Remarks by the First Lady at Grassroots Campaign Event with Democratic Candidate for Governor Charlie Crist
Betty Ferguson Recreational Complex
5:06 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: I am so happy to be here to support Charlie Crist, the next Governor of Florida! (Applause.) Now, let me -- before I go way in, I just want to tell you why I’m here for Charlie.
There’s a reason why Charlie Crist was known as “The People’s Governor” here in Florida. It’s because Charlie gets it. He actually understands what’s going on in people’s lives. And as Governor, every decision he made and every policy he fought for were about making life better for families and for seniors all across this state.
Charlie understands that we all want good schools for our kids. (Applause.) That’s why, as Governor, he helped save 20,000 teachers’ jobs. (Applause.) He invested more money per student in education than any Governor in the history of the state.
So when Charlie is back in charge -- which we’re going to make sure happens -- he’s going to restore funding for our schools so that all our kids can fulfill their God-given potential; so that no matter where they live or how much money their parents have, they get a good education. (Applause.) Charlie also understands what it’s like for families and seniors who are worried about making ends meet. And that’s why, as Governor, he cut property taxes, and worked to lower the cost of living here in Florida.
And today, Charlie has a plan: He’s going to do the work to support small businesses and create good jobs. He’s going to fight to raise the minimum wage. He’s going to ensure that women get equal pay for their hard work. (Applause.) And when it comes to women’s health, see, Charlie knows that women don’t want anyone interfering in our most private decisions. He trusts us to make our own choices about our bodies and our health care. (Applause.)
So listen, Miami, in this election, you have a simple choice: If you want a leader who shares your values and your priorities, a leader who is going to help middle-class families get ahead here in Florida, then you have got to get out and you’ve got to vote for Charlie Crist, all right? (Applause.) Charlie Crist for Governor. That’s why I’m here. This is important.
Now, I also want to recognize a couple of your outstanding Florida leaders, one of my favorite Congresswomen, Frederica Wilson. (Applause.) Mayor Oliver Gilbert is here. (Applause.) And I’m thrilled that they’re both here, and so many of the leaders throughout this city. Thank you so much for taking the time.
But most of all, I really want to thank all of you for so much, really. I really do. I see so many old friends here in the crowd, folks who were with us back from the very beginning -- (applause) -- back when we were working every day, getting folks all fired up and ready to go, talking about hope and change. You remember that? (Applause.)
And then so many of you were with us when Barack first took office; when he first got sworn in and we walked down that -- to the White House and walked into that house. And then Barack, he took a good look at the mess he’d been handed, and wondered what he had gotten himself into.
See, but I want to just take a moment to take us back, because I don’t know how many people remember how bad things were back then. See, because when things are bad, everybody is worried, but then they forget when things start getting better.
But when Barack first took office, this country, we were in full-blown crisis mode. Our economy was literally on the brink of collapse. Wall Street banks were folding -- you hear me? Folding. Businesses were losing 800,000 jobs every single 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. This is just some of what Barack walked into on day one as President of the United States.
Now, let’s come forward to the future and look today, less than six years later. Because by almost every economic measure, we are better off today than when Barack Obama took office -- by every economic measure. (Applause.)
Now, I just want to give you some facts, because I know there are folks who think, well, that’s his wife, she loves him -- and I do -- of course she’s going to think he’s been an outstanding President -- and I do. (Applause.) And here is why: Our businesses have created more than 10 million new jobs since 2010. This is the longest uninterrupted run of private sector job growth in our nation’s history -- in our nation’s history. (Applause.) The unemployment rate has dropped from a peak of 10 percent back in 2009 to 5.9 percent today. (Applause.)
Your President has cut taxes for tens of millions of working families across this country. Last year, the number of children living in poverty decreased by 1.4 million -- this is 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. And because of the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans finally have health insurance. (Applause.) And we’ve extended the life of Medicare by 13 years.
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, a woman -- anyone -- can be President of the United States of America. (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 American. So while we still have plenty of work to do, we have truly made so much of that change we were talking about. Thank you all, because you helped us do that. (Applause.)
But here’s why this race is important: Barack didn’t do all 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 Charlie Crist, who stand up for our jobs and our kids’ schools. Leaders who will fight for the minimum wage, ensure that our seniors retire with some dignity and respect.
So let’s be very clear: If we want to finish what we started, then we need to elect Charlie Crist as Governor of Florida. We’ve got to do this. (Applause.)
And I know it’s not going to be easy. Because you’ve seen there is too much money in politics. You’ve seen special interests who have way too much influence. But here’s what you’ve got to remember -- they had plenty of money and plenty of influence back in 2008 and 2012, and we still won those elections. (Applause.) You want to know why 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 pouring millions of dollars into those elections, look, 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 this country. And that’s why Barack Obama is President right now. He’s President because a whole bunch of folks who never voted before showed up and voted in 2008 and 2012. That’s why he’s President.
And you know a lot of people were shocked when Barack won -- many of them are still shocked -- 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. That’s it. (Applause.)
But see, here’s the pattern that happens. See, 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, as Charlie Crist said, 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 energized. And 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, even a few hundred votes. Just look at what happened in the Governor’s race in Florida back in 2010. The outcome of that race was decided by about 31,000 votes. And that may sound like a lot, but when you break it down, that’s about five votes per precinct. Just take that in for a moment. That’s just five votes per precinct.
And everybody here knows five people that didn’t vote; five people that thought their vote didn’t matter, couldn’t be bothered, couldn’t get up, couldn’t early vote. Maybe it was raining; maybe the line was too long. We all know five people in the midterm elections who didn’t vote. And I know that every single one of you all, you can find that five. You know five people you can get to vote for Charlie Crist this election, right? That’s how I want you to think. (Applause.)
So let’s be clear: This is on us. It’s all on us. And we can’t wait around for anyone else to do this for us. If we want change here in Florida, then we need to take responsibility and work to make it happen. And you all know how to do that.
You see, we all know that the real problem isn’t that people don’t care. Of course folks care. People care deeply about what’s happening in our communities. They care deeply about justice and equality. They care deeply about giving our kids opportunities that we never dreamed of for ourselves.
But the truth is, folks get busy. They’re juggling too much stuff -- their jobs, the needs of their family, so much else. And sometimes people just aren’t informed about what’s at stake. Sometimes they just don’t know how to make their voices heard on Election Day.
So that’s why you all are so important. It’s up to all of you, all of us, to educate folks and make sure they know how to cast their votes in this election. That’s your job. And it’s up to us to get out and vote ourselves, which I know everybody here is going to do, right? (Applause.)
And as Charlie Crist said -- and I heard somebody already voted. But I want to -- over again, because you can’t emphasize it too much, that it starts with voting by mail or voting early. So again, if you vote by mail, be sure to send your ballot early so that it arrives by 7:00 p.m. on Election Day, which is November the 4th. And early voting, as you know, starts Monday, October the 20th, and it goes until Election Day. And again, I hope that all of you will vote early; I know that many of you have. But the goal here is for everybody here to vote early.
And that’s really my key message: to vote as soon as you can, and get everyone you know to vote with you -- everyone. I mean everyone. You know what everyone means. I mean if you see folks standing on the street, you pull them in, your friends -- young people, you all know your friends who aren’t voting. You find them. You shake them. You bring them. You bring your five. We all have family members who are sitting on the sofa -- shake them. Bring them to the polls.
And we all got church members, don’t we? (Applause.) We can find our church members, get a bus, drive them, kick it -- pick them up. Do whatever you can, but don’t leave anyone behind, all right? (Applause.) You can vote at any of the early-voting locations in your county. Just go to CharlieCrist.com to find the location nearest you.
And for us who may be technologically challenged, find a young person to help you get to the site. I do that with my kids all the time. It’s like, fix it for me. (Laughter.) And remember to bring an ID that has a picture and a signature. You can use your Florida driver’s license. Or if you’re a student -- do we have any students in the house? (Applause.) It’s my students! For the students, you can use your student ID with a picture, plus a credit card with a signature, okay? Those two things together will serve as your ID if you’re a student, okay? Because everybody’s got a credit card, too, right? (Laughter.)
But I also want you all to volunteer. I really do. Over these next few weeks, volunteer. It’s that ground work that’s going to make a difference. I want you to make calls, knock on doors. You can go to CharlieCrist.com to sign up to volunteer, or you can find one of the organizers who are here today with clipboards and sign up right now to volunteer.
And don’t wait another minute to get started, 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. In fact, we need to be even more passionate and more hungry, because a lot of these midterm races will be even harder and even closer than the presidential elections -- and they’re just as important.
The stakes this year simply could not be higher. Because if we don’t elect leaders like Charlie Crist who will put our families 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 immigration reform, to 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 -- (applause) -- if you want your kids to have quality preschool and the college education they need to fulfill their boundless potential, then we you need to step up and get everyone you know to step up and vote for Charlie Crist for Governor. (Applause.)
Because that’s what’s at stake –- the kind of country we want to leave for our kids and our grandkids. And I saw some beautiful little girls -- I know they’re listening, they were in the overflow room -- who were just in tears when I came in, because I look at them and I know how much they’re counting on us to stand up for them. Our kids are counting on us. And we each know some kid out there that’s doing their best.
I tell the story as I travel around -- these last months of a young man I met earlier this year named Lawrence Lawson. Lawrence’s father died when he was just eight years old. Then at the age of nine, Lawrence, he suffered a major seizure, this young boy, and had to learn how to read again, and walk again, and speak again. Then when he was 12, his mother died. This young man was passed from an aunt in Atlanta to his sister in Baltimore.
See, but the beauty of this young man was that no matter where he was, what he was going through, he found a way to do his best in school. He joined the marching band, got an internship at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He graduated as the valedictorian of his high school class. (Applause.)
And as I travel across this country, I meet so many kids just like Lawrence. He’s not unusual. We have so many kids like that -- kids who wake up early and take the long route to school to avoid the gangs. We know these kids -- kids who juggle afterschool jobs to support their families, then they stay up late to get their homework done. These are our kids -- kids who don’t speak a word of English, but who are fighting every day to realize their dream of a better life. These are our children. (Applause.)
These kids have every reason to give up, but they’re so hungry to succeed. They are so desperate to lift themselves up. And that’s why we’re here. That’s why we’re here today. That’s why Barack and I do what we do every day -- because those kids never give up, so neither can we. (Applause.)
So between now and November, we need to be energized for our children. 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.
See, and here’s what I’ve learned over the years of being First Lady -- if we all keep stepping up and bringing others along -- I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it here in Florida. You all know what to do. You know how to get people out to vote, how to have those lines -- people waiting -- you all know how to do it. I’ve seen you do it. (Applause.) I know that we can keep on making that change we believe in.
Miami, you can do it here in this city. You have the potential to do it all. Are we going to do this? (Applause.) I know we can elect Charlie Crist as Governor of Florida, and I know that together, we can build a future worthy of all our children.
Let’s get it done. God bless you all. Let’s get it done. Thank you. (Applause.)
END 5:28 P.M. EDT