Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event -- Seattle, WA
Westin Hotel Seattle
6:40 P.M. PDT
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you guys. It’s Stevie! Yeah. (Applause.) You all, thank you so much. Oh, it is so good to be back in Seattle. (Applause.) Yes, indeed. I keep saying there’s going to be one visit, one time when I come here where I’m actually going to be able to visit Seattle. (Laughter.) So that’s coming, and I’m looking so forward to it. It really feels like home, and it’s so good to be back. You all are really amazing.
I want to start by thanking Margaret for that very kind introduction, but more importantly, for everything that she and her family are doing for this country. Let’s give her a warm round of applause. (Applause.)
I want to recognize a few other people as well. Congressman McDermott is here, who is always here. Thank you. (Applause.) Lieutenant Governor Owen, King County Executive Dow Constantine -- thank you all for being here. (Applause.) And I also want to thank Trudi Inslee, who was here earlier. I know that her husband Jay, who is going to be a magnificent governor, has a debate tonight. (Applause.) So she is at a watch party, which I understand, because I’m going to be doing that tomorrow. So I want to wish them the very best, and I want to thank Trudi for taking the time to be here.
And most of all, I want to thank all of you, all of you for taking time out of your days, for working so hard on behalf of this campaign. You all are truly amazing. And I know you all are fired up and ready to go, aren’t you? I know you are. (Applause.)
And I have to tell you, I’m feeling pretty fired up and ready to go myself. (Applause.) Because being here with all of you today, one of the things I love about it is that I get to do one of my favorite things, and that is to talk about the man that I have loved and admired since the first time I met him 23 years ago.
And just to share a little secret with you -- (laughter) -- back when Barack and I first met, he had everything going for him. He really did. He was handsome -- still is, I believe. (Laughter and applause.) He was charming, talented and extremely smart. Some of our fellow coworkers are here -- you know that man was smart.
But that’s not why I married him. Truly, it is not. What made me fall in love with Barack Obama was his character. It was his decency, his honesty, his compassion and conviction. I mean, 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.
I loved that Barack was so devoted to his family, especially the women in his life. I saw the respect he had for his own mother. I saw how proud he was that she 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 getting up every morning, catching a bus to her job at the community bank, doing whatever she could to support their family. And he watched as she was passed over for promotion after promotion simply because she was a woman. But he also saw how she kept getting up, kept doing that same job without complaint or regret.
And with Barack I found a real connection, because in his life story I saw so much of my own. Because growing up on the South Side of Chicago, I saw my own father make that same uncomplaining journey to his job at the city water plant every day. And I saw how he carried himself with that same dignity, that same pride in providing for his family, that same hope that one day his kids would have opportunities he never dreamed of.
And like so many families in this country, our families, they weren’t asking for much. They didn’t want much. And they didn’t begrudge anyone else’s success. No, they didn’t mind if others had much more than they did -- in fact, they admired it. That’s why they pushed us to do more. They simply believed in that fundamental American promise that even if you don’t start out with much, if you work hard, if you 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 also believed that when you’ve worked hard and done well, and you’ve 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.) That’s how Barack and I and so many of us were raised in this country. Those are the values that we were taught.
We learned that how hard you work matters more than how much you make. Yes. (Applause.) We learned that the truth matters -- so you don’t take short cuts, you don’t game the system, you don’t play by your own set of rules. (Applause.) We learned that none of us gets where we are on our own, that each of us has a community of people lifting us up -- from the teachers who inspire us to the janitors who keep our schools clean. (Applause.) And we were taught to value everyone’s contribution and 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. (Applause.) And these are the values that -- believe me, 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 also as a First Lady who has seen up close and personal what being President really looks like. And I have seen how critical those very values are for leading this country.
Over the past three and a half years, I have seen how the issues that come across the President’s desk are always, always the hard ones -- the decisions that aren’t just about the bottom line, but they’re about laying a foundation for the next generation. 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 even when it’s hard -- especially when it’s hard. (Applause.)
And I’ve seen -- yes. (Applause.) I’ve seen that when it comes time to make those tough calls, when everyone is urging you to do what’s easy, when 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. As President, you have to have a strong inner compass, a core commitment to your fellow citizens, and that’s 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 exactly what we have 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, courage and conviction.
Think back to when Barack first took office. Think about where we were. This economy was on the brink of collapse. Newspapers were using words like “meltdown,” “calamity;” 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. And this economy was losing 800,000 jobs every single month, and folks wondered whether we were headed for another Great Depression. That’s where we were. That is what Barack faced on day one as President.
But instead of pointing fingers or placing blame, your President got to work. He got to work because he was thinking about folks like my dad. He was thinking about 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. (Applause.) That’s why he cut taxes for small businesses and working families -- because fortunately we have a President who believes that teachers and firefighters shouldn’t pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires in America. (Applause.)
He got the auto industry back on its feet again, and today new cars are rolling off the line at proud American companies like GM. (Applause.) And yes, while we still have a long way to go to rebuild our economy, understand, we have had 30 consecutive months of private sector job growth -- a total of 5.1 million new jobs, good jobs right here in the United States of America under this President, thanks to this administration. (Applause.)
Now, when it comes to 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. And thankfully he did, because today, because of health reform, our parents and grandparents on Medicare are paying hundreds less for their prescription drugs. Our kids can stay on our insurance until they’re 26 years old. (Applause.)
Insurance companies now have to cover basic preventative care -- things like contraception, cancer screenings -- at no out-of-pocket cost. (Applause.) They won’t be able to discriminate against you because you have a preexisting condition like diabetes or even asthma. (Applause.)
And here is the one that really 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. That is now illegal because of health reform. (Applause.)
When it comes to giving our kids the education they deserve, Barack knows that like me and like so many of you, he never could have attended college without financial aid -- never. In fact, when we were first married, our combined monthly student loan bills were actually higher than our mortgage. So this isn’t a hypothetical for us.
When it comes to student debt, Barack and I, we have both been there. And that’s why Barack doubled funding for Pell Grants and fought to keep interest rates down. (Applause.) Because he knows how important it is for all of our young people to have the skills they need for the jobs of the future -- jobs you can raise a family on, good jobs that will drive our economy 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 Barack Obama will always have our backs. Because he 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 believe me, today, as a father, he knows what it means to want our daughters to have the same freedoms and opportunities as our sons. (Applause.) And that is why the first bill he signed into law was to make sure that women get equal pay for equal work. (Applause.) And that is why my husband will always, 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.) Absolutely.
So when people ask you what this President has done for our country, when you run into folks who are deciding who is the best person to keep America moving forward for four more years, here’s a few things you can tell them. (Laughter.)
Tell them about the millions of jobs Barack has created. Tell them about health reform that he passed. Tell them about all those kids who can finally afford college.
Tell them how Barack ended the war in Iraq. Tell them how, together, we took out Osama bin Laden. Tell them how Barack fought to get veterans and military families the benefits they’ve earned. (Applause.)
Tell them about all those 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 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’s what I really want you to tell them. Tell them that Barack Obama knows the American Dream because he’s lived it, and he is fighting every day so that each and 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.
But let’s be clear -- while he is very proud of all that we’ve accomplished together, my husband is nowhere near satisfied. Not at all. Barack knows that too many people are still hurting. He of all people knows that there’s plenty of work left to be done. And as President Clinton said, it is going to take a lot longer than four years to rebuild an economy from the brink of collapse. (Applause.)
But 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 that 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 can believe in.
So we have to ask ourselves, 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 moving this country forward? (Applause.) What are we going to do? Because the answers to those questions, it's on us now. It's up to us. Because all our hard work, all the wonderful progress that we’ve made, understand that it’s all on the line. It’s all at stake in November.
And as my husband said, this election will be even closer than the last one. And it could all come down to just a few thousand votes, right? And while that might sound like a lot, remember that those votes are spread out all across an entire state, across hundreds of cities and thousands of precincts.
So just a handful of votes in every precinct could make all the difference in the world -- that’s what I'm trying to remind people. That could mean just a couple of votes in a neighborhood, right? I mean, think about it. That could be just a single vote in an apartment building. So that one neighbor that you get to send their ballot back in, that one voter that you persuade, that one new volunteer you recruit, know that that could be the one that puts us over the top.
So with just a few evenings on a phone bank -- we've got limited time now -- with just a few hours knocking on doors, everybody in this room, each of you has the power to swing an entire precinct for Barack Obama. And if we win enough precincts, we will win the state of Washington, and when we win Washington, we will be well on our way to putting Barack Obama back in the White House for four more years. (Applause.) That’s the plan. That’s our secret plan. (Laughter.)
So from now until November, truly, we need every single one of you to work like you’ve never worked before. Because 35 days is a long, long time in a campaign -- understand this, right? So we’ve got to turn all of our energy -- because we have all the energy. We do have a lot of energy in our campaign. We have to turn it into action.
And we need you to talk to everyone you know –- your friends, your neighbors, that nephew you haven’t seen for a while -- you know that nephew. Shake him. That high school classmate that you haven’t spoken to in years? Pick up the phone, call them. Tell them what's at stake. Remind them of all the things that this President has accomplished.
And most of all, make sure that they’re registered to vote. Because the voter -- (applause) -- yes, indeed. Make sure that they're registered. The deadline for registration is coming up on Monday, October the 8th. That’s Monday. (Laughter.) So we've got one more weekend. So if they're -- people here this weekend, we are having a big Weekend of Action to register as many people as possible, okay? Because this is it. This is the last big shot.
And once folks are registered, we’ve got to make sure they send those ballots in. And I know that here in Washington, Election Day lasts for 18 days. So we need a huge number of volunteers to help make sure everyone is turning in their ballots, okay? So I want all of you to find one of our volunteers here today before you leave. And there are folks -- they'll have clipboards, and I want you to find them, sign up with them to help us get voters registered this weekend, and then help get out the vote later this month. We really need you to do that. (Applause.)
And if anybody has any questions about how or when to vote, you can also go to our websites -- gottaregister.com, gottavote.com. And there on those websites you can find everything you need to make your voices heard in this election.
And I'm going to be honest with you, this journey is going to be hard, and these next days are going to be long. And please understand there will be lots of ups and downs for the rest of the way. But when you 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 35 days will absolutely make 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.
So from now until November the 6th, we need you to keep on working, and struggling, and pushing forward. We're taking nothing for granted. Because you know why? That's how change always happens in this country -- I say that all the time. Change is slow, and requires patience and tenacity. But if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight and doing what we know is right, then eventually we get there -- we always do.
In America, we always move forward. Maybe not in our lifetimes, right? And I want young people to understand this -- we in America, we move forward. Maybe not in our lifetimes, but maybe in our children's lifetimes or our grandchildren’s lifetimes. Because in the end, that’s what this is about. That’s 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 dad’s beaming face as I crossed the stage to get my college diploma. 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, all those folks 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 children and our grandchildren. It's that kind of hope.
That is why all of us are here today –- because we want to give all of our children that foundation for their dreams. We want to give all of our children opportunities worthy of their promise. Because everybody in this room, we know that every child is worthy of that. (Applause.) We want to give our kids that sense of limitless possibility; that 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.
So what keeps me fired up is that I know that we cannot turn back now. Not now. Not now. We have come so far, but we have so much more to do.
So here's my last question, Seattle: Are you fired up? (Applause.) Are you ready to go? (Applause.) Are you ready to roll up your sleeves -- 35 days. Get out there. Get people registered this weekend. We need you working. (Applause.)
This is the last weekend that we can get people registered. We need everybody in this room to get it done. And if you're ready and you can make that happen, I guarantee you that we will get this done.
Thank you, guys. God bless you. We love you so much.
7:05 P.M. PDT