Remarks by the First Lady at a Grassroots Campaign Event with Democratic Candidate for Senate Mark Udall -- Denver, Colorado
1:13 P.M. MDT
MRS. OBAMA: Hey! (Applause.) How are you guys doing? Are we ready to get this done? (Applause.) Good. I’m really thrilled to be here today. Can you all hear me?
MRS. OBAMA: All right, I can’t tell. You can hear me? (Applause.) I’m very excited to be here today to support your outstanding Senator, Mark Udall. (Applause.)
Now, as I’m sure you all know by now, Mark is the real deal. In fact, I think it says a lot about Mark that years ago, he served as Executive Director of Colorado Outward Bound, and he’s spent his life scaling some of highest, hardest mountains here in this state and around the world. And that tells you that he knows what it means to run a business, which is why he’s fought so hard to support clean energy, aerospace, and high-tech businesses here in this state so they can create good jobs here.
Mark’s background also tells you that he’s practical and tenacious, which is why he’s never gotten caught up in the bickering and partisanship back in Washington. Instead, time and again, Mark has reached out across the aisles to get things done for this state. And Mark is focused on real solutions -- that’s why I’m here -- whether it’s getting the best services for our veterans, or working to balance our budget, or ensuring that folks here in Colorado had the relief they needed after those devastating floods and the wildfires.
And as a fifth generation Coloradan, Mark understands what makes this state special. He understands the values of independence and fairness -- all the things that folks here believe in. And that’s why Mark has fought so hard to make sure women get equal pay for their work. (Applause.) It’s why he will always stand up for women’s right to make our own decisions about our bodies and about our health care. (Applause.)
So make no mistake about it, if you all want a Senator who truly shares your values and will keep on standing up for you and your families every day out there in Washington, then you need to do everything in your power to reelect Mark Udall as your Senator. We’ve got to get this done, and I know that we can. (Applause.)
Now, while he couldn’t be here with us today, I also wanted to say a few words about your outstanding Governor, John Hickenlooper. (Applause.) Because there are a lot of good facts around your Governor. During his time in office, Colorado’s unemployment rate dropped from 9.1 percent to 4.7 percent -- (applause) -- and Colorado went from 40th in the nation for job creation to 4th, with more than 200,000 new jobs here in this state.
John has balanced your budgets. He’s invested in education. He’s helped veterans and military spouses -- something near and dear to me -- helped them get good jobs. And he’s done so much more. So I think John’s record speaks for itself.
So when you vote to reelect Mark as your Senator, be sure to also reelect John Hickenlooper as your Governor, as well. Let’s get it done. (Applause.)
I also want to recognize a few of your outstanding Colorado leaders. I know that Senator Michael Bennet was here earlier, and we’re going to do some more rallying it up after I leave here. And Representative Diana Degette is here, as well. (Applause.) She brought me a really cool candle; I’m going to take that home. (Laughter.) So we’re so grateful for their leadership and for their service, as well.
But really, I’m here because I want to thank all of you. Really. So many of you have been with us from the very beginning -- (applause) -- back when we were talking about hope and change, and getting fired up and ready to go. (Applause.)
And then so many of you were with us when Barack first took office, and he got a good look at the mess he’d been handed and wondered what on Earth he’d gotten himself into. (Laughter.) I want to take us back a little bit, to remember how bad things were back then. See, because sometimes when things get better, we forget how bad they were.
But we were in full-blown crisis mode. And I know there are young people here too young to even know. Our economy was literally on the brink of collapse. Wall Street banks were folding. Businesses were losing 800,000 jobs a month -- 800,000 jobs a month. People were panicking about whether we were headed for another Great Depression -- and that wasn’t just talk, that was a real possibility. I could go on. Things were bad. And this is what Barack walked into on day one as President of the United States.
Now think about the way things look today, less than six years later, under your President.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you, Obama! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: By almost every economic measure, we are better off today than when Barack first took office. And while, yes, I’m his wife -- I love him, I am proud of my husband, he’s doing a phenomenal job -- I say this because I have some facts. So let me share some facts with you, because sometimes we don’t deal in facts.
Our businesses have created more than 10 million new jobs since 2010. (Applause.) This would constitute longest uninterrupted run of private sector job growth in our nation’s history -- do you hear me? In our nation’s history. 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. (Applause.) And last year, the number of children living in poverty decreased by 1.4 million, which 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 we’re so proud of them. Education is key for our young people. And because of the Affordable Care Act, millions of Americans have finally gotten health insurance. (Applause.)
I could go on and on and on. But I want you to just think about how different our country looks to children growing up today. Think about how they 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. (Applause.)
So while we still have 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, especially now -- all this didn’t just happen because we elected Barack Obama. It happened because we also elected outstanding leaders in states across this country -- leaders like Mark Udall, who stand up for our jobs, for our kids’ education; leaders who fight to raise the minimum wage and get women equal pay for their work. (Applause.)
So it’s important for you all to be just so clear that if we want to finish what we all started together, then we need to reelect Mark Udall as your Senator. That has got to happen. (Applause.)
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 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. And at the end of the day, the folks running those special interest groups, the folks pouring millions of dollars into those elections, guess what? They each 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 this country. And that’s why Barack Obama is President right now. (Applause.) He’s President because a bunch of people who never voted before showed up in 2008 and 2012.
And a lot of people were shocked when Barack won, because they were counting on folks like us to stay home. But, see, we proved them wrong. Barack won because record numbers of women and minorities and young people showed up to vote. (Applause.) Remember that.
See, but then what happened is that 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 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 stay put. 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 -- understand this.
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. I want you to really take that in. Because I go around the country and break these numbers down, and the margin of difference of victory and defeat, the numbers are countable.
So I want people to think before they forget to mail in their ballot, or when they’re thinking about the calls that we need you to make -- that every call that you make, every person that you turn around will absolutely make the difference.
And I know that everyone here in this room alone -- every single one of you -- knows five people that you can get to vote for Mark Udall, right? You know five people who didn’t bother to vote in the last midterm elections. You know these folks.
So understand that this one is on us. These are our folks that we’re talking about getting to vote. These are people who support Mark, who support this President, who support the issues. And it’s up to us just to get them out there. We can’t wait around for anyone else to do this for us.
If we want to keep on making change here in Colorado, then we need to take responsibility, and to work to make it happen. Because we all know that the real problem isn’t that people don’t care. Or course we care, right? We care deeply about what’s happening in our communities. We care deeply about justice and equality. We care deeply about giving our kids opportunities they never dreamed of.
But the fact is that sometimes folks get busy. Folks are juggling demands at home, the needs of their families. Sometimes people just aren’t informed about the issues at stake in this election. Sometimes they just don’t know how to make their voices heard on Election Day. Some people don’t even know that election is happening.
So that’s why you all are here. It’s up to us to educate folks and make sure they know how to cast their votes in this election. That’s your job. That’s what we’re counting on. (Applause.) That’s why I’m here. It’s up to us to get out and, first, to vote ourselves.
So first of all, I want to know how many people here have already voted. (Applause.) All right, that’s still not everybody. (Laughter.) So that starts with voting, here in this room. And voting by mail, voting early, in person -- all that -- it’s the easiest thing you can do.
If you vote by mail, be sure to put your ballot in the mail today, or as soon as possible, with two stamps. Two -- do you -- two stamps. Or you can just bring your early-voting ballot to the voting location nearest you. You can also vote early in person from now until Election Day.
However you decide to vote, don’t wait another minute. Do it today. Just promise me that everybody in this room will vote today. In fact, do it as soon as this event is over. (Applause.) Think about those five people as you do it.
And that’s really my key message today: to vote as soon as you can, and get everyone you know to vote with you -- everyone. Call your friends, your family. You -- everybody knows somebody who’s sitting on the couch right now who’s not even focused on this. Find that person in your lives, just shake them up -- (laughter) -- and make sure they put those ballots in the mail, or they get out to the polls.
And then we need all of you, every one of you to volunteer. That’s how it happens. That’s how we get votes done. That’s how we did it in the past elections -- making those calls, knocking on those doors. I know so many of you are already doing that, but we’ve just got a few more days to go.
So this isn’t a lot of time. So everybody here can be a part of pulling another five people in just by calling them on the phone and saying, hey, did you know an election was coming up, get your ballot.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes, we can!
MRS. OBAMA: Yes, we can do this! (Applause.) See, that’s the thing: We absolutely can do this. And we need you to go to MarkUdall.com -- MarkUdall.com. And I know there are enough young people here who can help the technologically challenged of us to do that -- right, young people? (Applause.)
But better yet, you can sign up with one of the organizers that are here today. There are clipboards all around, so don’t leave here until you volunteer. It’s a few hours out of your time, and it will absolutely make a difference. Don’t wait another minute to get started because we’ve got less than two 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 even more hungry, because these midterm races will be even harder and even closer than those presidential elections -- but they’re just as important. Do you hear me? They’re just as important.
And the stakes this year simply could not be higher. Because if we don’t elect leaders like 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. We’ll see more opposition to immigration reform and raising the minimum wage for hard-working folks.
So let’s be very clear: If you don’t think people who work 40 or 50 hours a week should 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 want your kids to have quality preschool and the college education they need to fulfill every last bit of their God-given potential, then you all need to stand up and get everyone you know to stand up and vote for Mark Udall. We can make this happen. (Applause.)
That’s what’s at stake in these elections –- it’s the kind of country we want to leave for our kids and grandkids. And those kids are counting on us to stand up for them. If you want to know the thing that keeps me and Barack going, it’s thinking about our kids in this country. Because we know these kids. They’re everywhere, and they’re counting on us.
And I meet them everywhere -- kids like a young man named Lawrence Lawson, who worked with me on my Reach Higher initiative. This young man’s father died when he was eight years old. Then at the age of nine, this kid suffered a major seizure where he had to learn to read and walk and speak again. Then at 12, his mother died, and this kid was passed from his aunt in Atlanta to his sister in Baltimore.
But see, the beauty of Lawrence is that no matter what was going on in his life, whatever chaos was surrounding him, this kid did his best in school. He joined the marching bank. He interned at Johns Hopkins Hospital. And 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. I know that right now in this crowd, there are kids like Lawrence -- these are our kids. Kids who wake up early and take the long route to school to avoid the gangs -- these are our kids. Kids who juggle afterschool jobs to support their families, stay up late to get their homework done -- these are our kids. Kids whose parents don’t speak a word of English, but who are fighting every day to realize their dream of a better life.
This is what’s at stake. These kids have every reason to give up, but they are so hungry to succeed. They are so desperate to lift themselves up. And that’s what we have to remember. We’re here today because of them. Because if those kids never give up, then neither will we. We will never give up on these kids.
So between now and November 4th, we need to be energized for them. We need to be inspired for them. We need to pour everything that we have into this election so that they can have the opportunities they need to build the futures they deserve.
So that’s why we’re here. That’s why we’re here. That’s why those five votes just don’t make sense. We cannot let this election go, because it will have an impact on our children that they will feel for a very long time.
So are you guys ready for this? (Applause.) We got two weeks of hard work, two weeks of knocking on doors, two weeks for voting, two weeks of calling. We can get our people out, and we can get them to vote. And when we do that, we will get Mark Udall into office. We’ll reelect John Hickenlooper. We will keep working for that change we believe in. And we will keep building a better future for our children.
Thank you all so much. (Applause.)
1:30 P.M. MDT