Remarks by the First Lady at Grassroots Campaign Event with Democratic Candidate for Governor Charlie Crist
2:29 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Florida! Orlando! (Applause.) We are going to do this! (Applause.) Thank you all so much. I am beyond thrilled to be here with all of you to support Charlie Crist as the next Governor of Florida. (Applause.) It’s going to be so good! (Applause.)
Now, there is a reason why Charlie was known as the “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 seniors across this state.
Charlie understands that we all want good schools for our kids. And as Governor, he helped save 20,000 teachers’ jobs. (Applause.) And he invested more money per student in education than any Governor in Florida’s history -- and that’s saying something. (Applause.)
So when Charlie is back in charge, he will restore funding for our schools so that all our kids can fulfill their God-given potential no matter where they live or how much money their parents have. (Applause.) Charlie also understands what it’s like for families and for 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 this state.
And today, Charlie has a plan to support small businesses and create good jobs. He’s going to fight to raise the minimum wage, ensure that women get equal pay for their hard work. (Applause.) And as he said, when it comes to women’s health, Charlie knows that women don’t want anyone interfering in our most private decisions. (Applause.) And he trusts us to make our own choices about our bodies and our health care. (Applause.)
So in this election, you all have a simple choice: If you want a leader who shares your values and your priorities, if you want a leader who will help middle-class folks get ahead here in Florida, then you need to vote for Charlie Crist for Governor. You’ve got to do it. (Applause.) You all have got to make it happen.
I also -- before I get real in -- (laughter) -- I want to recognize a couple of your outstanding Florida leaders. Congresswoman Corrine Brown is here. (Applause.) And the next Lieutenant Governor of Florida is here, Annette Taddeo. (Applause.) And I am thrilled they took the time to be here. And they’re doing an outstanding job, and I am grateful for all their support.
But most of all, I want to really thank all of you. I really do. There’s so much to thank you for. I see so many old friends here, folks who have been with us from the very beginning, back when we were out in Iowa and New Hampshire talking about hope and change, and getting all fired up and ready to go. (Applause.) And I see folks who were there with us when Barack first took office -- (applause) -- and he got a good look at the mess he’d been handed, and wondered what on Earth he had gotten himself into.
See, I don’t know if you remember how bad things were back then, because sometimes folks forget when things are better. They forget where we were. So let me just take you back for a moment.
When Barack first took office, we were in full-blown crisis mode. Our economy was literally on the brink of collapse. Wall Street banks were folding. We were losing 800,000 jobs every month. Folks on TV were panicking about whether we were headed for another Great Depression -– do you hear me? And that wasn’t just talk, that was a real possibility. I could go on and on. Things were bad. And this is what Barack walked into on day one.
Now, let’s come to the future. I want you to look at how things look today, less than six years later. Because by almost every economic measure, we are better off today than when Barack first took office -- by any measure. (Applause.) And I’m not just talking as a wife -- because I do love my husband, and I think he is marvelous and he is doing an outstanding job -- but let me give you some facts.
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. (Applause.) The unemployment rate has dropped from a peak of 10 percent back in 2009 to 5.9 percent today. (Applause.)
Barack 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 -- 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. (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 -- or 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 yes, while there is still plenty of work to do, we have truly made so much of that change we were talking about. But here’s what I want you to remember: Barack didn’t do all this just sitting alone in the Oval Office. No, no, he did it because he was working with outstanding leaders across this country -- leaders like Charlie Crist, who stand up for our jobs and our school kids. Leaders who will fight to raise the minimum wage and ensure that our seniors can retire with dignity and security.
So let’s be very clear: If we want to finish what we all started together, then we need to elect Charlie Crist as Governor of the state of Florida. We need you to make that happen. (Applause.)
And that’s why I’m here. This is important, and you all can make this happen. And we know it won’t be easy. Nothing we do is easy. We know that there is too much money in politics. We know that special interests have way too much influence. We know this. But here’s the thing -- 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? We won because we showed up and we voted. (Applause.) That’s why we won.
And in the end of the day, the folks running those special interest groups, the folks who are pouring millions of dollars into those elections, they each have one vote, too -- just like 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 to vote in 2008 and 2012.
And a lot of folks were shocked when Barack won. They were shocked, because they were counting on folks like us to stay home. See, but we proved them wrong. Barack won because record numbers of women and minorities and young people showed up to vote. You all did it. (Applause.)
See, but here’s how the pattern goes -- see, when the midterms come along, then 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. That’s how it works. So they’re assuming that we won’t care. They are hoping that we won’t be organized and energized. And only we can prove them wrong. (Applause.) 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. I want you all -- just think about what happened in the Governor’s race here in Florida back in 2010. Look, you all know in Florida, right? Just this past race, the outcome of that race was decided by about 31,000 votes. Now, while that may sound like a lot, when you break it down, that’s just about five votes per precinct. Five votes per precinct is what can make the difference in races like -- five votes.
Now, everybody in this room knows five people that did not vote. You know five people who never vote. We all know five people who could have changed the course of the election in this state -- five people. We all in this room could make that happen.
So you’ve got to get out and vote for Charlie Crist in this election. You’ve got to do it. You’ve got to do it. (Applause.) We have to understand, this is on us. 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 that happen. And you all know how to do this -- I’ve seen you do it.
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. We care deeply about justice and equality. We care deeply about giving our kids opportunities that we never dreamed of for ourselves. We care.
But the fact is that folks are busy juggling the demands of their jobs and the needs of their family, and so much else. Sometimes people just aren’t informed about the issues at stake. Sometimes they just don’t know how to make their voices heard on Election Day.
So it’s up to all of us, the people here, because you all are here because you know. You can make sure that everyone you know knows how to cast their votes this election. And it’s up to us to get out and vote ourselves. And that starts with voting by mail, or voting early. (Applause.)
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 4th. Or you can just drop it off at an early-voting site. It’s so simple. And early voting, as you know, starts this Monday, October the 20th, and it goes until Election Day. And I hope that all of you will vote early. If you make that commitment now -- you’re here to see me, I’m asking you -- vote early. (Applause.) That’s all I’m asking -- vote early. That’s really my key message today: to vote as soon as you can and to get everyone you know to vote with you
And you know the folks: your friends, that nephew sitting on the sofa -- grab him. The folks in church. Don’t leave anyone behind. And you can vote at any of the early-vote locations in your county. Just go to CharlieCrist.com to find the location nearest you. And remember to bring an ID that has a picture and a signature. You can use your license, your Florida license. If you’re a student, you can use your student ID. We got any students in the house? (Applause.) Your ID with a picture, plus a credit card with a signature -- know what you need to bring. Those two things will serve as your ID if you’re a student, okay? But there are plenty of people here -- you can go to the website and get all that information.
And I also want all of you to volunteer, as Charlie said. (Applause.) Do that work. Make those calls. Knock on some doors for Charlie like you did for Barack. (Applause.) You can go to CharlieCrist.com and sign up there, or you can just find one of the organizers who are here today with clipboards and sign up right here and right now to volunteer -- here they are. They’re in the room right now.
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 those presidential elections -- and they’re just as important.
And 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’ll see more folks interfering in women’s private decisions about our health care. We’ll see more opposition to immigration reform and to raising the minimum wage for hard-working folks.
So I want to be very clear: If you think that 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 women should get equal pay for equal work -- (applause) -- if you want our kids to have a quality preschool and the college education they need to fill every last bit of their boundless promise, then you need to step up and get everyone you know to vote for Charlie Crist.
That’s what’s at stake in these elections –- the kind of country that we want to leave for our kids and for our grandkids. See, because in the end, all of those kids are counting on us to stand up for them. They can’t do it; we have to do it for them. And we all know who these kids are. We all know some of these kids. They’re all over the country.
There’s a young man named Lawrence Lawson who I met earlier this year, participated with me in some events. Lawrence’s father died when he was just eight years old. At the age of nine, Lawrence suffered a major seizure and had to learn to read and walk and speak again. Then, at the age of 12, his mother died. This young man was passed from an aunt in Atlanta to his sister in Baltimore.
But here’s the thing about this amazing young man -- no matter where he was, Lawrence did his best in school. Through all of that, this kid managed to stay focused. He joined the marching band, got an internship at Johns Hopkins Hospital, graduated as the valedictorian of his high school class. (Applause.) Let me tell -- get an amen on that one.
MRS. OBAMA: See, because as I travel across this 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.
These kids have every reason to give up -- but they don’t, because they’re so hungry to succeed. They are so desperate to lift themselves up. And that’s why we’re here today. Let us never forget the ultimate purpose, what we’re fighting for. Because if those kids never give up, then 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 need to build the futures they deserve. And we can do this. We know how to do this in Florida. I want to see lines around the election polls. I want to see you all lined up. (Applause.) I want to see the early voting ballots up so high.
But in order to do that, we in this room have to do the work. And that’s an every-day job -- it’s every single day. But you imagine the benefit that comes -- just this little bit of work. We can get this done, Florida, can’t we? (Applause.) I am counting on you to bring this home for Charlie Crist.
You all, thank you all. God bless. (Applause.)
END 2:49 P.M. EDT