Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event
Dean Fleischauer Activity Center
Colorado Springs, Colorado
2:42 P.M. MDT
MRS. OBAMA: Yes! Four more years! (Applause.) Thank you, guys. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: Absolutely. With your help we’ll get it done. We’re going to get it done. I am thrilled to be here with you guys! (Applause.)
All right, let me start by thanking a few people. I want to thank --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you, Michelle.
MRS. OBAMA: We love you, babe. We love you. We’re going to get this done. (Applause.)
But I want to thank Linda, first of all, for that very kind introduction and for everything that she is doing on behalf of this campaign. Let’s give her a round of applause. (Applause.) And I also want to thank your terrific Lieutenant Governor, Joe Garcia, for his leadership and service. (Applause.) There’s Joe. See, Joe is always here. I love you, Joe. Doing great work.
But most of all, I want to thank all of you for taking the time to be here today. Thank you, guys! (Applause.) Yes! You all seem pretty fired up and ready to go. (Applause.) And I have to tell you, I’m feeling pretty fired up and ready to go myself. So we’re going to get this done.
Now, one of the many things that I love about campaigning is that I get to talk about the man I have loved and admired since the day I first met him 23 years ago -- yes, my husband -- (applause) -- your President, my President. (Applause.) Now, although my husband is handsome, charming and incredibly smart -- (applause) -- that is not why I married him. (Laughter.) No.
What truly made me fall in love with Barack Obama, it was his character. It was his decency and honesty that we still see every day, his compassion and conviction. (Applause.) I loved that Barack was so committed to serving others that he turned down high-paying jobs and instead he started his career working to get folks back to work in struggling communities. (Applause.)
I loved that Barack was so devoted to his family. That was important to see -- especially the women in his life. I saw the respect he had for his 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 waking up every morning, catching that 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 promotions simply because she was a woman. But he also saw how she kept getting up, 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 -- (applause) -- we’ve got a few South Siders. (Applause.) But I watched my own father make that same uncomplaining journey every day to his job at the city water plant, and I saw how he carried himself with that same dignity, that same pride and determination in providing for his family, always sacrificing and saving so that one day we could have opportunities he never dreamed of. How many people do we know like that in our lives? (Applause.)
See, 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. 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 grandkids. (Applause.) Yes, indeed.
And they believed that when you’ve worked hard and you’ve done well, and you’ve finally walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. (Applause.) You reach back and you give folks the same chances that helped you succeed. (Applause.)
That’s how Barack and I and so many of you were raised. Those are the values we were taught. And truly, more than anything else, that’s what this election is all about. It’s a choice about our values, our hopes and our aspirations. It’s a choice about the America we want to leave for our kids and grandkids. We believe in an America where every child, no matter where they’re born or how much money their parents have, every child should have good schools that push them and inspire them and prepare them for college and jobs of the future. (Applause.)
We believe in an America where no one goes broke because someone gets sick. (Applause.) No one loses their home because someone lost a job. (Applause.) We believe in an America where we all understand that none of us gets where we are on our own; that there is always a community of people lifting us up; where we treat everyone with dignity and respect, from the teachers who inspire us to the janitors who keep our schools clean. (Applause.)
And in America, when one of us stumbles a little, when one of us falls on hard times, we don’t tell them, tough luck, you’re on your own. No, instead we extend a helping hand while they get back on their feet again. (Applause.) We believe that the truth matters -- (applause) -- that you don’t take shortcuts, you don’t game the system, you don’t play by your own set of rules. Instead we reward hard work and success that’s earned fair and square.
And finally, we believe in keeping our priorities straight. (Applause.) We know good and well that cutting Sesame Street is no way to balance our budget. (Applause.) Shortchanging our kids is not how we tackle our deficit. If we truly want to build opportunities for all Americans, we know we must have a balanced fiscal strategy, one that cuts wasteful spending while making smart investments in our future -- things like education, infrastructure -- for an economy built to last. We know that.
And that’s what my husband stands for. That’s the country he wants to build. Those are his values. And over the past three and a half years, as First Lady, I have seen up close and personal what being President really looks like, and just how critical those values are for leading this country.
And let me tell you something, I have 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 they’re 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 have seen that when it comes time to make those tough calls, and everyone is urging you to do what’s easy, 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. You have to have a commitment to lifting up every single American. (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 -- I have been there -- crisis after crisis, that’s exactly what you’ve seen in my husband. We have seen his values at work. We have seen his vision unfold. We’ve seen the depths of his character, courage and conviction. Think back to when Barack first took office. Where were we? This economy was on the brink of collapse. That’s not me just saying it. Newspaper headlines were using words like “meltdown” and “calamity;” declaring “Wall Street Implodes,” “Economy in Shock.” We know where we were.
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 800,000 jobs every single month. And a lot of folks wondered whether we were headed for another Great Depression. See, this is what Barack faced on day one as President. He inherited an economy in rapid decline. (Applause.)
See, but instead of pointing fingers, instead of placing blame, your President got to work because he was thinking about folks like my dad, like his grandmother. And that’s why he cut taxes for small businesses and working families, because he believes that in America, teachers and firefighters shouldn’t be paying higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires. Not in America. (Applause.)
And that’s also why, while some folks were willing to let the auto industry go under with more than a million jobs that would have been lost, see, Barack had the backs of the American workers. He ignored the naysayers and fought hard to protect jobs for so many families across this country.
That’s why today the auto industry is back -- (applause) -- and new cars are rolling off the line at proud American companies like GM. And yes, while we still have a long way to go to rebuild our economy, there are many signs that we are headed in the right direction. (Applause.)
The stock market has doubled. Housing prices are rising. The unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been since my husband took office. (Applause.) We have had 31 straight months of private sector job growth -- 5.2 million new jobs have been created by this administration, good jobs right here in the United States of America. (Applause.) So don’t let anybody fool you.
In addition to focusing on job creation, my husband multitasks. He was also focused on improving access to health care for millions of Americans. (Applause.) 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 today, because of health reform, our parents and grandparents on Medicare are paying hundreds less for their prescription drugs -- today. Today our children can stay on their parent’s insurance until they’re 26 years old -- today. Today, because of health reform, 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. (Applause.)
And here’s one that always gets me. If you get a serious illness like breast cancer and you need real 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 young people the education they deserve -- (applause) -- proud of you all -- Barack knows that, like me and like so many of you, we never, never could have attended college without financial aid -- never. (Applause.) In fact, when we were first married, our combined monthly student loan bills were actually higher than our mortgage. Now, I know a lot of people can relate to that.
So when it comes to student debt, Barack and I, we’ve been there. This is not a hypothetical situation for us. And that is why Barack doubled funding for Pell grants and fought 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 jobs of the future, jobs that drive an economy for decades to come. (Applause.)
And finally, when it comes to standing up and understanding the lives of women, when it comes to fighting for our rights and our opportunities, we know that my husband will always have our backs -- always. (Applause.) You never have to worry because Barack knows from personal experience what it means for a family when women aren’t treated fairly in the workplace. He’s lived that.
And today, believe me, 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 very first thing he did as President was to sign a bill to ensure that women get equal pay for equal work. (Applause.) And that is why he will always, always fight to ensure that women -- that we as women make our own decisions about our bodies and our health care. That’s what my husband stands for. (Applause.)
So when people ask you over the next 27 days what this President has done for our country, when they’re deciding which of these two are best to keep this country moving forward for four more years, here’s just a few things I want you to tell them. (Applause.) Tell them about the millions of jobs Barack has created. Tell them about all the kids in this country who can finally afford college. Tell them about the millions of lives that will be changed because of health reform.
Tell them how Barack ended the war in Iraq. (Applause.) Tell them how, together, we took out Osama bin Laden. (Applause.) And I know folks here understand -- tell them how Barack has fought to get veterans and military families the benefits they have earned. (Applause.)
Tell them about young immigrants who will no longer live in fear of being deported from the only country they’ve ever called home. (Applause.) Tell them about our brave servicemembers who 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.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible.)
MRS. OBAMA: Tell them that -- (laughter) -- no, that’s not it. (Laughter.) Tell them that Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it. (Applause.) And he is fighting every day so that everyone 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 here, let’s be clear. While he is very proud of what we’ve achieved together, my husband is nowhere near satisfied, not at all. Barack knows better than anyone else that too many people are still hurting. He knows that there’s plenty of work left to be done. And as President Clinton said, it’s going to take a lot longer than four years to finish rebuilding an economy from the brink of collapse. (Applause.)
But know this -- know this. Together, slowly but surely, we have been pulling ourselves out of that hole that we started in. We are steadily moving this country forward and making real change. Know that. (Applause.)
So we have to ask ourselves a simple question: 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 for and fought for to just slip away?
MRS. OBAMA: Or are we going to keep moving this country forward? (Applause.) Forward! Forward! We move forward. We always move forward in America.
In the end, though, the answer to these questions is on us now. It’s all on us. Because believe this, all of our hard work and all of that wonderful progress that we have made -- it is all on the line. (Applause.) It is all at stake this November. And as my husband has said from the very beginning, this election will be even closer than the last one. That is a guarantee. And it could all come down to what happens in just a few key battleground states like right here in Colorado -- right here. (Applause.)
So just to give you some perspective -- and I’ve been doing this all over the country because it is fascinating to me to understand the power that folks have. When you think back to what happened in 2008, back then we won Colorado by about 215,000 votes. (Applause.) Now, that might sound like a lot, and we appreciated it -- (laughter) -- we will appreciate it again. (Laughter and applause.) But when you break that number down across precincts, that's just 73 votes per precinct.
MRS. OBAMA: Yeah, that's what I said. (Laughter.) Think about 73 votes. So just look around this room. That could mean just a couple of votes in your neighborhood. You know those 73 people -- just a single vote in an apartment building, maybe one vote in your dorm room. (Applause.)
So here's what I want you all to remember -- and I want everybody that you talk to to remember -- if anyone here is thinking that 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, I just want you to remember those 73 votes -- 73.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We've got your back, Michelle! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: We know you do. We know you do. (Applause.)
We can get this done. And so many of you have already done such a great job getting folks registered to vote here in Colorado. You all have been amazing. (Applause.) And I want you to think about how with just a few more evenings on a phone bank, with just a few more weekends -- because that's all we got -- knocking on doors, the folks here in this building could absolutely swing an entire precinct for Barack Obama. You all can do it. (Applause.)
And if we win enough precincts, we will win this state. And if we win Colorado, we'll be well on our way to putting Barack Obama back in the White House for four more years. That's how we do it. (Applause.)
So that's the plan. So here's what we're going to do -- because we're thinking about working now, right? (Applause.) We're thinking about taking all this energy and putting it into action. (Applause.) So for the next 27 days -- that's all we got -- we need you to work like you've never worked before. Can you do that? (Applause.) We need you to -- if you haven’t already signed up, we need you to sign up with one of our volunteers here today to make phone calls. (Applause.) Keep it going. And we want to get out every last vote here in this state. We can do it. We can do it.
I want you to talk to everyone you know -- everyone you know. Don't take anything for granted. Talk to your friends, your neighbors, that nephew you haven't seen in a while. (Laughter.) You know he may not vote unless you're on him. (Laughter.) That friend -- you know those friends. (Applause.) Classmates you haven't talked to in years -- call them up. Tell them what's at stake. Send them to vote.barackobama.com. Young people, go to the website. (Applause.) That's where they can find all the information they need to cast their votes.
And vote-by-mail ballots start going out this Monday. So make sure folks fill them out and mail them back as soon as possible. And early voting in person starts on Monday, October 22nd. So make sure you get as many people as possible out to vote early.
I'm going to be doing that. I'm going to vote early. If you know anyone who doesn’t vote early or by mail, make sure that they get to the polls and make their voices heard on Election Day.
Can we do this? (Applause.) I know that we can. I know that we can. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can!
MRS. OBAMA: Yes, we can. Yes, we can. Yes, we will. Yes, we must! (Applause.)
But let's keep this in perspective, because I want you to know that this journey is going to be hard. All right? And there are going to be plenty of ups and downs over the next 27 days. That's how elections go. But when you start to get tired -- and you will -- when you start thinking about taking a day off -- and you will -- I want you to remember that what we do for the next 27 days will absolutely make the difference between waking up on November the 7th and asking ourselves, “Could I have done more?”, or feeling the promise of four more years. (Applause.)
So from now until November the 6th, we need you to keep on working and struggling and pushing forward -- and that's so important for our young people to know. You have every reason to be optimistic about this country and about your future. We keep moving forward. And if we keep showing up -- which we always have to do -- if we keep fighting the good fight and doing what we know in our hearts is right, then eventually we get there. Because we always do. As I say again and again, in America, we always move forward. We always do. (Applause.)
And it may take time, because change takes time. It may not happen in our lifetimes. Maybe in our children's lifetimes. Maybe in our grandchildren's lifetimes. Because in the end, that's really 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 on my dad's beaming face as I crossed that stage to get my college diploma. (Applause.) The hope that Barack's grandmother felt as she cast her ballot for the grandson she loved and raised. (Applause.) The hope of all of 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, so that we could reach for greater things, be better people. (Applause.)
The hope that so many of us feel when we look into the eyes of our own kids and grandkids. You know that kind of hope. (Applause.) And that is why all of us are here today, because we all want to give all of our children that hope, that kind of foundation for their dreams. We want to give all our kids opportunities worthy of their promise. (Applause.) See, because we know that every child in this country is worthy. (Applause.) We want to give them opportunities to fulfill every last bit of their God-given potential. We want to give them that sense of limitless possibility -- that belief that here in America, the greatest country on the planet -- (applause) -- there is always something better out there if you're willing to work for it. Do you hear me? (Applause.)
So what I tell myself is that we cannot turn back now. Not now. We have come so far. We have come too far. (Applause.) But there is so much more work left to be done.
So here's my last question: Are you all ready for this? (Applause.) Are you ready in here? (Applause.) Are you ready to roll up your sleeves, get people out to vote, vote early, get it done? (Applause.) I'm so fired up. I love you all. Let's get it done.
Thank you. God bless. (Applause.)
3:12 P.M. MDT