Remarks by the First Lady at a Grassroots Campaign Event with Democratic Candidate for Governor John Hickenlooper and Democratic Candidate for Senate Mark Udall -- Fort Collins, Colorado
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, Colorado
:21 P.M. MDT
MRS. OBAMA: This is a crowd! Oh, my goodness! Yes! (Applause.) Look at you guys. You all are fired up, I love it. Oh, my goodness. You guys sound so good. This sounds like a lot of work is going to be happening, right? (Applause.) Thank you guys so much.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I see you, First Lady!
MRS. OBAMA: I see you! I see you -- see you! (Applause.) Now I want to see you vote. (Applause.) Well, if you haven’t noticed, I’m thrilled to be here at CSU with all of you guys. And I’m thrilled to be here to support your Senator and Governor, our friends Mark Udall and John Hickenlooper. Let’s give them a big round of applause. (Applause.)
Now, I just want to start with Mark, because I think it says a lot about Mark that, as you heard, years ago, he served as the Executive Director of Colorado Outward Bound. And he’s spent his life scaling some of biggest, baddest mountains here in this state and around the world. That’s pretty cool.
That tells you that he knows what it means to run a business, which is why he has fought to support clean energy, aerospace, and high-tech businesses here in this state so that they can keep creating good jobs. Mark’s background also tells us that he is practical and tenacious, which is why Mark has reached out across party lines out in Washington. And he’s focused on real solutions, like getting the best services for our veterans, working to balance our budget, ensuring that folks in this state had the relief they needed after those devastating floods and wildfires. (Applause.)
So this is a man after my own heart. And he’s a good family man, too, a decent man, man with good values.
And as for your Governor, John, you heard -- his record as Governor speaks for itself. (Applause.) I want to repeat this, because during his time in office, Colorado’s unemployment rate dropped from 9.1 percent to 4.7 percent. That’s what your Governor did. (Applause.) Your Governor took this state from 40th to 4th in the nation in the creation of jobs. That’s amazing -- 200,000 new jobs in this state. (Applause.) That’s important work.
John has passed four balanced budgets with bipartisan support. He’s started restoring funding in education, which is so important. (Applause.) Yes to education! (Applause.) It is absolutely the most important thing we can be doing in this country, without a doubt.
John has worked with businesses and environmental groups to adopt clean air standards. He’s helped our veterans and our military spouses, which is near and dear to my heart. He’s done so much for this state.
And I just want to tell you that Mark and John both understand the values of independence and fairness that folks here in Colorado believe in. That’s why they fought to raise the minimum wage; as you heard, get women equal pay for their work, and will stand up for women’s rights to make our decisions about our own bodies. That’s what’s at stake. (Applause.)
So this is why I’m here. This is why this race is so important. If you all want a Senator and a Governor who share your values, and who will be there for you and your families every single day, then we’ve got to get this done. You need to reelect Mark Udall as your Senator and John Hickenlooper as your Governor. You guys, we can get this done. We can get this done. (Applause.)
I just want to also recognize a couple of other outstanding Colorado leaders we have here today. We’ve got Senator Bennet, of course, Congressman Jared Polis. (Applause.) And your next State Treasurer, former Congresswoman Betsy Markey. They’re all here. We’re so grateful for their leadership and for their service.
But I’m here also because I want to thank all of you. Really. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you, Michelle! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: And let me tell you, I love you guys. Because the students here -- and while I love everyone, but -- (laughter) -- but I’m so proud of our young people, because you all are the next generation. For you all, this is important. And you all are important to us.
And that’s why I’m so excited to see so many young people. Because this election is really about you guys. It’s about your hopes and your dreams, and the world that you want to pass onto your kids and your grandkids. That’s why I get all passionate about this stuff. (Applause.) We’re handing this over to you. And I know your President wants to make sure he doesn’t hand you a mess. (Applause.)
So these elections are important. But here’s the thing: Despite that fundamental truth -- that elections are important -- I know that too many young people feel that elections just don’t matter; that politics doesn’t really make a difference so why bother to show up and vote. So if there’s anyone here who feels this way, or knows someone who feels this way, I just want you to consider some facts. I want you to think about all the change that we’ve seen these past six years under President Barack Obama. (Applause.)
Now, some of you may be too young to really remember what things were like back in 2008 when Barack first took office, because you guys were young. (Laughter.) But let me just break it down, because sometimes when things are better, we don’t really have a sense of how bad things were. But things were bad.
Our economy was literally on the brink of collapse, and that is not an exaggeration. Wall Street banks were folding. You can imagine -- folding. We were losing 800,000 jobs every month -- every month. People were worried about whether we were headed for another Great Depression -- can you imagine that? And that wasn’t just talk, that was a real possibility.
This was just some of the mess that Barack was handed on day one as President of the United States. And I could go on. (Laughter and applause.) But I don’t want to dwell on the past, because we’re living in a better future. (Applause.)
So now I want you to think about how things look today, just six years later. Think about this as you wonder whether politics matters, whether voting matters.
By almost every economic measure, we are better off today than when Barack first took office. Why? Our businesses have created more than 10 million new jobs since 2010 -- do you hear me? This is the longest -- this marks 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 about 10.6 percent in 2009 to 6.2 percent today.
More young people are graduating from college than ever before. (Applause.) And here’s something that you might be feeling right now -- your President has helped to expand financial aid. (Applause.) Yes! And for millions of students, we’re going to be capping federal student loan payments at no more than 10 percent of your income, because we believe that you shouldn’t be buried in debt when you’re just starting out in life, like me and the President were. (Laughter.) So we understand what this means for you.
Under the Affordable Care Act, millions of young people have health care because they can now stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26 years old. (Applause.) So when you graduate from school, if you can’t find a job right away, if you’re trying to do something entrepreneurial, if you’re trying to do something creative, you won’t be left out in the cold just praying that you don’t get sick or hurt -- which was the case before the Affordable Care Act. (Applause.)
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, how much money they have, or who they love. (Applause.)
I could go on and on and on. Who represents you matters. So if anyone ever tells you that elections don’t matter, you tell them to look back at the last six years. Tell them about those two elections that changed the course of history in this country. And tell them that the same thing is true this year right here in Colorado. It’s true right here.
As you heard, in this election, you all have the opportunity to vote for leaders who share your values; leaders who are going to fight to create jobs, make sure those jobs pay decent wages; leaders who will build good schools, make college more affordable. That’s the kind of leader Mark is. That’s the kind of leader John is. And that’s why we need to do everything we can to get them reelected as your Senator and your Governor. And you all can make that happen. We are counting on you.
So let’s talk about how we’re going to do this -- because it won’t be easy. We know that there is too much money in politics -- that’s a given. We know that special interests have way too much influence -- that’s a given. But the thing, especially for young people, I want you to understand is that they had plenty of money and plenty of influence back in 2008 and 2012, and we still won those elections. Remember that.
And you want to know why we won? Because young people like so many of you -- for years, folks had counted you out. That was the conventional wisdom -- that young people don’t care, young people aren’t engaged, they won’t show up on Election Day, hoping you’ll oversleep, just forget. But boy, did you all show up for Barack Obama. (Applause.)
Young people, so many of them, knocked on doors. You all did the work of making the calls. You used every kind of social media tool available -- things I’d never even heard of. (Laughter.)
And here’s the thing -- you inspired people across the country to get to the polls and to 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 and pouring all that money into campaigns, they each just have one vote -- and so do all of us. And those votes are what decides elections in this country -- remember that. 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.
And that’s why a lot of people were shocked when Barack won. They were shocked. Some people are still shocked, because, sadly, 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. (Applause.)
But here’s what happens, is that when the midterms came along, too many of our people just tuned out. We’re still not in the habit of knowing that it’s every two years there’s something serious happening. (Laughter.) 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 that we won’t be energized. And only we can prove them wrong.
So 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 just want to make this real for you -- just think back to the Senate race here in Colorado in 2010.
The outcome of that election was decided by about 14,000 votes. And while that might sound like a lot, when you break that number down, that’s just five votes per precinct. And this is where I want the young people to understand -- that’s five votes per precinct. That decided an election. And that could be the margin of difference this year; in all likelihood, it will be.
And I know that every single person in this room knows five people that you can get to vote for Mark Udall and for John Hickenlooper. I know you do. (Applause.) Just think of that five when you’re thinking about whether you’re going to mail your ballot in; when you think about talking to your peers and they’re like, I’m tired, I don’t know -- it’s five votes.
So let’s be clear: This one is on us. This is our votes. This one is on us. We can’t wait around for anyone else to do this. It’s on us to get people organized and energized and out to vote.
And you can start right now, today, by voting by mail, voting early in person -- Mark ran over it -- you vote by mail, be sure to put your ballot in the mail as soon as possible with two stamps. Or you can just bring it to the early-voting location nearest you. You can also vote early in person, as Mark said, from now until Election Day. In this state it couldn’t be easier.
However you decide to vote, just don’t wait another minute, especially for our students. You guys, do this now. Get this done. Don’t put this off. Just check it off your to-do list today.
I want a show of hands of how many people have already voted. (Applause.) All right, that’s not enough. (Laughter.) We’re very excited, but there’s a lot of potential just in this room.
So in fact, if you live here in Larimer County, you can vote right in the Lory Center. So just head down to the North Ballroom of this building and cast your vote. Get it done now, and bring everyone you know with you. Bring your roommate. Bring your teammate. Bring folks from your fraternity or your sorority. (Applause.) Bring that cute girl or guy that you met at the party last weekend -- and for the parents in the room, for you -- who met them at the library. (Laughter.) You’re studying very hard.
And then, as Mark said, we need you to volunteer. That’s really important, especially for students. We need you to knock on some doors, make calls. Do that hard work. You can just go to MarkUdall.com, and that’s where you can sign up there. Or you can find somebody here with the clipboards and sign up. Don’t leave here without getting that done. Don’t wait another minute. Get started. Because we’ve got less than two weeks until Election Day.
And this year simply could not be more important. Because if we don’t get folks out to vote, if we don’t elect leaders like Mark and John, then we know exactly what will happen. We are going to see more folks interfering in women’s private decisions about our health care. We’re going to see more opposition to immigration reform, to raising the minimum wage for hard-working folks.
So let’s be very clear: If you think that folks 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; if you think that every young person in this country should have a chance to go to college and build a good life for themselves, then we need you to step up now and get everyone you know to vote for Mark Udall and John Hickenlooper. (Applause.)
That’s what’s at stake in this election -- it’s the kind of country that we want to leave for you all. And I want us to remember, our kids are counting on us to stand up for them. And there are wonderful kids all over this country who are counting on us. I meet them everywhere I go. I know there are many of these kids here today.
They’re kids like Rashema Melson, who is one of my mentees at -- in the White House program where we mentor kids. Rashema’s father was murdered when she was a baby, and for years her family was homeless. There were days when Rashema didn’t have clean clothes to wear to school.
But here -- Rashema showed up every morning to school. She threw herself into every class. This girl’s brilliant, vibrant personality -- 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. She graduated as valedictorian of her class. And right now, today, this minute, she is on full scholarship at Georgetown University. I’m so proud of her. (Applause.)
But there are millions of Rashemas across this country. There are thousands of them here. There are hundreds of them in this room. I meet so many kids like her -- 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 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. They have every reason to quit. But they are so hungry to succeed. They are so desperate to lift themselves up. And that is why we do what we do. That is what keeps Barack and I working hard, despite the mess. We work hard because those kids never give up, and neither can we. (Applause.)
So this is what we need to do: Between now and November 4th, 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 future they deserve.
And if we all do that, if we keep stepping up -- just look at the power in this room. You feel the energy right here. If we keep stepping up and bringing others along the way, then I am confident that we can keep on making that change we believe in. I know we will reelect Mark Udall as Senator. I know we will reelect John Hickenlooper as Governor. And I know that together, we can build that future worthy of all our kids.
You guys stay fired up. Get it done. I love you all so much. (Applause.)
3:44 P.M. MDT