Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event
Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center
7:00 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you so much. Oh, Tallahassee! Oh, my gosh, thank you. (Applause.) This is amazing. (Applause.)
All right, before I get started -- I want to start -- first of all we have to thank Kevin, because Kevin -- that great introduction, for all of his hard work. (Applause.) I mean, it’s that kind of leadership, that kind of passion that’s going to get us four more years. Let’s give him a round of applause. (Applause.)
And most of all, I want to thank all of you -- gosh -- for joining us here today. This is so amazing. (Applause.) Especially, we have students here from Florida State and Florida A&M. Yes! (Applause.) Okay, we’ve got a Tomahawk here. (Applause.) All right, FAMU, what kind of FAMU sign -- (applause.) Well, whatever school you’re from, just know that me and the President, we are so proud of you all. So proud. So proud! (Applause.)
So it looks like you all are pretty fired up and ready to go. (Applause.) And that’s a good thing, because after the convention a couple of weeks ago, I’m feeling pretty fired up and ready to go myself. (Applause.)
See, in Charlotte a few weeks ago, we heard from folks like President Clinton and Vice President Biden, and they reminded us how much we’ve accomplished together, how much is at stake, and why we need to reelect my husband for four more years. (Applause.) And my job in Charlotte was pretty easy, because I had the pleasure and the honor of talking about the man I have loved and admired for 23 years and why I decided to marry him.
All right, so, ladies, listen up. See, back when I first met Barack, he definitely had everything going for him. He was handsome -- still is, think. I think he still is. (Applause.) He was charming, talented and very wicked smart. But that is not why I married him. So, fellas, I want you all to listen to this. (Laughter.) What truly made me fall in love with Barack Obama was his character. Did you hear me? It was his character. (Applause.) Truly, it was his decency, his honesty, his compassion and conviction. Do you hear me, fellas?
See, I loved that Barack was so committed to serving others that he turned down high-paying jobs, and instead started his career fighting to get folks back to work in struggling communities. I respected that. (Applause.) And I loved that Barack was so devoted to his family, especially the women in his life. (Applause.)
See, I saw firsthand the respect he had for his mother. I saw how proud he was that she’d put herself through school while supporting him and his sister as a single mom. I saw the tenderness that he felt for his grandmother. I saw how grateful he was that long after she should have retired, she was still waking up every morning to catch that bus to her job at the community bank to help support his family. And he watched as she was passed over for promotions simply because she was a woman. But she kept on getting up. He saw how she kept on doing that same job year after year, without complaint, without regret. (Applause.)
See, with Barack, I found a real connection because in his life story, I saw so much of my own. Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, I watched -- South Side. Yes, indeed. (Applause.) But I watched my father make that same uncomplaining journey every day to his job at the city water plant. I saw how he carried himself with that same dignity, that same pride in being able to provide for his family, that same hope that his kids would one day have opportunities he never dreamed of. How many people here have folks like that in their lives? (Applause.)
See, like so many families in this country, our families weren’t asking for much. They didn’t begrudge anyone else’s success. They didn’t mind if others had much more than they did -- in fact, they admired it. They simply believed in that fundamental American promise that even if you don’t start out with much, if you work hard and do what you’re supposed to do, then you should be able to build a decent life for yourself and an even better life for your kids and grandkids. (Applause.)
And they also believed that when you’ve worked hard and done well and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. No, you reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed. (Applause.) Yeah! See, that’s how Barack and I and so many of you, that’s how we were raised. Those are the values we were taught.
We learned that how hard you work matters more than how much you make. (Applause.) We learned that the truth matters, so you don’t take shortcuts or game the system; you don’t play by your own set of rules.
We learned that no one gets where they are on their own -- no one; that each of us has a community of people lifting us up, every single one of us -- (applause) -- from the teachers who inspired us to the janitors who kept our schools clean. (Applause.) And we learned to value everyone’s contribution and treat everyone with respect. Everyone.
We learned about citizenship and service -- that we’re all part of something bigger than ourselves; that with our freedoms come obligations, and with our blessings come a duty to give back to others who have less. (Applause.)
These are the values that make Barack such an extraordinary husband to me, and such a phenomenal father to our girls. But I talked about Barack’s values not just as a wife and a mother, but also as a First Lady who has seen up close and personal what being President really looks like and just how critical those values are for leading this country.
See, over the past three and a half years, I’ve seen how the issues that come across a President’s desk are always the hard ones -- the decisions that aren’t just about the bottom line, but about laying a foundation for the next generation. (Applause.) I’ve seen how important it is to have a President who doesn’t just tell us what we want to hear, but who tells us the truth -- even when it’s hard; especially when it’s hard. (Applause.)
And I’ve seen that when it comes time to make those tough calls, and everyone’s urging you to do what’s easy, or what polls best, or what gets good headlines, see, as President, you have to be driven by the struggles, hopes and dreams of all of the people you serve. (Applause.) As President, you need a strong inner compass, a core commitment to your fellow citizens. (Applause.) That’s how you make the right decisions for this country. That’s what it takes to be a leader.
And let me tell you something, since the day he took office, on issue after issue, crisis after crisis, that is exactly what we have seen in my husband. (Applause.) We have seen his values at work. We’ve seen his vision unfold. We’ve seen the depths of his character, courage and conviction.
Here’s proof: Think back to when Barack first took office. Our economy was on the brink of collapse. Newspapers were using words like “meltdown,” “calamity;” they were declaring “Wall Street Implodes,” “Economy in Shock.”
See, for years folks had been lured into buying homes they couldn’t afford. Their mortgages were underwater. Banks weren’t lending, companies weren’t hiring. The auto industry was in crisis. The economy was losing an average of 800,000 jobs every single month, and a lot of folks wondered whether we were headed for another Great Depression. See, and that is what Barack Obama faced on day one as President of the United States. That’s what welcomed him after inauguration. (Applause.)
But let me tell you something, instead of pointing fingers and placing blame, Barack got to work because he was thinking about folks like my dad, like his grandmother. (Applause.) And that’s why he cracked down on lending abuses, so that today, when you apply for a mortgage or a credit card, you know exactly what you’re getting into.
That’s why he cut taxes for small businesses and for working families, because he believes that here in America, teachers and firefighters should not pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires. Not in America. No. (Applause.)
He got the auto industry back on its feet, and today new cars are rolling off the line at proud American companies like GM.
And while we still have a long way to go to rebuild our economy, we have had 30 straight months of private sector job growth thanks to this administration -- a total of 4.6 million jobs, good jobs right here in the United States of America. (Applause.)
Here’s something else: When it comes to the health of our families, see, Barack didn’t care whether health reform was the easy thing to do politically. See, that’s not who he is. He cared that it was the right thing to do. (Applause.)
And today, because of health reform our parents and grandparents are paying hundreds less for their prescription drugs. (Applause.) Our young people -- young people, you can stay on your parent’s insurance until you’re 26 years old. (Applause.) Insurance companies now have to cover basic preventative care, like contraception, cancer screenings, with no out-of-pocket cost. (Applause.) They won’t be able to discriminate against you because you have a preexisting condition, like diabetes or asthma.
See, and here’s the thing that gets me -- if you get a serious illness -- let’s say breast cancer -- and you need expensive treatment, no longer can they tell you, sorry, you’ve hit your lifetime limit and we’re not paying a penny more. No more. Not under health care. That is now illegal. (Applause.)
When it comes to giving our young people the education they deserve -- (applause) -- see, Barack knows that like me and like so many of you, he never, never could have attended college without financial aid. Never. (Applause.)
In fact, as I shared during my convention speech, when we were first married, Barack and I, our combined monthly student loan bills were actually higher than our mortgage. So when it comes to student debt, Barack and I, we’ve been there. That’s why Barack doubled funding for Pell Grants and fought so hard to keep interest rates down. (Applause.) See, because your President believes that it is important for all of you -- all of you -- to have the skills that you need for the jobs of the future, good jobs that you can raise a family on, jobs that will drive our economy for decades to come. (Applause.)
And finally, when it comes to understanding the lives of women -- when it comes to standing up for our rights and our opportunities -- we know that my husband will have our backs. (Applause.) Yes, indeed.
And here’s why: See, Barack knows from personal experience what it means for a family when women aren’t treated fairly in the workplace. He knows that -- what it means when women struggle to meet the demands of their jobs and the needs of their families. He’s seen that up close and personal. And today, believe me, as a father, he knows what it means to want your daughters to have the same freedoms and opportunities as your sons. (Applause.)
And that’s why the very first bill he signed into law as President was to make sure that women get equal pay for equal work. (Applause.) And that is why he will always, always fight to ensure that women, we can make our own decisions about our bodies and our health care. That’s what my husband stands for. (Applause.)
So when people ask you what this President has done for this country, okay, when you’re talking to folks who are deciding who will keep America moving forward for four more years, see, here’s what I want you to tell them. Listen closely. Tell them about the millions of jobs Barack created. Tell them about health reform that he passed. Tell them about all those kids who can finally afford a college education. (Applause.)
Tell them about how Barack ended the war in Iraq. (Applause.) Tell them how, together, we took out Osama bin Laden. (Applause.) Tell them how Barack has fought to get veterans and military families the benefits they’ve earned. (Applause.)
Tell them about all the young immigrants brought to America through no fault of their own, and now will not be deported from the only country they’ve ever called home. (Applause.)
Tell them how our brave men and women in uniform will never again have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love. (Applause.)
I could go on and on and on. But I also want you to tell them -- tell them that Barack Obama knows the American Dream because he’s lived it. (Applause.) And he is fighting every day so that every one of us in this country can have that same opportunity no matter who we are, or where we’re from, or what we look like, or who we love. (Applause.) Let them know.
But let’s be clear, while my husband is proud of what we have achieved together in this country, he also knows that we are nowhere near satisfied. Barack knows that too many people are still hurting. He knows that there is plenty of work left to be done. And as President Clinton said in his speech in Charlotte, it’s going to take a lot longer than four years to rebuild an economy from the brink of collapse. (Applause.)
But, Tallahassee, here’s what I know for sure. Since the day he took office, Barack has been fighting for us. He has been struggling with us. And together, slowly but surely, we have been pulling ourselves out of the hole that we started in. For three and a half years, we’ve been moving forward and making progress, and we’re beginning to see the change that we can all believe in. (Applause.)
So we have to ask ourselves this: Are we going to turn around and go back to the same policies that got us into this hole in the first place?
MRS. OBAMA: Are we going to just sit back and watch everything we’ve worked so hard for and fought for to just slip away?
MRS. OBAMA: Or are we going to keep moving this country forward? (Applause.) What are we going to do? What are we going to do? What are we going to do? What are we going to do? (Applause.)
But here’s the thing: In the end, the answer to these questions is up to us. It’s on us. Because here’s the thing: All of our hard work, all of the progress we’ve made, it is all on the line. Everything is at stake this November.
And as my husband has said, this election is going to be even closer than the last one, and it could all come down to what happens in a few key battleground states -- yes, like Florida. (Applause.) And folks here in Florida, you all know a little something about close elections, don’t you? (Laughter.)
But I also want to put this in perspective. Think back to what happened in this state in 2008. Back then Barack won Florida by 236,000 votes. (Applause.) Now, that might sound like a lot, but here’s what it looks like when you break it down -- that’s just 36 votes per precinct. All right? That’s just 36. So get that number in your head, because that could mean just one vote in your neighborhood, in your dorm. Just one vote in your apartment building could make the difference.
So if there’s anyone here sitting here thinking to themselves that maybe their vote doesn’t matter, if there’s anybody here thinking that maybe my involvement doesn’t count, that maybe in this complex political process ordinary folks can’t possibly make a difference -- if anybody here is thinking about that, I want you to think about those 36 votes.
Look around this room. In this stadium, everyone in here could win this election -- 36 people. (Applause.) With just a few evenings on a phone bank, with just a few weekends knocking on doors, with -- just a few of you here could swing an entire precinct for Barack Obama. And if we win enough precincts, we will win this state. And if we win Florida, we’ll be well on our way to putting Barack Obama back in the White House for four more years. (Applause.) We’re right here. We’re close.
So here’s what I need you to do -- because there’s some work. This is all good. It feels good; we’ve got signs, we’re happy, we’re feeling powerful. (Laughter.) But from now until November the 6th, we are going to need every single one of you to work like you’ve never worked before.
Oh, especially our young people, like so many of you here, you all have always driven Barack’s campaigns with your energy and your passion -- always. So we need you to talk to everybody you know. Everybody -- your friends, your neighbors, that cousin you haven’t seen in a while, the student sitting next to you in that class who you know is not registered. (Laughter.) You know that student, right? You know that person.
And I don’t want you to underestimate the power of talking to your own parents and grandparents -- especially them. Let them know what this election means for your future. Tell them what’s at stake. Remind them about all the things this President has accomplished. Bring them to events like this one.
But more importantly, make sure people are registered to vote, especially -- think about -- especially if they just moved, they may need to register again. Maybe if they’ve never voted before, they have to register. Or maybe you’ve just changed addresses because you just got back to school, you’re in a new apartment -- you’re going to need to register.
So if any of you have not registered yet, we have got volunteers here today who can help. They’re the folks with the clipboards, so look for them around here. They’re out and about. (Applause.)
And then once you get registered, make sure you get to the polls and cast your ballot on Election Day. Make sure you do that. (Applause.) See, that’s simple, right? Simple orders. And here’s the thing: Here in Florida, you don’t have to wait until November the 6th to vote. You can request a ballot right now and vote by mail in October. Starting October 27th, you can vote early at any convenient location across the state -- your library, your city hall.
The young people, they just -- you all know you need to register early. (Laughter.) Because some of you are going to wake up on Election Day, or maybe not. (Laughter.) Maybe you’re going to forget that it was Election Day. Was it Election Day? I thought that was -- it’s Tuesday? I thought it was Monday. (Laughter.) See, some of you all don’t keep track of the days of the week, right? So we want to -- don’t want to leave anything to chance.
And also we want as many of you to vote as early as possible so that you can spend Election Day working to get other people to the polls, right? (Applause.)
So to find out where to early vote or request a mail-in ballot, all you have to do is go to one of our websites -- GottaRegister.com, GottaVote.com. Young people, technology -- you don’t even have to leave your rooms. I see iPads, stuff right now. You could do it right now. Right now. (Laughter.) That’s all you need to do to make sure your voices are heard this November.
And let me tell you something, this journey is going to be hard. Many of you have worked hard already, and these next days are going to feel long. But we have to remember that when you start to get tired -- and you will -- when you start to think about taking a day off -- and you will -- I just want you to remember that what we do for the next 50 days will absolutely make the difference between waking up on November the 7th, the day after Election Day, and wondering “Could I have done more?”, or feeling the promise of four more years. That’s the difference. That’s the difference. (Applause.)
So from now until November the 6th, we need you to keep on working, and struggling, and pushing forward because, remember, that is how change always happens in this country. It’s hard work. It requires tenacity and patience. But we have to remember that if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting that good fight, then eventually we get there. We always do. In America, we always go forward. (Applause.) Bet here’s the thing: Maybe not in our lifetimes; maybe in our children’s lifetimes, maybe even in our grandchildren’s lifetimes.
Because we have to remember that in the end, that’s what this is all about. That’s what elections are always about. Don’t let anybody tell you differently. Elections are always about hope. (Applause.)
The hope that I saw in my father’s beaming face when he watched me walk that stage and get my college diploma. (Applause.) The hope that Barack’s grandmother felt when she cast her ballot for the grandson she loved and raised. (Applause.) The hope of all those men and women in our lives who worked that extra shift for us, who saved and sacrificed and prayed so that we could have something more. The hope that so many of us feel when we look into the eyes of our kids and our grandkids.
That’s why we’re here today. That is why we’re here -- because we want to give all of our children in this country a foundation for their dreams. All of our kids in this country are worthy. We want to give them opportunities worthy of their promise. We want to give our children that sense of limitless possibility -- that belief that here in America, the greatest country on Earth, there is always something better out there if we’re willing to work for it. (Applause.)
So this is what I tell myself: We cannot turn back now. Not now. We have come so far -- so far -- but we have so much more work to do.
So here’s my last question: Are you ready for this? (Applause.) Are you fired up? Are you ready to go? (Applause.) Are you fired up? (Applause.) Are you ready to go? (Applause.) All right, let’s get to work.
Thank you. God bless. Love you guys. (Applause.)
7:30 P.M. EDT