Remarks by the First Lady at Grassroots Campaign Event With Governor Pat Quinn -- Chicago, Illinois
5:07 P.M. CDT
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, my goodness! I’m home! (Applause.) Oh, my goodness. It is so good to be home. (Applause.) Let me start by thanking --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I love you!
MRS. OBAMA: I love you all. I miss you all so much. (Applause.) We miss you guys. But we’ve got a job to do here today, right? We’ve got a Governor to reelect. And I want to start by thanking my friend Pat Quinn for that very kind introduction. I am so proud to be here to support his reelection to Governor of the great state of Illinois. Let’s get it done! (Applause.)
I also want to recognize our terrific Senator, Senator Dick Durbin, as well. Dick has been such a great friend and a partner to me. He’s been a powerful leader for our state and for our country out in Washington, and I am so glad that he’s here to join us.
I want to remind you all to get out and vote for Dick Durbin and the other outstanding leaders we have here today -– just to name a few, Representatives Danny Davis, Bill Foster, Luis Gutierrez, Robin Kelly, Jan Schakowsky -- (applause) -- all of them representing our state so wonderfully in Washington, as well as Lieutenant Governor Sheila Simon, our Secretary of State Jesse White, our Attorney General Lisa Madigan, our candidate for Treasurer, Senator Mike Frerichs, and of course, Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle. Let’s give them all a round of applause. (Applause.)
All right, you all. There is a reason that I’m here today for Governor Quinn, and there’s a reason why I’m going to be casting my vote for Governor Quinn, and that is because I know Pat Quinn and I have seen how he is out there every day making the tough decisions to lift up our families and to move this state forward.
And let me just tell you, this is personal for me because this city, this state -- this is my home. And like all of you, I care deeply about what happens here. I care deeply about who is the leadership here in this state. And over the past four years, I’ve seen Pat Quinn fighting off radical budget cuts to our schools. I’ve seen him investing in early childhood education, in college scholarships for our kids to make sure they get to fulfill their God-given potential.
I’ve watched Pat work tirelessly with me, hand in hand, for our veterans and military families, helping them buy homes, find jobs and get the education they’ve earned. I’ve seen Pat creating thousands of new jobs here in this state. His push for the minimum wage is essential. And the man even suspended his own paycheck to help fix our pension crisis here in Illinois. (Applause.)
That is what -- just some of what Pat Quinn has done for us as Governor. And that’s really what matters in this election -– not what a candidate says, but what he actually does. And let me tell you something -- Lord knows I’ve been through enough campaigns and elections in this state to know just a little bit about what I’m talking about. (Laughter.)
Because I have seen candidates come and go. I have seen people who have spent a lot of money and make a lot of promises. But at the end of the day, we have got to ask ourselves, what do these folks really stand for? What do they really stand for? What are their values? What do they believe in? What are they going to do for us? Well, I know what Pat Quinn stands for. I know, that’s why I’m here.
Pat believes like we do that when you get to the top, you don’t pull up the ladder after you -- you reach back and you help other folks get the same opportunities you had to succeed. (Applause.) Pat Quinn believes that everyone should play by the same rules -– no gaming the system, no special breaks for some folks at the expense of others. Pat thinks that everyone who’s willing to work for it should be able to build a good life for themselves and an even better life for their families. And finally, Pat believes in putting our children first. Just like us, he wakes up every morning thinking about their health, their happiness, their futures, our kids.
So let’s be very clear: If we want a Governor who shares our values and is going to fight for our families, then we need to work day and night to reelect Pat Quinn as Governor of Illinois. (Applause.) We have to do that. And I am confident that we can get this done. I am confident, because I’ve seen what you all can do. I’ve seen it.
A lot of you here today in this city, in this state, you have been with me and Barack from the very beginning -- from the very beginning. (Applause.) You all remember those days back when we were on the South Side working to get Barack to Springfield as State Senator? You all were back with us when we traveled throughout the state to get Barack to represent us in Washington as a U.S. Senator. You all were there with us when we were out in Iowa and New Hampshire, remember? We were talking about hope and change, we were getting fired up and ready to go. You were there. You were there. You did the work.
And then you were with us when Barack first took office, and he got a good look at the mess he’d been handed and wondered what on Earth he had gotten himself into. Remember how bad things were back when Barack took office? Let me take you back for a moment, because sometimes we forget.
Back when Barack first took office, we were, in this country, in full-blown crisis mode. Our economy was literally on the brink of collapse. Wall Street banks were folding -- folding. You all hear me? They were folding. Businesses were losing 800,000 jobs a month -- every month. Folks on TV were panicking about whether we were headed for another Great Depression –- you remember that? And that wasn’t just talk, that was a real possibility. This is what Barack Obama walked into on day one as President of the United States. I could go on. Things were bad.
Now, I want you to think about how things look today, less than six years later. And I’m going to give you facts; I’m talking as a citizen, not as a wife.
By almost every economic measure, we are better off today than when Barack took office. That is a fact. (Applause.) Why do I say that? Our businesses have created more than 10 million new jobs since 2010 -- 10 million, including the 236,000 jobs last month alone. Now, this is the longest uninterrupted run of private sector job growth in our nation’s history. Do you hear me? 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. And right now, there are more job openings than at any time since 2001.
Last year, the number of children living in poverty decreased by 1.4 million -– 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 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.)
Now, I want you to also 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 speak out for equality. (Applause.)
So while we still have a lot of work to do, we have truly made so much of that change we were talking about. But what I want you to remember is that Barack didn’t do that all by himself just sitting in the Oval Office. He did it with the help of outstanding leaders across this country -– leaders like Pat Quinn, who understand what’s really going on in our lives. Leaders who will stand with Barack to create more jobs and build better schools. Leaders who will make sure that women get equal pay, and that we can make our own decisions about our bodies and our health care. (Applause.) That’s how he did it.
In short, Pat Quinn has Barack’s back. And now it’s time for us to have Pat’s back. (Applause.) Now it’s our turn. Because make no mistake about it, Barack’s last campaign wasn’t in 2012. Barack’s last campaign is this year, 2014, because that election in 2012, that wasn’t the change we sought -- it was only the chance to make that change. And if we want to finish what we started together, then we need to reelect Pat Quinn as Governor. We need to do that today. (Applause.)
Now we know this won’t be easy. We know this won’t be easy, but we know a little bit about not easy, don’t we? We know that there is too much money in politics, and special interests have way too much influence. But what I want you to understand is that they had plenty of money and influence back in 2008 and 2012, and we still won those elections -- we still won. (Applause.)
You want to know why we won? Because we showed up and we voted. (Applause.) It’s as plain as that. Because at the end of the day, the folks running those special interest groups, the folks who poured millions of dollars into those elections, well they each just have one vote -- and so do each of us. And ultimately, the only thing that counts are those votes. That’s what decides elections in the United States of America. That is still true. And that is why Barack Obama is President right now.
He is President today 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 -- they were shocked -- because they were counting on folks like us to stay home. They were counting on it. But we proved them wrong. We proved them wrong, because Barack won because record numbers of women and minorities and young people showed up to vote.
But see then, this is what happens -- then the midterms came along, and 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 hoping that we won’t be organized. They’re praying that we’re not energized. And only we can prove them wrong. Only we can do it.
And make no mistake about it -- 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 a few hundred votes.
And I want you to think about what happened in Governor Quinn’s race back in 2010. The outcome of that race was decided by about 32,000 votes. Now, that might sound like a lot, but when you break that number down, that’s just about three votes per precinct -- do you hear me? That’s three votes per precinct. That was the margin of difference.
Now, I know that every single one of you all knows three people who didn’t vote in the midterms. And I know you know three people that you can connect with. I mean, just think about those numbers. That is the power of the right to vote. And if we do that, Pat Quinn wins this election. (Applause.)
So let’s be real clear -- that’s why I’m talking -- we can go emotion, but they’re just facts about how to win. We have to be clear: This election is on us. These are our voters. This is us. And we can’t wait around for anyone else to do this for us. It’s on us to get this done. It’s on us to get people energized, to get them organized, to get them out to vote.
So that’s why this rally is so important. That’s why I’m here. That’s where all of you come in. Because every day between now and the November the 4th, we need you out there doing the hard work, knocking on those doors, making those calls. It’s the person-to-person contact. These are our voters. We need you to tell folks to vote early. That’s what Barack and I are going to be doing even from Washington.
And I want you all to know -- remember, you can vote early by mail, or you can vote early in person all across this state starting on October the 20th. The early vote got it done for Barack, and we can do it for Pat Quinn. (Applause.)
So I want you all to go to QuinnForIllinois.com. I’m being real specific -- QuinnForIllinois.com -- and you can find out all the information you need about how to vote, and you can also sign up to volunteer. And once you have the information you need for everyone you know, you need to get them to vote early. Think about those three people in your life who don’t think their vote matters; who don’t think it’s worth getting up early, or to fill out the form -- those folks in your church, or your neighbors, or your classmates who think somehow this doesn’t matter. And I want you to get those folks to the polls on November the 4th. Bring as many people as you can -- family members, neighborhood folks, church folks. Don’t leave anyone behind.
In this arena alone, if we do that, we could change the course of this election. (Applause.) We can change the course of this election with the folks in this room. So start today reaching out, because we’ve got less than 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 2010 [2012.] In fact, we need to be even more passionate and even more hungry, because races like this Governor’s race here in Illinois will be even harder and even closer than those presidential elections, but they’re just as important.
Because the stakes this year simply could not be higher. See, because if we don’t elect leaders like Pat Quinn and Dick Durbin and the other outstanding folks here today who will put people first instead of 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 immigration reform and raising the minimum wage for hard-working folks.
So I want to be 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 the planet; 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 our kids to have quality preschool, have the chance to go to college to get the education they need to fulfill their God-given potential, then we need you to step up. We need everyone you know to step up and vote for Pat Quinn. (Applause.)
That’s what’s at stake in this election -- the kind of country that we want to leave for our kids and our grandkids. Because we have to remember those kids are counting on us to stand up for them. They’re kids like all the kids we know. I met young people at Harper High School in Englewood -- I met a great group of kids.
Many of you know the odds these kids and so many of our kids are facing -– neighborhoods torn apart by poverty and hopelessness, by guns and gangs; parents who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, or who’ve lost their jobs. When I was at Harper, there were about 25 kids in the classroom I spoke to that day, and when asked whether they knew someone who’d been shot, every single one of them raised their hands -- every last one of those kids raised their hand.
But let me tell you some other facts about these kids. See, one of them was the valedictorian. One was the salutatorian. One was a football star. A couple of them were leaders in the ROTC. See, against all the odds, those kids still had big dreams for their futures. (Applause.) They still found a way to lift their sights to college, to careers, to want families of their own.
And here’s what you all know -- as I travel around the country, I meet so many kids just like those kids at Harper. 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.
See, these kids, they have every reason to give up, but they are so hungry to succeed. They are desperate to lift themselves up. And that’s why we’re here -- because those kids, they never give up -- they never give up. And neither can we -- neither can we.
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 need to build the futures they deserve. And I know we can do this, because we’ve done it before. You all have done it before. You amaze me. You all amaze me.
If we keep stepping up and bringing others along with us, then I know -- I know in my heart that we can keep making that change we believe in. I know we can elect Pat Quinn as Governor of Illinois. I know that we can elect Dick Durbin and all our other terrific leaders here today. And I know that together, we can build a future worthy of all our children. So let’s just get this done.
Thank you all. God bless. (Applause.)