Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event -- Cincinnati, OH
Duke Energy Convention Center
2:12 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Wow. (Applause.) You all, thank you so much. Oh, my goodness. Wow, thank you so much. Fired up! (Applause.) Oh, my goodness, thank you all so much. Wow, this is amazing. Thank you. Thank you for being here today.
First, I want to start by thanking Kristin and Joseph, not just for their kind introduction but for their willingness to share their story and to work to inform other people in this country about the importance of health reform. So let’s give them a big round of applause. (Applause.)
I also want to thank a few people as well. I want to thank Senator Brown as well as Mayor Mallory for being here -- (applause) -- and I want to thank them for their leadership every day.
But most of all, I want to thank all of you. Wow, look at this crowd. (Applause.) Thank you. You all seem pretty fired up and ready to go. (Applause.) That’s good. I have to tell you, I’m pretty fired up and ready to go myself -- because being here with all of you today, allows me to do one of my favorite things, and that is to talk with you about the man that I have loved and admired for 23 years ago. (Applause.)
Now, let me just pull you in on a little inside information about me and my husband. (Laughter.) Back when I first met Barack, ladies, he had everything going for him. (Laughter.) He did, he did. He was handsome -- (applause) -- and still is. Amen! He was charming, talented, and extremely smart. But that is not why I married him. So, fellas, I want you all to listen up. What truly made me fall in love with Barack Obama was his character -- you hear me? (Applause.) It was his character. It was his decency, his honesty. It was his compassion and conviction. Understand 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 loved that about him. (Applause.)
And I loved that Barack was so devoted to his family, especially the women in his life -- especially the women. I saw the respect he had for his mother. I saw how proud he was that she’d put herself through school while still 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 bank, making sure she did everything she could to support their 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 getting up every day, doing that same job year after year without complaint, without regret.
And understand this -- 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 family, I watched my own father make that same uncomplaining journey every day to his job at the city water plant. I saw how my father carried himself with that same dignity, that same pride that comes when you can support your family and earn a living; that same hope that his kids would one day have opportunities he never dreamed of. Now, how many people do we know like that in our lives? (Applause.)
Like so many families in this country, our families weren’t asking for much. They didn’t want 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. That’s why they pushed us to succeed. They simply believed in that fundamental American promise that even if you don’t start out with much, if you work hard and if 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 our families believed also that when you’ve worked hard, and done well, and when you finally walked through that doorway of opportunity, you don’t slam it shut behind you. No, you reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed. (Applause.)
See, that’s how Barack and I and so many of you, that’s how we were raised. Those are the values we grew up with. We learned that how hard you work matters more than how much you make. We learned that the truth matters, so you don’t take shortcuts, you don’t 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 -- every single one of us -- we have a community of people lifting us up -- from the teachers who inspire us to the janitors who keep our schools clean. (Applause.) And we learned to value everyone's contribution and to treat everyone with respect.
We learned about citizenship and service -- that we’re all a 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. See, these are the values let me tell you that make Barack such an extraordinary husband to me and such a phenomenal father to our girls.
But I talk about Barack’s values not just as a wife and a mother, but I talk about them 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 our country. Now, over the past three and a half years, let me tell you I have seen how the issues that come across a President’s desk are always the hard ones -- you hear me -- the decisions that aren’t just about the bottom line, but they're about laying a foundation for the next generation. (Applause.)
And 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 is urging you to do what’s easy, everyone is urging you to do what polls best, what gets good headlines -- as President, you have to be driven by the struggles, hopes and dreams of all of the people you serve. (Applause.) As President, you have to have a strong inner compass and a core commitment to your fellow citizens. And that is how you make the right decisions for this country. That's what it takes to be a leader. (Applause.)
And let me tell you something, since the day he took office -- on issue after issue, crisis after crisis -- that is what we’ve seen in my husband. We have seen his values at work. We’ve seen his vision unfold. We’ve seen the depths of his character, his courage, and his conviction.
Think back to when Barack first took office and our economy was on the brink of collapse. Do you hear me? Newspapers were using words like "meltdown" and "calamity," declaring "Wall Street Implodes" -- "Economy in Shock." See, as we all know, for years, folks had been lured into buying homes they couldn’t afford and their mortgages were underwater. Banks weren’t lending, companies weren’t hiring. The auto industry was in crisis. This economy was losing an average of 800,000 jobs every month, every month. And a lot of folks wondered whether we were headed for another Great Depression.
See, that’s where we were. This is what Barack faced on day one as President of the United States. But instead of pointing fingers, instead of placing blame, Barack Obama got to work. (Applause.) You see, you had a President that was thinking about folks like my dad, folks like his grandmother. 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 your President believes that teachers and firefighters should not pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires, not in America. (Applause.)
Barack got the auto industry back on its feet. And today, new cars are rolling off the line at proud American companies like GM. (Applause.) And while, yes, we have a long way to go to rebuild our economy, we have more work to do, we have had 30 straight months of private sector job growth -- a total of 5.1 million new jobs, good jobs right here in the United States of America. (Applause.)
Now, as Kristin and Joseph mentioned in their introduction, when it comes to the health of our families, you see, 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, because he fought so hard for health reform -- our grandparents, our parents -- on Medicare are paying hundreds less for their prescription drugs. (Applause.) Our kids can stay on our insurance until they’re 26 years old. (Applause.)
As Kristin said, insurance companies now have to cover basic preventive care, things like contraception, cancer screenings with no out of pocket cost. They can't discriminate against you because you have a preexisting condition like diabetes or asthma. (Applause.) And as you saw how important it is with Joseph, if you get a serious illness 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.)
Now, when it comes to giving our young kids the education they deserve, Barack knows like me and like so many of you, he never, never could have gone to college without financial aid -- never. (Applause.) In fact, when we were first married 20 years ago tomorrow -- (applause) -- our combined monthly student loan bill was actually higher than our mortgage. Now, I know a lot of people can relate to that. (Applause.)
So when it comes to student debt, Barack and I, we’ve been there. This is not a hypothetical. And that’s why Barack doubled funding for Pell grants. That’s why he fought so hard to keep interest rates down. (Applause.) Because we have a President who wants all of our young people to have the skills they need for the jobs of the future -- good jobs you can raise a family on, jobs that keep an economy driving for decades to come.
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.) We know this because Barack knows it 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, 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 as President was to help women get equal pay for equal work. (Applause.) And that is why he will always fight to ensure that we, as women, can make our own decisions about our bodies and our health care. That’s what my husband stands for. (Applause)
So, Cincinnati, when people ask you what this President has done for our country, when you’re talking to folks in these final days about who are they going to select to keep moving this country forward for four more years, here’s a few things I want you to tell them, all right?
Tell them about the millions of jobs Barack has created. Tell them about the health reform that he passed. Tell them about all those kids who can finally go to college. (Applause.)
Tell them how Barack ended the war in Iraq. (Applause.) Tell them how, together, 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 how 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 known. (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.)
Look, I could go on and on and on. But here is something I really want you to tell folks. Tell them that Barack Obama knows the American Dream because he’s lived it. (Applause.) And let me tell you something -- 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.)
But let’s be clear. Understand this: While he is proud -- very proud of what we’ve accomplished together, understand that my husband is nowhere near satisfied. Not at all. Barack knows that too many people in this country are still hurting. He, of all people, knows that there is plenty of work left to be done. And as President Clinton said in Charlotte, it’s going to take a lot longer than four years to rebuild an economy from the brink of collapse. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: Four more years. Four more years!
But here is something I do know. What I do know for sure is that since the day he took office, Barack Obama has been fighting for us. (Applause.) He has been struggling with us. And together, slowly but surely, we’ve been pulling ourselves out of that hole that we started in. For three and a half years, we have been moving forward and making progress, and we’re beginning to see that change we can believe in.
So here is the question that we have to ask ourselves in this election. Are we going to turn around and go back to the same policies that got us into that hole in the first place?
MRS. OBAMA: Are we going to just sit back and watch everything that we worked for and fought for to just slip away?
MRS. OBAMA: Or are we going to keep this country moving forward? Forward! Forward! Forward! (Applause.) Forward!
But in the end, the answer to these questions is on us. It’s all on us. Because, understand this: All of our hard work, all the progress that we’ve made, it is all on the line this November.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you!
MRS. OBAMA: Love you, but it’s all at stake this November.
And here is where I want you to listen, because this is where the work comes. Because, as Barack has said, this election will be even closer than the last one. That is the only guarantee. Understand that. And it could all come down to what happens in just a few key battleground states, like right here in Ohio. Right here. (Applause.)
So let me give you some perspective, all right, just in case you’re wondering just how critical it can be. See, back in 2008, back then we won Ohio by about 262,000 votes. (Applause.) Now, that might sound like a lot, but when you break that number down and you spread it across all the precincts, that is just 24 votes per precinct. Do you hear me? Twenty-four votes!
Now, just take that in for a moment. That could mean just a couple of votes in your neighborhood, on your block. That could be just a single vote in your apartment building, one vote in your dorm room. So understand, listen to this, because if there is anyone here or anyone that you know in your life that might be thinking that their vote doesn’t count, that their involvement doesn’t matter, that in this complex political process that ordinary folks can’t possibly make a difference, I want you all to keep that number in your head: 24 votes. Twenty-four votes.
And I’ve got news for you. Here in Ohio, it is already Election Day. (Applause.) Already Election Day. Early voting starts today. Today! (Applause.) And I’ve heard all about how Ohio votes early. And I know that after this event, we’ve got a big group that’s going to walk over to the Board of Elections and cast their ballot for Barack Obama. (Applause.)
Now, if everybody in this convention center does that, just imagine, right? Just think about that. And it’s quick, it’s easy, and you can get registered and cast your ballot all in one stop today. Today! (Applause.)
So right after I’m done talking -- because you stick around till I’m finished -- (laughter) -- just don’t leave so quick -- I would love it if everybody here would walk out that main door and follow our volunteers and do your part to move this country forward. That’s what I’m asking you to do. (Applause.)
And here is the next phase. After you’ve voted, we’re going to need every single one of you to work like you’ve never worked before. See, 35 days is a long, long time in an election. No one should be comfortable. So we have got to turn all this energy into action. We’ve got to work right up until the very end. I know I’m going to be doing it. We need you to find one of our volunteers that are here today. They’ve got clipboards. Find them. We need you to sign up to make phone calls, to knock on doors, to help get the vote out.
But more importantly, we need you to talk to everybody you know. Think about that 24. If everybody here talks to every single person they know -- every friend, every neighbor, every nephew that you haven’t talked to -- you know that nephew that’s not registered. (Laughter.) You know him. That high school classmate you haven’t talked to -- twitter him, tweet him. What do you do? It’s “tweeting,” right? You tweet him. (Laughter.) Remind them what’s at stake in this election, because the registration deadline ends soon as well. So it’s really important that people get registered right away.
Remind folks of all the things this President has accomplished, and again, make sure that they’re registered to vote. Here in Ohio, the voter registration deadline is October the 9th, okay? So anybody, any young people here who are excited about voting, you can’t vote unless you’ve registered. And you can’t register after October the 9th, okay?
So if anyone has just moved, or if you’re a student away from home or here at school, if you’ve never voted before, you’ve only got one week left to get registered, okay? And then once folks are registered, make sure you get to the polls and cast your ballots on Election Day. (Applause.) All right? You can vote in person, you can go to your county board of elections, or you can vote by mail up until Election Day. It’s so easy. And if they don’t know where to go, you just send them to one of our websites. Send them to gottaregister.com or gottavote.com, and they can find everything they need to make their voices heard on Election Day.
We got it? (Applause.) Was I clear? (Applause.)
Now, even with all that, I’m going to be honest with you. This journey is going to be hard. Let’s count on that. And there are going to be plenty of ups and downs for the rest of the way. Count on that. But here’s what I want you to do. 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 35 days will absolutely make the difference between waking up on November the 7th and thinking, “Could I have done more?”, or feeling the promise of four more years. That’s the difference. (Applause.)
So from now until November 6th, we need to keep working, and struggling, and pushing forward -- because that’s how change always happens in this country. Real change is hard, and it takes time and patience and tenacity. But if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting that good fight, then eventually we get there, because we always do. In America, we always get there. Maybe not in our lifetimes -- here’s the trick -- maybe in our children’s lifetimes. Maybe in our grandchildren’s lifetimes. (Applause.)
Because in the end, that’s what this is about. (Applause.) That’s why we’re here. That is what elections are always about. Don’t let anybody tell you any differently. Elections are always about hope. The hope that I saw on my father’s face as he crossed that stage -- as I crossed that stage to get my diploma -- the look on his face. The hope Barack’s grandmother felt as she cast her ballot for the grandson she loved and raised. 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 better, something more. The hope that so many of us feel when we look into the eyes of our own children and grandchildren. It’s that kind of hope. (Applause.)
And that’s why all of us are here today -- because we know we can do better for our children, because we want to give all our children in this country a foundation for their dreams. We want to give all of our children opportunities worthy of their promise, because we know that all of our children are worthy. We want to give them that sense of limitless possibility -- the belief that here in America, the greatest country on the planet, there is always something better out there if you’re willing to work for it. (Applause.)
So here’s what I tell myself: We cannot turn back now -- not now. We have come 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? (Applause.) Are you ready to work? (Applause.) Roll up those sleeves. Let’s get it done!
Thank you all, and God bless. (Applause.)
2:42 P.M. EDT