Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event
Raleigh, North Carolina
5:58 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you all. Thank you all. (Applause.) Yes, I am thrilled to be with you all this evening, and I am thrilled that I will be coming back here to North Carolina next month for the convention. (Applause.) Good stuff. Good stuff.
Let me start by thanking Ashley, not just for that kind introduction, but all of her wonderful work here in this area. We are just truly grateful for her inspiring work -- feeding us, nourishing us, and making it taste good at the same time. So let’s give her another round of applause. (Applause.)
I also want to recognize Lieutenant Governor Dalton, who I know will make an outstanding Governor. He and his wife are here. (Applause.)
And I also want to say a special hello to Diane for her wonderful remarks. Thanks, Diane. (Applause.) And to the entire host committee, for helping to make this event such a success. Thank you all. Great work. Great work.
And finally, I want to thank all of you, truly, for taking the time to be here this evening. And I know that taking time out of your lives isn’t easy. You all are busy folks. You’ve got jobs to do. Some of you out there got classes to attend; we all have families that we’re raising, so our lives are full. But I also know that there’s a reason why we’re here tonight, and it’s not just because we all support an extraordinary man, who happens to be my husband. (Applause.) And it’s not just because we want to win an election -- which we do, and we will. (Applause.)
We’re doing this, we’re here together tonight, because of our values -- the values we believe in. We’ve doing this because of the vision for this country that we all share. We’re doing this because we believe that everyone in this country should have a fair shot, and what that means is that all of our kids should have good schools, right? All of our kids should be able to attend college without a mountain of debt -- all of our kids. (Applause.) We believe that everyone in America should do their fair share -- and that means that teachers and firefighters shouldn’t pay more taxes than millionaires and billionaires. (Applause.) We believe that if you work hard, you shouldn’t go bankrupt just 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 security here in America, right? (Applause.)
See, these are basic American values. This is our foundation. They’re the values that so many of us were raised with, including myself. 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 have and what they did do -- they saved, and they sacrificed everything. They poured everything they had into me and my brother so that we could have the kind of education and the kind of opportunities they could only dream of. Education was everything in our family. It was our ticket to the middle class, 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. I know a few people can understand that. (Applause.) But my dad still paid a tiny portion of our tuition himself. And let me tell you, every semester he was determined to pay that bill and pay it on time. He was so proud to be able to send his kids to college, and he made sure that we never missed a registration deadline because his check was late. He wanted us to be on time. And like so many people in this country, so many people in your lives, my father took great pride in being able to earn the kind of living that allowed him to handle his responsibilities to his family. That’s all he wanted. It’s all he wanted -- didn’t want much. He wanted to be able to pay all of his bills, and to pay them on time. (Applause.)
My father’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. (Applause.) Yes. And what I want people to understand is that your President, my husband, understands that promise because that’s his story, too. That’s why I married him. (Applause.) He is the son of a single mother who struggled to put herself through school and pay the bills. That’s who he is. He’s the grandson of a woman who woke up before dawn to catch a bus to her job at the bank. And even though Barack’s grandmother was good at her job -- she worked hard to support her family -- like so many women, she hit that glass ceiling, and watched men no more qualified than she was be promoted up the ladder ahead of her.
But what he saw was a women that never complained. How many people do we know like that in our lives? Never complained; she just kept on getting up, giving her best every single day to support her family.
So let me tell you something, 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 your grandkids. And like me, and like so many of you, Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it. (Applause.) And what he believes is that when you’ve worked hard and you’ve done well and walked through that 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. You open that door. (Applause.)
And more than anything else, that’s what’s at stake in this election. That’s why we’re here -- it’s that dream, that fundamental American promise. And let me just tell you, from now until November, we are going to need all of you to get out there -- get out there and tell everyone you know about this man. Tell them about Barack’s values. Tell them about his vision. Let them know about the choice we face in this election, because there is a choice.
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, as Ashley said, Barack has cut taxes for working families by $3,600. People need to understand that. (Applause.) He’s cut taxes for small businesses 18 times, because he knows 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 750,000 jobs every single month. That’s what welcomed him. That’s what he walked into after taking the oath of office. 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 since Barack has been President. (Applause.)
So, yes, we have a long way to go to rebuild our economy, but today millions of people are collecting a paycheck again; millions of people like my dad are able to pay their bills again.
This election is a choice about the health of our families. The fact is that over the past century -- okay? -- 100 years, so many of our Presidents have tried and failed to meet the challenges of health care reform. But Barack was determined. (Applause.) He 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’s what kept him going day after day. That’s why he fought so hard for this historic reform.
And today, because of this reform, our parents and our grandparents, they’re paying hundreds less for their prescription drugs. Our kids can stay on our health insurance until they’re 26 years old. (Applause.) So they don’t have to go without health care when they graduate and they’re trying to build their lives, and just getting started looking for a job. Because of this reform, insurance companies have to cover basic preventative care -- ladies, things like contraception, cancer screenings and prenatal care, at no extra cost. (Applause.)
Insurance companies can no longer discriminate against you because you have an illness they call a preexisting condition. (Applause.) And listen to this: If you get a serious illness -- something like breast cancer -- and you need really expensive treatment, your insurance company can no longer tell you, sorry, you’ve hit your lifetime limit; we’re not giving you a penny more. No longer. 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? What’s our choice. (Applause.) That’s what this election is about.
This election is a choice about whether our kids can attend college without a mountain of debt. Believe it or not, when Barack and I first started out, building our lives together -- so in love -- (laughter) -- still are -- (laughter and applause) -- our combined student loan debt was actually higher than our mortgage. I know there are people who can relate to that. So when it comes to student debt, believe me, Barack and I, we have been there. And that’s why Barack doubled funding for Pell Grants and fought so hard to stop student loan interest rates from rising. (Applause.) Because he wants all of our young people to get the education they need for the jobs they deserve.
He wants all of our kids -- all of them -- to fulfill their promise. And that’s why he has been fighting so hard for the DREAM Act. 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 -- the only country they know -- because he believes that these young people also deserve the chance to go to college, to contribute to our economy, to serve the country they know and love. That’s what he’s been fighting for -- all of our kids. (Applause.)
This election is also a choice 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 -- thank goodness. Let people know. (Applause.)
And you can remind people that Barack kept his promise and brought our troops home from Iraq. (Applause.) And he’s working hard to make sure they get the benefits and support that they’ve earned. (Applause.)
And today, our troops no longer have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love. That’s why Barack finally ended “don’t ask, don’t tell.” (Applause.)
This election is a choice about supporting women and families in this country. So please be sure to tell people that Barack believes that women should be able to make our own choices about our health care. (Applause.) Remind them that it is now easier for women to get equal pay for equal work because of the first bill Barack signed into law as President, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. (Applause.)
And please remind them about those two brilliant Supreme Court Justices he appointed -- Justice Elena Kagan and Justice Sonia Sotomayor -- (applause) -- 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.)
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 in the pockets of American people. Tell them that more of our kids can afford college; more of our seniors can afford their medicine. Tell them how Barack ended the war in Iraq, passed historic health reform, and stood up for our most fundamental rights again and again and again. (Applause.)
But I also want you to remind people that all of that and so much more -- it’s all at stake this November. It’s all on the line. And that’s the choice we face. Are we going to continue the change we’ve begun, all the progress we’ve made? Or are we going to allow everything we’ve fought for to slip away?
MRS. OBAMA: No, we know what we need to do, right? We can’t turn back now. We need to keep moving forward. Forward! (Applause.)
And more than anything else, that’s what we’re working for. That’s why we’re here -- 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. And that is what my husband has been doing every single day as President.
And let me tell you something about being First Lady. It has given me the opportunity, over the last three and a half years, to see up close and personal what being President actually looks like. Let me share some things.
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 the margin for error so low. And as President, you are going to get all kinds of advice, all kinds of opinions 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 really guide you are your values. What do you believe? All you have to guide you is your vision for this country. 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.) And we all know what he stands for. (Applause.) And we have seen again and again just how hard he is willing to fight for us.
Remember when folks in Washington were telling Barack to let the auto industry go under -- remember that? With more than a million jobs on the line, that was the advice he was getting. But Barack had the backs of the American workers. He put his faith in the American people. (Applause.) And as a result, the auto industry is back on its feet again, and more importantly, people are back at work, providing for their families again. (Applause.)
Remember how folks were telling Barack, oh, don’t 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 -- millions of people can finally see a doctor when they’re sick. They can finally get the care they need to stay well. (Applause.)
So when it comes time to stand up for the middle class, so that our kids can go to college and our families can make a decent living, 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.)
But I have said this before, and I will say it again -- he cannot do this alone. That was never the promise.
Barack has said this election will be even closer than the last one. That is the only guarantee you've got. In the end, it could all come down to those last few thousand voters. Think about it.
And while that might not sound like a lot, remember that those votes are spread out across an entire state, across hundreds of cities and thousands of precincts. So that one new voter that you register in your precinct, that one neighbor that you get to the polls on November the 6, that could be the one that makes the difference.
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. Don’t underestimate the power that you have. That could be the difference between waking up on November 7 and asking yourself "could I have done more?" or feeling the promise of four more years. (Applause.) That’s the margin of difference -- one voter. (Applause.)
And that’s why we've launched this new effort that we're calling It Takes One. It Takes One. It is as simple as it sounds. Every time you take action to move this campaign forward, we're asking you to simply inspire one more person to step up and do their part -- one person.
So if you're making phone calls and knocking on doors, bring that friend who's never done it before. If you're coming to an event, bring a neighbor who's never been involved in an election. When you're voting early or on Election Day, find one new voter. Take them. Take them with you. Find one friend, one colleague, one person in your family. Shake them up. (Applause.) Get them involved. Send them to barackobama.com/one -- they don’t even have to get up -- (laughter) -- so that they can get involved in this campaign. It takes one.
And I want you to be sure to tell people about our new "9-3-1" program for the folks right here in North Carolina. Listen to this, this is the deal. (Applause.) All you have to do is complete 9 hours of volunteering, or three shifts -- same difference -- by August the 18, and you will get one opportunity to witness history with a guaranteed seat for my husband's speech on the final night of the convention. (Applause.) Be there. Be there. And you can get started right now by signing up with one of the volunteers who is here with us this evening.
So look around. This is about action tonight. We need every single one of you to join us. Because it's like Barack has always said -- it takes just 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 nation. And if it can change a state, it can change a nation, it can change the world. That is the power of one person stepping up to move this country forward. Think about it.
And I'm not going to kid you, this journey is going to be long, right? This journey is going to be hard, and there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way. But what we have to remind ourselves is that’s how change always happens in this country.
Real change takes time. But if we keep showing up and if we keep fighting the good fight, doing what we know is right, then eventually we get there -- because we always do. Maybe not in our lifetimes, but maybe in our children's lifetimes; maybe in our grandchildren's lifetimes.
Because in the end, that’s what this is all about. Ultimately, that’s why we're here. In the end, that’s what elections are all about.
Don’t let anyone fool you -- elections 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. It's about them.
And believe me, that is what I think about every night when I put my girls to bed. If you see any passion in me it's because of this. I think about how I want to do for them what my mom and dad did for me, how -- what Barack's mom and grandma did for him. That’s what I want for all our kids. (Applause.)
I want to give my daughters and all our sons and daughters a real foundation for their dreams. (Applause.) I want to give them opportunities worthy of their promise -- because all of our kids are worthy. (Applause.) 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 for it. Our kids need that hope.
So we cannot turn back now. Not now. We have come so far, but we have so much more to do -- so much more.
So my last question for you is, are you in?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: Now, are you really in?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: Are you the kind of roll-up-your-sleeves in, get-1, 2, 3 more people, I mean working kind of in?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: Where you're going to shake people up, you're going to let people know what's at stake, why we're here, what we're fighting for. You've got to help people understand what this President has done, what the future means, what we're fighting for. That’s the kind of in I'm talking about.
Are you in?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: I hope so, because if you haven't noticed I'm so way in. I am so fired up and ready to go, and I hope that all of you are ready to go. I cannot wait to keep on working and keeping us moving us forward for four more years.
Thank you, North Carolina. God bless.
6:24 P.M. EDT