Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event
Holderness, New Hampshire
1:50 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you all so much. (Applause.) Thank you so much. You all, please, rest, rest. It’s warm, and I want you really well rested so you can get out there and work. (Laughter.)
I am truly thrilled to be with all of you this afternoon. I want to thank Gary and Meg and the entire family for opening up their home. It’s a beautiful home. It’s a beautiful lake. I just wish I could stay. (Laughter.) But you all are true friends, wonderful supporters, and I can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done for us over the years. And we look forward to working with you more on lots of good things, okay?
I also want to recognize the Governor. Where are you? Where did he go? (Laughter.) Sir, thank you. It’s good to see you. And we are just so grateful for your tremendous leadership and strength, particularly over the past few weeks and months. As Gary said, out thoughts and our prayers remain with the people of Colorado, and anything we can do -- I’ll be spending a lot of time in this state, so you’ll get sick of me. (Laughter.) So let’s give him a round of applause as well. (Applause.)
And I also want to recognize your two House candidates, and two of my dear, dear friends that I got to know over the course of the last campaign -- got to know them really well -- you know, girls, we would hang out. We did some great stuff. Carol and Annie, you guys are amazing. Where is Carol? There you are. You all, thank you so much. I know you’re going to get it done, right? We need you. (Applause.) As I was telling Gary and Meg, what happens in Congress is just as important as what happens in the White House, so we need you all there.
I also want to say hello to Sylvia Larsen as well, the State Senator who is here. Sylvia, thank you so much. And my dear friend, our Finance Chair, Jane Stetson -- Jane is here. There, Jane -- how could I miss you? (Applause.) She’s doing an amazing job -- amazing job.
And finally, again, I want to thank all of you for taking the time to be here. And I know that all of you all are busy people. We are all busy in our lives. We’ve got jobs to do. There are young people here who have classes to attend, summer fun to have, families to raise. So I know taking the time out is meaningful, but I also know that there’s a reason why all of us are here today, and it’s not just because we support what I believe is one extraordinary, awesome President of the United States -- my husband. (Applause.) And yes, I am biased -- just a little bit -- but I think our President is phenomenal. And we’re not just here because we want to win an election -- and I know that we do, and I know that we will.
We’re here because of the values we believe in. This is what I tell people when I travel around the country. We’re here because of our values. We’re here 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, for example, is all of our children should have good schools, right? They deserve those schools. They should be able to attend college without a mountain of debt.
We believe that everyone in this country should do their fair share -- which simply means that teachers and firefighters shouldn’t pay higher taxes than millionaires and billionaires. Not in America. (Applause.) We believe that if you work hard in this country, you shouldn’t go bankrupt just because someone in your family gets 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 some dignity and security.
And what I remind people is these are basic American values. This is nothing new. This is the foundation of this country and they’re the values that so many of us were raised with, including myself. I share my story everywhere I go. And my father was a pump operator at the city water plant in Chicago. And neither of my parents had the opportunity to get their college degrees.
But my parents saved. My parents sacrificed for us. They 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. And education was everything for our family. Education was the ticket to the middle class for us. 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. But my dad still had to pay a small portion of that tuition himself. And let me tell you, every semester he worked hard to make sure that he paid his portion on time, because my dad was 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.
Like so many people in this country, my father took great pride in earning the kind of living that just allowed him to handle his responsibilities to his family. That’s all he wanted. He wanted to be able to pay all of his bills, and pay them on time. Wasn’t asking for much.
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 in this country, you can build a decent life for yourself and an even better life for your kids. And my husband understands that promise because that’s his story as well. That’s why I married him. That’s why I love him so much: His story is like mine.
He is the son of a single mother who struggled to pay the bills and put he and his sister through school. 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 worked hard to help support their family, and she was good at her job, like so many women she hit that glass ceiling and watched men no more qualified than she was -- men she had actually trained -- climb that ladder ahead of her. But the one thing Barack always saw -- his grandmother never complained. Never complained. She just kept getting up, just kept giving her best every single day to help support his family.
So what I remind people is that 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. And he believes that when you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that door of opportunity, you don’t slam it shut behind you. You don’t do that. You reach back and you give as many folks as possible the chance to succeed as well.
And more than anything else, that’s why we’re here. That’s what’s at stake in this election -- it’s that dream, that fundamental American promise. And what I want people to understand is that from now until November -- I think it’s 95 days; I keep losing track -- it’s 90-something -- (laughter) -- we are going to need every single one of you out there, telling everyone you know about Barack’s values. I want you to tell them about this vision, and tell them about the choice that we face in this election.
This is an election about choices. This election is a choice about our economy. It’s about building a strong and growing middle class. So I want you to remind people that Barack has cut taxes for working families by $3,600. It’s important for people to understand what he’s done. He’s cut taxes for small businesses 18 times, because he knows that rebuilding our economy, it starts with the restaurants and the stores and the startups that create two-thirds of all jobs in this country.
And I also want people to remember that back when Barack first took office, this economy was losing an average of 750,000 jobs every single month. That’s what he walked into. That’s what welcomed him after that wonderful inaugural parade in the freezing cold. (Laughter.) But I also want you to remind people 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 this economy. People need to understand that.
So while we still have a very long way to go to rebuild this economy, today, millions of people are collecting a paycheck again. Millions of people like my dad are able to pay their bills again.
This is also an election that’s a choice about the health of our families. I mean, the fact is -- and I know that many of you here know that -- that over the past century, the last 100 years, so many Presidents have tried and failed to meet the challenge of health reform in this nation. But Barack was determined. Understand that he was driven by the stories of people he’d met -- the grandparents who couldn’t afford their medication, the families going broke because a child got sick, the woman dying of cancer whose insurance company wouldn’t cover her care. Those are the stories that kept him going every single day.
And that’s why he fought so hard for this historic reform. And today, because of this reform, our parents and grandparents are paying hundreds less for their prescription drugs. Our kids can stay on our insurance until they’re 26 years old, so they don’t lose their health care right at the time in their life when they need it most -- when they’re out there trying to build their lives, looking for work.
Because of this reform, insurance companies have to cover basic preventative care -- things like contraception, ladies -- (applause) -- cancer screenings, prenatal care, at no extra cost. They can’t discriminate against us because we have a preexisting condition. And if someone gets a serious illness like breast cancer now, 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 can they do that. That is now illegal because of health reform.
So make no mistake about it, this November we get to decide. Do we want all of these reforms to be repealed? Or do we want the people that we love to have the care they need? It’s our choice. That’s what this election is about.
This election is also a choice about whether our kids can attend college without a mountain of debt. Believe it or not, back when Barack and I were first starting out and we were building our lives together -- oh, so in love -- (laughter) -- we still are, not to worry -- (laughter) -- our combined student loan bill each month was higher than our mortgage, all right? So when it comes to student debt, believe me, Barack and I, we’ve been there. And that’s why Barack doubled funding for Pell Grants; fought so hard to stop student loan interest rates from rising. (Applause.)
Because we have a President who wants all young people to get the education they deserve for the jobs they need in this country. He wants all of our kids -- all of them -- to fulfill their promise, and that is why he’s been fighting so hard for the DREAM Act. I mean, think about 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 -- they know no other country -- because he believes that these young people also deserve the chance to go to college, the chance to contribute to our economy, the chance to serve the country they know and love. (Applause.)
This election is also a choice about keeping our country safe. So I want you to make sure people remember that after 10 long years of war, after so many of our heroic men and women in uniform, they served, they sacrificed, they risked their lives, they lost their lives -- Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat to this country. People need to remember that also. (Applause.)
And also remind people that Barack kept his promise to bring our troops home from Iraq, and he’s working very hard to make sure they get the benefits and 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 finally ended “don’t ask, don’t tell.” (Applause.)
This election is a choice about supporting women and families in this country. So I want you to be sure to tell people that Barack believes that women should be able to make our own choices about our health care, plain and simple. (Applause.)
Also remind them it’s now easier for women to get equal pay for equal work because of the very first bill Barack signed into law, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Remind them. (Applause.)
And finally, you can 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 sons watched three women take their seat on our nation’s highest court.
So when folks ask you what this President has done for this 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. 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.
And remind them, also, that all of this and so much more -- it’s all at stake. It’s all on the line. It’s nothing guaranteed -- it can all be gone. And that’s the choice we face. Are we going to continue the change we’ve begun and the progress we’ve made? Or are we going to just sit here and allow everything we fought for and worked so hard for -- are we just going to let it slip away? Is that who we are?
No, we know what we need to do. We cannot turn back now. Not now. We need to keep moving forward. In this country, we keep moving forward.
And more than anything else, that’s what we’re working for. That’s why you’re here -- I hope that’s why you’re here. The chance to finish what we’ve started; the chance to keep fighting for the values we believe in and the vision we all share. (Applause.) And that’s what Barack Obama has been doing every day as President.
And let me tell you, as First Lady, over the past three and a half years I’ve had the chance to see up close and personal what being President looks like. I’ve seen some things. (Laughter.) And 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 -- no matter what anybody says, no matter how much somebody else knows, there are no easy solutions. The judgment calls where the stakes are so high, and there is no margin for error.
And as President, you’re going to get all kinds of advice; you’re going to get opinions from everybody all over the place. (Laughter.) But at the end of the day, when it comes time to make that decision, as President, all you have to guide you, truly, are your life experiences. All you have to lead you are your values -- is your vision for this country. In the end, it all boils down to who you are as President. What kind of man are you, what kind of person are you, and what do you stand for -- that’s what it boils down to.
And what I remind people is that we all know who my husband is, and we all know what he stands for. We do. (Applause.) And we have seen again and again just how hard he’s willing to fight for us.
I mean, remember when folks in Washington were telling Barack to let the auto industry go under, with more than a million jobs on the line? They said, let it go. But fortunately, Barack had the backs of American workers. He put his faith in the American people. And fortunately, as a result, today, the auto industry is back on its feet again and people are back to work again. (Applause.)
And remember how there were folks telling Barack not to take on health care. Remember that? I do. (Laughter.) They said, leave it for another day, another President. Just keep kicking that can down the road. That was the advice he got. But fortunately, Barack had the backs of American families. 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.
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 and save for retirement, you know what my husband is going to do. You don’t have to wonder. 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.
But I have said this before and I will say it again: He cannot do this alone. It’s not the kind of President he is. He needs your help. Barack has said this election is going to be closer than the last one -- that’s the only guarantee we can give you. And in the end, it could all come down -- you all know very well in New Hampshire -- 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, across hundreds of cities, thousands of precincts, so that one new voter that you register in your precinct -- that one neighbor that you help get to the polls on November the 6th -- understand that that could be the one that makes the difference.
It’s as simple as a margin of one -- that one conversation that you have; that one new volunteer you recruit. That could be the one that puts this election over the top. That could be the difference between waking up on November 7th and asking, “could I have done more?”, or feeling the promise of four more years.
And that’s one of the reasons we started a new effort that we’re calling It Takes One. And we’re talking to everyone. It Takes One. It’s a simple concept. Every time you take an action to move this campaign forward, we’re asking folks all over the country to inspire just one more person to step up; one more person who has never been a part of the process, isn’t engaged, sitting on the fence. Get them to step up and do their part.
So if you’re making phone calls, or knocking on a door, writing a check, bring one more friend -- get another check. (Laughter.) If you’re coming to an event, bring a neighbor who has never really experienced this campaign, doesn’t know this candidate. If you’re voting early, or on Election Day, bring one person with you. This is what we’re asking our people. This is the kind of campaign we’re running. Find one friend, one colleague, one person in your family, in your community -- get them to go to barackobama.com/one -- don’t even have to leave your house -- and have them get involved in this campaign.
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 state. And if it can change a state, it can change a nation. It’s the power of one -- one person stepping up to move this country forward. So think about that.
And I’m not going to kid you, 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 remind ourselves, is that that is how change happens. That’s how real change always happens. Real change is slow, requires patience. But if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight, then eventually we get there, because we always have -- maybe not in our lifetimes, but maybe in our children’s lifetimes; maybe in our grandchildren’s lifetimes.
Because in the end, I remind myself, that’s what this is about. In the end, that’s what elections are always about. Don’t let anybody fool you: Elections are always about hope -- always about hope. They’re about our hopes for our children. They’re about the world we want to leave for them, our next generation. That’s why we should be here.
And that’s what I think about every night when I’m putting my girls to bed -- I think about how I want to do for them what my dad did for me, what Barack’s mom and grandmother did for him. 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 all of our children in this country are worthy. I want to give our kids the 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 cannot turn back now. We cannot be tired or frustrated or disappointed. We have come so far, but we have so much more work to do. So I have one final question for you in this very distinguished crowd: Are you in?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: Are you ready for this? (Applause.) And I mean really in, like getting-one-more-person kind of in, like shaking up the people that you know, the folks on the sidelines, the people who are not really quite sure. Are you ready to be a part of bringing them in this fold and having this election determined, so that we can keep going, moving forward? We’re going to need you every step of the way. I am fired up, and I’m counting on you to be right there. (Applause.)
Thank you all so much. Take care. (Applause.)
2:17 P.M. EDT