Remarks by the First Lady at Campaign Event
Westerville Central High School
12:28 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Well, you know what? Thank you right back. Thank you so much. (Applause.) I am thrilled --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you, Michelle!
MRS. OBAMA: Love you, too. Love you, too. And we’re going to keep working hard. (Applause.) I am truly thrilled to be here. I am. (Applause.)
But just something that I think is important, before I get started -- and I mentioned this on a conference call I did yesterday, but I want to take a moment just to make sure we remember the folks in Colorado -- (applause) -- and truly, as I said before, how heartbroken Barack and I are about the tragic shooting that took place last week. And as many of you know, Barack visited with the families of the victims this weekend. And I know that we are all holding them in our hearts and our prayers. And I also know that we will continue to come together as one American family, to mourn those who lost their lives and to support their loved ones. (Applause.) So I just wanted to make sure to say that before we got started.
But I am beyond thrilled to be here. And I want to start by thanking Nancy for that very sweet introduction. So we have to give her another round of applause. She did pretty good for not being a public speaker -- I don’t believe it. (Applause.)
And of course I have to thank your outstanding Mayor, Mayor Coleman, for his leadership and for taking time out of his busy schedule to be here today. (Applause.) He has always been true blue, steady.
And I want to give a shout-out to Samantha as well for her remarks today and for her terrific work on our campaign. (Applause.)
And finally, I want to thank all of you, our extraordinary volunteers, our organizers. (Applause.) Thank you for everything that you do. First of all, thank you for coming out in the rain. (Laughter.) Well done. But the things you do day in and out to make this campaign possible -- I want to thank you for doing that hard work, knocking on doors. Nothing harder than knocking on somebody’s door and talking to them about something, right? Registering those voters, giving folks the information they need about the issues they care about so that they can make informed decisions. I want you all to know that the kind of grassroots work that you all are doing to get people focused and fired up -- I said this to a smaller group, but this is the work that is at the core of everything that we’re doing for this campaign. And just remember, that’s how we did it four years ago, and that’s how we’re going to do it again today, with your help and your hard work. (Applause.)
And as I said, I know this work is not easy, and I know that you all are busy. You’ve got lives to handle, right? Jobs you’ve got to do, classes to attend, families you’re trying to raise. But I also know that there’s a reason why all of us are here today and why all of us are doing this work. And it’s not just because we all support an extraordinary man, who happens to be my husband and our President. (Applause.) And it’s not just because we want to win an election -- because we do, and we will. (Applause.)
What I remind people everywhere I go: We’re here and we’re doing this because of our values; because of the values we believe in. We’re doing this because of the vision for this country that we all share. Nancy mentioned it -- the vision that we all share. I don’t care who we are, we’re doing this because we believe that everyone in this country should have a fair shot. That means that all our kids should have good schools. (Applause.) All of our kids should be able to attend college without a mountain of debt -- all of our kids. (Applause.) We believe that in this country, everyone should do their fair share, and that means teachers and firefighters shouldn’t pay higher taxes than millionaires and billionaires. (Applause.) That’s what that means. We believe that in America, if you work hard, you shouldn’t go bankrupt because someone gets sick. You shouldn’t lose your home because someone loses a job. And after a lifetime of hard work, you should be able to retire with a little dignity and some security. (Applause.)
These are basic American values, right? This isn’t new. This is the foundation of the country. They’re the values that so many of us were raised with, including myself. I tell my story everywhere I go because I’m proud of where I came from. As many of you -- my father was a pump operator at the city water plant, and neither of my parents had a college degree. But let me tell you what they did do for me and my brother -- they saved, and they sacrificed, and they poured everything they had into us so that we could get the kind of education they could only dream of. And education was everything for our family. It was our ticket to the middle class, our pathway to the American Dream. It was education. (Applause.)
And when my brother and I finally made it to college, pretty much all of our tuition came from student loans and grants. Can I get an Amen?
AUDIENCE: Amen! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: But my dad still had to pay a small portion of that tuition himself. And every semester, he was determined to pay that bill right on time, because he was so proud to be sending his kids to college, and he made sure that we never missed a registration deadline because his check was late. And like so many people in this country, my father took great pride in earning the kind of living that allowed him to meet his responsibilities to his family; to pay all of his bills, and to pay them on time. That’s all he wanted. My dad’s life is a testament to that basic American 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. That’s why we’re here. (Applause.)
And let me tell you, my husband understands that promise because that’s his story as well. That’s why I love him so much. He’s the son of a --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible.)
MRS. OBAMA: We all love him, don’t we? (Applause.) But Barack is the son of a single mother -- you know his story -- 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 a bus to her job at the bank. And even though Barack’s grandmother worked hard to support his family, and she was good at her job, 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. But she never complained. Like so many people in our lives, never complained; she just kept getting up every day and giving her very best to support her family.
So, believe me, Barack knows what it means when a family struggles. 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. (Applause.) And like me, and like so many of you, Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it. And he believes that when you’ve worked hard and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. (Applause.) You reach back and you give other people a chance to succeed as well -- that’s what the American Dream is about. (Applause.)
And more than anything else, that’s what’s at stake in this election. It is that dream, that fundamental American promise. And let me tell you, from now until November, we need you all to get out there and tell everybody you know -- tell them about Barack’s values. Tell them about his vision and about the choice we face in this election. That’s what we need from all of you. This election is a choice about our economy. It’s about building a strong and growing middle class, right? So I want you to remind folks that Barack has worked to cut taxes for working families by $3,600 for each family. (Applause.) He has cut taxes for small businesses 18 times since he’s been President. Because this President understands that rebuilding our economy starts with the restaurants and the stores and the startups that create two-thirds of all new jobs in this country.
And be sure to remind people how, back when Barack first took office, this economy was losing an average of 750 [sic] jobs every single month. That’s what he inherited. But they also need to understand for the past 28 straight months, we’ve actually been gaining private sector jobs -– a total of more than 4 million new jobs. People have to understand that. (Applause.)
So, yes, while we have a long way to go, we have more work to do to rebuild our economy, folks have to understand millions -- millions of people are collecting a paycheck again; millions of people like my dad are able to pay their bills again. (Applause.)
This election is also a choice about the health of our families. I mean, the fact is that over the past century -- all right? -- century, so many of our Presidents have tried and failed to meet the challenge of health care reform -- 100 years.
But Barack was determined. He was driven by the stories of the people he’d met: the grandparents who couldn’t afford their medications; the family going broke because a child got sick; the woman dying of cancer whose insurance company wouldn’t cover her care. That’s what kept him going day after day. That’s why he fought so hard for this historic reform. (Applause.)
And today, because of this reform, let people know our parents and grandparents are paying hundreds less for the prescription drugs -- thanks to this reform. (Applause.) Remind people, because of this reform our children can stay on our insurance until they’re 26 years old, so they don’t lose health care when they graduate and they’re out there looking for a job. That’s what this reform has done. (Applause.)
Because of health care, insurance companies have to cover basic preventative care -- yes, things like contraception, cancer screenings, and prenatal care at no extra cost. Let them know. (Applause.) They can’t discriminate against you because you have an illness they call a preexisting condition. No more. (Applause.) And what is more amazing to me -- if you get a serious illness like breast cancer, and you need expensive treatment, your insurance company can no longer tell you, sorry, you’ve hit your lifetime limit and we’re not paying a penny more. Not anymore. (Applause.) Thanks to health reform, that is now illegal. (Applause.)
And make no mistake about it, this November we get to decide: Do we want these reforms to be repealed?
MRS. OBAMA: Or do we want the people we love to have the care they need?
MRS. OBAMA: This is the choice in this election. This election is a choice about whether our kids can attend college without a mountain of debt. And believe it or not, back when Barack and I were just getting together, building our lives together -- we were so in love -- (laughter) -- and we still are -- (applause) -- but our combined student loan bill each month was actually higher than our mortgage. So when it comes to student debt, my husband and I, we’ve been there. And that is why Barack doubled funding for Pell Grants and fought so hard to stop student interest rates from increasing, because he wants all of our young people to get the education they need for the jobs they deserve. (Applause.)
And he wants all our kids -- all of them -- to fulfill their promise. And that is why he’s been fighting so hard for the DREAM Act. Understand this -- he’s fighting for responsible young people who came to this country as children through no fault of their own, and were raised as Americans, because he believes these young people also deserve a chance to go to college. (Applause.) They deserve a chance to contribute to our economy, and to serve the country they know and love. (Applause.)
This election is also about keeping our country safe. So I want you to remind people that after 10 long years of war, after so many of our heroic men and women in uniform served and sacrificed and gave their lives, Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat to this country. (Applause.)
And you can remind folks that Barack kept his promise to bring our troops home from Iraq -- (applause) -- and he’s working to ensure that they get the benefits and the support they’ve earned. (Applause.)
And today, our troops no longer have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love, because Barack ended “don’t ask, don’t tell.” (Applause.)
This election is a choice about supporting women and families in this country. So be sure to tell people that Barack believes women should be able to make our own choices about our health care. (Applause.) Remind them that today it is now easier for women to get equal pay for equal work because, as Nancy said, of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act -- very first bill he signed into law. (Applause.)
And finally, you can tell people about those two brilliant Supreme Court Justices he’s appointed -- Justice Elena Kagan, Justice Sonia Sotomayor -- and how, for the first time in history, our daughters and sons watched three women take their seat on our nation’s highest court. Let them know. (Applause.) I want you to let them know. That’s your job.
So when folks ask you what this President has done for our country, tell them how many jobs he’s created; tell them how much money he’s put back into the pockets of the American people. You tell them that more of our kids can afford college, and more of our seniors can afford their medicine. Remind folks how Barack ended the war in Iraq, how he passed historic health reform, and stood up for our most fundamental rights and freedoms again and again and again. (Applause.)
But you have to also remind them that all of those accomplishments and so much more, all of that is at stake this November. It’s all on the line. These are the choices we face. Are we going to continue the change we’ve begun and the progress we’ve made?
MRS. OBAMA: Or are we going to just let everything that we’ve worked so hard for just slip away?
MRS. OBAMA: No, we can’t do that. We have to keep moving forward. Forward! We cannot turn back now. 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 for this country that we all share. And that is what my husband has been doing every single day as President.
And let me 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, all right? (Laughter.) I’ve seen some things. (Laughter.) I have seen how the issues that come across a President’s desk, they 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 can get all kinds of advice from all kinds of people, right? But at the end of the day, when it comes time to make that decision, as President, all you have to guide you in those moments are your life experiences, right? All you have to guide you are your values, your vision for this country. That’s it. In the end, it all boils down to who you are and what you stand for.
And we all know who my husband is, don’t we? (Applause.) We all know what he stands for. (Applause.) And we have seen, again and again, just how hard he’s willing to fight for us.
Remember when folks in Washington told Barack to let the auto industry go under, with more than a million jobs on the line? Do you remember that? But Barack had the backs of the 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 people are back at work again. Let them know. (Applause.)
And remember how folks were telling Barack, don’t take on health care. Don’t do it. They said, leave it for another day, another President. Just keep kicking that can down the road. That’s what they told him. But Barack had our backs, the American family’s. He had our backs, and as a result, today, millions of people can finally see a doctor when they’re sick; they can get the care they need to stay well. (Applause.)
So when it comes time to stand up for the middle class so our kids can go to college and our families can have a decent living and save for retirement, you know what my husband is going to do, don’t you? (Applause.) When we need a President to protect our most basic rights, no matter who we are or where we’re from or what we look like or who we love, 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. You know who he is. (Applause.) That’s why we’re here.
But I have said this before, and I will say it again and again and again: He cannot do this alone. Because, as Barack has said, this election will be even closer than the last one -- that I guarantee you. In the end, it could all come down to those last few thousand votes, right? And while that might not sound like a lot, remember that those votes are spread across an entire state, across hundreds of cities and thousands of precincts. So that one new voter you register in your precinct, that one neighbor you help get to the polls on November the 6th, that could be the one that makes the difference. I want you thinking like that. That one conversation you have, that one new volunteer you recruit, that could be the one that puts us over the top. That could be the one that makes the difference between waking up on November the 7th and asking yourself, “Could I have done more?”, or feeling the promise of four more years. (Applause.) Four more years.
MRS. OBAMA: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: With your help. With your help. And that is why we’ve launched a new effort, as Nancy mentioned, that we’re calling “It Takes One.” It takes one -- just think like that. It just takes one. And as simple as it sounds, every time you take action to move this campaign forward, we’re asking you to inspire one more person to step up and do their part as well. So if you’re making phone calls, knocking on doors, bring one friend. If you’re coming to an event, bring a neighbor who has never been involved in an election before, someone who is uncertain. When you’re voting early, or on Election Day, bring one new voter along with you, right? One -- it just takes one. Find one friend, one colleague, one person in your family, send them to barackobama.com/one. That’s it. Because we want them to get involved in this campaign as well. And also, bring them along to our very first “It Takes One” weekend of action that’s happening this weekend, where folks are going to be meeting up in cities across this country to register voters, to talk with neighbors about our camp. “Bring One.” One! Or two. (Laughter.) But that was too long for a T-shirt. We couldn’t say, “It takes one or two.” (Laughter.) Just one. You can sign up at the website for that event, and we need every single one of you -- every single one of you here to join us.
It’s like Barack has always said: It takes just one voice to change a room. And if you can change a room, you can change a city. And if you can change a city, you can change a state. And if you can change a state, you can change a nation. That is the power of one -- one person stepping up and doing their part to move this country forward. One person. (Applause.)
And I am not going to kid you -- because I never kid you, right? I tell you the truth. 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 we have to just keep remembering that’s how change always happens in this country. That’s how real change happens. Real change is slow. It takes time and patience. But if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight, doing what we know is right, then eventually we get there. Because we always have. We always will. Maybe not in our lifetimes, but maybe in our children’s lifetimes. Maybe in our grandchildren’s lifetimes, right? (Applause.)
Because, in the end, that is what this is all about. In the end, that’s what elections are always about. Elections are always about hope -- always. They’re about our hopes for our children. They’re about the world we want to leave for the next generation. And let me tell you, that is what I think about every night when I kiss my girls goodnight. That’s what keeps me being out here, passionate. I think about how I want to do for them and all of our children, what my dad did for me, and what Barack’s grandmother and mother did for him. That’s what this is about. I want to give my daughters, and all of our sons and daughters, a foundation for their dreams. I want to give them opportunities worthy of their promise. (Applause.) I want to give them that sense of limitless possibility, that belief that here in America there is always something better 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 much more work to do. And with your help, we will do it.
So my last question -- Nancy, already indicated, but I don’t know about everybody here -- because I want everybody in this room -- whether you are decided, undecided -- I want to know: Are you in?
MRS. OBAMA: Are you in? Are you in? (Applause.) No, no, I mean the kind of rolling-up-your-sleeves in. Are you ready to work for this? Are you ready to knock on doors to find that one new friend? Are you ready for that? Are you ready to pull in that one new person? Are you ready to register that one new voter and work for the vision for this country that we share? Are you ready for that?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: Because I am so far in. Have you not noticed how fired up I am? (Applause.) We are going to be working hard over the next few months, and we’re going to be working hard right here in this state. I want to thank you all for everything you’ve done, and do just a little bit more.
Love you guys. God bless.
12:56 P.M. EDT