Remarks by the First Lady at Campaign Event
Bradley Tech High School
2:03 P.M. CDT
MRS. OBAMA: Yeah! (Applause.) Wow. You guys, thank you so much. (Applause.) Oh, my goodness. I am so thrilled, so honored to be here.
But let me just say one thing. We just had a medical emergency over here, and I do not like to not regard that. And I know things are warm, so if anybody is feeling hot, just sit down. Just sit down. (Laughter.) Take your jackets off, gentlemen. Take that tie off, relax yourself. (Laughter and applause.)
Oh, thank you all. Thank you for being here. It is so overwhelming. I want to start by thanking Cheryl for that very kind introduction and for everything she is doing not just for this campaign, but to make sure this community stays active and healthy. Let’s give her a round of applause. (Applause.)
And there are a few other people that I want to thank. I want to thank Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, who is going -- (applause) -- yes, Tammy. She is going to make a tremendous senator for all of you here in Wisconsin, so we’ve got to make sure we’ve got her back. (Applause.) I have to thank my dear friend, who may be here -- I didn’t see her. Gwen? There’s my girl. (Laughter.) Hey, Gwen -- Congresswoman Gwen Moore. (Applause.) And Mayor Barrett is here as well. It’s so good to see you. (Applause.) And County Executive Chris Abele is here as well. Thank you all. (Applause.)
And finally, I want to thank all of you -- (applause) -- our extraordinary volunteers and organizers. Thank you for everything you do every day, day in and day out, to make this campaign possible. And I know you all are doing that hard work -- knocking on doors, registering voters, giving people the information they need about the issues they care about. You all are doing that work.
And it’s important for you to know that the kind of grassroots work that you all are doing every day to get people focused and fired up, that is really the core work of this campaign -- because that’s how we did it four years ago, and that’s how we’re going to do it again today -- (applause) -- with your help. With your help.
And I know -- I’ve had a little experience with some campaigns. (Laughter.) And I know that this work is not easy, and I know that you do it at great personal sacrifice, because everybody here is busy. You all have busy lives -- you’ve got jobs to do, classes to attend. Yes, I know school is getting ready to start again, young people. We’re fired up about school, right? Yeah, yeah. (Applause.) He’s not so convinced. (Laughter.) Trust me, we have a few of you in my house, too. (Laughter.) We have our families to raise. So we are busy.
But I also know that there’s a reason why we’re all here, and it’s not just because we support one extraordinary, awesome, cute man, who happens to be my husband, our President, Barack Obama. (Applause.) And it’s not just because we want to win an election -- which we do, and we will. (Applause.) Yes, we will.
It’s important to remember that we’re doing this because of the values we believe in. We’re doing this because of the vision for this country that we all share. We’re doing this because we believe that in America, everyone should have a fair shot. And that means that all of our kids -- not just some of them, but all of them deserve good schools. All of them. (Applause.) All of our kids deserve the chance to attend college without a mountain of debt -- all of our young people. (Applause.)
We believe that in this country, everyone should do their fair share. That means that teachers and firefighters shouldn’t pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires. (Applause.) We’re doing this because we believe that hard work should pay off, and that if you work hard you shouldn’t go bankrupt just because you get sick. (Applause.) In America, 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. (Applause.)
And what we have to remember is that these are basic American values. This is the foundation upon which this country was built. They’re the values that so many of us were raised with, including myself. And, yes, I tell my story everywhere I go because I’m proud of where I came from. (Applause.) I’ve got my family here -- I’ve got some of my Milwaukee cousins here, and they know how I grew up. (Applause.) My father was a pump operator at the city water plant in Chicago, and neither of my parents had a college degree. But let me tell you what they did do for us. Like so many people here, they saved for us, they sacrificed everything. They poured every little ounce of anything 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 let me tell you, education was everything in our family, young people -- everything. (Applause.) For us, education was our ticket to the middle class. (Applause.) It was our pathway to the American Dream. And so when my brother and I finally made it to college, pretty much all of our tuition came from student loans and grants. I’m sure there are people here who can understand that. (Applause.) But my dad still paid a tiny portion of that tuition himself. And let me tell you, every semester my father did everything he had to do to pay that bill right on time, because he was so proud to be able to send his kids to college, to have a role in that. And he made sure that we never missed a registration deadline because his check was late.
See, like so many people in this country, my father took great pride in earning a decent living -- the kind of living that let him meet his responsibilities to his family. That’s all he ever wanted to do. He just wanted to be able to pay his -- all of them -- and pay them on time. He wasn’t asking for much. (Applause.)
My father’s life is a testament to that basic American promise that no matter who you are, no matter 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 let me tell you something, your President, my husband, understands that promise because that is his story as well. That’s the reason I married him. (Applause.)
See, Barack is the son of a single mother who struggled to put herself through school and pay the bills. That’s how he grew up. 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 what she did, 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 corporate ladder ahead of her. But let me tell you what Barack saw. She was a woman who never complained -- never complained. He saw how she just kept getting up, just kept giving her very best every day.
So let me tell you something, your President knows what it means when a family struggles. This is not a hypothetical situation for him. (Applause.) 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 he believes something very important: That when you’ve worked hard, and you’ve done well -- and there’s nothing wrong with doing well -- and you’ve walked through that doorway of opportunity, he believes that you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back and you give folks the same opportunities you had to get ahead. (Applause.)
And more than anything else, that’s what’s at stake. That’s why we’re here. That’s what this election is about. It’s that dream; it’s that fundamental American promise. And let me tell you something, Milwaukee, from now until November we are going to need every single one of you out there. We’re going to need you to tell everybody -- remind them -- remind them about Barack’s values. Tell them about this vision that we have, about the choices that we face in this election, because this is an election about choices.
It’s an election about the choice of our economy. It’s about whether we’re going to build a strong and growing middle class. So I want you to remind folks, as Cheryl said, Barack has cut taxes for working families by $3,600. He’s cut taxes for small businesses 18 times. (Applause.) Because what Barack understands is that rebuilding our economy, it starts with the restaurants and the mom-and-pop stores and the startups that create two-thirds of all new jobs in this economy.
And I want you to be sure to remind people that, back when Barack first took office, what awaited him after his inauguration was an economy that was losing an average of 750,000 jobs every month -- every month. That’s what awaited him. But I also want you to let people know that for the past 29 straight months, we’ve actually been gaining private sector jobs -- a total of 4.5 million new jobs in this country under this President. (Applause.)
So while we still have a long way to go, we’ve got more work to do to rebuild this economy. We have to remember that 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. So let me give you some historical context here on this issue. Because the fact is that over the past century -- okay, 100 years -- so many Presidents have tried and failed to meet the challenge of health care reform. But your President was determined. (Applause.) Your President was driven by the stories of the people he’d met, stories in our lives -- 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 let me tell you, that’s what kept him pushing day after day. That’s why he fought so hard for this historic reform. (Applause.)
And today -- understand what this reform means. Because of this reform, our parents and grandparents are paying hundreds less already for their prescription drugs. (Applause.) Our kids, our young people can now stay on our insurance until they’re 26 years old. (Applause.) And we all know what that means for young people graduating, trying to get themselves together, find a job -- being able to do that now, knowing that they have the care that they need.
Because of this reform, insurance companies, they now have to cover basic preventative care -- things like contraception, cancer screenings, prenatal care, at no extra cost. (Applause.) They can no longer discriminate against you because you have an illness they call a preexisting condition. (Applause.) And here’s one that really gets me: If you get really sick -- you’ve got a serious illness, like 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. Because of 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 that we need?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: That’s the choice in this election. That’s why we’re here.
This election is a choice about whether our kids can attend college without a mountain of debt. Now, believe it or not, back when Barack and I, we were first starting out our lives together, so in love -- (laughter) -- so broke -- (laughter) -- our combined student loan bill each month was actually higher than our mortgage. And I know there are people here who can relate to that. So when it comes to student debt, believe me, my husband and I, we’ve been there.
And that’s why Barack worked so hard to double funding for Pell grants and 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 of the future, the jobs that they need to able to compete for. They’ve got to have that education.
Your President wants all our young people to fulfill their promise -- all of them. And that’s why he’s been fighting so hard for the DREAM Act. (Applause.) Understand this -- he’s been fighting for responsible young people who came to this country as children through no fault of their own and were raised as Americans. This is the only country they know. Because he believes that they, those young people, too, deserve the chance to go to college -- (applause) -- to contribute to our economy, to serve the country they know and love -- all of our young people. (Applause.)
This election is also about keeping our country safe. So I want you to remind people that after 10 long years of war -- a decade of fighting -- 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.)
On top of that, your President kept his promise -- brought our troops home from Iraq, and he’s working -- he and I are working every day to make sure that they get the support and the benefits that they’ve earned. (Applause.)
And today, our troops no longer have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love -- (applause) -- because Barack finally ended “don’t ask, don’t tell.” (Applause.)
This election is a choice about our Supreme Court. So make sure that you remind people about those two brilliant justices Barack appointed -- Elena Kagan and Justice Sonia Sotomayor -- (applause) -- and how, for the first time in history, our daughters and our sons watched three women take their seat on our nation’s highest court. (Applause.)
And finally, this election is a choice about supporting women and families in this country. (Applause.) So please tell people that it is now easier for women to get equal pay for equal work because of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act -- (applause) -- the first bill Barack signed into law.
And remind them that your President believes that women should be able to make our own choices about our health care. (Applause.)
So when you’re out there talking to folks -- which I know you will be -- and when folks ask you, well, what has this President done for our country, here’s what I want you tell them -- just some of it: Tell them how many jobs he’s created. Tell them how much money he’s put back in the pockets of American working-class folks. You can tell them that more of our kids can afford college; more of our seniors can afford their medicine.
Remind folks that Barack ended the war in Iraq, passed historic health reform, and stood up for our most basic rights again and again and again. That’s what you tell them. (Applause.) That’s what I want you to tell them.
But here’s the thing. You also have to remind them that all of this that I just talked about -- and so much more -- it’s all at stake this November. All of it is on the line. That’s the choice we face.
Are we going to continue the change we’ve begun and the progress we’ve made? (Applause.) Are we going to sit back and just watch everything we’ve worked so hard for to just slip away?
MRS. OBAMA: No -- we know what we have to do. We’ve got to keep moving this country forward. (Applause.) Forward! Forward!
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: With your help, and really more than anything else, that’s why we’re here, 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. I don’t care who you are, these are not new values. And that is what my husband has been doing every single day as President.
And let me just share something you, because as First Lady, over the last three and a half years, I’ve had the chance to see up close and personal what being President really looks like. And I’ve seen some things. (Laughter and applause.) But one of the most important things that I have seen is 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.
And I have also seen that, as President, how you’re going to get all kinds of advice and opinions from all kinds of folks -- you just are. But at the end of the day, when it comes time to make that decision, as President, I have seen that all you have really to guide you 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 and what you stand for. (Applause.)
See, and the thing I want to remind you is that we all know who my husband is, don’t we?
MRS. OBAMA: And we know what he stands for. (Applause.) And we have seen 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? Do you remember that? With more than a million jobs on the line? That was the advice he was getting.
But, fortunately, for us, our President 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 providing for their families again. (Applause.)
Remember when 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 thank goodness Barack had the backs of American families. (Applause.) And as a result, today, millions of people -- 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.
So before you step into that voting booth on Election Day, you have got to ask yourself, “Who is going to stand up for me?
Who is looking out for my family?” (Applause.) Because when it comes time to stand up for the middle class, for working folks, so our kids can go to college, and our families can make a decent living, save for retirement, you know my husband has your back, you know what he’s going to do. (Applause.)
When we need a President to protect our most basic rights -- no matter who we are, or what we look like, where we’re from, 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 and again: He cannot do it alone. That was never the promise. That’s not how it works. He needs your help. And Barack has said that this election will be even closer than the last one. That’s the only guarantee.
And in the end, understand this -- it could all come down to those last few thousand votes. And just think about a few thousand folks, when they’re spread out across an entire state, across hundreds of cities and thousands of precincts -- those numbers get smaller. So I want you to think about that. With that one new voter that you register in your precinct, understand the impact that one neighbor you help get to the polls on November the 6th, understand that that could be the one that makes the difference. (Applause.) So never underestimate the power that you have.
That one conversation that you have, that one new volunteer that you recruit, that could be the one that puts this election over the top. That could be the difference between us waking up on November the 7th and asking ourselves, “Could we have done more?” or feeling the promise of four more years. That’s the difference -- the power of one. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: With your help -- just look at this room. Look at this room. Just look at this room. That’s why we launched this new initiative we’re calling, “It Takes One.” Look at this room. It takes one.
It’s as simple as it sounds. Every time each of you takes an action to move this campaign forward, we’re asking you to inspire one more person to step up -- one more person -- help them step up and get involved as well.
So if you’re making phone calls, knocking on doors, bring that one friend. We all got that one friend, right? If you’re coming to an event, bring that neighbor who’s never been involved in a campaign. We all have that neighbor.
When you’re voting early or on Election Day, take that one person with you who might not be able to make it on their own. Maybe they slept late. (Laughter.) You know those. You know that one. (Laughter.) Find one friend, that one colleague, that one person in your life. You can even just have them go to
BarackObama.com/one. They don’t even have to get out of their bed to get involved in this campaign. (Laughter.) Because it’s like Barack has always said -- it takes just one room -- one voice to change a room.
And if a voice can change a room, it can certainly 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. (Applause.) That is the power of one person moving this country forward. (Applause.) So think about that.
And I’m not going to kid you, this journey is going to be long -- even though it’s getting shorter by the moment. It is going to be hard. And there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way.
But what I remind myself -- and I try to remind every person that I talk to -- that’s how change always happens in this country. Real change takes time, requires patience and tenacity. But if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting that good fight, doing what we know is right, then eventually we get there, because we always do.
In this country, we always keep moving forward -- but maybe not in our lifetimes. See, this is the trick -- maybe in our children’s lifetimes, maybe in our grandchildren’s lifetimes. Because in the end, hopefully, that’s why we’re here. In the end, that’s what elections are always about. Don’t let anybody tell you differently. Elections are always about hope. (Applause.) They’re about our hopes for our children. (Applause.) They’re about the world that we want to leave behind for the next generation.
And let me tell you something. Why do I get so fired up? Why am I so passionate? Because I think about that every time I look at my girls in the eye. And I think about how I want to do for them what my dad did for me, what Barack’s grandma did for him. (Applause.)
I think about how I want to give my girls that solid foundation for their dreams. I want to give them opportunities worthy of their promise. See, because the one thing we can all agree on in this country is that all of our kids are worthy. All of our kids are worthy. (Applause.) I want to give all of our children that sense of limitless possibility -- the belief that here in America, in the greatest country on the planet, there’s always something better out there if you’re willing to work for it. That’s why we’re here.
So my last question, Milwaukee: Are you in? (Applause.) Are you ready to roll up your sleeves? (Applause.) Are you ready to find that one person? (Applause.) Shake them up! Get them involved! We’re going to need every last one of you.
We love you so much. We would not be here without you. God bless you. God bless America. (Applause.)
2:37 P.M. CDT