Remarks by the First Lady at a Grassroots Campaign Event with Democratic Candidate for Governor Bruce Braley
Patrick Henry High School
5:08 P.M. CDT
MRS. OBAMA: Wow, this is a great crowd! Are you all fired up? (Applause.) Let me just say I am very honored to be --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I love you, Michelle!
MRS. OBAMA: I love you all. I love you guys. (Applause.) But I’ve heard some incredible things about this school, Patrick Henry. (Applause.) And let me just say to the principal, to the teachers, the administrators, the students, the parents -- congratulations on taking care of our next generation. Thank you all so much. Congratulations. (Applause.)
But I am thrilled to join you all today to support your outstanding Senator and Governor, our friends Al Franken and Mark Dayton. (Applause.) Now, I’m here because, as you all know, no one is working harder and no one is doing more to help families here in Minnesota than Al Franken and Mark Dayton. (Applause.)
From day one in the Senate, Al has made it clear that he has no patience for Washington gridlock or partisanship. And time and again, he has reached across party lines to get things done for folks here in Minnesota. (Applause.)
Because of Al, insurance companies now have to spend at least 80 percent of your premiums on your health care. (Applause.) And if they don’t do that, you get a rebate. Because of Al, we have a farm bill that will help create jobs and boost rural communities across this state. (Applause.) And during his time in the Senate, Al has worked tirelessly to hold Wall Street accountable and crack down on unsafe drug manufacturers, make sure kids get the mental health care they need in our schools. He’s done so much -- and he’s funny. You don’t get the two together a lot. (Laughter.)
Now, as for your Governor, I think we can all agree that his record as Governor speaks for itself. (Applause.) During his time in office, Mark turned a $6 billion deficit into a $1.2 billion surplus. (Applause.) He helped create more than 170,000 jobs here in Minnesota. He also cut middle-class taxes. He raised the minimum wage. He established universal, all-day kindergarten. (Applause.) This Governor has made historic investments in your schools, and he provided the largest college financial aid increase in a generation. (Applause.)
Mark did all of this in just one term in office. So just imagine, just dream about all that he’s going to do with a second term, another four years.
So, Minnesota, if you all want a Senator and a Governor who will build good schools for our kids, create good jobs for families, and keep Minnesota on the path to prosperity for decades to come, then you need to reelect Al Franken and Mark Dayton. You’ve got to get it done, Minnesota. (Applause.) That’s why we’re here. You’ve got to do it.
And I know we can do this. But before I dive way in, I also want to recognize some other outstanding Minnesota leaders we have here today. We have Representative Keith Ellison, who’s here -- I see him. (Applause.) We’ve got the next Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota, Tina Smith. (Applause.) We have your Mayor, Betsy Hodges, who is here. (Applause.) They’re over there -- there she is. So I’m thrilled you all could be here today.
But most of all, I want to thank all of you. Now, I know in this crowd that we have so many friends here. We got folks who were with us from way back in the beginning, back when we were campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire, we were talking about hope and change, and getting fired up and ready to go. (Applause.) Many of you were there for that, and so many of you were there 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.
Now, I’m going to take you back, because sometimes we forget how bad things were. And I also know there are young people here who weren’t even born back then.
But back when Barack first took office, this country was in full-blown crisis mode. Things were bad. Our economy was literally on the brink of collapse. Wall Street banks were folding -- do you hear -- folding. We were losing 800,000 jobs every month. Folks on the TV, all the talking heads -- (laughter) -- were worried about whether we were headed for another Great Depression -- and that was a real possibility. Things were bad. And this is what Barack walked into on day one as President. This is what he inherited.
Now, I want you to think about how things look today, less than six years later. Because by almost every economic measure, we are better off today than when Barack Obama took office. (Applause.) And while, yes, I love my husband and I am proud of my husband, I’m going to give you some facts. I’m not going to talk from emotion about why things are better, because I have 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. You all, keep that up. Keep it up. (Applause.) And because of the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans finally got health insurance. (Applause.)
I could go on and 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 -- or anyone -- can be President of the United States of America. (Applause.) Our kids 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. (Applause.)
So while we still have plenty of work to do, we are not done. It ain’t fixed. But we have truly made so much of that change we were talking about.
But what I want you all to remember is that all that didn’t happen because we elected Barack Obama. It happened because we also elected outstanding leaders in states across this country -- leaders like Al and Mark who stand up for our jobs, who stand up for our kids’ education; leaders who fight to raise the minimum wage, to get women equal pay for equal work. (Applause.)
So let’s be very clear: If we want to finish what we all started together, then we need to reelect Al Franken as your Senator and Mark Dayton as your Governor. We have to do this, Minnesota. (Applause.) We’ve got to do this.
And we know this won’t be easy. We know that there is too much money in politics. Special interests have way too much influence. But remember, they had plenty of money and influence back in 2008 and 2012, and we still won those elections. (Applause.) You want to know why we won? We won those elections because we showed up and we voted. We showed up and we voted.
And at the end of the day, the folks running those special interest groups, the folks who poured millions of dollars into those elections -- get this -- they just have one vote, and so do all of us. 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 is President because a whole bunch of folks who never voted before showed up to vote in 2008 and 2012. (Applause.)
And people were shocked when Barack won. They were 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. (Applause.) You all did this. You did this.
But here’s where we still have work to do -- because, see, when the midterms came along, too many of our people just tuned out. And that’s what folks on the other side are counting on this year, because they know that 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 we won’t be energized. And only we can prove them wrong.
And make no mistake about it, this race, as Al mentioned, is going to be tight. We know that races like this can be won or lost by just a few thousand, and, in Al’s case, a few hundred votes.
We all remember how close Al’s race was back in 2008. He mentioned that -- a few hundred votes. And just think back to Mark’s race in 2010. Mark won that race by about 8,800 votes. Now, that is just two votes per precinct. I mean, think about that. If you break that number down across precincts, as Al pointed out, that’s two people. Two people made the decision in every precinct.
And that’s the thing I want people to understand, because if there is anybody here -- especially our young people -- who think that voting doesn’t matter -- two votes. And we all know two people who didn’t vote. We all know two people in our lives who don’t plan on voting this time around. But I know that every single one of us knows those two people, and we can get them out to vote for Al and Mark in this election. We can do that.
If you look around this room, this room alone can sway this election. (Applause.) So just picture that. Own that reality. There is no need to feel powerless when elections can be won or lost in an entire room.
So let’s be clear: This is on us. This is on us. We cannot wait for anyone else to do this for us. If we want to keep on making change here in Minnesota, then we need to take responsibility and work to make it happen. (Applause.)
You see, this is the thing we know -- that the real problem isn’t that people don’t care. People care. People care deeply about what’s happening in their communities. People care deeply about injustice and equality, care deeply about giving kids opportunities that we never dreamed of ourselves. People care.
But the fact is that folks are busy, and they’re juggling so much -- the demands of their jobs, the needs of their families. And 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 we can’t assume that people don’t care. It’s up to us to help educate them. It’s up to us to make sure they know how to cast their votes in this election, and why it’s important. It’s up to us to get out and to vote ourselves. (Applause.)
Our first responsibility is us owning our own role in this, and that starts with voting early. Vote early. Vote now. Vote early in person, through the mail, absentee ballot. If you vote by mail, be sure to send your ballot in early so that it arrives by November 4th.
So don’t procrastinate. Don’t leave here and go do something else. Get this done. Check this off your list. And you can vote early in person at your county elections office from now until Election Day, November 4th.
And I really hope that you all get this done. Because the thing is, if you vote early, that just gives you more time to get other people to vote. (Applause.) So get yourself -- check yourself off the list. That’s really one of the important messages that I have for you today.
If you all are here at all, yes, I’m happy you’re here to see me. But you know what I need from you? I need you to vote! (Applause.) I need you to vote early, and I need you to get everyone you know to vote with you. Bring your two people. And if you know two people, you know 10 people. Bring your friends, your family, that knuckleheaded nephew sitting on the couch -- shake him. (Laughter.) Bring the folks from your church, whatever it takes. Don’t leave anyone behind. This is important.
And I also want to emphasize, like Al did, we need you to sign up to volunteer. We really do. (Applause.) It’s just two more weeks, and the calls and the knocking on the doors for Al and Mark, that’s going to make the difference.
Now, I’m going to repeat -- I know Al went through the number, but I’m going to say it out of my lips, too. You can text DFL to the number 97779. All right, you all took your phones out. You did that -- you got that, right? (Laughter.) I’m not going to hammer that in.
But what we are all saying is that -- don’t underestimate the importance of volunteering and using that number to connect to the campaign so that you can get involved and roll up your sleeves. It’s just two weeks.
Or you can just find one of the organizers here today. There are people here today -- there they are. (Applause.) You can sign up to volunteer right now. Don’t leave here without investing a couple of hours. And, as Al said, it is good cardio. (Laughter.)
So don’t wait another minute. I want you to get started. Because if -- we just have two weeks. And we need you all to be as passionate and as hungry for this election as you were back in 2008 and 2012. In fact, we need you to be even more passionate and even more hungry, because these midterm races will be even harder and even closer than that presidential race -- but they’re just as important. They are just as important.
Because the stakes this year simply could not be higher. Because if we don’t elect leaders like Al and Mark who will put our families 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. (Applause.) 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 our birth control; if you think women should get equal pay for equal work; if you want our kids to have quality preschool, to have the college education they need to fulfill every last bit of their boundless promise -- then you need to step up. Two more weeks -- step up. Get everyone you know to vote for Al and Mark.
That’s what’s at stake in these elections -- the kind of country we want to leave for our kids and our grandkids. Because let’s be real -- this is all about them. We need to stand up for our kids, because they’re counting on us. And we all know these kids. These are our kids. (Applause.) They’re in every community in this country, and I meet them all the time.
There’s a young man named Lawrence Lawson, who I met earlier this year, working with me on my education initiative. Lawrence’s father died when he was eight years old. Then at the age of nine, Lawrence suffered a major seizure, and this young man had to learn to read and walk and speak again. Then at the age of 12, his mother passed away, and Lawrence was passed from his aunt in Atlanta to his sister in Baltimore.
But no matter where he was, Lawrence took care of his business. Lawrence did his best in school. He joined the marching band, interned at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He graduated as the valedictorian of his high school class, this young man. (Applause.)
And I can tell the story of millions of Lawrences, because as I travel across the country I meet them every day. The kids who wake up early and take the long route to school to avoid the gangs -- we know those kids. Those are our kids. (Applause.) Kids who juggle afterschool jobs to support their families, stay up late to get their homework done -- these are our kids. We know them. Kids who don’t speak a word of English, whose parents don’t speak a word of English, but they’re fighting every day to realize their dream of a better life. (Applause.)
What we have to understand is these kids have every reason to give up, but they are so hungry to succeed -- do you hear me? They are desperate to lift themselves up. (Applause.) And that is why we’re here today. We’re here because those kids never give up, and neither can we. That’s what keeps me and Barack going every day.
So between now and November, we need to be energized for them. We need to be hungry for them. We need to be inspired for them. And 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 if we all do that -- just look around at the power in this room. If we all keep stepping up and bringing others along with us, then I know, I am confident that we can keep making that change we believe in. I know we can reelect Al Franken as your Senator. I know that we can reelect Mark Dayton as your Governor. And together, we can build a future worthy of our kids. (Applause.)
Thank you all. God bless. (Applause.)
5:30 P.M. CDT