Remarks by the First Lady and the President at Final Campaign Rally -- Des Moines, IA
Intersection of East 4th and East Locust Streets
Des Moines, Iowa
9:58 P.M. CST
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you, guys. Thanks so much.
AUDIENCE: We love Michelle! We love Michelle!
MRS. OBAMA: (Laughter.) And I love you. I love you from the bottom of my heart. And I am beyond thrilled to be here with all of you.
But we have to give some love up for Bruce Springsteen. I mean, gosh. (Applause.) For months, I have heard his songs played at our rallies. But I have to say, there's nothing like seeing The Boss in person. (Applause.) Nothing like it. He has just been tremendous. He and his family and his team, they've just been amazing. So we want to thank Bruce for everything that he's done for us.
And more than anything else, I want to thank you all for being here tonight. I mean, as you know this is a pretty emotional time for us, because this is the final event of my husband's final campaign. (Applause.) So this is the last time that he and I will be onstage together at a campaign rally. And that's why we wanted to come here to Iowa tonight -- (applause) -- because truly this is where it all began, right here.
And I have so many fond memories of this state -- the house parties in Sioux City and Cedar Rapids; celebrating Malia's birthday in Pella; and seeing my husband's face carved in butter. (Applause.) Believe me, we still talk about that at Christmas. (Laughter.)
But I will never forget the kindness and warmth and love that you all showed me and my family, especially our girls. That is truly what made the difference back in those early days when I wasn't so sure about this whole process; back when I was still wondering what it would mean for our girls and our family if Barack got the chance to serve as President.
But the truth is while I had my worries and my fears, I also realized that this decision affected not only me as a wife and a mother, but as a voter, as an American. And I started envisioning the kind of person that I wanted to lead our country. And I knew that I wanted a President with a steady character, with deep compassion and strong convictions. I wanted a President who was smart. (Applause.) I wanted someone we could trust -- (applause) -- someone who would always, always tell us the truth even when it's hard. (Applause.) And I wanted a President driven not by politics or which way the wind is blowing, but by the struggles, hopes and dreams of all Americans. (Applause.)
And the more I thought about it, the more I knew in my heart that I was describing Barack. I knew he could be that President. And for four years, that's exactly what he's done. He has stayed true to himself, and with your help, he's worked day after day to make this country better, to move it forward. He's rescued our economy from the brink of collapse and saved the auto industry. (Applause.) He's passed historic health reform -- (applause) -- ended the war in Iraq. (Applause.) He's fought so women get equal pay and students can afford college. (Applause.) He's fought for our seniors, so that they can retire with dignit;, and our veterans, so that they can give the benefits they earned and the respect they deserve. (Applause.)
For four years, Barack has been fighting to give every single one of us a fair shot at that great American Dream, no matter what we look like or where we come from or who we love. (Applause.) And for four years, we have all seen what I've seen for the past 23 years. We've seen a man of honor and integrity who knows what he believes and stays true to his values. (Applause.) I'm so proud of my husband. We have seen an honest man who knows the facts and always gives it to us straight. We've seen a man whose strength and resolve to build a better tomorrow has never wavered, never.
And that's why I am so thrilled to be here in Iowa tonight -- (applause) -- because long before most people even knew his name, you all saw what I saw. So you did all this crazy stuff. You showed up at campaign offices here in Des Moines and offices all over the state. More importantly, you opened your homes. You held caucus trainings. You marched with us at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner. (Applause.) And then, on a cold January night, you stood up for Barack, because you knew that he would stand up for you. (Applause.)
And over these past four years, our family has been truly blessed -- truly blessed -- by all of the love and support and prayers that we have received from every corner of this country. And Barack has been truly blessed to have all of you by his side as we have worked together to bring that change we can believe in.
It is an honor and a privilege to serve this nation -- just know that. And tomorrow, we get the chance to finish what we started here in Iowa. (Applause.) Tomorrow, all across this state, all across this country, we will line up and vote in libraries and community centers, in school gyms. We're going to knock on doors until our fingers are numb. We're going to make calls until our voices are hoarse. (Applause.) And we won't stop until every voice and every last vote is counted. (Applause.)
And we will do it. We will do it, because while we have come so far, we know that there is so much more to do. And what we really, truly know is that we cannot turn back now. We need to keep moving this country forward. (Applause.)
So that means that we need to reelect the man who has been fighting for us every single day -- my husband, the love of my life -- the President of the United States Barack Obama. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Iowa! (Applause.) Tomorrow. Tomorrow, Iowa. Tomorrow, from the granite of New Hampshire to the Rockies of Colorado, from the coastlines of Florida to Virginia’s rolling hills, from the valleys of Ohio to these Iowa fields -- we will keep America moving forward. (Applause.)
I’ve come back to Iowa one more time to ask for your vote. (Applause.) I came back to ask you to help us finish what we’ve started. (Applause.) Because this is where our movement for change began. (Applause.) Right here. Right here.
Right behind these bleachers is the building that was home to our Iowa headquarters in 2008. (Applause.) I was just inside, and it brought back a whole lot of memories. This was where some of the first young people who joined our campaign set up shop, willing to work for little pay and less sleep because they believed that people who love their country can change it.
This was where so many of you who shared that belief came to help. When the heat didn’t work for the first week or so -- (laughter) -- some of you brought hats and gloves for the staff. These poor kids, they weren’t prepared. (Laughter.) When the walls inside were bare, one of you painted a mural to lift everybody’s spirits. When we had a Steak Fry to march to, when we had a J-J Dinner to fire up -- (applause) -- you brought your neighbors and you made homemade signs. When we had calls to make, teachers and nurses showed up after work, already bone-tired, but staying anyway, late into the night.
And you welcomed me and Michelle into your homes. And you picked us up when we needed a lift. And your faces gave me new hope for this country’s future, and your stories filled me with resolve to fight for you every single day I set foot in the Oval Office. (Applause.)
You inspired us. And I want to take this opportunity to say one thing to all the young people and not-so-young people who’ve given so much to this campaign over the years -- those of you who haven’t done this just for me, but for each other -- for a laid-off family member, for a sick child, for a fallen friend -- to all of you who’ve lived and breathed the hard work of change: I want to thank you.
You took this campaign and you made it your own. And you organized yourselves, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, county by county, starting a movement that spread across the country -- (applause) -- a movement made up of young and old, and rich and poor, and black and white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, Democrats, Republicans, who believe we’ve all got something to contribute; that we all deserve a shot at our own American Dream. (Applause.)
And when the cynics said we couldn’t, you said “Yes, we can.”
AUDIENCE: Yes, we can! (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: You said, “Yes, we can” -- and we did. Against all odds, we did. We didn’t know what challenges would come when we began this journey. We didn’t know how deep the crisis would turn out. But we knew we would get through those challenges the same way this nation always has -- with that determined, unconquerable American spirit that says no matter how bad the storm gets, no matter how tough times are, we’re all in this together. We rise or fall as one nation and as one people. (Applause.)
That’s the spirit that’s carried us through the trials and tribulations of the last four years. In 2008, we were in the middle of two wars and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. And today, our businesses have created nearly five and a half million new jobs. (Applause.) The American auto industry is back. Home values are on the rise. We’re less dependent on foreign oil than any time in the last 20 years. We’ve doubled the production of clean energy. Because of the service and sacrifice of our brave men and women in uniform, the war in Iraq is over. The war in Afghanistan is ending. Al Qaeda is on the run. Osama bin Laden is dead. (Applause.)
We’ve made real progress these past four years. But, Iowa, we’re here tonight because we’ve got more work to do. We’re not done yet on this journey. We’ve got more road to travel. As long as there’s a single American who wants a job but can’t find one; as long as there are families working harder but still falling behind; as long as there’s a child anywhere in Des Moines, anywhere in Iowa, anywhere in this country languishing in poverty, barred from opportunity -- our work isn’t done. (Applause.) Our fight for change goes on.
Because we know this nation cannot succeed without a growing, thriving middle class and sturdy ladders for everybody who is willing to work to get into that middle class. (Applause.) Our fight goes on because America has always done best when everybody has got a fair shot, and everybody is doing their fair share, and everybody plays by the same rules. The people of Iowa understand that. That’s what we believe. That’s why you elected me in 2008. And, Iowa, that’s why I’m running for a second term as President of the United States. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
THE PRESIDENT: Now, the choice you make tomorrow -- and you understand this; Iowans, you guys pay attention -- (laughter and applause) -- the choice you make is not just between two candidates or parties. It’s a choice between two different visions of America -- who we are; what we believe; what we care about. It’s a choice between going back to the top-down policies that caused the mess we’ve been fighting our way out of for four years -- or moving forward to a future that’s built on a strong and growing middle class.
And, Iowa, you know me as well as anybody. You’ve seen a lot of me these last six years. (Laughter.) And you know what, you may not agree with every decision I’ve made -- Michelle doesn’t. (Laughter.) There may be times where you’ve been frustrated at the pace of change. I promise you, so have I. But I tell you what, you know what I believe. You know where I stand. You know I tell the truth. (Applause.) You know I’ll fight for you and your families every single day, as hard as I know how. (Applause.)
And that’s why, when we talk about change, we know what real change looks like because we’ve fought for it. We've got the scars to prove it. I've got the gray hair to show it. (Laughter.) I wasn’t this gray when I first showed up in Iowa. (Applause.) And sometimes it’s been hard. Sometimes it’s been frustrating. We understand that. But what we also know is that when we decide to make a difference, when Americans come together, determined to bring about change, nobody can stop us. We cannot be stopped.
And after all we've been through together, after all that we fought through together, we cannot give up on change now. (Applause.)
We know what real change looks like. Change is a country where every American has a shot at a great education -- where we recruit new teachers, train new workers, bring down tuition, so that no one in this country is forced to give up the dream of a college education. (Applause.)
Change comes when we live up to this country’s legacy of innovation by investing in the next generation of technology and manufacturing. Instead of subsidizing oil company profits, I want to support energy jobs of tomorrow. And Iowa knows about clean energy and biodiesel and wind turbines that will free this country from the grip of foreign oil. (Applause.)
I don’t want a tax code that rewards companies for creating jobs overseas; I want to reward companies that create jobs right here in America. That’s what change is, Iowa. (Applause.)
Change is turning the page on a decade of war so we can do some nation-building here at home -- repairing our roads and our bridges, making our schools state of the art; putting our veterans back to work -- because nobody who fights for this country’s freedom should have to fight for a job, or a roof over their heads when they come home. (Applause.) That's what we're fighting for. That's why we're not done. (Applause.)
Change is a future where we reduce our deficit by asking the wealthiest Americans to go back to the tax rates they paid when Bill Clinton was in office. (Applause.) We’ll cut out spending we don't need. But as long as I’m President, we're not going to turn Medicare into a voucher just to pay for another millionaire’s tax cut. (Applause.) We're not going to kick a kid off of Head Start just to pay for a millionaire’s tax cut. (Applause.)
Because our budget reflects our priorities and our values. And we know what our future requires. We know what real change is. You helped teach me that, here in Iowa. (Applause.) And what we also know is that change isn't easy. Remember, a lot of you showed up to town hall meetings back in 2007, 2008, and I used to talk about change. But I also said I'm not just talking about changing presidents. I'm not just talking about changing parties. I'm talking about changing our politics. (Applause.)
I told you I ran because your voices had been shut out of our democracy for way too long by special interests and politicians who will do whatever it takes to keep things just the way they are. And we've seen over the last four years, the status quo in Washington, they are powerful and they have fought us every step of the way.
When we tried -- and succeeded in reforming our health care system, they spent millions trying to stop us. When we tried -- and succeeded -- in reforming Wall Street, they spent millions to push us back. And we kept on going. But those were tough fights.
And what the protectors of the status quo in Washington are counting on now is that you’ll get worn down by all the squabbling. You’ll get fed up with the dysfunction. You’ll give up on the change we’ve fought for. You’ll walk away and leave them to make decisions that affect every American. In other words, their bet is on cynicism. But, Iowa, you taught me to bet on you. (Applause.) You taught me to bet on hope. (Applause.)
I’ll work with anybody, of any party, to move this country forward. And if you want to break the gridlock in Congress, you’ll vote for leaders who feel the same way -- whether they’re Democrats, or Republicans, or independents -- the kind of Iowa leaders you’ve always had -- Tom and Christie Vilsack, and Tom Harkin, and Leonard Boswell and Bruce Braley, and my great friends, Tom Miller and Mike Fitzgerald. (Applause.)
But there’s some principles you got to fight for. There are times where you’ve got to take a stand. If the price of peace in Washington is cutting deals to kick students off of financial aid, or get rid of funding for Planned Parenthood, or let insurance companies discriminate against kids with preexisting conditions, or eliminate health care for millions on Medicaid who are poor, or elderly, or disabled -- I won't pay that price. That's not a deal I will make. (Applause.) That’s not bipartisanship. That’s not change. That’s surrender to the same forces of the status quo that has squeezed middle-class families for way too long.
And, Iowa, I’m not ready to give up on the fight. (Applause.) I've got a lot more fight left in me. (Applause.) But to wage that fight on behalf of American families, I need you to still have some fight in you, too. (Applause.)
The folks at the top in this country, it turns out they don’t need another champion in Washington. They’ll always have a seat at the table. They’ll always have access and influence. The people who need a champion are the Americans whose letters I read late at night after a long day in the office; the men and women I meet on the campaign trail every day.
The laid-off furniture worker who’s retraining at the age of 55 for a new career at a community college -- she needs a champion. The restaurant owner who needs a loan to expand -- he’s got great food but the bank turned him down -- he needs help. He needs a champion. The cooks and the waiters and cleaning staff, working overtime in a hotel in Des Moines or Vegas, trying to save enough to buy a first home or send their kid to college -- they need a champion. (Applause.)
The autoworker who was laid off, thought the plant would never reopen, and is now back on the job, filled with pride and dignity, building a great car, building America -- he needs a champion. (Applause.) The teacher in an overcrowded classroom with outdated schoolbooks, digging into her own pocket to buy school supplies, not always feeling like she’s got the support she needs, but showing up every day because she knows that this might be the day that she’s got a breakthrough and she makes a difference in one child’s life -- she needs a champion. (Applause.)
All those kids in inner cities, small farm towns -- kids dreaming of becoming scientists or doctors, engineers or entrepreneurs, diplomats or even a President -- they need a champion in Washington, because the future will never have as many lobbyists as the status quo -- children don't have lobbyists the way oil companies or banks do. But it’s the dreams of those children that will be our saving grace.
That’s what we fight for. That’s why I need you, Iowa. To make sure their voices are heard. To make sure your voices are heard. (Applause.) And that's why we’ve come too far to turn back now. We’ve come too far to let our hearts grow faint. Now is the time to keep pushing forward -- (applause) -- to educate all our kids, and train all our workers, and to create new jobs, and rebuild our roads, and bring back our troops, and care for our veterans, and broaden opportunity, and grow our middle class, and restore our democracy -- and make sure that no matter who you are, or where you come from, or how you started out, what you look like, who you love, what your last name is, here in America, you can make it if you try. That's what we're fighting for. (Applause.)
And, Iowa, after all the months of campaigning, after all the rallies, after the millions of dollars of ads, it all comes down to you. It’s out of my hands now. It’s in yours. All of it depends on what you do when you step into that voting booth tomorrow. It’s just a remarkable thing, the way our democracy works. And at a certain point, all this effort and all these campaign rallies -- and then it just comes down to each of us, as citizens. All of it depends on you bringing your friend, or your neighbor, your coworker, your mom, your dad, your wife, your husband to the polls.
That's how our democracy is supposed to be. The single most powerful force in our democracy is you. Moving this country forward begins with you. (Applause.) Don’t ever let anybody tell you your voice doesn’t matter. Don't let anybody tell you your voice can't make a difference. It makes a difference.
I got a powerful reminder of this myself on our last campaign. Folks in Iowa, I know you may have heard this story but it was early in the primaries, and we were still way down in the polls. I think this office had just finally gotten the heat turned on. (Laughter.) And at the time, I was still competing in South Carolina -- it was one of the early primary states. And I really wanted the endorsement of a state representative down there. I met her at some function where nobody knew me, nobody could pronounce my name. They’re wondering, what’s he thinking? (Laughter.)
So I asked her for her endorsement. And she said, “I tell you what, Obama -- I will give you my endorsement if you come to my hometown of Greenwood, South Carolina.” And I think I had a little bit of wine during dinner, because right away I said “okay.” (Laughter.)
So it’s about a month later, and I'm traveling back to South Carolina. And we flew in late -- I think we were coming from Iowa. We had been campaigning non-stop, traveling all through towns and having town hall meetings and shaking hands. And in between, I'm making phone calls, asking people for support. And so we land in Greenwood, South Carolina, at around midnight. We get to the hotel about 1 o’clock in the morning. I am wiped out. I'm exhausted. And I'm dragging my bags to my room. Back then we didn’t fly on Air Force One. (Laughter.) And the accommodations were a little different. (Laughter.)
And just as I'm about to walk into the room, one of my staf taps me on the shoulder to say, “Excuse me, Senator” --I was a senator back then. “We're going to have to wake up and be on the road at 6:30 a.m. in the morning.” And I said, “What?” (Laughter.) “Why?” “Well, you made this promise to go to Greenwood, and it’s several hours away.” (Laughter.)
And you know, Iowa, I try to keep my promises. So a few hours later, I wake up -- and I'm feeling terrible. I think a cold is coming on. And I open up the curtains to try to get some light to wake me up, but it’s pouring down rain. Terrible storm. And I take a shower and get some coffee, and I open up the newspaper and there’s a bad story about me in The New York Times. (Laughter.) I was much more sensitive at that time to bad stories. (Laughter.) I've become more accustomed to these now.
And finally I get dressed, I go downstairs and I'm walking out to the car, and my umbrella blows open -- and I'm soaked. So by the time I'm in the car I'm wet and I'm mad and I'm still kind of sleepy. And it turns out that Greenwood is several hours away from everyplace else. (Laughter.)
And so we drive, and we drive, and we drive, and we drive. And finally we get to Greenwood -- although you don't know you're in Greenwood right away because there are not a lot of tall buildings around. And we pull up to a small field house, and I walked in, and I'm looking around. I don't hear a lot going on. And the state representative said she was going to organize a little meeting for us, and we walked in and there are about 20 people there. And they’re all kind of wet, too, and they don't look very excited to see me. (Laughter.)
But I'm running for President, so I do what I'm supposed to do -- and I'm shaking hands, I say, “How do you do? Nice to meet you.” And I'm making my way around the room, and suddenly I hear this voice cry out behind me: “Fired up.”
AUDIENCE: Ready to go!
THE PRESIDENT: And I'm startled, and I don't know what’s going on. But everybody in the room -- this is a small room -- they act like this is normal. (Laughter.) And when the voice says, “Fired up,” they all say, “Ready to go.”
And so once again, I hear the voice: “Fired up.” They say, “Fired up.” They say, “Ready to go!” “Ready to go!”
I look around, I turned behind me -- there’s this small woman. She’s about 60 years old; looks like she just came from church -- she got a big church hat. (Laughter.) And she’s looking at me, kind of peering at me, and she’s grinning, smiling, looking happy. Turns out she’s a city councilwoman from Greenwood -- who also moonlights as a private detective. I'm not making this up. (Laughter.) This is true. And it turns out she’s famous throughout the area. When she goes to football games and when she goes to rallies and she goes to community events, she does this chant of hers. She does it wherever she goes. So for the next few minutes, she just keeps on saying “Fired up.”
AUDIENCE: Ready to go!
THE PRESIDENT: And everybody says “Fired up,” and she says she’s “Ready to go,” and everybody else says “Ready to go.”
And I’m thinking, this woman is showing me up. (Laughter.) This is my meeting. I’m running for President. (Laughter.) And she’s dominating the room. And I look at my staff, and they just shrug their shoulders. They don’t know what to do.
So this goes on for a few minutes. Now, here’s the thing, Iowa. After a few minutes, I’m feeling kind of fired up. (Laughter.) I’m feeling like I’m ready to go. (Laughter.) So I start joining in the chant, and my staff starts joining in the chant. And somehow I feel pretty good.
And we go on to talk about the lives of the people in the room, and their families and their struggles and their hopes for their kids and their grandkids. And we drive out and it’s still raining, but it doesn’t seem so bad. And we go to our next stop, and for the rest of the day, even after we left Greenwood, even though we still weren’t getting any big crowds anyplace, even though people still couldn’t pronounce my name, I felt good. (Laughter.)
And I’d see my staff, and I’d say, “Are you fired up?” They’d say, “We’re fired up.” I’d say, “Are you ready to go?” And they’d say, “We’re ready to go.” (Applause.)
And we brought that to Iowa. And during our rallies, this became a chant, and we’d have signs saying “Fired up, Ready to go.” And the woman, her name was Edith Childs -- she became a celebrity, and she was written up in The Wall Street Journal -- (laughter) -- and folks did news stories on her. And this became one of the anthems of our campaign back in 2008.
Now, here’s the end of the story, though. We knew we were coming back to Des Moines for the last campaign rally I’ll ever do for me. And so we were getting kind of sentimental. And we called up Edith Childs. And we said, why don’t you come on up? (Applause.) No, no, listen to this. We said, why don’t you come on up; we’ll fly you up from South Carolina and you can do this chant one more time, just for old good-time sake. It’s like getting the band back together again. (Laughter.)
And you know what Edith said? She said, I’d love to see you, but I think we can still win North Carolina, so I’m taking a crew into North Carolina to knock on doors on Election Day -- I don’t have time just to be talking about it. (Applause.) I’ve got to knock on some doors. (Applause.) I’ve got to turn out the vote. (Applause.) I’m still fired up, but I’ve got work to do. (Applause.)
And that shows you what one voice can do. One voice can change a room. And if it can change a room, it can change a city. And if it can change a city, it can change a state. And if it can change a state, it can change a nation. (Applause.) And if it can change a nation, it can change the world. (Applause.)
And, Iowa, in 2008, your voice changed the world. And Edith Childs asked me to ask you that if you’re willing to still stand with me tomorrow, if you’re willing to get your friends and your neighbors and your coworkers to the polls tomorrow, if you’re willing to make sure we finish what we started, she’s pretty sure we’ll win Iowa. (Applause.) She’s pretty sure we’ll win this election. (Applause.) And she just had one question for you, and that is: Are you fired up?
AUDIENCE: Ready to go!
THE PRESIDENT: Are you fired up?
AUDIENCE: Ready to go!
THE PRESIDENT: Are you fired up?
AUDIENCE: Ready to go!
THE PRESIDENT: Are you fired up?
AUDIENCE: Ready to go!
THE PRESIDENT: Iowa, tomorrow let’s remind the world just why it is the United States of America is the greatest nation on Earth. (Applause.)
I love you. (Applause.) Let’s go vote. Let’s keep moving forward. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
10:35 P.M. CST