Remarks by the First Lady at Grassroots Campaign Event for Candidate Mary Burke -- Madison, Wisconsin
Overture Center for the Performing Arts
12:42 P.M. CDT
MRS. OBAMA: Well, hello, Madison! (Applause.) Oh, thank you all so much. I am thrilled to be back. You know why I came back? Because I love your -- our next governor of Wisconsin, Mary Burke. Let’s give her a round of applause! (Applause.) She is amazing, amazing. Mary is amazing. I love her. I love her because she’s smart. I love her because she’s a decent person. I love her because it’s hard to find decent people who are willing to do this. (Laughter.) And when we find them, we have to support them.
I love her because she’s doing this for the right reasons, and because she cares to deeply about the people of Wisconsin. I’ve seen that in the time I’ve spent with her. She cares about this state. And we know that because we can just look at what she’s done with her life.
Mary reached the pinnacle of success as a top executive of a global company, but she left that job to lead the Board of Directors of the Madison Boys and Girls Clubs -- we love our Boys and Girls Clubs. (Applause.) And why did she do it? Because she wanted to help kids here in this state.
Then, as you know, she became Secretary of Commerce because she wanted to fight for middle-class families and for small businesses. (Applause.) And then, as she mentioned, she started a program to help young people from underserved communities go to college.
So we know where Mary’s heart is. We know who she’s going to stand for as Governor. (Applause.) We know that when it comes to fighting for kids and families, when it comes to creating jobs and preparing our young people to fill those jobs, no candidate is more passionate, more effective, and more committed than Mary Burke. So I am proud to be here today for her. (Applause.) And I am proud to support her as the next governor of Wisconsin. And you all, I’m proud of you for supporting her, as well. (Applause.)
I also want to recognize a couple of our outstanding Wisconsin leaders -– Congressman Mark Pocan is here. (Applause.) Our candidate for Attorney General, Susan Happ. (Applause.) So we are so grateful for their leadership and their service.
But most of all, I want to thank all of you for taking the time to be here today, for what you’re doing. Now, as you all know, I was just here in Wisconsin last week. So I’m sorry if you’re getting sick of me, but I’m back. (Laughter.) But there’s a reason why I wanted to come back. I wanted to come here to Madison to talk a little more with a lot of you, particularly our young people who are here -- and I don’t want to leave out those of you who are young at heart, too. (Applause.)
But for our young people, more than anyone else, this election is about you. It’s about your hopes and your dreams, and the world you want to pass onto your kids and your grandkids, truly. But despite that fundamental truth, I know that too many young people feel that elections just don’t matter -- I know that. They feel that politics doesn’t really make a difference, so they figure, why bother to show up and vote? And if there is anyone here who feels this way or knows someone who feels this way, then I’d just ask you to consider some facts -- and I talked about these facts when I was in Milwaukee, but they’re worth repeating.
I want you to think about all the change we’ve seen these past six years under this President, Barack Obama. (Applause.) Now, I can’t believe this -- we’ve been in office for six years, so there might be some of you who are really too young to remember what things were like back in 2008 when Barack first took office.
Our economy was literally on the brink of collapse. Wall Street banks were folding, if you can imagine that. Businesses were losing 800,000 jobs every single month. Young people were panicking about whether they’d ever be able to find jobs after graduating. Folks on TV, the pundits, the prognosticators worried about whether we were headed for another Great Depression –- and this wasn’t just talk, it was actually a real possibility. This was the mess that Barack had been handed on day one as President of the United States. This is what awaited him.
So now I want you to think about how things look today, just six years later. By almost every economic measure, we are better off today than when Barack Obama took office. That is a fact. (Applause.)
Here’s just some of the proof: Our businesses have created more than 10 million new jobs since 2010 –- that’s including the 236,000 jobs created last month alone. (Applause.) And this is the longest uninterrupted run of private sector job growth in our nation’s history -- do you realize that? In our history. (Applause.) The unemployment rate for young people is down from a 10.6 percent high in 2009 to 2.6 [6.2] percent today. (Applause.)
More of our young people are graduating from college than ever before. We’ve expanded financial aid. (Applause.) And for millions of students, we’ll be capping federal student loan payments at no more than 10 percent of your income -- boy, I wish I had had that when I was your age. (Laughter.) So close! Because this President believes that you all shouldn’t be buried in debt like we were when you’re just starting out in life. (Applause.)
Under the Affordable Care Act -- (applause) -- millions of our young people have health care because they can stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26 years old. (Applause.) So when you guys graduate from school, if you can’t find a job right away, you won’t be left out in the cold just praying that you don’t get sick or hurt.
And for the last six years, we’ve had a President who shares our most fundamental values -- a President who ends hurtful policies like “don’t ask, don’t tell,” -- (applause) -- a President who believes, truly believes that everyone in this country should have a chance to succeed no matter what they look like, or how much money they have, or who they love. (Applause.)
So for all my young people, and for all the people here in Madison and throughout this state, if anyone ever tells you that elections don’t matter, you tell them to look back at the last six years. Tell them about all those two elections did to change the course of history in this country. And tell them that the same is true this year, right here in Wisconsin.
You see, this November, you all have the opportunity to elect a leader who truly reflects your values, someone who will truly take Wisconsin in a new direction. (Applause.) Yes! This November, you all can elect a leader who will fight to create jobs for you when you graduate and make sure those jobs pay a decent wage. (Applause.) That’s in your hands.
You can elect a leader who will build good schools and make college more affordable for all of our kids, a leader who will fight for equal pay for women -- (applause) -- a leader who will support our right as women to make our own decisions about our bodies and about our health care. (Applause.) Ladies, that’s the kind of leader Mary Burke will be, and that’s why we need to do everything we can to elect her as the next governor of Wisconsin. (Applause.) It’s on us.
Now, I know that some of you might still be cynical about elections because you feel like there’s too much money in politics, like special interests have too much influence. And it’s true -- they do. But I want you to remember, particularly young people, that they had plenty of money and influence back in 2008 and 2012, and we still won those elections. (Applause.) We won those elections because of young people like all of you. We won it because of you, our young people.
For years, people had counted you out. That was the conventional wisdom. I heard it throughout all of our campaigns. They said, young people don’t care, young people aren’t engaged and won’t show up on Election Day. But boy, did you show them -- you proved them wrong for Barack Obama. (Applause.) I was so proud to see young people out there knocking on doors, taking time out of their lives to make calls. You used every kind of social media tool available -– things I’d never heard of before -– (laughter) -- and you inspired people across the country to get to the polls and cast their votes. That’s what you did for Barack.
But then, what happened in 2008 and 2012 reminded us of a simple truth: that at the end of the day, the folks running those special interest groups and the folks who poured millions of dollars into those elections, they each just still have one vote. And so do each of us. And those votes are what decides elections in this country. And every single one of those votes is critical, because Mary’s race is going to be tight -- in fact, we know that races like this can be won or lost by just a few thousand or even a few hundred votes.
And this is always a statistic when I go to state -- a state -- that amazes me, that just really brings home how close these elections are. In the governor’s race here back in 2010, that race was decided by about 62,000 votes. And that might sound like a lot, but when you break it down, that’s about 10 votes per ward. Just 10 votes per ward made the difference in that election.
Now, I know that every single one of you here today knows 10 people that didn’t vote in that last election and who you can get out to the polls in this one. You know 10 people, especially our young people -- you know 10 people in your dorm, in that hallway, sleeping in in your frat and sorority. (Laughter.) You know 10 people that you met at that party last Saturday night after you spent all day in the library studying, of course. (Laughter.) You all, young people, you know 10 people in your lives who aren’t focused, who don’t know what’s at stake. You know 10 people that you can energize.
And everyone here is in that position. Find your 10 people -- think like that. It takes 10 more people to change the course of an election. So let’s be clear: This one is on us. Let’s just understand that: This is on us. We can’t wait around for anyone else to do this for us.
So here in Wisconsin, as Mary said, we need you out there every day between now and November the 4th doing what you know how to do. You knock on those doors, make those calls, get everyone you know out for Mary. And I don’t know if Mary mentioned this -- you can just go to the website BurkeForWisconsin.com -– young people, BurkeForWisconsin.com. (Laughter.) You may have to help some of the young-at-heart people find the website. (Laughter.) I know, it’s me, too. My children think I’m really an idiot when it comes to technology. But when you get to the website, just click on “take action,” and 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 a clipboard, and you can sign up right now to get out there -- we got clipboard people! I love to see our clipboard -- that’s a sign of pure political organization right there. Love it, I love it. (Applause.)
So you can sign up right now to volunteer and get folks out there to vote. And then, on Election Day, when you head to the polls to vote for Mary, bring everyone you know along with you. Because just because they registered and you talked to them last week, you know your friends. (Laughter.) That doesn’t mean they’re actually going to wake up and do it, right? So you’ve got to go get them. Bring your roommate, bring your teammate, bring that cute guy or girl you have that crush on -- that’s a good reason to connect. (Laughter.) Just a tip! Trust me, they’ll be impressed. (Applause.) Don’t leave anyone behind, because getting out and voting for Mary isn’t just the right thing to do, it isn’t just your civic responsibility -- it’s the first step to bringing greater opportunity and equality for everyone across this state. Yes! (Applause.)
And I want you all to make no mistake about it, if you all don’t show up to vote on November the 4th, then you’ll just be leaving this election to other folks –- folks who might have very different values and priorities. And if that happens, and we don’t elect leaders like Mary Burke who will put people first instead of just fighting for special interests, then we know what the consequences will be.
We will see even more folks interfering in women’s private decisions about our health care. We will see more folks denying that climate change even exists. We’ll see more opposition to immigration reform and raising the minimum wage for hard-working families.
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 don’t want women’s bosses making decisions about their birth control, if you think every person in this country should have the chance to go to college and build a good life for themselves, then you have to step up, and you have to get everyone you know to step up and get out there and vote this November. (Applause.)
Because in the end, that’s really what’s at stake in these elections –- the future that we want to leave to all of you, the country you inherit, the country we want to build for our young people -- for all of you all. And I’m thinking about a young person I met when I was here in Wisconsin last week -- Savion Castro, who’s actually standing right there. (Applause.) Thank you for letting me embarrass you, Savion. (Laughter.)
But Savion is a sophomore here in Madison. In fact, I met Savion at a roundtable in Milwaukee and I was so impressed with his story. Savion was raised by a single mother who became disabled by a workplace injury. And for much of his childhood, his family was essentially homeless, and Savion bounced between friends and grandparents.
But the summer after fifth grade, Savion was selected for a special program that put him on track to go to college. (Applause.) And he worked hard to get accepted to this university. In his freshman year, Savion earned himself a 3.7 GPA. (Applause.) Last summer, he spent his mornings mentoring kids from the very same program that helped him get to college, and, equally impressive, he spent his afternoons and evenings working on Mary’s campaign. (Applause.)
When he was asked why he was working on the Burke campaign, this was his reply -- this is a quote from him -- he said, “I was one of the kids who benefitted from the kind of work that Mary has been doing for years here in Wisconsin.” (Applause.) So you can see why I’m impressed by this young man.
But see, here’s the thing -- as I travel across the country, I meet thousands of kids just like Savion. They’re all out there. And you know them -- the kids who face so many challenges in their lives, but who are so hungry to succeed. The kids who worked so hard to lift themselves up and still have time to reach back and pull others up after them. (Applause.) The kids who stay away from gangs and drugs, who do their homework, who pick up extra hours, who are working to support their families. Those kids are why we’re here today. (Applause.) Because kids like Savion, they never give up -- and neither can we. We cannot give up on these kids.
So if anyone here is mistaken about whether this kind of stuff is important, and what positions politicians take, and what’s in their heart and what they care about, in the end, it all affects these kids. It affects their opportunity, it affects who they can be, how they see themselves in the world. This is real stuff.
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 opportunity they need for the futures they deserve. (Applause.)
See, and here’s the thing -- we can do this. That’s the thing I know. We can do this. (Applause.) If women and minorities and young people show up, Mary wins -- she wins. If we each find our 10, Mary wins. (Applause.) She wins if we’re more organized, if we’re more passionate -- Mary wins. If we keep stepping up and bringing others along, then I know that we can keep making that change we believe in. I know we can elect Mary Burke as governor of Wisconsin.
Thank you all so much. God bless. (Applause.)
1:05 P.M. CDT