Remarks by the First Lady at Campaign Event
Memorial Middle School
Laconia, New Hampshire
2:58 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Hey! (Applause.) Well, thank you so much. Oh, my goodness. This is exciting. I am very happy to be here today. I really am.
I want to start by thanking Val for that very kind introduction -- she did an awesome job -- and for her years of service to this country. So let’s give her a round of applause. (Applause.) I also want to thank Anne Rogers for her words earlier. Thank you, Anne.
And finally, I want to thank all of you, truly, our extraordinary volunteers and organizers. Thank you all for everything you do, day in and out, to make this campaign possible. Thank you, guys. (Applause.) Thank you for knocking on those doors -- that’s hard to do. It’s hard to knock on somebody’s door and ask them what they’re thinking. Thank you for registering those voters. Thank you for giving people the information they need about the issues they care about.
And I just want you 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 everything we do in this campaign. That’s how we did it four years ago, and believe me, that’s how we’re going to do it again today. So thank you. Thanks so much. (Applause.)
And I know this work isn’t easy -- that I know. I have learned. I’ve done it myself. It’s not easy. And I know all of you are busy. You’ve got busy lives. You’ve got jobs to do. We’ve got young people who have got classes to attend, fun to have, swimming to do. (Laughter.) We’ve got families to raise. But I also know that there’s a reason why you all are taking time out of your lives to do that work and to be here today, and it’s not just because we support a phenomenal, extraordinary, awesome President, who happens to be my husband. (Applause.) I am a little biased, just a little bit. And it’s not just because we want to win an election -- which we do, and we will. (Applause.)
We’re here and we’re doing this work because of the values we believe in. It’s about our values. We’re doing this because of the vision for this country that we all share -- I don’t care who we are. We’re doing this because we believe that in America, everyone should have a fair shot. That means all of our kids -- all of them -- should have good schools. (Applause.) Every last one of our kids should be able to attend college without a mountain of debt. (Applause.) In America, we believe that everyone should do their fair share. That means that teachers and firefighters shouldn’t pay higher taxes than millionaires and billionaires. (Applause.) We believe that if you work hard, you shouldn’t go bankrupt because someone 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 dignity and security. (Applause.)
And what we know is that these are basic American values. This is the foundation of this country. They’re the values that so many of us were raised with, including myself. As most of you know by now, my father was a pump operator at the city water plant in Chicago. This is a job he did all his life. And neither of my parents had a college degree. But what my parents did do for us -- they saved, and they sacrificed, and 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 in our family. It was our ticket to the middle class. It was our pathway to the American Dream. And when my -- absolutely. (Applause.) 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 was determined to pay his little share, and to pay that right 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 just a simple living -- the kind of living that allowed him to meet his responsibilities to his family, to pay his bills and pay them on time. That’s all my dad wanted. That was it.
And my father’s life is a testament to that basic American promise that in this country, 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.) And what I want you to know is my husband understands that promise because that’s his story as well. That’s why I married him. (Laughter.) 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 to catch a bus to a 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 that glass ceiling and watched men no more qualified than she was -- men she had actually trained -- be promoted up the ladder ahead of her. But she never complained. How many people do we know like that in our lives? She just kept getting up and giving her best every single day to support her family.
So 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 you’ve done well, and you’ve walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You do not do that. (Applause.) You reach back and you give other folks the chance to succeed as well. That’s what we do in America. (Applause.)
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 from now until November, we’re going to need each of you to get out there and to remind people about what’s at stake. Tell them about Barack’s values. Let them know about the vision that we share, about the choices we face in this election.
This election is a choice about our economy. It’s about building a strong and growing middle class. So I want you all to remind folks that Barack has cut taxes for working families by $3,600. (Applause.) He has cut taxes for small businesses 18 times -- 18 times -- (applause) -- 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.
But I want you 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 he inherited. That’s what he walked into after his inauguration. But also remind them that for the past 28 straight months, we’ve actually been gaining private sector jobs -- more than 4 million new jobs. (Applause.)
So, yes, while we still have a long way to go to rebuild this economy, we have more work to do, 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. I mean, the fact is -- understand this -- for the past century, 100 years, so many of our Presidents have tried and failed to meet the challenge of health care reform. But your President was determined. (Applause.) He was driven by the stories of the people he’d 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 why he kept fighting. That’s what kept him going day after day.
And thanks to this historic reform, now 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 -- (applause) -- so they don’t have to go without health care right when they graduate and are out there trying to build their lives. Because of this reform, insurance companies have to cover basic preventative care -- things like contraception, cancer screenings, prenatal care, at no extra cost. (Applause.) Insurance companies cannot discriminate against you because of an illness that they call a preexisting condition. (Applause.) And if you get a serious illness -- let’s say breast cancer -- and you need really 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. Thanks to health 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?
MRS. OBAMA: That is the choice in this election.
This election is 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, building our lives together, oh-so in love -- (laughter) -- still are, still are -- (applause) -- our combined student loan bill each month was actually higher than our mortgage. How many people can relate to that? (Applause.) 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, fought so hard to stop student loan interest rates from rising. (Applause.)
Because he wants all of our young people, all of them 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’s why he’s been fighting so hard for the DREAM Act. I mean, understand this: He is fighting so that responsible young people who came to this country as children, through no fault of their own, and were raised as Americans -- 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 love. (Applause.)
This election is also a choice about keeping our country safe. So I want 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.)
You can remind folks that Barack kept his promise to bring our troops home from Iraq, and he’s working hard to make sure that they have 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 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 be sure to tell people that Barack believes that women should be able to make our own choices about our health care. (Applause.)
Remind people that it is now easier for women to get equal pay for equal work because of the first bill Barack signed into law, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. (Applause.)
And finally, I want you to tell people about those two brilliant Supreme Court Justices he appointed -- Justice Elena Kagan, 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. (Applause.)
So when people 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 the 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; stood up for our most basic, fundamental rights again and again and again. Remind them. Remind them. (Applause.)
But also remind them that all of that and so much more -- it’s at stake. It’s all on the line. And that’s the choice we face.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: We couldn’t do this without you. We could not.
So are we going to continue the change we’ve begun and the progress we’ve made? (Applause.) Or are we going to allow everything we fought for to just slip away?
MRS. OBAMA: No, we know what we need to do. We can’t move back. We need to keep moving forward, absolutely. That is why we’re here.
More than anything else, that’s what we’re working for -- 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 my husband has been doing every single day as President.
And as First Lady, let me tell you, I’ve had a chance over the last three and a half years 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; the judgment calls where the stakes are so high, and there is no margin for error. None. And as President, you’re going to get all kinds of advice 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 guide you are your values -- is your vision for this country. In the end, what I have learned is that 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? We all know what Barack Obama stands for. (Applause.) And we have seen again and again and again just how hard he’s willing to fight for us. (Applause.) Remember when folks in Washington were telling Barack to let the auto industry go under, with more than a million jobs on the line? Remember that? That was the advice he was getting. But Barack had the backs of 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 more importantly, people are back at work collecting a paycheck again. (Applause.)
Remember how folks were telling Barack not to take on health care. You remember that? I do. 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 in this country can finally see a doctor when they’re sick; they can get the care they need to stay well. Finally. (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.)
But I have said this before and I will say it again: He cannot do it alone. He cannot do it alone. Barack has said this election is going to be closer than the last one -- that’s the only guarantee. And in the end, it could all come down to those last few thousand votes, right? And while that may not sound like a lot, remember that those votes are spread out across an entire state, across hundreds of cities, thousands of precincts. So just think about it: That one new voter that you register to vote in your precinct, that one neighbor that you help get to the polls on November -- that could be the one that makes the difference. It’s that simple. That one conversation 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 yourself, “Could I have done more?”, or feeling the promise of four more years. Four more years -- that’s the difference. (Applause.) Four more years!
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: With your help. And as Val mentioned earlier when she introduced me, that’s why we’re launching an effort that we’re calling “It Takes One.” It takes one -- it’s a simple concept. It’s how our democracy works, right? Every time you take an action to move this campaign forward, we’re asking you to inspire one more person. We all know one more person to step up and do their part -- one more person. So if you’re making phone calls, if you’re knocking on doors, bring one new friend that hasn’t done it before, who’s sitting on the sidelines, not really sure. If you’re coming to an event, bring one neighbor who has never been involved in an election. When you’re voting early or on Election Day, bring one new voter along with you. Find one friend, one colleague, one person in your family, -- shake them up. Send them to barackobama.com/one. They don’t even have to leave their house. They can 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 the nation. It’s the power of one -- the power of one voice, one person stepping up. (Applause.)
But I am not going to kid you, because I never do. This journey is going to be long, and it’s going to be hard, and there are going to be lots of twists and turns along the way. But what I ask people to remember is that’s how change always happens in this country. Real change takes times. But if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight, fighting for our values and our vision, then eventually we’ll get there. We always do.
Oh, are we good? We’ve got one -- we need water. Standing up is hard. (Laughter.) It’s one of the hardest things that you’ll do. But we’re doing it for our kids, our young people -- willing to stand up on a hot stage for what they believe in. That’s why we’re here. (Applause.) We have to remember, we’re in this for our young people. We’re doing this because change might not happen 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 about. We’re here because of them. In the end, this election is always about hope. Don’t let anybody ever fool you -- elections are always about hope. (Applause.) They’re about our hopes for our children. They’re about the world we want to leave for them, our next generation. And let me tell you something, that is what I think about every night when I put my girls to bed. Every night, I think about the world I want to leave for them. I think about how I want to do for them what my dad did for me. I think about how I want to give my girls that foundation for their dreams. I want all of our kids to have that foundation. I want to give them opportunities worthy of their promise, because all of our young people are worthy -- all of them. All of these kids are worthy of that promise. I want to give all of our kids that sense of limitless possibility. You know the feeling -- that sense that in America, there is always something better if you’re willing to work for it. That’s why we’re here. That’s why we’re here. (Applause.)
So when I get tired, I just think about the fact that we cannot turn back now. Not now. We have come so far, but we have so much more work to do. So I’m going to ask you one last question so no one else falls out. (Laughter.) Are you in?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: Are you ready for this?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: Are you ready to work?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: And roll up your sleeves?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: To talk to your neighbors?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: To shake them up?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: If you can’t tell, I’m fired up. I am so fired up, and I’m so ready to go. We’re going to need you guys every step of the way. You all have been amazing.
Thank you so much. God bless. (Applause.)
3:25 P.M. EDT