Remarks by the First Lady at a Voter Registration Event -- Atlanta, Georgia
Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center
5:29 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, my goodness! (Applause.) I am so happy to be here in Atlanta! (Applause.) Look at you all! You all sound like you’re already fired up, so I can just leave. (Laughter.)
Well, let me tell you, it is beyond a pleasure to be here with all of you today. I want to start by giving a huge shoutout to the next senator from the state of Georgia, our friend, Michelle Nunn. (Applause.) Yes. I really like this woman. I like her.
For two decades, Michelle has been a passionate champion for families and communities across this state. Working with leading businesses, she grew a tiny non-for-profit into a world-renowned organization with millions of volunteers. And under her leadership, we have seen communities rebuilt after disasters; we’ve seen veterans and servicemembers getting the jobs they deserve; we’ve seen kids getting the support they need to succeed in school.
So folks here in Georgia know that Michelle Nunn will always be there for them, and that’s why I’m so proud to be here for her. (Applause.) Yes. And I’m very excited that all of you are here for her. I really am. I love the feeling and the energy in this room. You guys are doing it, and I’m very proud.
But I also want to thank Dr. Warnock for his wonderful remarks earlier. (Applause.) We are so thrilled and so honored that he could join us today. And of course, I want to recognize your fantastic state senator and the next governor of Georgia, Jason Carter. (Applause.) Now, Jason has been such a strong, committed leader for folks here in Georgia, as well. He’s been fighting for better schools and for more honest government. He’s been fighting to support small businesses and protect voting rights. And I know that he will be an extraordinary governor, so let’s give him another round of applause. (Applause.)
But most of all, I want to thank all of you. Really. I want to thank you. I see so many friends here, many folks who have been I know with us from the very beginning -- back when we were out in Iowa and New Hampshire talking about hope and change, and getting folks all fired up and ready to go. (Applause.) Remember that? (Applause.) Feels good in here.
And then you all were with us when Barack first took office. (Applause.) And then he took a look at the mess he’d been handed, and we both wondered what on Earth had he gotten himself into. I don’t know if you remember that far back. (Applause.) Do you remember how bad things were back then?
Let me take you back. We were in full-blown crisis mode. Our economy was literally on the brink of collapse. Wall Street Banks were folding -- remember that? Businesses were losing 800,000 jobs a month. Folks on TV were panicking about whether we were headed for another Great Depression -- do you remember that? (Applause.) And that wasn’t just talk; that was a real possibility. And this is what Barack walked into on day one as President of these United States.
Now, I want you to step back and think about how things look today, less than six years later. (Applause.) I’m not going to take forever, I’m just going to highlight a few things.
Our businesses have created 10 million new jobs -- 10 million. The long-term unemployment rate has dropped by more than half over the past four years -- half. (Applause.) We’ve now had the longest period of job growth since World War II. (Applause.) And folks across the country have gone back to work -- overall unemployment is the lowest it’s been in nearly six years. We’ve cut our deficit by more than half. We’re sending more kids to college. And after decades of trying to pass health reform, today, millions of Americans, millions of families finally have health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act. (Applause.)
And just think about how different our country looks to children growing up today. Think about how our kids take for granted that a black person or a woman can be President of the United States -- they just take it for granted now. (Applause.) They take for granted that their President will end hurtful policies like “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and speak out for equality for all of our citizens. (Applause.)
So today, when folks ask me whether I still believe everything we said about hope and change back in 2008, look, I tell them that I believe it more strongly than ever before because I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I’ve seen it. I’m out there. (Applause.)
I’ve seen veterans finding jobs as our nation proudly supports their transition to civilian life. I’ve seen children getting better nutrition, growing up healthier -- our babies. I’ve seen our young people from the most underserved areas reaching higher and going to college, and then reaching back to serve their own communities. I’ve seen it. (Applause.)
So while we still have plenty of work to do -- we do -- much of that change we were talking about we’ve already made. We’ve seen it.
But I want you to remember -- Barack didn’t do all that by himself, sitting alone in the Oval Office. Thankfully he did it because of folks like you across the country who got organized and got people out to vote, and elected leaders in Congress who put you and your families first. That’s how we passed legislation to rescue our economy and save our auto industry -- and so much more.
And if we want to keep helping families here in Georgia and across this country, we need to do that same thing again this year. We’ve got to do the same thing. Because, frankly, if we lose these midterm elections, it’s going to be a whole lot harder to finish what we started. Because things will be even worse out in Washington. Instead of leaders coming together on behalf of hardworking families and finding consensus on the issues that matter most, we’ll just see more conflict and more obstruction, more lawsuits and talk about impeachment, more votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or even shut the government down -- behavior that just wastes time and wastes taxpayer dollars.
In fact, it’s gotten so bad, they’re even trying to block the work that I do on childhood obesity. (Applause.) And that’s really saying something. I mean, for most folks in this country, making sure that our kids get decent nutrition isn’t all that controversial, because as parents, there is nothing we wouldn’t do for our kids -- nothing. We always put our kids’ interests first. We wake up every morning, we got to bed every night thinking and worrying about their health, their happiness, their futures. And we deserve leaders across this country who will do the same.
We deserve leaders who believe like we do that no matter how our kids start out in life, if they’re willing to work for it, they should have every opportunity to fulfill every last bit of their boundless promise. They should have every opportunity to get a good education and build a decent life for themselves and an even better life for their own kids. That’s what we believe. That’s the American Dream we all believe in. And that is what these midterm elections are all about. That’s what’s at stake. (Applause.)
And I want to be very clear with you: These races are going to be unbelievably tight. They could be won or lost by just a few thousand, even a few hundred votes. You know how tight that is?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: That’s tight.
MRS. OBAMA: That’s tight! (Laughter.) That’s right. That’s too tight.
But here’s the good news: We have all the votes we need right now to win these races if -- if -- we get folks registered, and if we get them out to vote in November. It’s on us. It’s on us. (Applause.)
Let’s delve a little deeper into the numbers, because I think this helps -- this helps me. When they give me these numbers I’m like, are you kidding me?
If we increase the voter rolls by just three percent by adding democratic voters, and we get those folks out to vote, then we will soon be swearing in senator Michelle Nunn and governor Jason Carter -- three percent. (Applause.) Let me put it another way -- another way -- if just 50 democratic voters per precinct who didn’t vote in 2010 get out and vote this November -- just 50 per precinct -- then Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter will win. (Applause.) Think about it.
That’s why your gathering here is so important. If everyone here today registers just one person -- and you know more than one person you can get to register -- but if you just get one, and then you get that person out to vote, then we could win a whole bunch of precincts. And we have the power to do that right here in this room. See, because you all are already fired up and ready and focused -- you are the champions, which is why you’re here.
So this one is on us. That’s the scary part, but that’s the beauty -- this is on us. We can’t wait around for anybody else to do this for us.
Now, it’s true that there is too much money in politics. And it’s true that special interests have too much influence. But let me tell you something -- they had plenty of money and influence back in 2008 and 2012, and we still won those elections. (Applause.) Just think about it. You want to know why we won? Because we showed up and we voted. And at the end of the day, the folks running those special interest groups, the folks pouring millions of dollars into those elections -- they each just had one vote, just like you and me -- and so do we.
And ultimately, the only thing that counts in America are those votes. That what decides elections in the United States of America. And that’s why Barack Obama is President right now. (Applause.) He is President right now because a whole bunch of folks who never voted before showed up in 2008 and 2012.
And a lot of people were shocked when Barack won, because they were counting on folks like you to stay home. But you proved them wrong. Barack won because record numbers of women and minorities and young people showed up to vote. (Applause.)
But then, when the midterms come along, too many people of our folks just tuned out. See, that’s what happens in the midterms -- and that’s what folks on the other side are counting on this year too. Because when you stay home, they win. So they’re assuming that you won’t care. They’re assuming that you won’t be organized and energized. And only you can prove them wrong. Only you can show up and vote for Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter, and other outstanding leaders who will fight every day for folks here in Georgia -- only you. (Applause.)
And I’m counting on you. I believe in you. So if you care about what is happening in your communities, if you care about the safety of our young men and women on the streets, if you care about justice and equality, then you need to get registered, and then you need to vote. And then you need to get everyone you know -- everyone you know -- to vote, too -- everyone you know.
Bring folks from your family, neighborhood, the church. Don’t leave anyone behind. That’s how we did it before. You have until October the 6th to get registered. And if you know someone who just moved to Georgia, make sure they get registered too. And that includes college students. (Applause.)
If you are attending college here in Georgia, you can register to vote here. Couldn’t be easier. Just go to MyGAVote.com -- that’s MyGAVote.com. I know young people, you’re on the Internet on your little black things, whatever those things are -- (laughter) -- you’re on those! And that site will take -- yes, I’m getting there. I’m trying -- my kids are trying to hook me up. (Laughter.) But I know you can get on there from those things. They do more than just take selfies. (Laughter.) You can get information. You go on that site, it will take you right to the Secretary of State’s website, and that’s where you register to vote.
And once everyone you know is registered, then we need you to volunteer, right? (Applause.) Volunteer for Georgia Victory and start registering folks across the state. Just find one of the people here -- we’ve got people here with clipboards -- see them? They’re here! Turn around, look at our clipboard people. (Applause.) Many of them are young people -- and some not so young, but they’re here! (Laughter.) And then bring some friends along with you. This is how we do it. You bring your friends along with you when you volunteer.
And don’t wait another minute to get started, because we’ve got less than two months until Election Day, and we need all of you to be passionate and as hungry for these midterm elections as you were back in 2008 and 2012. In fact, we need you to be even more passionate and more hungry, because these midterm races will be even harder and even closer than those presidential races, and they’re just as important.
And the stakes this year couldn’t be higher. Because if we don’t show up at the polls this November, if we don’t elect leaders in Congress and here in Georgia who will put people first instead of just fighting for special interests, then we know exactly what will happen. We will see more folks interfering in women’s private decisions about our health care. We’ll see more folks denying that climate change even exists. We’ll see more votes against equal pay and immigration reform and raising the minimum wage for hardworking folks. (Applause.)
So I want to be very clear: If you think folks who work 40 or 50 hours a week shouldn’t have to live in poverty in the wealthiest nation on Earth; if you don’t want women’s bosses making decisions about their birth control; if you want your kids to have quality preschool and the college education they need to fulfill every last bit of their God-given potential -- then you need to step up and get everyone you know out to vote this November. That’s what’s at stake in these elections -- the kind of country we want to leave for our kids and our grandkids. (Applause.)
And let’s just remember, our kids are counting on us to stand up for them this November. That’s why I’m here. Our kids are counting on us. I see it in every child I meet.
They’re kids like a young man named Lawrence Lawson, who I met earlier this year. Let me tell you about this kid. His father died when he was just eight years old. At the age of nine, Lawrence suffered a major seizure and had to learn to read, walk and speak again. When he was 12, his mother passed away, and Lawrence was passed from his aunt in Atlanta to his sister in Baltimore.
But no matter where he was, Lawrence did his best in school -- joined the band, interned at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He graduated as the valedictorian of his high school class, this young man. (Applause.) And as I travel across the country, I meet kids like Lawrence every day -- kids who wake up early and take the long route to school to avoid gangs; kids who juggle after-school jobs to support their families, and stay up late to get their homework done; kids whose parents don’t speak a word of English, but who are fighting every day to realize their dream of a better life. (Applause.)
These kids have every reason to give up. But they are so hungry to succeed. They are so desperate to lift themselves up. And that’s why we’re here today -- because those kids never give up, and neither can we. (Applause.) Neither can we.
Between now and November, we need to be energized for them. We need to be inspired for them -- not for me, not for the President, but for them. We need to pour everything we have into these elections so that they can have the opportunities they need to build the future they deserve.
And if we all do that -- especially in this room -- if we all keep stepping up and bringing others along with us, then I know that we can keep making that change we believe in. I know that we can send Michelle Nunn to the United States Senate. I know we can elect Jason Carter as governor of Georgia. (Applause.) And together we can keep building a future worthy of all of our children.
Thank you all. God bless. Get to work. (Applause.)
5:51 P.M. EDT