Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event
University of Central Florida
5:59 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: You all look good. Oh my goodness. Wow. Four more year years! Four more years!
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you so much. We will get it done. We will get it done with your help, absolutely. Let me tell you, I am beyond thrilled to be here. You all look so good -- so good. (Applause.)
I want to start with a few thank-yous because we wouldn’t be here without a whole lot of people, including you, but I want to start by thanking Melissa for that amazing introduction. She is an inspiration. I mean, Melissa is an example of the kind of folks in this country who keep me inspired. So let’s give her a round of applause for everything she is doing to make us all so proud. (Applause.)
I also want to thank State Senator-Elect Victor Torres, who’s here; Pastor Jeffrey Rivera; also Staff Sergeant Joseph Washington for all the work he’s doing. We have an amazing National Campaign Co-Chair, Lynette Acosta. She is amazing. I got to meet her. She’s doing a terrific job. Let’s give her a round of applause. And I understand that Milagro Padilla helped to fire you all up earlier, and we want to thank him for that as well. (Applause.)
And finally, last but not least, I want to thank all of you, truly. Yes, indeed, all of you. There are so many of our extraordinary volunteers and organizers. You all, thank you for everything that you do -- everything. Yes, we haven’t seen nothing yet. (Applause.) But thank you for everything that you do day in and out to make this campaign possible, truly. Yes, indeed -- yes, indeed.
You guys are doing the hard work. I know you’re out there knocking on those doors. You’re registering those voters. You all are giving folks the information they need about the issues they care about so they know what to do. And let me tell you, you have to know -- hi, sweetie -- that the grassroots work that you guys are doing, all that work that you’re doing to get people focused and fired up, that work is at the core of everything we do in this campaign. It truly is. But let me tell you, because of you, that’s how we did it four years ago, and that’s how we’re going to do it again today -- absolutely. (Applause.)
And what I do know is that the work that you are doing is not easy. You guys are all busy leading wonderful lives -- you’ve got your jobs, your families that you take care of. Many of you young students, older students, student students, you’re out there, you’ve got classes to attend. People are raising their families.
But I also know that there’s a reason why we’re all here today, and why all of you are working so hard. There’s a reason -- and it’s not just because we all support this awesomely phenomenal, terrific and handsome President. And I will admit, I’m a bit biased -- (laughter) -- but our President is pretty awesome. (Applause.) And we’re not just doing this because we want to win an election -- although we do and we will. (Applause.) We are doing this because of the values we believe in.
I mean, it’s important for us 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 kids to have good schools. You know what kind of schools I’m talking about -- the kind of schools that inspire them. The kind of schools that prepare them for good jobs and wonderful opportunities. We want that for all of our kids. (Applause.)
We want our parents and our grandparents to be able to retire with 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 here 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 in America that responsibility should be rewarded and hard work should pay off. (Applause.) We believe that everyone should do their fair share, but play by the same rules, right? (Applause.)
And the truth is, these are basic American values, right? They’re the values that so many of us were raised with, including myself.
AUDIENCE: I love you, Mrs. Obama!
MRS. OBAMA: I love you, too! Couldn’t be here without you. (Applause.)
But I share my story everywhere I go. My father was a blue-collar city worker -- worked at the city water plant all his life. And my family lived in a little-bitty apartment on the South Side of Chicago. (Applause.) And growing up, let me tell you what I saw. I saw how my parents saved and sacrificed, how they 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.
Education was everything in my family -- everything. It was our ticket to the middle class. It was our pathway to the American Dream. (Applause.) So my mom spent hours volunteering in our neighborhood public school, and she made sure we got -- handled our business, that we finished our homework every single night -- young people, every single night. (Applause.)
And my parents did everything in their power to support my college education. And while pretty much all of my tuition came from student loans and grants -- a very large portion -- my dad still paid a tiny portion of that tuition himself. And let me tell you, every semester, my father was determined to pay that bill and to pay it on time. He was so proud to be able to play a part in sending his kids to college, and he did all he could with his limited resources to lessen our financial burden by ensuring that neither me, nor my brother ever missed a registration deadline because his check was late.
And more than anything else, that is what is at stake. That’s why we’re here. 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.) That is the American Dream that we’re working for.
And let me tell you, from now until November, we’re going to need all of you all out there. (Applause.) We’re going to need you out there. We’re going to need you to tell everyone you know about how Barack is on our side and fighting for the values we believe in and fighting for the vision we all share. You’ve got to tell them.
And I want you to start with the economy. I want you to tell folks how Barack is fighting for working families, starting with tax cuts so folks can keep more money in their pockets so that they can have the income to pay for things like gas and groceries and school clothes for their kids. I want you to tell them. (Applause.)
Remind people that Barack cut taxes for small businesses 18 times. (Applause.) Because he knows that rebuilding our economy starts with folks who are running the restaurants and the shops and the companies that create the jobs that we all need.
And be sure to remind them of this: Back when Barack first took office, this economy was losing an average of 750,000 jobs every single month. 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 jobs. Let them know. (Applause.)
So while we definitely have a long way to go to rebuild our economy, we have more work to do, but let people know today millions of people are collecting a paycheck again; millions of people like my dad are able to pay their bills again. (Applause.)
And when it comes to health care, we need you to tell folks -- (applause) -- let them know 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 it. Instead, insurance companies will have to cover basic, preventative care -- things like contraception, cancer screenings, prenatal cost, at no extra cost. Because of this reform, millions of our seniors have saved hundreds of dollars on their prescription drugs. And our young people can now stay on their parent’s insurance until they’re 26 years old. (Applause.) We can all feel that one. And that is how 6.6 million of our young people in this country are getting the health care they need.
AUDIENCE: We love you, Michelle!
MRS. OBAMA: And when it comes to education -- I’m not done yet, right? There’s more. (Applause.) I want you to tell people that Barack knows what it’s like to be drowning in student debt. Make sure they understand -- back when he and I first started out, we just got married, we’re starting to build a life together --
AUDIENCE: We love you!
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, man, thank you. (Laughter.)
But let me tell you, back then, our combined student loan bill was actually higher than our mortgage. How many people can relate to that one? But that’s exactly why Barack has fought so hard to prevent student loan interest rates from increasing. And that’s why he has doubled Pell grants, helping 4 million more students afford the education they need for the jobs of the future.
And when it comes to tapping into the promise of our young people, I want you to tell them how Barack has been fighting for the DREAM Act. (Applause.) Because he knows and believes that it is time to stop denying responsible young people opportunities in this country because they’re the children of undocumented immigrants. It’s time to stop that. (Applause.) And you can also tell them how he has lifted the shadow of deportation so that -- for so many young people who came here as children, were raised as Americans, and have so much to contribute to our country. It’s important that they understand. (Applause.)
And when it comes to keeping our country safe, I want you to remind people that Barack kept his promise to bring our troops home from Iraq. (Applause.) And he’s working hard 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.
When it comes to supporting women and families, I want you to tell people how Barack fought to make it easier for women to get equal pay for equal work because of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act -- (applause) -- that was the very first bill he signed into law. But I think it’s also important for people to understand why he signed this bill. He signed this bill because he knows that when so many women are now breadwinners for our families, truly women’s success in this economy is the key to families’ success in this economy. (Applause.)
And I also want you to let people know that, when it comes to the Supreme Court, don’t forget to tell people about those two brilliant Supreme Court justices Barack appointed -- 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. Let them know. (Applause.)
I could go on and on and on. But I know you all are standing, and I see some people -- some people sitting down. But what’s important for you all to understand is that all of that and so much more, all of it is at stake this November. It is all on the line. There is no question about it. It is 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, the progress we’ve made? (Applause.) Or are we going to let everything we’ve fought for to just slip away?
MRS. OBAMA: No, we know what we need to do. We cannot turn back now. We need to keep moving forward. (Applause.) We need to keep moving forward. (Applause.)
And more than anything else, that is what we’re working for. That’s what we’re fighting 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. That’s what my husband has been doing every single day as President. (Applause.)
And let me just share something with you -- I have had the privilege of seeing as First Lady over the last three and a half years, I’ve had the chance to see up close and personal what being President really looks like. I’ve seen it. I have 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 the margin for error so, so small. And I have seen how as President, you are going to get all kinds of advice from all kinds of people, but at the end of the day, let me tell you, 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, your vision for this country. And 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 is the son of a single mother who struggled to put herself through school and pay the bills. 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 grandmother was good at her job and helped support her family, like so many women, she hit that glass ceiling, and watched men no more qualified than she -- men she had actually trained -- be promoted up the ladder ahead of her. But she didn’t complain. Like so many people we know in our lives, she just kept getting up and giving her best every single day to help support her family. (Applause.)
So let me -- just understand that your President, Barack Obama knows what it means when a family struggles. This is not a hypothetical situation for him. He knows what it means to work hard because you want something better for your kids and your grandkids. And like me, and like so many of you, he knows the American Dream because he’s lived it. (Applause.) And Barack wants everyone who is willing to work to have the same opportunity. (Applause.)
So when there’s a choice about our children’s futures -- about investing in their schools and helping them attend college without a mountain of debt, you know where Barack 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 my husband 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 gender we are -- you know you can count on Barack Obama, because that’s what he’s been doing every single day as President of the United States. (Applause.) Every single day, that’s what your President has been doing for you. (Applause.)
But I have said this before, and I’m going to say it again and again and again: He cannot do this alone. (Applause.) Did you hear me? He cannot do this alone. Because as Barack has said, this election will be even closer than the last one. That you can count on. So he needs your help. He needs you to do what you do best. (Applause.) Keep making those calls. He needs you to keep knocking on those doors, keep registering those voters. You know the ones that aren’t registered, right? Find them, shake them up. They’re in your dorm rooms, they’re in your church -- find them.
And even more importantly, he needs you to multiply yourselves. Multiply yourselves -- reach out to everyone you know -- your friends, your family, your neighbors -- tell them to go to the barackobama.com, so they can find out how they can get involved, how they can help.
And if you have any doubt about the difference you can make, one of the reasons why we focus so hard on our grassroots efforts -- I just want you to remember that in the end, this could all come down to those last few thousand people we register to vote. Think about that. This election could come down to those last few thousand folks we get to the polls on November the 6th. And when you think about those kind of numbers, and what they mean when they’re spread out across an entire state -- I mean, just think about it. It might mean registering just one more person in your town, in your community, right? One more person. It could mean helping just one more person get out and vote on Election Day. One more person.
So I just want you to think, with every door you knock on, with every event you host, with every single conversation you have, I want you to keep in the back of your mind, I want you to say, this could be the one. I want you to say it: This could be the one.
AUDIENCE: This could be the one!
MRS. OBAMA: Because that is the kind of difference, that’s the impact that each of us can have. That’s why you all are so important. That is why you all are so important.
And I’m not going to kid you, this journey is going to be long. It is going to be hard. You hear me?
MRS. OBAMA: And there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way. But I want you to remember, that is how change always happens in this country. (Applause.) Real change takes time, but we also have to know that if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight, then we eventually get there. We always do. We keep moving forward. Applause.) Maybe not in our lifetimes, though, 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 is what this is all about. It is not about us, it is about them. And let me tell you, that is what I think about every night when I put my girls to bed. Every night, I think about the world that 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. So many people sacrificed for us. I want to give them a foundation for their dreams. I want to give them opportunities worthy of their promise, because all our kids are worthy. I want to give our children that sense of limitless possibility, you know? 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. No, not now. We have come so far, but we have so much more work to do. So I have one final question: Are you all in?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: Wait, wait, wait -- are you in?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: I mean, are you roll-up-your-sleeves in? (Applause.) Are you knocking-on-every-door in? Are you registering-every-voter kind of in? Are you ready to do the work? (Applause.) Because I’m so in. Can you tell how in I am? I am so fired up. And we need each and every one of you to stay fired up. We don’t have a long time at this, right? We need you to be focused and fired up. I am so ready to go. I can’t wait to see you all out there so that we can keep fighting for the values we believe.
Thank you all so much. God bless. (Applause.)
6:24 P.M. EDT