Remarks by the First Lady at a Grassroots Campaign Event with Democratic Candidate for Senate Bruce Braley
University Of Iowa
Iowa City, Iowa
12:50 P.M. CDT
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you so much. Wow, that was good stuff right there. (Applause.) That was good stuff. I am thrilled to be here today to support the next Senator from Iowa, our friend Bruce Braley. Let’s give it up for Bruce. (Applause.)
Now, let me say that one more time: Bruce Braley. (Laughter and applause.) Now, some of you may remember the last time I was here.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: You got it right!
MRS. OBAMA: No, I got it wrong a couple of times. (Laughter.) But I sort of laughed to myself because I thought, well, people should follow me home because -- talk to Malia and Sasha and I never call them the right names. (Laughter.) It’s like, who are you? I call Barack Bo. It just -- it never works out really well. (Laughter.)
But although I may have slipped up on Bruce’s name a couple of times, what I know I got right are Bruce’s values. And that’s really what matters in these elections. You can hear from his stories, his life story, you know his heart is where it needs to be. You know this is a man of excellent character. You know that he’s someone who understands family. You know he’s someone who’s going to commit to the people of this state every single day.
And that’s why I’m back in Iowa today -- because I know where Bruce comes from. I know what he stands for. And I have seen politicians come and go, candidates come and go, and what matters is who they are as people. I know that Bruce is going to fight for your families every single day in the Senate.
As he told you, Bruce grew up a lot like I did -- working-class family. His mom was a teacher. His father was a Marine Corps vet. And like a lot of you here today, as he said, Bruce had to work his way through college like many of us; waited tables, worked a grain elevator, built bridges with a county roads department.
So make no mistake about it, Bruce understands what families here in Iowa are going through because he’s lived it. That’s why he fought so hard to raise the minimum wage -- because he understands that folks who work 40 or 50 hours a week shouldn’t have to live in poverty in the wealthiest nation on the planet. (Applause.) That’s why Bruce believes that after a lifetime of hard work, folks should be able to retire with dignity and security. That’s why he’s worked so hard to protect Social Security and Medicare.
And of course, when it comes to helping young people afford college, you heard him talk. You all have a true champion in Bruce Braley. He has worked tirelessly to expand Pell grants, to keep interest rates low for student loans, helped graduates refinance their loans at a lower rate. And I know there are a lot of students here, right? You know how that feels. You know how important that is. (Applause.)
And finally, when it comes to women’s health, Bruce fought hard to make sure that insurance companies cover the costs of things like birth control. (Applause.) And he believes that politicians shouldn’t be butting into the private health decisions made by women and their doctors -- we can handle that. (Applause.)
So let’s be clear: If you all want a Senator who shares your values and will stand up for you and your families out in Washington, then you need to elect Bruce Braley to the U.S. Senate. We got to get this done. We can do this here. (Applause.) And it’s going to happen because of you all here.
I also want to take a moment just to acknowledge Dave Loebsack, as well. He’s been a dear friend, your Congressman. Dave, I love you and Jeannie! You guys are awesome. (Applause.)
Like Bruce, Dave really gets it, as well. He was raised by a single mother who struggled to make ends meet. And during his time in Congress, Dave has worked tirelessly to create good manufacturing jobs, to support our seniors, to give our kids the opportunities that he had to build a better life for himself. He wants our young people to have those same opportunities. So when you vote for Bruce, I want you all in the Second District to be sure to vote for Dave Loebsack, as well. We’re going to get him back in. (Applause.)
And of course, I want to thank all of you. This is a great crowd, great turnout. You guys are going to do this for Bruce. I’m excited to be back again, because I love Iowa. I do. I do. (Applause.) It feels like home in so many ways.
And I said this when I was in Des Moines, but it’s worth repeating -- I will never forget how you all embraced me and my family when we first came to campaign in 2007. I’ll never forget how you invited us into your homes and onto your campuses, and marched with us in the Harkin Steak Fry and the Jefferson Jackson dinner. (Applause.)
But most of all, I’ll never forget how you showed us what politics is like at its very best -- when people take the time to really get to know their candidates and to engage in the issues that are at stake. And that’s really why I wanted to come to Iowa City today to talk with all of you, to many of our young people -- also to those young at heart. I know we have a few people here, too. (Laughter.)
But I want to spend a little more time talking to young people, because this election is really about you guys. It really is. It’s about your hopes and your dreams, and the world that you want to pass onto your kids and your grandkids. But I know that despite that fundamental truth, I know that too many young people feel that elections just don’t matter; that politics just really doesn’t make a difference, so they think why bother to show up, why bother to vote. Does anybody here know anybody like that?
So I want you to know that if there is anybody here who feels that way or you know someone who feels this way, I just want to give you some facts. I mean, you heard from Bruce. He made some excellent points about what this election can mean for your education. But I want you to think about all the change that we’ve made these past six years under President Barack Obama. (Applause.) And I think a brief history lesson is important, because so many of you might be too young to really remember what things were like back in 2008. Some of you guys were babies back then. (Laughter.)
But in 2008, when Barack first took office, our economy was literally on the brink of collapse. Wall Street banks were folding. Businesses were losing 800,000 jobs every single month -- every month. Folks on TV and in the papers were worried about whether we were headed for another Great Depression -- and this wasn’t talk, this was a real possibility. Things were a mess. And this is what was handed to Barack when he set foot in the Oval Office his first day as President of the United States. And that’s just what was going on in the economy.
Now I want you to think about how things look today, just six years later, six years’ worth of work. By almost every economic measure, we are better off today than when Barack took office. That’s a fact. (Applause.) 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 for young people is down from a high of 10.6 percent in 2009 to 6.2 percent today. (Applause.) More young people are graduating from college than ever before -- I love that. (Applause.) As you heard from Bruce, we’ve expanded financial aid, and for millions of students we’ll be capping federal student loan payments at no more than 10 percent of your income. Yes. (Applause.) Look, I wish I had that when I was your age. I tell this story all the time -- Barack and I, our loan debt for our education was higher than our mortgage -- yes. Because, as Bruce understands, we do this because he knows you shouldn’t have to be buried in debt like we were when you’re just getting started in life.
So these things are important. Under the Affordable Care Act, millions of young people have health care because -- and you all know this -- you can stay on your parents’ insurance until you’re 26 years old. (Applause.) So when you graduate from school, if you can’t find a job right away or if you want to do something entrepreneurial, if you want to take a risk, you won’t be left out in the cold just praying that you don’t get sick or hurt. (Applause.) That’s what the Affordable Care Act means for you.
And for the last six years, we’ve had a President who shares our most fundamental values -- a President who ends hurtful policies like “don’t ask, don’t tell,” a President who truly believes that everyone in this country should have a chance to succeed no matter what they look like or how much money they have or who they love. (Applause.)
So I could go on, and on, and on, and on. But if anyone ever tells you that elections don’t matter, I want you to tell them to look back at the last six years. Tell them about all those -- two elections, how they changed the course of history in this country. And tell them that the same is true this year, right here in Iowa. You have a chance.
You see, in this election, you have an opportunity to vote for a Senator who truly shares your values; someone who is going to fight to create good jobs, make sure those job pay a decent wage; someone who’s going to build good schools, make college more affordable; someone who’s going to fight for equal pay for women, and who will support our right as women to make our own decisions about our bodies and our health care. That’s the kind of leader Bruce Braley will be, and that’s why we need to do everything we can to elect him as the next Senator from Iowa. (Applause.) We’ve got to get this done. Elections matter. They matter. They matter.
And we know this won’t be easy. It won’t be. We know that there’s too much money in politics. We know that special interests have way too much influence. But here’s what I want my young people to understand, too: They had all that 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 of so many people like you -- young people like you all.
For years, folks counted young people out. That was the conventional wisdom -- that young people don’t care, that young people aren’t engaged and won’t show up on Election Day. But, boy, did you all prove them wrong for Barack Obama. (Applause.) And our young people, boy, you all knocked on doors, you made calls, you used every kind of social media tool. You got it done! You got it done! (Applause.)
And it’s important for you to understand that your work inspired people across this country. You inspired other people to get to the polls and cast their votes. And what happened in 2008 and 2012 reminded us of a simple truth: that at the end of the day, the folks running those special interest groups, the folks who poured millions of dollars into those elections, they each have just one vote -- and so do each of us.
And those are the votes that decide elections in the United States of America. 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 to vote in 2008 and 2012.
But here’s what happened -- a lot of people were shocked when Barack won. They were counting on folks like us to stay home. Barack won because record numbers of women and minorities and young people showed up. (Applause.) But what happens in these midterm races is that too many of our people just tuned out. And that’s what folks on the other side are counting on this year, because, as I remind people, 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. They’re praying that we just sit back. And only we can prove them wrong.
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 thousands, even a few hundred votes.
Just think about what happened in the 2012 presidential election here in Iowa. The outcome of that race was decided by about 46,000 votes. And while that might sound like a lot, when you break it down, that’s just about 27 votes per precinct. I want young people to really hear that number -- that’s just 27 votes. That’s why voting matters. Twenty-seven votes.
So if we really get to work just here in this room, think about how many precincts all of us could swing for Bruce Braley. Just think about it. Just the think about the work -- can happen in this room. (Applause.)
So, young people, our young people, this election is on us. It’s on us. Your future is on us. Our future is on us. We’ve got to get this done. We can’t wait around for anyone else to do this. We’ve got to get people organized and energized, and we’ve got to get them out to vote.
And you can get started right now, today. We’re going to be practical right now. You can start by voting early. More Iowans are voting earlier every year because it’s the easiest way to make your voice heard. You can request your ballot by mail right here at this event, or you can go to Vote.BruceBraley.com. Young people, get your things out. (Laughter.) You’ve got those things and you press them really fast and you get information. And then you can show some of the young-at-heart people how to do it, too. (Laughter.) That’s Vote.BruceBraley.com -- or, even better, you can vote early in person right now. (Applause.) Look at that -- right now.
Because from now until November 4th, every day is Election Day. And if you haven’t registered yet, don’t worry -- you can register to vote and vote early at the same time. (Applause.) It couldn’t be easier.
So I want you all to vote as soon as you can. In fact, vote today. Vote today. Just get it done, get it out of the way. Don’t wait until tomorrow, young people, or the next day. (Laughter.) Do it right after this event. And as Bruce said, if you live here in Johnson County, you can go right over to the Old Capitol Mall at 201 South Clinton Street. Just check it off your list. (Applause.) That location is open Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
And be sure to bring everyone you know along with you to vote. Bring your roommate. Bring your teammate. Bring folks from your fraternity, your sorority. Bring folks you met at the party last weekend. (Applause.) Or, better yet, for the parents, those you met in the library studying. (Laughter.) Those are really the people we’re talking about.
And be sure to sign up to volunteer, as Bruce said. Because if everyone here today signs up to knock on doors or make calls for three hours --
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: We knock doors! We knock doors! We knock doors!
MRS. OBAMA: We knock doors! We knock doors! We knock doors! (Applause.) They need you knocking doors. If everybody here invests those three hours, then I’m confident that we will win this election. So for just three hours of your time, you will get six years of an outstanding Senator who will carry on Tom Harkin’s legacy. (Applause.) So don’t wait another minute. Find an organizer with a “Commit” card and volunteer.
As Bruce said, the stakes this year simply could not be higher. Because if we don’t get folks out to vote, if we don’t elect leaders like Bruce Braley to the Senate, 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 very clear: If you think people should get a decent paycheck for their work, a paycheck they can raise their families on; 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 think every young person in this country should have a chance to go to college and build a good life for themselves -- then you need to step up and get everyone you know to vote for Bruce Braley. (Applause.) You guys can do that.
That’s what’s at stake in this election -- it’s the kind of country we want to leave for our kids and our grandkids. And as I said last time when I was here, those kids are counting on us to stand up for them. And we know kids like this all over the country. There are kids here just like this who are working hard, doing their best under some incredible odds.
There’s a young woman who is a -- one of our mentees. We have a wonderful mentorship program at the White House for young girls, and Rashema Melson is one of those mentees.
Rashema’s father was murdered when she was a baby, and for years her family was homeless. There were days when she didn’t even have clean clothes to wear to school. This kid, she’s beautiful and vibrant and bubbly. Rashema, despite all that she was going through, she still showed up every morning to school. She threw herself into every class, often waking up in the middle of the night to do her homework because that’s the only time it was quiet in the homeless shelter where she lived.
And by senior year, Rashema had earned herself a 4.0 GPA, and she graduated as the valedictorian of her class with a full scholarship to Georgetown University. (Applause.) That’s where Rashema is right now. She is a Georgetown student. I’m so proud of her.
And as I travel across this country, I meet so many kids like Rashema -- 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 stay up late to get their homework done. Kids who 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 are so hungry to succeed and so desperate to lift themselves up. And that’s why we’re here today -- because those kids never give up, and neither will we. We will never give up on our kids, ever. Education is at -- the key to our success as a nation. (Applause.) And we have to invest everything we can in them.
So between now and November, we need to be organized 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 future they deserve.
And if we all do that, if we all keep stepping up and bringing others along with us, then I know that we can keep on making that change we believe in. I know we can elect Bruce Braley as the next Senator from Iowa. (Applause.)
So we can get this done. I’m counting on you guys. Go vote! Sign up and volunteer. (Applause.) Get it done. We have two more weeks. We can make this happen. Twenty-seven votes, so find every person you know and shake them. (Laughter.)
I love you all. Let’s get it done. Thank you. God bless. (Applause.)
1:14 P.M. CDT