Remarks by the First Lady at Grassroots Campaign Event with Democratic Candidate for Governor Tom Wolf -- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
11:29 A.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Hey, Philadelphia! (Applause.) You all are looking good. I’m really thrilled, I’m really proud to be here with you. I am here --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you!
MRS. OBAMA: I love you, your President loves you. That’s why we’re here -- because we want to make sure that you have an outstanding Governor. So I’m here to support the next Governor of Pennsylvania, our friend, Tom Wolf. (Applause.)
Now, we’re all here for one simple reason, and that’s because we know that as Governor, Tom is going to truly be there for our families every single day. That’s why I’m here. And we know this because that’s the kind of leader that Tom has been for his entire career.
I was really taken by his story, because, as you all know, Tom was actually preparing to run for Governor back in 2009, but then he found out that his business was actually being sold and it was on the verge of bankruptcy. Now, Tom could have just shrugged his shoulders and said, well, that’s too bad but that’s not my problem -- but that’s not what he did. He could have just walked away from all those folks with all those jobs -- but he didn’t do it. That’s not the kind of leader that Tom Wolf is.
Instead, Tom stopped his campaign -- do you hear me? He stopped running. He put all of his money into buying back that business, and he transformed it into a thriving company that it is today. And by the way, Tom’s company provides excellent health and retirement benefits.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yeah!
MRS. OBAMA: Yeah? (Laughter.) And they share 20 to 30 percent of their profits with their employees. (Applause.) And he does that because Tom believes that hardworking people should be treated fairly. And that’s important.
Tom brought this same spirit of service to his work as Secretary of Revenue here in this state, where he made reforms that funded millions of dollars to benefit our seniors -- yes! (Applause.) And here’s what I like about his background -- he is the son of a public school teacher, and the father of two daughters who went to public school. (Applause.) And as he mentioned, education is important to him, so he refuses to accept crumbling classrooms. He refuses to accept teacher shortages. Because he believes that every child in this state should have a chance to fulfill their God-given potential no matter where they live or how much money their families have. (Applause.) Yes.
So, Pennsylvania, if you want a leader who is truly going to be there for you, if you want someone who is going to work to build good schools for your kids and create good jobs for your families, then you know what to do on November the 4th, right? You need to get out and vote. You need to get out and vote. You really do. It is so important. The stakes couldn’t be higher.
Now, before I go on any further, I just want to recognize some of the outstanding Pennsylvania leaders who are joining us here today. We’ve got Senator Bob Casey. (Applause.) We have Mayor Michael Nutter here. (Applause.) We have the next Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania, State Senator Mike Stack. (Applause.) They’re all here, and we are so grateful for your service.
But most of all, I want to thank all of you. I really do. (Applause.) I see so many faces in the crowd -- I see some old friends here today. I see some folks who have been with us from the very beginning -- from the very beginning, way back when. (Applause.) Back when we were out there in Iowa and New Hampshire and we were talking about change, and hope, and getting all fired up and ready to go.
And then you all were with us when Barack first took office -- (applause) -- and then he took a good look at the mess he’d been handed, and wondered what on Earth he had gotten himself into. I don’t know if you remember how bad things were back then, because sometimes we forget -- especially when things get better. But let me just take you back for a moment.
We were in full-blown crisis mode in this country. Our economy was literally on the brink of collapse. Wall Street banks were folding. Businesses were losing 800,000 jobs a month -- a month. The 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. This is just some of what Barack walked into on day one as President of the United States. And I could go on, but I won’t, because now let’s step into the future and look at where we are today, less than six year under this President.
By almost every economic measure, we are better off today than when Barack took office. (Applause.) And while I love my husband and I think he’s a phenomenal leader, I’m going to give you some facts. Here are some of the facts.
Our businesses have created more than 10 million new jobs since 2010, which is the longest uninterrupted run of private sector job growth in our nation’s history -- in the history of this country. The unemployment rate has dropped from a peak of 10 percent back in 2009 to 5.9 percent today. (Applause.) And right now, there are more job openings than at any time since 2001.
Barack has cut taxes for tens of millions of working families across this country. And last year, the number of children living in poverty decreased by 1.4 million, the largest drop since 1966. (Applause.) Our high school graduation rate is at a record high. More of our young people are graduating from college than ever before. (Applause.) And as many of you know, because of the Affordable Care Act, millions of American families have health insurance. (Applause.)
I could go on. But 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 for every single American in this country -- they take it for granted.
So while we still have plenty of work to do, we have truly made so much of that change we were talking about. But what I want you all to remember for purposes of this election -- Barack didn’t do all of this just by sitting alone in the Oval Office. He did it with the help of outstanding leaders in states across this country –- leaders like Tom Wolf who -- yes -- (applause) -- leaders like Tom who understand what’s really going on in people’s lives. Leaders who stand up for our jobs and for our kids’ schools. Leaders who will fight to raise the minimum wage. (Applause.) Leaders who fight to ensure that women get equal pay for equal work -- amen! (Applause.)
So let’s be very clear: If we truly want to finish what we started, then we need to elect Tom Wolf as Governor of Pennsylvania. (Applause.) We need people like him in office.
Now, we know that this won’t be easy. Very little that we do is easy. (Laughter.) We know that there is too much money in politics. We know that special interests have way too much influence. But also remember that they had plenty of money and influence back in 2008 and 2012, and we still won those elections. (Applause.) We still won. And you want to know why we won those elections? Because we showed up and we voted. (Applause.)
And we can never forget that at the end of the day, the folks running those special interest groups, the folks who pour millions of dollars into these elections, they each just have one vote -- and so do we. And ultimately, the only thing that counts are those votes. That’s what decides elections in the United States of America. And that’s why Barack Obama is President right now. (Applause.) He’s President because a whole bunch of folks who never voted before showed up in 2008 and 2012. A lot of people showed up.
And I don’t know if you remember, but people were shocked when Barack won -- they’re still shocked -- (laughter and applause) -- because they were counting on folks like us to stay home. See, but then we proved them wrong. Barack won because OF record numbers of women and minorities and young people who showed up and voted.
See, but then when the midterms came along -- which is where we are now -- too many of our people just tuned out. And that’s what folks on the other side are counting on right now, because when we stay home, they win. So they’re assuming that we won’t care. They’re hoping and praying that we’re not organized and energized. But only we can prove them wrong.
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 just a few hundred votes. Just think about what happened in the Governor’s race here in Pennsylvania back in 2010. The outcome of that race was decided by about 179,000 votes. And while that might sound like a lot, when you break that number down, that’s about 20 votes per precinct -- do you understand that? Twenty votes per precinct.
So this is where -- when I find people who are like, no, I ain’t going to vote, or I couldn’t wake up, or it doesn’t matter, or why -- 20 votes decided who your Governor was in 2010, and it could decide who the Governor is this time. Twenty votes. So if we really get to work, just think about how many precincts in this state could all swing for Tom Wolf. Just look around right now at -- the people in this room alone could swing this election right here.
So let’s be clear: This is on us. Don’t ever be fooled. This is still on us. We can’t wait around for anyone else to do this for us. If we want change here in Pennsylvania, then we need to take responsibility and work to make it happen -- we do. (Applause.) We do, and I know we can.
See, we all know that the real problem isn’t that people don’t care. I don’t believe that. I mean, too many people -- I know people care. We care deeply about what’s happening in our communities. We care deeply about justice and equality. We care deeply about giving our kids opportunities that we never dreamed of having ourselves. We care.
But the fact is that folks get busy, because folks are juggling so much -- the demands of their jobs, the needs of their families. Let me tell you, it’s a lot on people’s plates. And sometimes, folks just aren’t informed about the issues at stake in this election. Sometimes, they just don’t know how to make their voices heard on Election Day. Some folks don’t even know there are midterm elections.
So it’s up to us to educate folks and to tell them why they need to pay attention. And it’s up to us to tell them where to go to cast their votes on November the 4th. It’s up to us.
So we need all of you out there every day between now and Election Day. We need you to do the work you know how to do -- knock on doors, make those phone calls. (Applause.) You all did that work before, and it works!
Now, for this election, we want you to go to WolfForPA.com. You can go to the website -- WolfForPA.com. And I want you -- if you aren’t already doing it, sign up to volunteer. Or, even better, there are folks here with clipboards right now, and you can sign up right now to volunteer today. That’s what we need you -- if you’re here to see me, this is what I want you to do. (Applause.) Don’t leave here without getting ready to roll up your sleeves, all right? I love you, but I need you to work. (Applause.) We’ve got to get Tom in.
And after you spend these next few weeks working your heart out for Tom, calling everybody you know, getting all those 20 people that you know aren’t paying attention, then I want you to get out and vote on November the 4th, and bring everyone you know with you. You know your 20 people. You know the people in your neighborhood, in your church, in your family who aren’t focused. And you can’t leave anybody behind.
That nephew you know who sleeps -- get him up. Wake him up. (Laughter.) Young people, you all know folks who aren’t paying attention. Your classmates, your dorm mates -- wake them up, get them out. And I want you all to start reaching out to folks today. When you leave here, start working now. Because we’ve got less than three weeks 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.) Yes, we do.
In fact, your President needs you to be even more passionate and more hungry, because a lot of these midterm races will be even harder and even closer than those presidential elections -- and they’re just as important. That’s why we’re here. These elections matter to what goes on every day. A lot of times we think, well, the President is most important -- but who’s your Governor? Who’s fighting for you on the ground? Who’s working with him in Washington? These elections matter. (Applause.)
Because if we don’t elect leaders like Tom Wolf who will put our families first instead of just fighting for special interests, then we know exactly what will happen. We’ll see more folks interfering in women’s private decisions about our health care. We’ll see more opposition to immigration reform, to raising the minimum wage for hardworking folks.
So let’s 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 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 -- (applause) -- 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 today and do everything you can to get Tom Wolf into office.
That’s what’s at stake in this election -– the kind of country that we want to leave for our kids and our grandkids. And what I remind people at the end of the day is that it’s our kids who are counting on us to stand up for them. It’s our kids. And we know who these kids are, because they are everywhere. There are millions of wonderful kids out there who are counting on us. And you know them and I meet them all over the country.
I met a wonderful young man -- I’ve been telling his story all over the country -- Lawrence Lawson, who I met earlier this year. Lawrence’s father died when he was just eight years old. And then, at the age of nine, Lawrence himself suffered a major seizure, and this child had to learn to read and walk and speak again. Then when he was 12, his mother died, and he was passed from an aunt to his sister.
But see, the beauty of this kid -- and again, we know so many like him -- no matter where he was, Lawrence did his best in school. He joined the marching band. He interned at Johns Hopkins Hospital. And he graduated as valedictorian of his high school class. (Applause.)
And we know so many of these kids. We know so many of these kids -- the kids who wake up early and take the long route to school to avoid the gangs. The 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 are fighting every day to realize their dream of a better life.
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 is why we’re here today –- because those kids never give up, and neither can we. Neither can we. We can’t give up on these kids.
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 our kids and our grandkids can have the opportunities they need to build the futures they deserve.
And we know how to do this, Philly, don’t we? (Applause.) We know how to do this. I’ve seen you make this happen. You have done it again and again. You have stepped up. You have called on your community to step up. It’s as simple as a vote. It takes minutes out of your day. And it can change lives. It can change lives.
So if we keep stepping up and bringing others along with us, then I am confident that we can keep on making that change we believe in. I know we can elect Tom Wolf as Governor of Pennsylvania. And I know that together, we can build a future worthy of all our kids.
Thank you so much. Get it done. (Applause.)
11:52 A.M. EDT