Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event -- Castle Rock, CO
Douglas County Fairgrounds
Castle Rock, Colorado
12:23 P.M. MDT
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you so much. I love you guys. We love you! (Applause.) Thank you so much.
I'm so happy to be here. I'm happy to be with you all today. I want to start -- we're going to get it done. We're going to get it done. (Applause.) I want to start by thanking Jean and Bella for all their hard work. Stories like Jean's, her family, Bella's -- there are millions of people out there. And Barack and I, we see those people every single day. And that is why this President is working so hard, because he doesn't want any family -- any family in this country -- to go without health care during the times they need it most. (Applause.)
So you've got a President that is always going to be fighting for you. And thank you Jean, thank you, Bella, thank you for being here.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: I want to recognize a few more people as well. I love you guys. Make sure you vote. (Applause.)
But I want to recognize Susan Daggett, who is here. Her husband, Senator Bennett -- (applause) -- is doing an outstanding job for the people of this state and we're thrilled that she could join us today.
But most of all, I want to thank all of you for taking the time out. It's Thursday, right? (Laughter.) I'm having a little trouble keeping up with days of the week. They're all just sort of -- but it's Thursday, 26 more days until we get this done. And I am so happy to see that you all are pretty fired up and ready to go. (Applause.) I love it.
And just to be sure, if you can't tell I'm pretty fired up and ready to go myself. See, and one of the things that campaigning over this last year and a half or so, two years, has been -- we've been doing this for a while. (Laughter.) But one of the things I love most about campaigning, in addition to coming out and talking to our supporters and citizens all over the country, is I get to talk about the man that I have loved and admired since the first day I met him 23 years ago. (Applause.)
I am so proud of our President. I am absolutely proud. Now, although my husband is handsome, charming and incredibly smart, that is not why I married him. (Laughter.) It's not. What truly made me fall in love with Barack Obama was his heart. It's that heart and that character that you all have seen every day for three and a half years. It's his decency and honesty. (Applause.) It's his compassion and conviction.
See, when I first met Barack, I loved that he 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. And I loved that Barack was so devoted to his family, especially the women in his life. (Applause.) 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 had for his grandmother. I saw how grateful he was that long after she should’ve retired, she was still waking up every morning and catching that bus to her job at the community bank to make sure she was doing 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 getting up, doing that same job 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 -- (applause) -- a lot of South Siders, a lot of Chicagoans -- Chi-town, yes -- 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 my dad carried himself with that same dignity, that same pride at being able to get up every day and provide for his family, that same hope that his kids would one day have opportunities he never dreamed of.
Now how many people here know people like that in their lives? (Applause.) Like so many families in this country, see, our families just weren’t asking for much -- they didn't want much. They didn't begrudge anyone else’s success, never. They didn’t mind if others had much more than they did -- in fact, they admired it. And that's why they pushed us to be the best that we could be.
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.)
And they also believed that when you’ve worked hard, and you've done well and finally walked through that doorway of opportunity, you don't slam it shut behind you. (Applause.) No, you reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed. (Applause.)
And that’s how Barack and I and so many of you were raised. Those are the values we were taught. And really, more than anything else, what we have to understand is that is what this election is all about -- it’s a choice about our values, hopes, and our aspirations. It’s a choice about the America that we want to leave behind for our kids and our grandkids.
And let me tell you what that America looks like, at least what I think we think it looks like. 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 jobs of the future. (Applause.) We believe in an America where no one goes broke because someone gets sick -- (applause) -- where no one loses their home because someone loses 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 this America, when one of us stumbles, when one of us falls on hard times we don’t tell them, tough luck, you’re on your own. No, in our America, we extend a helping hand while they get back on their feet again. (Applause.)
We believe that the truth matters. (Applause.) You don't take shortcuts, you don't game the system, you don’t play by your own set of rules. Instead, we reward success that’s earned fair and square.
And finally, we believe in keeping our priorities straight. We know good and well that cutting Sesame Street is no way to balance our budget. (Applause.) We know that. We know that shortchanging our children is not how we tackle our deficit. If we truly want to build opportunities for all Americans, then we need to cut wasteful spending, yes, but also make smart investments in our future in education and infrastructure for an economy that is built to last for the long run.
See, and that's what my husband stands for. (Applause.) That is the country he has been working 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 -- (laughter) -- and I have seen just how critical those values are for leading this country.
Let me tell you, I have seen how the issues that come across a President’s desk are always the hard ones -- always. The decisions that aren't just about the bottom line, but they're about laying that foundation for the next generation. And I have 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 -- (applause) -- 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, 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 that you serve. You need to be committed to lifting up every single American. And that's how you make the right decisions for this country. That’s what it takes to be a leader. (Applause.)
And since the day he took office, on issue after issue, crisis after crisis -- let me tell you I have been there -- that’s what we’ve seen in my husband. We’ve seen his values at work. We’ve seen his vision unfold. And we have seen the depths of his character, his courage and his conviction.
Think back to when Barack first took office. Think about where this economy was. This economy was on the brink of collapse. Newspapers were using -- these aren't my words -- newspapers were using terms like “meltdown,” “calamity;" declaring “Wall street implodes,” “Economy in Shock.”
And we all know how we got there. For years, folks had been lured into buying homes they couldn’t afford, so their mortgages were underwater. And banks weren’t lending, companies weren’t hiring. The auto industry was in crisis. And this economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month. Do you hear me? Folks wondered whether we were headed for another Great Depression.
And this is what Barack faced on day one as President. He inherited an economy in rapid decline. But instead of pointing fingers, instead of placing blame, your President got to work, because he was thinking about folks like my dad and like his grandmother. (Applause.) Those were the values that were driving every decision he made. And that’s why he cut taxes for small businesses and working families -- because he believes that teachers and firefighters should not pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires. Not in America. (Applause.) Not in America. That’s not right.
And that’s also why, if you remember, while some folks were willing to let the auto industry go under with more than a million jobs that would have been lost, Barack had the backs of American workers. And he fought hard to protect jobs for American families. That’s what he was doing.
And thankfully, because of that conviction, today the auto industry is back, and new cars are rolling off the line at proud American companies like GM -- today. Today. (Applause.) U.S.A all the way.
AUDIENCE: U.S.A! U.S.A!
MRS. OBAMA: And while we still have a long way to go to completely rebuild our economy, there are more and more signs that we're headed in the right direction every single day. The stock market has doubled. Housing prices are rising. Foreclosures are at a 5-year low. (Applause.)
The unemployment rate is the lowest it has been since my husband took office. (Applause.) These are the facts. We have had 31 straight months of private sector job growth; 5.2 million new jobs under this President -- good jobs right here in the United States of America. (Applause.)
Now, in addition to focusing on job creation, you have a President that can do a lot of things at the same time. So he's also focused on improving access to health care for millions of American families, as Jean described. (Applause.) See, another thing about my husband -- he didn’t care whether health reform was the easy thing to do politically, because that is not who he is. He cared that it was the right thing to do. (Applause.)
And as you heard from Jean, and you can hear from so many families, today, because of health reform, our parents and grandparents on Medicare are paying hundreds less for their prescription drugs -- because of health reform. As Jean said, our kids can stay on our insurance until they’re 26 years old. Today, because of health reform, 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 to discriminate against you because you have a preexisting condition, let's say diabetes or asthma. (Applause.)
And here’s one that gets me, that affected so many families -- if you get a serious illness -- let's say breast cancer -- and you need expensive treatment, no longer can these insurance companies 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 people the education they deserve -- (applause) -- let me tell you, Barack knows, like me and like so many of you, we never, never could have gone to college without financial aid -- never. (Applause.) We wouldn’t be here if it weren't for financial aid. How many people here are in that position? (Applause.) In fact, when we were first married, our combined monthly student loan bills were actually higher than our mortgage.
So believe me, when it comes to student debt, Barack and I, we’ve been there. This is not a hypothetical situation for us. (Laughter.) And that is why Barack doubled funding for Pell grants -- (applause) -- and that’s why he fought so hard to keep student interest rates low. (Applause.) Because fortunately, we have a President who wants all of our young people to be prepared for the good jobs of the future -- every young person. (Applause.)
And finally, ladies -- (applause) -- when it comes to understanding the lives of women, when it comes to standing up for our rights and opportunities, let me tell you, we know that my husband will always have our backs -- always. (Applause.) See, because Barack knows from personal experience what it means for a family when women aren’t treated fairly in the workplace.
And today, believe me, as a father of two girls, 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 as President was to help women get equal pay for equal work -- the first thing he did as President. (Applause.) And that is why he will always, always fight to ensure that we as women make our own decisions about our bodies and our health care. That’s what my husband stands for. (Applause.)
So we have 26 days left. And you're going to be out there, right? (Applause.) You're going to be talking to people, right? People on the fence, people who are not sure. So when folks ask you what this President has done for our country, when you're running into people who are deciding which of these candidates will keep this country moving forward for four more years, here’s a few things that I'd like you to share with them.
I want you to tell them about the millions of jobs that this President 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 your President kept his word and ended the war in Iraq. (Applause.) Remind them how, together, we took out Osama bin Laden. (Applause.) Tell them how Barack is fighting every day to make sure veterans and military families get the benefits and support that they have earned. (Applause.)
Tell them about all the young immigrants who will no longer have to live in fear of being deported from the only country they’ve ever called home. (Applause.) Tell them how our brave servicemembers will never again have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love. (Applause.)
I've seen it. And I could go on, and on, and on. But here’s what I really want you to let people know. You make sure people understand that Barack Obama knows the American Dream because he’s lived it. And let me tell you, he has been fighting every day so that everyone in this country -- everyone -- can have that same opportunity, no matter who we are or where we’re from or what we look like -- yes -- or who we love. (Applause.)
But I also want people to be clear that while he is very proud of everything that we’ve achieved together -- and believe me, we have done this together -- my husband is nowhere near satisfied. Barack of all people knows that too many people in this country are still hurting. There is no one who knows that more than him. He knows that there’s plenty of work left to be done. But also, 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 here is the thing I am so proud of -- when I travel across the country -- and I've come in and out of all kinds of communities -- this is what I know for sure. Together, as a country, we -- 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, meaningful change.
So this is what I think we have to ask ourselves: In light of all the progress that we've made, are we going to turn around and go back to the same policies that got us in this hole in the first place?
MRS. OBAMA: Are we going to just stand by and watch everything we’ve worked for and fought for to just slip away?
MRS. OBAMA: Or are we going to work very hard to keep this country moving forward? (Applause.) What are we going to do?
But the thing that I want us all to know and to remember, the answer to these questions is really up to us. That is the beauty of our democracy. It is now on us, right? Because we have to remember that all of the wonderfully important and hard work, all the progress that we've made -- it is all on the line. (Applause.) It is all at stake this November.
And I want our young people focused, too -- this is your America. (Applause.) And as my husband said -- and he's said this many times -- this election will be even closer than the last one. And it could all come down to what happens in just a few key battleground states like right here in Colorado. (Applause.)
And I've been trying to help put it in perspective, because understanding the impact that people can have, regular voters -- if we think back to what happened in 2008, Barack won Colorado by about 215,000 votes. And that might sound like a lot to some, but when you break that number down across precincts, that's just 73 votes per precinct. That was the margin of difference -- 73 votes. And it's like that all over the country. The margin of difference in most elections is tangible, it's knowable -- it's right here in this room.
Because that could mean just a couple of votes in your neighborhood, just a single vote in an apartment building or in a dorm room, right?
So this is what I want people just to realize -- not just for this election, but for every election -- if there is anyone who might be thinking that their vote doesn’t matter -- and I could understand that -- if there is anybody here who thinks that their involvement doesn’t count, who thinks that in this big, complex political process that ordinary folks can't possibly make a different, I want you to think about those 73 votes. That’s you. That is you.
So I want you all to focus on that number. So many of you have already done such a fantastic job getting people to register here in Colorado. I want you to think about how with just a few more evenings on a phone bank, just a few more weekends knocking on doors, a few of you could swing an entire precinct for Barack Obama.
And if we win enough precincts, we will win this state. And if we win this state, we'll be well on our way to putting Barack Obama back in the White House for four more years. (Applause.) Four more years. Four more years of great progress.
So here's what I'm asking -- do me a favor. For the next 26 days, we need all of you to work like you've never worked before. Sign up with one of our volunteers if you aren't volunteering. They're here. You can come down, make phone calls, knock on doors.
But more importantly, talk to everyone you know. Talk to your friends, your neighbors, the folks on the fence, the folks who don’t quite know how much progress we've been making. That nephew you haven't seen in a while -- find him, shake him up. (Laughter.) The classmate that you know isn't voting -- you guys know the person who's going to fall asleep before -- not wake up on Election Day. Be responsible for that person. Get them up. Get them to the polls.
Because I don’t want you all to underestimate the power of what you can do with your own friends and families in your own community. There are so many young people who came up to me and said, my parents and grandparents weren't going to vote for Barack in 2008, but because I talked to them about what this election means for my future, they changed their minds. (Applause.) So there is power in trust out there within communities.
Remind people what's at stake. Also, send them to vote.barackobama.com. That’s a website where you can get information -- anything they need to know to cast their votes to make their voices heard.
And vote-by-mail ballots start going out this Monday -- Monday. Monday. Vote by mail. So make sure folks fill those forms out, mail them back as soon as possible. And early voting in person starts on Monday, October the 22nd. So make sure that you get as many people as possible to vote early. I'm going to be doing the same thing, because I'm going to be spending Election Day helping to get other people to the polls, and I hope you do the same. (Applause.)
So make sure you get folks to the polls, voting early, vote by mail -- whatever you go, get them to the polls and make sure that their voices, that your voices are heard on Election.
And I'm not going to kid you, because I never do -- like my husband, I'm honest -- (applause) -- this journey is going to be hard, okay? And there are going to be plenty of ups and downs over the next 26 days -- count on that. But 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 26 days will absolutely make the difference between waking up the day after Election Day and wondering, “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 pushing, and working, struggling like never before. Because that is how change always happens in this country. And this is so important for our young people to understand. Change is hard, and it requires patience and tenacity. But what I want our young people to understand is that if you keep showing up, if we as a country keep showing up and fighting that good fight and doing what we know in our hearts is right, then eventually we get there. Because in America we always move forward. In this country, we always move forward. (Applause.)
I want our young people to feel vocal about their futures. Because that is what this is about. It's about them. And the struggle is hard, and sometimes it doesn’t happen all at once -- maybe it won't happen 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. That's what elections are always about. Don't let anybody tell you any differently. Elections are always about hope. (Applause.)
The hope I saw on my father's beaming face as I walked across the stage to get my college diploma. 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 do more, be better, be stronger. So many of us feel that hope when we look into the eyes of our own kids and grandkids. That’s the kind of hope I'm talking about.
Don’t let anybody drown that hope out of you. (Applause.) That’s why we're here today. (Applause.) Because we want to give our kids a solid foundation for their dreams. We want to give all our kids -- every single one of them -- opportunities worthy of their promise, because every single one of our kids in this country, they're worthy of that. 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. That’s why I'm here. That’s why I'm standing here today. (Applause.)
That is the America that we're working for. So I tell myself every day, we cannot turn back now. Not now. We have so much more work to do.
So are you with me? (Applause.) Are we going to get this done? (Applause.) 26 more days. Roll up your sleeves, make it happen. Be fired up and ready to go, because I certainly am.
I love you guys. God bless.
12:54 P.M. MDT