Remarks by First Lady Michelle Obama at Michaud for Governor Rally
University of Maine
4:40 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Hey, Maine! (Applause.) Oh my goodness, thank you guys! Thanks so much. Wow, you guys are really fired up and I love it! (Applause.)
I am so thrilled to be back in Maine -- I just wish I could stay longer. (Laughter and applause.) But let me start by thanking our friend, the next governor of Maine, Mike Michaud. (Applause.)
I don’t know about you, but -- I don’t know why you’re here but I’m here for Mike. I’m here for Mike. (Laughter and applause.) And just listening to him backstage, he is a decent man. He is an honest man. He is a hard-working man. And I am very proud to be here in support of him. Mike understands what families here in Maine are going through -- he knows. And as you all know, the entire time he was serving in your state legislature, he was working on the mill floor at the Great Northern Paper Company. He worked there for more than 29 years. So when it comes to creating jobs and making sure folks get a decent paycheck for their work, Mike understands what’s at stake in people’s lives. And Mike doesn’t get caught up in partisanship or politics. He was unanimously elected president of the Maine Senate by 17 Democrats, 17 Republicans and one independent. (Applause.) And he worked hard to bring those folks together to do great things for this state like raise the minimum wage, and cut taxes for small businesses, and so much more.
And Mike brought that same spirit to Congress -- working across the aisle to improve benefits for our veterans, and promote clean energy, and make sure our military uniforms are 100 percent made here in the U.S., including right here in Maine. (Applause.)
So whether it’s strengthening the economy, or expanding access to health care, or ensuring that women get equal pay for equal work, Mike will wake up, as he said, every day ready to fight for hard-working families. And so, once again, I’m so proud to be here on his behalf and I think you all for being here to support him as well.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you! (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: I love you, too. (Laughter and applause.)
I also want to recognize Senator Emily Cain. (Applause.) Yes, Emily. (Applause.) And Emily’s mom. (Laughter.) Emily has led the charge in your state legislature for economic development and better schools and more affordable health care, and I know that she will be an outstanding Congresswoman for the people of the 2nd district, so be sure to vote for Emily along with Mike on November the 4th. (Applause.) Yay, Emily! (Applause.)
And I also want to give a big hello to Cecile Richards who has been such a strong, passionate advocate for women and families across this country -- and I’m thrilled -- it was a pleasure, I know for all of you, to hear from her today. (Applause.)
And thanks also -- I’ve got a lot of people to thank here in Maine. You guys have made my visit so special, I want to thank the president of this university, Susan Hunter, for her outstanding leadership and for hosting us here today. (Applause.)
But most of all, I want to thank you guys, I really do. (Applause.) Yes, I see so many wonderful faces -- folks who have been with us from the beginning, folks who are new to this whole endeavor. I remember some of you were with us back when we were out in Iowa and New Hampshire, talking about hope and change and getting all fired up and ready to go -- remember that? Yes! (Applause.)
And then you all were with us when Barack first took office. (Applause.) And he had a moment to step back and take a good look at the mess he had been handed. (Laughter.) And wondered what on Earth he’d gotten himself into. (Laughter.)
But let’s go back for a moment, because I want you to remember how bad things were back then -- because it’s easy to forget, particularly for the young people because you all were young, you weren’t paying attention. (Laughter.) But when Barack first stepped into office, this country was in full-blown crisis mode. Our economy was literally on the brink of collapse. If you can imagine, Wall Street banks were folding. Businesses were losing 800,000 jobs a month. Folks on TV on the news were panicking about whether we were headed for another Great Depression –- and that wasn’t just talk, that was a real possibility. And there was more -- that was just domestically. But that’s just some of what Barack walked into on day one as President.
Now, I want to bring you to today. And I want you to look at where we are less than six years later. By almost every economic measure, we are better off today than when Barack took office. And here is why. (Applause.) Our businesses have created more than 10 million new jobs since 2010. (Applause.) And that’s including the 236,000 jobs created just last month. This is the longest uninterrupted run of private-sector job growth in our nation’s history. You understand that? In the history of this nation. (Applause.)
The unemployment rate has dropped from a peak of 10 percent back in 2009 to 5.9 percent today. (Applause.) And right now -- and this is important for our young people -- right now, more job openings are available than at any time since 2001. (Applause.)
Last year, the number of children living in poverty decreased by 1.4 million –- that is the largest drop since 1966. (Applause.) And today, our high school graduation rate is at a record high. More of our young people are graduating from college than ever before. And as you know, because of the Affordable Care Act, health care costs are growing at the slowest rate in nearly 50 years, and millions more Americans finally have health insurance. (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. (Applause.) They take for granted that their President will end hurtful policies like don’t ask, don’t tell and will speak out for equality for all Americans. (Applause.)
This is the kind of change that can happen when we elect leaders who share our values and who listen to our voices. And that’s what this election is all about. It’s about whether we’re going to elect leaders who will fight for our families and for the kind of world we want to leave for our kids and grandkids.
That’s the kind of leadership people here in Maine deserve. And that’s why we need to elect Mike Michaud as governor of this state. Mike -- we need him. (Applause.) And that’s why I’m here.
See, Mike, he 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 and go to bed every night thinking and worrying about their health, their happiness, their futures. Yes, young people, you drive us nuts. (Laughter.)
So we deserve leaders like Mike who believe 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 and they should have every opportunity to get a good education, build a decent life for themselves and a better life for their own kids. That’s the American Dream we all believe in. And that’s what this election here in Maine is all about.
Now, it’s true that there is too much money in politics. And, yes, it’s true that -- (applause) -- it’s true that special interests have too much influence. But here is 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.)
I want you to understand the power that all of you have. 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 who poured millions of dollars into those elections –- they each have just one vote, just like we do.
And ultimately, the only thing that counts are those votes. That’s what decides elections in the United States of , and that’s why Barack Obama is President right now. (Applause.) He is President because a whole bunch of folks who never voted before showed up to vote in 2008 and 2012. And 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. Barack won because record numbers of women and minorities and young people showed up to vote.
But, see, then when the midterms came along, too many of our people just tuned out -- and that’s what folks are counting on, on the other side this year. Because when we stay home, they win. So they’re assuming that we won’t care. They’re hoping that we won’t be organized. And only we can prove them wrong. (Applause.)
And as Mike said, this race is going to be tight. We know that races like this can be won or lost by just a few thousand -- even just a few hundred votes.
I want you to just think about what happened in the governor’s race here in Maine back in 2010. The outcome of that election -- yes, you guys are like, ooh. (Laughter.) But the outcome of that election was decided by about 9,800 votes. And while that might sound like a lot, when you break down that number, that’s about eight votes per precinct. Do you understand that? That’s eight votes.
Now I know that every single one of you knows eight people who can get to the polls, right? (Laughter.) You know eight people who didn’t vote in those elections. (Applause.) You know eight people who are thinking in their minds that their vote doesn’t count. You know those folks. You know them. They say, why should I vote, what does it matter. Well, it made the difference in last year’s election for governor -- 2010. So let’s be clear: This is on us. We can’t wait around for anyone else to do this for us. It’s on us to get people energized. It’s on us to get folks out to vote on November the 4th.
And that’s where you all come in. We need all of you out there every day -- do you hear me? Every day. Not every other -- every day between now and November 4th we need you knocking on doors and making calls and getting everyone you know out to vote for Mike because it will be that ground game that makes the difference. It’s that kind of hard work for anybody who worked on our campaign -- you know how valuable that kind of day-to-day work is. Don’t ever underestimate it. And it may seem tedious, and it may be a little bit frightening knocking on a stranger’s door, but it’s that kind of interaction with your neighbors that makes all the difference.
And you can sign up to volunteer right here and right now -- just find one of the organizers with the clipboard. They’re all here. And I want every single one of you to sign up for at least one shift for the final four days of the election -- that’s essential. It’s those last four days, that last big push.
And then, on Election Day, when you head to the polls to vote for Mike, I want you all to bring eight people with you. (Laughter.) Okay? Bring your eight people with you. Bring folks from your family, your neighborhood, your church, your school, your classmates, your dormmates. Don’t leave anyone behind.
And start reaching out to those folks today just to tell them to mark November 4th on their calendars. This race will be so close. And on election night, as the results are coming in, I want you to be able to look back and know that you did everything you could to elect Mike as the next governor of Maine, because the stakes this year simply could not be higher.
And if we don’t show up at the polls this November, if we don’t elect leaders like Mike 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 opposition to raising the minimum wage and ensuring access to health care for hard-working folks. (Applause.)
So 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 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 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 grandkids. That’s what’s at stake. (Applause.)
And here is what I want you to remember: Those kids, our kids, are counting on us to stand up for them this November. And there are so many of these kids all over the country who I meet every day who are counting on us. Kids like a young man named Lawrence Lawson who I met earlier this year.
This kid lost his father -- he died when he was just eight years old. And at the age of nine, Lawrence suffered a major seizure and had to learn to read, and walk and speak again. When he was twelve, his mom 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. He joined the marching band, interned at John’s Hopkins hospital, and he graduated as the valedictorian of his high school class. (Applause.)
And I share this story -- there are so many like them -- because as I travel across the 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 and then 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 don’t because 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.)
So between now and November, we need to be energized for them. 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 deserve to build a better life.
And here is what I know: As First Lady of the United States, I have learned that if we do that, if we take all our energy and passion and caring and good intention, and we pour it into this election, and we bring others along with us, then I know that we can keep on making that change we believe in. I know that we can elect Mike Michaud as governor of Maine. And I know that, together, we can build a future worthy of all our children.
Thank you all so much. Good luck. We are with you every step of the way. Don’t get tired. We love you. Thank you. (Applause.)