Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event
University of North Carolina
Greensboro, North Carolina
1:03 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you so much. (Applause.) Wow! Are you all fired up? (Applause.) Oh, yes! Let me tell you, I am -- like that precious little one right there -- many precious little ones. (Applause.) I am so thrilled to be here, and I am thrilled that I will be coming back here to North Carolina next month for our convention. Yes! (Applause.) It’s going to be so good.
I want to start by thanking Keylin for that very --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you, Mrs. Obama!
MRS. OBAMA: Love you. Love you back. Love you back. (Applause.)
I want to thank Keylin for that very kind introduction. She told me she was going to get you all fired up and ready to go, and she did, so let’s give her a round of applause. (Applause.)
And I also want to recognize Mayor Foxx for his leadership and his service. (Applause.) I also want to give a hello to Wanda and Donovan for joining us here today. (Applause.)
And finally, I want to thank all of you. I mean, wow -- look at you. You all are some of our extraordinary volunteers, our organizers. (Applause.) Thank you for everything that you do, day in and out, to make this campaign possible. You all are doing the hard work, knocking on those doors, registering voters -- (applause) -- giving people the information they need about the issues they care about.
And I just want you all to know that the grassroots work that you all are doing to get people focused and fired up -- that work is at the core of this campaign; it is everything. That’s how we did it four years ago, and that’s how we’re going to do it again today -- with all of you. So thank you. (Applause.)
And from experience, I know the work that you’re doing -- I know it’s not easy. I know that you all are leading busy lives, keeping it together. You’ve got jobs to do. Hopefully, many of you out there are attending classes, right? You’ve got -- (applause) -- yes, indeed, our students. You have families to raise.
But I also know that there’s a reason that all of you are here and all of you are working this hard, and it’s not just because we all support an extraordinarily awesome, phenomenal man, who happens to be my husband and our President. (Applause.) I don’t know about you, but our President is phenomenal. (Applause.) And, yes, I’m a little biased. (Laughter.) And it’s not just because we want to win an election -- which we do, and we will. (Applause.)
We are doing this because of the values we believe in. That’s why we’re here. (Applause.) Yeah. We’re here because of the vision for this country that we all share. We’re doing this because we believe that everyone should have a fair shot, and that means that all of our kids should have good schools, right? (Applause.) It means all of our kids should be able to go to college without a mountain of debt. (Applause.) We believe that everyone in this country should do their fair share -- and that means that teachers and firefighters should not pay higher taxes than millionaires and billionaires. That’s why we’re here. (Applause.) We believe that if you work hard, you shouldn’t go bankrupt because you get sick. (Applause.) 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 a little security. That’s why we’re here. (Applause.)
You see, and what I tell people everywhere I go: These are basic American values. These are the basics. This is foundation. They’re the values that so many of us were raised with, including myself. I share my story everywhere I go because I’m proud of where I came from. (Applause.) My father was a pump operator at the city water plant, and neither of my parents had a college degree. But what they did do -- and I know there are a lot of people here who can relate to this -- they saved, and they sacrificed. My parents poured everything they had into me and my brother so that we could get the kind of education and have the kind of opportunities they could only dream of, right? (Applause.)
And education was everything in our family. It was everything. It was our ticket to the middle class. It was our pathway to the American Dream. 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: That’s how most of us go to college. But my dad still had to pay a tiny portion of that tuition himself. And every semester, my father was determined to pay his share of that tuition right on time, because he was so proud -- 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. Like so many people in this country, my father took great pride in being able to earn a living that just allowed him to meet his responsibilities to his family -- to handle his business; to pay all of his bills, and to pay them on time. That’s all my father wanted in life -- small things. He didn’t want much. (Applause.)
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, yes, an even better life for your kids. (Applause.) And let me tell you something, your President, my husband, understands that promise because that’s the story of his life as well. He’s the son of a single mother who struggled to put herself through school and pay the bills. He’s 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 his family, and she was good at her job, like so many women, she hit a glass ceiling, and men no more qualified than she was -- men she had actually trained -- were promoted up the ladder ahead of her.
But let me tell you something -- what he saw is that his grandmother never complained. How many people do we know like that in our lives? She just kept getting up. She just kept giving her best every single day to help support her family.
So, trust me, Barack Obama knows what it means when a family struggles. He knows what it means to work hard because you want something better for your kids and your grandkids. This is not a hypothetical. 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 you’ve done well and you’ve walked through the doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back, and you give other folks a chance to succeed as well. (Applause.)
See, and more than anything else, that’s what’s at stake in this election. That’s what this is about. It’s that dream that’s at stake; that fundamental American promise. And let me just say, from now until November -- focus with me -- we are going to need all of you -- all of you -- to get out there and to tell everyone you know -- tell them about Barack’s values. Let them know. (Applause.) Tell them about his vision. And let them know about the choice we face in this election. They have to know.
This election is a choice about our economy. It’s about building a strong and growing middle class. So I want you to remind folks that Barack has cut taxes for working families by $3,600. Cut them. (Applause.) And also people need to understand he has cut taxes for small businesses 18 times. That’s what he’s done. (Applause.) Because Barack 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 economy. Let them know.
And I want you to remind people how, back when Barack first took office, what welcomed him after the inauguration was an economy that 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 28 straight months, we’ve actually been gaining private sector jobs -– a total of more than 4 million new jobs in the last two and a half years. Let them know. (Applause.)
So while, yes, we still have a long way to go to rebuild this economy, today there are millions of people out there collecting a paycheck again; there are millions of people like my dad who are able to pay their bills again. Let them know.
This election is a choice about the health of our families. And listen to this -- the fact is that over the past century -- okay? -- 100 years, so many of our Presidents have tried and failed to meet the challenge of health reform. But your President was determined. (Applause.) See, but Barack was driven by the stories of the people he met -- the grandparents who couldn’t afford their medications; the families going broke because a child got sick; the woman dying of cancer whose insurance company wouldn’t cover her care. And that is what kept him going day after day. That’s why he fought so hard for this historic reform. (Applause.)
And today, understand that because of this reform, our parents and grandparents are paying hundreds less for their prescription drugs -- thanks to this reform. (Applause.) Because of this reform, our children can stay on our insurance until they’re 26 years old. (Applause.) So they don’t have to lose their health care when they graduate and they’re out there looking for a job, trying to build their lives. Because of this reform, insurance companies have to cover basic preventative care -- things like cancers screenings, prenatal care, contraception, at no extra cost. (Applause.) Today, they cannot discriminate against you because you have an illness that they call a preexisting condition. (Applause.) And 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. No longer. (Applause.) Thanks to this reform, that is now illegal. (Applause.)
So 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? It’s our choice. (Applause.)
This election, it’s a choice about whether our kids can attend college without a mountain of debt. Now, believe it or not, back when Barack and I were first starting out, and we were building our lives together, and we were so in love -- (laughter) -- we still are -- (laughter and applause) -- but our combined student loan bill each month was actually higher than our mortgage. Now, I know there are people out there who can relate to that. So, believe me, when it comes to student debt, Barack and I, we’ve been there. And that is why Barack doubled funding for Pell Grants and fought so hard to stop student loan interest rates from increasing. (Applause.) Because he knows how important it is for all of our young people to get the education they need for the jobs they deserve.
He wants all of our kids to fulfill their promise -- all of them. And that is why he has been fighting so hard for the DREAM Act. (Applause.) Listen to this: He is fighting for responsible young people who came to this country as children, through no fault of their own, and were raised as Americans -- know no other country -- because he believes that these young people also deserve a chance to go to college, to contribute to our economy, to serve the country they know and they love. (Applause.) That’s what he believes.
This election is also a choice about keeping our country safe. So I want to remind people that -- and I want you to remind people that after 10 long years of war, and 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 hard to make sure that they get the benefits and the support that they’ve earned. (Applause.)
And today, our troops no longer have to lie about who they love to serve the country they love, because Barack finally ended “don’t ask, don’t tell.” (Applause.)
And it’s important to know that this election is a choice about supporting women and families in this country. (Applause.) So be sure to tell people that Barack believes women should be able to make our own choices about our health care, plain and simple. (Applause.) Remind them that it’s now easier for women to get equal pay for equal work because of the first bill he signed into law, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. (Applause.)
And finally, I want you to remind people about those two brilliant Supreme Court Justices he appointed -- Elena Kagan and Justice Sonia Sotomayor -- (applause) -- 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.)
So when you’re out there and people ask you, well, what has this President done for our country? I want you to tell them how many jobs he created. Tell them how much money he’s put back in the pockets of American people. You can tell them that more of our kids can afford college; more of our seniors can afford their medicine. Remind folks how Barack ended the war in Iraq, passed historic health reform, and stood up for our most fundamental rights again and again and again. Let them know. (Applause.) Let them know.
But I also want you to remind them that all of that and so much more -- all of that is at stake this November. All of it’s on the line. That is the choice we face. Are we going to continue the change we’ve begun and the progress we’ve made? (Applause.) Or are we going to allow everything that we’ve fought for to just slip away?
MRS. OBAMA: No, we know what we need to do. We cannot turn back now. We’ve got to keep moving forward. Forward! Forward! Forward! Forward! Forward! (Applause.)
And more than anything else, that is 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. This is all of our vision. And that is what my husband has been doing every single day as President of the United States. He’s been fighting for us. (Applause.)
And let me share something with you. Let me share something with you that I’ve shared with everyone I’ve talked to. Over the past three and a half years, I have had the privilege to see up close and personal what being President really looks like. (Laughter.) So let me share some things. 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 that there’s no margin for error. And I have also seen that, as President, you’re going to 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 are your life experiences. All you have to guide you are your values. All you have to guide you is your vision for this country. Because in the end, when it all boils down, it all comes down to who you are and what you stand for. (Applause.)
And we all know who my husband is, don’t we? (Applause.) And 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. That was the advice he was getting. But Barack had the backs of 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 again, earning a living. (Applause.) And remember how folks were telling Barack not to take on health care. They said, leave it for another day, another President; just keep kicking that can down the road. But Barack had the backs of American families. And as a result, today, millions of people can finally see a doctor when they’re sick and get the care they need to stay well -- thanks to your President. (Applause.)
So when it comes time to stand up for the middle class, so our kids can go to college and our families can make a decent living and save for retirement, you know what my husband is going to do. 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 my husband because that’s what he’s been doing every single day as President of the United States. (Applause.) That, you know. That, you know.
But I have said this before and I will say it again: He cannot do this alone. That was never the promise.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We’ve got his back! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: Barack has said this election will be even closer than the last one -- that you can count on. And in the end it could all come down to those last few thousand votes. And while that might not sound like a lot, remember that those votes are spread out across an entire state -- what that looks like across hundreds of cities and thousands of precincts. So that one new voter that you register -- think about it -- that one neighbor you help get to the polls on November the 6th -- that could be the one that makes the difference. Just think about it. That could be the one. That one conversation you have, that one new volunteer you recruit -- that could be the one that puts us over the top. (Applause.) That could be the difference between waking up on November 7th and asking yourself, “Could I have done more?”, or feeling the promise of four more years. Four more years! (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: That’s it. And that’s one of the reasons why we launched this new effort that we’re calling “It Takes One.” It takes one -- think about it. It is so simple. Every time you take an action to move this campaign forward, we’re asking you to inspire just one more new person to step up and do their part as well -- just one. So if you’re making phone calls, if you’re knocking on doors, bring one friend -- that little knucklehead you know that’s not doing enough. Just bring them. (Laughter.) If you’re coming to an event, bring a neighbor who has never been involved in an election before. We all know those people in our lives. When you’re voting early, or on Election Day, bring one new voter along with you -- just one. Find one friend, one colleague, one person in your family -- send them to barackobama.com/one so that they can get involved in this campaign. That’s what it’s all about.
And here in North Carolina, I want you to tell them about this new thing just right here in this state -- it’s called "9-3-1"; it’s a program. You all heard about that? (Applause.) This is going to be so good -- so good. Listen to this, if you don’t know: All you have to do is complete nine hours of volunteering, or three shifts, and you’ll get one opportunity to witness history with a guaranteed seat for my husband’s convention speech on the final night of the convention. (Applause.) I think I’m going to go for that one. I want to make sure I got a seat. (Applause.)
And I want you all to be right there with us. So -- love you too, babe. We can’t do this without you. (Applause.) So we are going to need every single one of you to join us. Because it’s like Barack has always said -- it just takes one voice to change a room. And if a voice can change a room, it can change a city. And if it can change a city, it can change a state. And if it can change a state, it can change a nation. That is the power of one person -- one person stepping up to move this country forward. (Applause.)
Now, I am not going to kid you, because I never do. 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 think about this -- understand this: That is how real change always happens in this country. Real change takes time. But if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight, then eventually we get there. We always do. We never go backwards. (Applause.) Maybe not in our lifetimes is what we have to remember, but maybe in our children’s lifetimes; maybe in our grandchildren’s lifetimes. Because in the end, we have to -- that’s what this is about. It is not about us. In the end, that’s what elections are always about. They are always about hope. Don’t let anybody tell you any different. They are always about hope. They’re about our hopes for our children. They’re about the world we want to leave for our next generation. That’s what this is about. (Applause.)
And if you want to know what keeps me fired up -- even when I’m tired, I think about just that very fact. Every time I kiss my kids goodnight, I think about how I want to do for them what my mom and dad did for me, and what Barack’s mom and grandmother did for him. That’s why we’re here. 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, because every single one of our children are worthy. We know that. I want to give our children that 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.
So we just can’t turn back now. We have come so far, but we have so much more to do. So my very last question is: Are you all in?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: Are you ready for this? Are you really in? (Applause.) Are you the kind of roll-up-your-sleeves kind of in? The kind of making a phone call? Ask everybody you know. Find every person you know. Let them know. Shake them up. If you haven’t noticed, I am fired up. I am so ready to go. And I want you right there next to me. We can do this.
Thank you all. God bless. (Applause.)
1:34 P.M. EDT