Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event - Gainesville, Florida
Stephen C. O'Connell Center
4:07 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Wow! (Applause.) Thank you so much. Wow! (Applause.) This is amazing. It’s amazing. Thank you so much. I am beyond thrilled to be with all of you today. And first let me just say: Go, Gators! (Applause.)
Let me start -- because I want to give a special shout-out to anyone here who might be from the Gator marching band. (Applause.) You all were just incredible. It was wonderful. We got to spend some time -- you guys performed when we were over in London for the Olympics and you all were amazing. Thank you so much. (Applause.)
I also want to thank Alex for sharing his story and for that very kind introduction and for all of his outstanding work. Let’s give him a round of applause. (Applause.)
And a few other thank-yous. We’ve got a few other special guests here -- Congresswoman Brown is here, Mayor Lowe. (Applause.) Rod Smith, who is the State Party Chair. They are all here, and I want to thank them for joining us today.
And also, to those celebrating Rosh Hashanah today, I want to wish you all a happy and healthy new year. (Applause.)
But most of all, I want to thank all of you. You know what? This is my biggest event to date in this election cycle. It absolutely is. (Applause.) Yeah, this is good. You all seem pretty fired up! Oh, yeah, and ready to go. And that’s a very good thing, because after our convention a couple of weeks ago, I’m feeling pretty fired up and ready to go myself. (Applause.)
When we were in Charlotte just 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 simple. I had the pleasure and the honor of talking about the man I have loved and admired for 23 years and why I married him.
Now, listen up, to all the ladies -- (applause) -- let me share a little something. See, when I first met Barack, he had everything going for him. Everything. He was handsome -- still is. Still is. He was charming, talented and smart. But that is not why I married him. And, fellas, this is where I want you to listen in. (Laughter.) What truly made me fall in love with Barack Obama was his character. (Applause.) It was his decency. It was his honesty, his compassion, his conviction.
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. And I loved that -- yes, yes. (Applause.) And I loved that Barack was so devoted to his family, especially the women in his life.
I saw -- and this made a difference -- I saw the respect that 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 he felt for his grandmother. I saw how grateful he was that long after she’d retired -- should have retired, she was still waking up every morning and catching a bus to her job at a community bank to help support his family. And he watched as she was passed over for promotions simply because she was a woman, but he also saw how she kept on doing that same job, kept getting up year after year without complaint or regret.
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 my own 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. We all see that, right? We have somebody in our lives like that -- that same hope -- (applause) -- that same pride in being able to provide for his kids; that hope that his kids would one day have opportunities he never dreamed of.
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 that others had much more than they did -- in fact, they admired it. But they simply believed --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Love you, Michelle.
MRS. OBAMA: Love you, too. Love you, too. (Applause.)
See, but our families and families like ours 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 your grandkids. (Applause.)
And they 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. You always reach back, and you help other folks with the same chance that helped you succeed. (Applause.) That’s what you do. That’s what we were taught. That’s how Barack and I and so many of you were raised. Those are the values that we were taught.
We learned that how hard you work matters more than how much you make. We learned that -- yes, indeed. We all learned that. (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, that each of us has a community of people lifting us up -- (applause) -- each of us, from the teachers who inspired us to the janitors who keep our schools clean. (Applause.) And we learned to value everyone’s contribution and treat everyone with respect.
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 and partner to me, and a phenomenal father to our girls. (Applause.) But I talked about Barack’s values a few weeks ago 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. (Applause.)
And let me tell you what I’ve learned. 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. 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 -- 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, as President, you need to be driven by the struggles, hopes and dreams of all of the people you serve. As President, you need to have a strong inner compass, a core commitment to your fellow citizens. (Applause.) And 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, since the day he took office, on issue after issue, crisis after crisis, that’s what I’ve seen. That’s what we have all seen in my husband. We’ve seen his values at work. We’ve seen his vision unfold. We’ve seen the depths of his character, courage and conviction. (Applause.)
Here’s proof: Think back to when Barack first took office, and our economy was on the brink of collapse. The 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. And banks weren’t lending, companies weren’t hiring. The auto industry was in crisis. The economy was losing 800,000 jobs every month, and a lot of folks wondered whether we were headed for another Great Depression. This is what Barack faced on day one as President. That’s what awaited him.
But instead of pointing fingers or placing blame, Barack got to work. He got to work. (Applause.) Because he was thinking about folks like my dad, his grandmother. 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 working families, because he believes teachers and firefighters should not pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires. Not in America. (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 -- today. (Applause.)
And, yes, while we still have a long way to go to rebuild our economy, we have had 30 straight months of private sector job growth under this President -- a total of 4.6 million new jobs, good jobs right here in the United States of America. (Applause.)
Here’s more proof: When it comes to health care, the health of our families, Barack didn’t care whether health reform was the easy thing to do politically, because that’s not who he is; he cared that it was the right thing to do. (Applause.)
And today, as Alex mentioned, because of health reform our parents and grandparents on Medicare are paying hundreds less for their prescription drugs. Young people can stay on their parent’s insurance until you’re 26 years old. (Applause.) Insurance companies now have to cover basic preventative care, things like contraception, cancer screenings, with no out-of-pocket cost. (Applause.) They won’t be able discriminate against you because of a preexisting condition like diabetes or asthma.
And here’s another thing. 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. That is now illegal because of health reform. (Applause.)
And for the young people here, when it comes to giving our young people the education they deserve, trust me, Barack knows that like me and like so many of you, he never could have attended college without financial aid. Never. (Applause.)
In fact, as I shared at my speech at the convention, when Barack and I were first married, our combined student loan bills were actually higher than our mortgage. So when it comes to student debt, believe me, 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.) Because he wants all of our young people, all of you to have the skills that you need for the jobs of the future -- the kind of jobs 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 always have our backs. (Applause.)
See, Barack knows from personal experience what it means for a family when women aren’t treated fairly in the workplace. He knows what it means when women struggle to meet the demands of their jobs and the needs of their families. And today, trust me, as a father, he knows what it means to want our daughters to have the same freedoms and opportunities as our sons. (Applause.)
That’s why the very first bill he signed as President was to help women get equal pay for equal work. (Applause.) And that is why your President will always, always fight to ensure that women 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 our country, when they’re deciding who will keep America moving forward for four more years, here’s what I want you to tell them. Are you listening? (Applause.) I want you to start by telling them about the millions of jobs Barack has created. Tell them about the health reform he’s passed. Tell them about those kids who can finally afford college.
Tell them how Barack ended the war in Iraq. Tell them how we took out Osama bin Laden. (Applause.) Tell them how Barack fought to get veterans and military families the benefits they’ve earned. (Applause.)
Tell them about young immigrants brought to America through no fault of their own, and how they will no longer be deported from the only country they’ve ever called home. (Applause.)
Tell them how brave men and women in uniform will never again have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love. (Applause.)
But tell them that Barack Obama knows the American Dream because he’s lived it. (Applause.) And let me tell you something, he has been fighting every day so that everyone in this country can have the same opportunity no matter who we are, or where we’re from, or what we look like, or who we love. (Applause.)
But let’s be clear, while he is proud of what we’ve achieved together, my husband is nowhere near satisfied. No, 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 the economy from the brink of collapse. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: But here’s what I know for sure. This is what I know for sure. Barack Obama, since the day he took office, he has been fighting for us. He has been struggling with us. And together, slowly but surely, we’ve 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 that change we all believe in. (Applause.)
So we have to ask ourselves -- here’s the question: Are we going to turn around and go back to the same policies that got us into this mess in the first place?
MRS. OBAMA: Are we going to just sit back and watch everything we’ve fought for and worked for to just slip away?
MRS. OBAMA: Or are we going to keep moving this country forward? Forward! Forward! (Applause.)
But in the end, the answer to these questions is up to us. Because all our hard work, all the progress we’ve made, it’s all on the line. It is all at stake this November.
And as my husband has said, this election will be even closer than the last one, and it could all come down to what happens in just a few battleground states like Florida. (Applause.) And you all know a thing or two about close elections here in Florida. (Laughter.)
But I also, to help put it in perspective, I want you to think about -- back to what happened in this state in 2008. See, back then we won Florida by 236,000 votes. Now, that might sound like a lot, but when you break it down, that’s just 36 votes per precinct. Did you hear me? I mean, think about that: 36 votes. That could mean one more vote in your neighborhood, in your dorm. That could be a single vote in your apartment building.
So here is what -- if there is anyone here who might be thinking that somehow their vote doesn’t matter, that their involvement doesn’t count, that in this complex political process that ordinary folks can’t possibly make a difference -- if there’s anybody thinking like that, I want you to think about those 36 votes.
Now, picture that. We all know 36 people, right? So with just a few evenings on a phone bank, with just a few weekends knocking on doors, just a few of you -- look at this room. In this stadium, you all could swing an entire precinct for Barack Obama. (Applause.)
So if we win enough precincts, we will win this state. And if we win Florida, we will be well on our way to putting Barack Obama back in the White House for four more years. (Applause.) Right here, you can do it.
So from now until November, here’s what I want you to do. A little directive. (Laughter.) We need every single one of you to work like you’ve never worked before. I mean, young people like so many of you here have always driven Barack’s campaigns with your energy and your passion. So we need you to talk to everyone you know -- your friends, your neighbors, that cousin you haven’t seen in a while, that student sitting next to you in class.
Shoot, young people, your parents and grandparents -- especially them -- let them know what this election means for your future. Tell them what’s at stake. Remind them of all the things this President has accomplished. Bring them to events like this one. Make sure, most importantly, that you and they are registered to vote. That’s the first step. You have to be registered. (Applause.)
Especially for students -- if you’ve just moved, if you haven’t reregistered, you’ve got to think about your situation. Don’t assume that you’re registered. Or if you’ve never voted before, then they definitely need to register. Or if you’ve changed your address, you may need to reregister.
So if any of you haven’t registered yet, we have volunteers here today who can help make that happen. Look at all the signs. They’re here today with their clipboards. (Applause.)
And then once you’re registered, make sure you get to the polls and you cast your vote on Election Day. And here in Florida, you don’t even have to wait until November the 6th to vote. And this is important for young people, because I know that one-day timeframe -- ooh, a little tricky for you all. (Laughter.) Might oversleep. Might forget. Might not feel like it. (Laughter.)
So you don’t even have to wait. You can request a ballot right now and vote by mail in October. And starting October 27th, you can vote early at convenient locations throughout this state, including libraries and city halls. Did you hear that young people? Vote early. (Applause.)
And to find out where to early vote, how to request a mail-in ballot or how to get registered, you just go to gottaregister.com or gottavote.com. You can find out any information you need to make your voices heard.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Love you, Michelle!
MRS. OBAMA: Love you. Got to vote! Got to vote! (Applause.) You’ve got to vote.
Because here’s the thing -- this isn’t just about Barack Obama. This is about your future. This is about all you young people making your voices heard. So you’ve got to do it every election, okay? This is off-script. Pretend I’m not the First Lady. I’m like your mother. (Laughter and applause.) You’ve got to vote. You’ve got to vote.
But I’ve got to be honest with you, because I always try to be honest.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you, Michelle!
MRS. OBAMA: Love you. Vote! Vote! (Applause.)
But understand this: This journey is going to be hard, and these next days are going to -- they’re going to feel long. But when you start to get tired -- and you will; when you start to think about taking a day off -- and you will -- I 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 asking ourselves “Could we have done more?”, or feeling the promise of four more years. Four more years. (Applause.)
So from now until November the 6th, we need you to keep on working, and struggling, and pushing forward because that is how change always happens in this country. But if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting that good fight, then eventually we get there. We always do. What I tell everybody -- maybe we don’t get there 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. See, this is what keeps me up. See, that’s what elections are always about. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Elections are always about hope.
It’s the hope that I saw on my father’s beaming face as I crossed the stage to get my college diploma. See, it’s that kind of hope. (Applause.) It’s the hope of Barack’s grandmother, that hope she felt as she cast her ballot for the grandson she loved and raised. (Applause.) It is the hope of all those men and women in our lives who worked that extra shift, 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 own kids and grandkids.
That’s why all of us are here today. That’s why we’re here today -- because we want to give all our kids in this country a foundation for their dreams. Think about it. We want to give all our kids opportunities worthy of their promise. (Applause.) We want to give our kids that sense of limitless possibility -- that belief that here in America, the greatest country on Earth, there is always something better out there if you’re willing to work for it.
So, look, this is what I know: We cannot turn back now. Not now. No. We have come so far, but we have more work to do.
So let me ask you just one more time: Are we fired up? (Applause.) Are we ready to go? (Applause.) Are we fired up? (Applause.) Are we ready to go? (Applause.) All right, let’s get to work then.
God bless you. Love you so much. (Applause.)
4:36 P.M. EDT