetimes. (Applause.)
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 tuck my girls in. Yeah, they’re getting big, but I’m tucking them in anyway. (Laughter.) And 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 mom and dad did for me. I want to give them a foundation for their dreams. I want to give them opportunities worthy of their promise, because all our children -- every single one of them -- are deserving of that. (Applause.) I want to give them that sense of limitless possibility -– the belief that here in America, there is always something better out there if you’re willing to work for it.
So we can’t turn back now. No, not now. We have come so far, but we have so much more work to do. So let me ask you one last question: Are you all in?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: Are you really in?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: No, are you rolling-up-your-sleeves kind of in? (Applause.) Are you finding-one-more-person kind of in? Are you ready-to-multiply-yourselves kind of in? Keep-knocking-on-those-doors kind of in? Keep-registering-those-voters kind of in? Because I’m in. I’m so way in. I’m so fired up. (Applause.) And I hope that you all are ready to get out there. I cannot wait to see you all out there. Get it done in Florida. Get this state done. We need you. (Applause.)
God bless. (Applause.)
2:44 P.M. EDT