Remarks by the First Lady at a Voter Mobilization Rally -- Milwaukee, Wisconsin
4:41 P.M. CDT
MRS. OBAMA: Wow! (Applause.) I’m so excited to be in Milwaukee today! (Applause.)
Let me start -- let me begin --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I love you, Michelle! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: I love you. And I love our dear friend, the next governor of Wisconsin, Mary Burke. (Applause.) I love her. This is the first time I’ve met Mary, although she is all the buzz -- she is. But let me tell you, from our interaction, I love her. (Applause.) She is smart. She’s in this for the right reasons. She cares about people. She doesn’t care about politics. She has been such a passionate champion for our kids and families here in Wisconsin.
Back when she was a top executive of a global company, she volunteered as a mentor for two little boys -- I love this story -- and that experience inspired her to pursue a career in public service -- much like me and the President. (Applause.) She then went on to lead the Board of Directors of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Madison, raising millions of dollars to help thousands of underserved kids in the state.
She became Wisconsin’s Secretary of Commerce, supporting small businesses across the state. She founded, as she said, an education program to close the achievement gap -– a program that sent more than 90 percent of the young people on to higher education, many of them the first in their families to go to college. (Applause.)
So why wouldn’t I be here for Mary Burke? (Applause.) Why wouldn’t I come here for this amazing woman? Make no mistake about it: Mary knows how to create jobs, how to give our young people the skills they need to fill those jobs. And she knows that a strong middle class is the key to a strong economy here in Wisconsin. (Applause.)
And that’s where her heart is -- Mary’s heart is with hardworking families and with kids who are hungry to fulfill their boundless potential. And as Governor, that’s who she’s going to be fighting for every single day. So I am proud, so honored to be here for Mary today. And I am so proud to support her as the next governor of the great state of Wisconsin. (Applause.)
Now, I also want to recognize your outstanding Congresswoman, Congresswoman Gwen Moore. (Applause.) There she is! And she’s got her cute little granddaughter here who eats here vegetables, which I love. (Laughter.) I’m glad they could both be here.
But most of all, I want to thank all of you -- gosh, you guys are so fired up! I love it! (Applause.) And I know as I look over this room, I many old friends here today –- people who have been with us right from the very beginning. (Applause.) I love that you are here for Mary Burke -- I love that! (Applause.) You were here back when we were out in Iowa and New Hampshire talking about hope and change and getting all fired up and ready to go. You remember that? (Applause.) And then you all were with us when Barack first took office. (Applause.) Yes, well he took office and took a good look at the mess he’d been handed, and wondered what on Earth he had gotten himself into.
Let me just take you back for a moment, because I want you to remember how bad things were back then. Remember -- because sometimes we forget. We were in full-blown crisis mode. Our economy was literally on the brink of collapse. Wall Street banks were folding. Businesses were losing 800,000 jobs a month. Folks on TV were panicking about whether we were headed for another Great Depression –- and that wasn’t just talk, that was a real possibility. I could go on, but this is what Barack Obama walked into on day one as President.
So now, let’s move forward. Now, let’s think about how things look today, less than six years later. Listen to me: Our businesses have created 10 million new jobs since 2010, which is the longest uninterrupted run of private sector job growth in our nation’s history. (Applause.) Last year, the number of children living in poverty decreased by 1.4 million –- the largest drop since 1966. And right now, our high school graduation rate is at a record high, and more of our young people are graduating from college than ever before. (Applause.)
Manufacturing is growing. Construction and homeownership are rebounding. And today, because of the Affordable Care Act -- (applause) -- because of the Affordable Care Act, health care costs are growing at the slowest rate in history, and we’ve seen a 26 percent drop in the uninsured rate as millions more Americans finally have health insurance. (Applause.)
And I want you to 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 of America. (Applause.) Our kids take for granted that their President will end hurtful policies like “don’t ask, don’t tell” and speak out for equality. (Applause.)
So, Wisconsin, today, when folks ask me whether I still believe everything we said about hope and change back in 2008, I tell them that I believe it more strongly than ever before -- because I’ve seen it with my own eyes. (Applause.) I’ve seen our veterans finding jobs as our nation proudly supports their transition to civilian life. I’ve seen children getting better nutrition and growing up healthier. I’ve seen young people from the most underserved areas reaching higher and going to college, and reaching back to their communities to bring others along. So, yes, while we still have plenty of work to do, we have truly made so much of that change we were talking about.
But here’s what I want you to remember --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I love you, Michelle! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: I love you all. That’s why we are going to keep working. We are going to get Mary into office. We are going to work! (Applause.) We are going to work.
See, because Barack didn’t do all of that just sitting alone in the Oval Office. He did it with the help of outstanding leaders in states across this country -– leaders who are working hard to create good jobs and invest in our schools, who believe in education; leaders who support women and families by raising the minimum wage; leaders who are fighting for equal pay; leaders who are supporting women’s rights to make our own decisions about our health care. (Applause.) That’s the kind of leadership people here in Wisconsin deserve. And that’s why we need to support Mary Burke for Governor. (Applause.)
You see, I know Mary understands that there is nothing we wouldn’t do for our children -- nothing. We always put our kids’ interests first. We wake up every morning, go to bed every night thinking and worrying about their health, their happiness, their futures. And we deserve leaders like Mary 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 their boundless promise. (Applause.) 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 the American Dream we all believe in, and that’s what this election here in Wisconsin is all about. That’s what’s at stake.
And make no mistake about it, as Mary said, this race is going to be tight. We know that races like this can be won or lost by just a few thousand or even just a few hundred votes. And just think back to what happened in the governor’s race back in 2010. The outcome of that election was decided by about 62,000 votes. And while that might sound like a lot, when you break it down, that’s about 10 votes per ward -- that’s right, just 10 votes per ward.
Now, I know that every single one of you in this room knows 10 people that you can get to the polls, right? That’s how I want you to think about this. It is that close. So when people act like their vote doesn’t count, every vote counts. Let’s be clear: This election is on us. (Applause.) We can’t wait around for anyone else to do this. It’s on us to get people energized and organized and out to vote on November the 4th. That’s on us.
Now, it’s true that there is too much money in politics. And it is true that special interests have too much influence. But here’s what I want you to remember: They had plenty of money and influence back in 2008 and 2012 and we still won those elections. (Applause.) And you want to know why we won? There’s a reason why we won -- we won because we showed up and we voted. (Applause.) And at the end of the day, the folks running those special interest groups, the folks who poured millions of dollars into those election, they each have just one vote -- and so do each of us. That’s how it works in America.
And ultimately, the only thing that counts are those votes. That’s what decides elections in this country. And that’s why Barack Obama is President right now. (Applause.) He is our President because a whole bunch of folks who never voted before showed up to vote in 2008 and 2012. (Applause.)
And I don’t know if you remember, but a lot of people were shocked when Barack won because they were counting on folks like us to stay home. But we proved them wrong. (Applause.) Barack won because record numbers of women and minorities and young people showed up to vote. That’s why we won. (Applause.)
But here’s what happens -- but then when the midterms come along, too many of our people just tuned out. And that’s what folks on the other side are counting on this year, because when we stay home, they win. So they’re assuming that we won’t care. They’re assuming that we won’t be organized and energized. And only we can prove them wrong.
And that’s where all of you come in. Look at this room -- just think about the power that is in this room. And I know you could multiply this across the state, this energy. We need you out there every day between now and November 4th. We need you knocking on doors -- this is the work that gets it done -- knocking on doors, making calls -- don’t underestimate that -- getting everyone you know out to vote for Mary Burke.
And I’m going to be real prescriptive here. I want you to start, for those of you who haven’t been involved, just to go the website BurkeForWisconsin.com. All right, young people, get those things out that you have -- whatever you do. (Laughter.) Help the older folks in your lives if they don’t know how to do it -- BurkeForWisconsin.com –- and then click on “take action.” That’s where you can sign up to volunteer and find the campaign office closest to you. Or you can just find one of the folks here today with clipboards. Where are our clipboard people? Raise your hands, hold them up! Find your clipboard -- there are people here right now to help you get signed up and get out there and vote.
And then on Election Day, when you head to the polls to vote for Mary, bring everyone you know along with you -- no, really. Bring folks from your family, from your neighborhood, from your church –- don’t leave anyone behind. And start reaching out to those folks today. Tell them to mark November 4th on their calendars. Tell them that they’ve got just a little over a month until Election Day. And we all need to be as passionate and as hungry for this election as we were back in 2008 and 2012. (Applause.)
In fact, we need to be more passionate and more hungry, because races like this governor’s race here in Wisconsin will be even harder and even closer than those presidential elections. But they are just as important. And the stakes this year simply could not be higher.
Because if we don’t show up at the polls this November, if we don’t elect leaders like Mary Burke who will put people first instead of just fighting for special interests, then we know exactly what will happen. We can’t pretend like we don’t know. We will see more folks interfering in women’s private decisions about our health care. We will see more folks denying that climate change even exists. We will see more votes against immigration reform and raising the minimum wage for hard-working folks.
So I don’t want you to be surprised. I want to be very clear: If you think people 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 think women should get equal pay for equal work; if you want your kids to have quality preschool and the college education they need to fill their potential -- then you need to step up. You need to get everyone you know out to vote this November.
That’s what’s at stake in this election –- the kind of country we want to leave for our kids and grandkids. See, because those kids are counting on us to stand up for them this November. I know these kids; you know these kids. They’re kids like a young man I met, Lawrence Lawson. I could tell so many stories -- I’m going to share this one.
Lawrence is a young man whose 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 and walk and speak again. When he was 12, his mother died, and Lawrence was passed from his aunt in Atlanta to his sister in Baltimore.
But why I tell this story is that this young man, no matter where he was or what he was going through, Lawrence did his best in school. He joined the marching band. He interned at Johns Hopkins hospital. And he graduated as the valedictorian of his high school class.
And I tell this story because as I travel across this country, I meet so many kids just like Lawrence -- kids who wake up early and take the long route to school to avoid the gangs; kids who juggle afterschool jobs to support their families, 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. They 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. We cannot give up on them.
So between now and November, we need to be energized for our kids. We need to be inspired for them. We need to pour everything we have into this election so that they can have the opportunities they need to build the future they deserve.
And if we do that -- if we all keep stepping up and bringing others along with us -- then I know that we can keep on making that change we believe in. I know we can elect Mary Burke as governor of Wisconsin. And I know that together, we can build a better future for all our kids.
Thank you so much. God bless. (Applause.)
5:03 P.M. CDT