Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event
James L. Knight Center
6:10 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Yes! (Applause.) Oh, Miami! Wow. Thank you so much! (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: Four more years, with your help. Oh, you guys make me feel so loved. (Applause.)
But before I get started, given what has happened over the past few days on the coast, I just want to take a few moments to say that our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by Hurricane Sandy. And of course, the President and I and I know all of you are heartbroken about the lives that have been lost, the damage that has been done in so many communities. And as you all know, Barack has been working around the clock with governors and mayors -- (applause) -- our extraordinary first responders to make sure that they have the support and resources that they need.
And also, something that we all know in times like this is that when we face a crisis as a country, we always come together as one American family. And I know that we're going to do that again, and again, and again. (Applause.) So even as we celebrate and we prepare for Election Day, we cannot forget that there is real life going on out there, and we have to keep everyone in our thoughts and prayers.
So now, I'd like to start by thanking Josefina for that very kind introduction and all that she is doing for our campaign. Let's give her a round of applause. (Applause.) I have the Deep Fried Funk Band. (Applause.) Yes! I hear you have been funking it up all day long. (Laughter.) Good thing.
I want to thank two outstanding members of Congress –- Congresswoman Wasserman-Schultz and Congresswoman Wilson. (Applause.) We are so proud to have them on our team. They are representing so well. We are so proud.
And I also want to thank my girl Gabrielle Union -- (applause) -- absolutely -- and of course, my dear friend Marc Anthony for their wonderful remarks today. (Applause.) I know they're around here somewhere -- there they are. Love you guys. Thank you. Thank you for being here. And you too, I love you too. I love you too. (Applause.)
And most of all -- thank all of you. Thank you for being here, thank you for working so hard. I can tell that you are fired up and ready to go. (Applause.)
And I have to say, this is my third stop today in Florida, and I am still fired up and ready to go. (Applause.) Because in just five days -- five -- we have the opportunity to reelect -- let me tell you -- a decent, honest man -- (applause) -- a man whose courage and integrity we have seen every day for these last four years; the man that I have known and loved for 23 years -- (applause) -- my husband, our President, Barack Obama. We're going to get him reelected.
And I have to tell you that all those characteristics, that's what made me fall in love with Barack all those years ago. Yes. It was his character, his compassion, his conviction, his commitment to helping others. But I also loved the way that Barack was so devoted to his family, especially the women in his life. (Applause.) See, I'm trying to help you brothers out, you know. You've got to treat the women in your life -- you want a good woman, you've got to treat the women in your life well. (Applause.)
See, I saw, for Barack, the respect he had for his own mother. I saw how proud he was that she had put herself through school while still struggling to support him and his sister as a single mom. And I certainly saw the tenderness that he felt for his grandmother, 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. And he also watched as she was passed over for promotions simply because she was a woman. But he also saw how she kept getting up year after year without complaint or regret.
See, the thing is, 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 father make that same uncomplaining journey every day to his job at the city water plant. And let me tell you something, I saw the way he carried himself with that dignity, with that same pride in being able to provide for his family, that same hope that his kids would one day have opportunities he never dreamed of.
See, and the thing about this country -- like so many families, our families just weren’t asking for much. They didn’t want much. And let me tell you, they did not begrudge anyone else’s success. They didn’t mind if others had much more than they did –- in fact, they admired it, which is why they pushed us to be the best that we could be.
But let me tell you what they did believe -- 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 here's something else they believed -- they believed that when you’ve worked hard, and done well, and you've 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.) And that is how Barack and I and I know so many of you were raised.
And more than anything else, that is what this election is all about. It’s a choice. It's a choice about our values and our hopes; our aspirations. It’s a choice about the America we want to leave for our kids and grandkids. And let's talk a little bit about that America, what we believe.
We believe in an America where every child has access to good schools that push them, and inspire them, and prepare them for college and good jobs of the future -- every child. We believe in an America where no one goes broke or loses a home because someone gets sick or lost their job.
We believe in an America where we all understand that none of us gets where we are on our own, and we treat everyone with dignity and respect -- from the teachers who inspired us to the janitors who keep our schools clean. (Applause.) And in this America that we're building, we believe that the truth matters, and you don’t take shortcuts or game the system.
And finally, we believe in keeping our priorities straight, because we know good and well that cutting Sesame Street is no way to balance our budget. (Applause.) We know better than that. Instead, yes, we need to cut wasteful spending, but we also have to make smart investments in things like education and infrastructure for an economy that’s built to last. And let me tell you something -- that is what my husband stands for. That's the country he’s been working to build for the last four years.
And let me tell you, since the day he took office, on issue after issue, crisis after crisis, that is what we’ve seen in my husband. Think back to when Barack first took office. Where was our economy? It was on the brink of collapse. And you don’t have to take my word for it. Newspapers were using words like “meltdown," “calamity;" declaring “Wall street implodes," “Economy in Shock.” You remember that?
See, here's where we were --
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: Here's where we were -- because another thing we believe in -- what did I say -- we believe in decency and respect.
MRS. OBAMA: But in that economy, if you recall, the auto industry was in crisis. This economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month, and a lot of folks wondered whether we were headed for another Great Depression. See, and this is what Barack Obama faced on day one as President of the United States.
But instead of pointing fingers, instead of placing blame, your President got to work. (Applause.) See, because he was thinking about folks like my Dad, folks like his grandmother. And that’s why he cut taxes for small businesses and working families -- because he believes that here in America, teachers and firefighters should not pay higher taxes than millionaires and billionaires. (Applause.)
And that’s also why, while some folks were willing to let the auto industry go under -- you remember that?
MRS. OBAMA: With more than a million jobs that would have been lost, see, Barack had the backs of American workers. And that’s why, today, the American auto industry is back on its feet again. (Applause.)
And, yes, while we still have a long way to go to completely rebuild this economy, there are more and more signs every day that we're headed in the right direction: Exports have grown by 45 percent. Manufacturers have added 500,000 jobs. We have had 31 straight months -- the majority of this presidency -- with private sector job growth; 5.2 million new jobs created by this President right here in the United States of America. (Applause.)
Now, when it comes to providing our young people the education they deserve, see, Barack knows that like me and I know so many of you, we never could have attended college without financial aid. (Applause.) Let me just explain to you, we would not be here if it weren't for financial aid. So when it comes to student debt, Barack and I have 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 for students -- (applause) -- because we have a President who understands how important it is for all of our young people to be invested in, to have the opportunities to go to college.
And finally, when it comes to understanding the lives of women, look, we know that my husband will always have our backs. (Applause.) See, because Barack knows from personal experience what it means for a family when women aren’t treated fairly in the workplace. And that’s why the very first bill he signed into law as President was the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to help women get equal pay for equal work. (Applause.) And that is why he will always, always fight to make sure that we as women can make our own decisions about our bodies and our health care. (Applause.)
And let us not forget that because of health reform that he passed, insurance companies can no longer charge women more than men for the same coverage. (Applause.) Also, because of health reform, they won’t be able to discriminate against any of you because you have a preexisting condition -- let's say asthma or diabetes.
Our seniors are paying hundreds less for their prescription drugs -- our seniors on Medicare, because of health reform. And our young people can stay on our insurance until they’re 26 years old. (Applause.)
And here's another one that gets me -- if you get a life-threatening illness, and you need real expensive treatment, no longer can your insurance company 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.)
So over these next five days, when you’re out there talking to folks -- and I hope you will be -- and you're talking to folks who are trying to decide who's the best person to keep America moving forward for four more years -- (applause) -- let me just give you a few things you can tell them.
I want you to tell them what Barack has done for our economy, our health care, our education, but also, I want you to tell them that, yes, Barack ended the war in Iraq. (Applause.) Remind them that this was the President that took out Osama bin Laden. (Applause.) Remind them that this is the President that is fighting every day to make sure that veterans and military families have benefits they have earned. (Applause.)
Tell them about all the young immigrants in this country who will never again have to live in fear of being deported from the only country they’ve ever called home. (Applause.) Tell them about the brave servicemembers who will never again have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love. (Applause.)
And if they need more information, send them to the website barackobama.com/plans, because that’s where you can get some concrete information on what our President is going to do in the next four years, including creating jobs, reducing our deficit, and so much more.
But here's what I really want you to tell them: I want you to tell them that Barack Obama knows the American Dream because he’s lived it -- (applause) -- and he is fighting every day so that every one of us 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 also let’s be clear that while he is so very proud of all that we’ve achieved together -- because as President you don’t do anything alone -- my husband is nowhere near satisfied. Barack, of all people on this planet, knows that there are still too many people hurting. But 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’s what else I know, and this is why I am so passionate. Over these last four years, just know that together -- together, slowly but surely, we have been pulling ourselves out of that hole that we started in. We have been moving forward and making real, meaningful change.
So here is the question that everybody has got to ask themselves: 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 fought for and worked for to just slip away?
MRS. OBAMA: Or are we going to keep moving this country forward? What are we going to do? (Applause.) We’ve got to go forward! We must go forward. (Applause.)
But in the end, here’s where we are: The answer to these questions is now on us. It is all on us. Because, believe me, all of our hard work and all of the progress that we have made, it’s all at stake this Tuesday.
And as my husband has said, the only guarantee is that this election will be even closer than the last one. And it will all come down to what happens in just a few key battleground states like right here in Florida. Right here. (Applause.) So let me give you some perspective, all right? Especially our young people -- just so that you know the power that everyone in this room has. In 2008, Barack won Florida by about 236,000 votes. And that might sound like a lot, but when you take that number and break that down across precincts, that is just 36 votes per precinct. That was the margin of difference.
Now, that could mean just one vote in your neighborhood, right? Just a single additional person in your apartment building or on your college campus.
So if there is anyone here or anyone in your lives who might be 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 want you to think about and remind them about those 36 votes. I want you to think about how with just a few more hours knocking on some doors or making some calls, with just a few hours getting folks to the polls on Election Day, just a few of you here could swing an entire precinct for Barack Obama. (Applause.) And know this: When we win enough precincts, we will win this state, and when we win this state we’ll be well on our way to putting Barack back in the White House for four more years. (Applause.) Four more years -- you all can do it right here.
So here’s the plan -- because we always have a plan. Before you leave today, sign up to volunteer with our campaign. More importantly, for the next five days, talk to everyone you know. Talk to everyone -- friends, neighbors. Leave no stone unturned -- that cousin you don’t really speak to that often. (Laughter.) Now is the time. Call him up.
Everybody knows someone in their lives who might not vote. You know those folks. You know those folks who didn’t vote the last time. Find them. Get them. And if you can, get them to vote early. I voted early. I voted for Barack Obama! (Applause.) Just in case you were wondering, I voted for Barack. And one of the reasons I did that, in addition to knowing deep in my heart that he’s absolutely the best person to lead this country forward, I did it because I want to spend Election Day working to get the vote out. We’re going to be on the phones, doing radio, calling on the air. We’re going to be calling all across the country on Election Day.
And here in Florida, you can vote early through Saturday at your county supervisor of elections office and in many libraries and city halls throughout the state.
But whether you vote early or on Election Day, if you need more information just go to vote.barackobama.com. And that website, you can get everything -- all the information you need to figure out how to make your voice count. So --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you, Michelle! We’ve got your back!
MRS. OBAMA: We love you. We love you. We love you! (Applause.) Well, we’re going to keep working hard. Four more years.
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: So we have less than a week. Four more years! Yes, you got it. Just go for it. Four more years!
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: I’m not going to hold you back. (Applause.) Four more years!
But make no mistake about it: What we do over these next five days will absolutely make the difference between waking up the day after Election Day and wondering, “Oh, my goodness, could I have done more?”, or feeling that promise of four more years.
So from now until November the 6th, we need you to keep on working and struggling and pushing like never before. Because what I want people to remember, especially our young people: That is how change always happens in this country. We know from our history that change -- real change -- is hard and it requires patience and tenacity. Shoot, life is hard and requires patience and tenacity.
But the lessons that we’ve all learned, as older folks, is that if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight and doing in our hearts what we know is right, then eventually we get there. We always do.
And that is why we all have every reason to be optimistic about what lies ahead, because we know that here in America we always move forward. We always make progress. (Applause.) And in the end, that’s what this is about. That is what elections are always about. Don’t let anybody tell you differently, ever. Elections are always about hope.
What kind of hope am I talking about? The hope that I saw on my father’s face as I walked across that stage to get the diploma he took out loans to help me get. (Applause.) The hope that Barack’s grandmother felt as she cast her ballot for the grandson she loved and raised. It’s that kind of hope. (Applause.) The hope of all of those men and women in all of our lives who worked that extra shift for us, who saved and sacrificed and prayed so that we could stand here and be better. The hope that so many of us see when we look into the eyes of our kids and our grandkids.
That is why we’re here. This is about our kids, because we want all of our kids to have a solid foundation for their dreams. We want to give all of our kids opportunities worthy of their promise -- because I don’t care where you’re from, what party you belong to, we know that all of our kids in this country are worthy. We want to give them 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 here’s what I tell myself. Every day I tell myself: We cannot turn back now. Not now. We will not turn back now. Not because of them. We have come so far, but we have so much more work to do.
So here’s my final question. Are you in this? (Applause.) Are you ready for this? (Applause.) Are you fired up and ready to go? (Applause.) Are you going to roll up your sleeves? Five days for four more years! We can make this happen right here in Florida. Let’s make it -- let’s get it done.
I love you all. God bless.
6:35 P.M. EDT