Remarks By The First Lady At a Hillary for America Event
George Mason University
3:03 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Hey! (Applause.) How are you guys doing? Wow! Thank you, guys. Look at you. My goodness. (Laughter.) Oh, my goodness. Well, listen, let's started here. You guys have been standing up for a while, right? (Applause.) So let's start talking about some stuff.
First of all, let me just say I am thrilled to be here today to support the next President and Vice President of the United States -- Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine! (Applause.) Yes!
I have to do a few thank-yous before we go in. I want to thank Henry for that wonderful introduction, for sharing his story. I want to thank all the members of Congress who are here today. Representatives Bobby Scott, Gerry Connolly. And I also want to recognize our outstanding DNC Chair, Donna Brazile. (Applause.) I hear she lit it up, right? And I want to thank Charity for her fabulous remarks. (Applause.) And of course, I have to recognize another great First Lady of Virginia, right here, Dorothy McAuliffe, who is here. So glad that she could join us. And, of course, to all of you, our students of George Mason University! Look at you all. (Applause.)
Now, let me say, it is so hard to believe that it is less than two months to Election Day, and that my family is almost at the end of our time in the White House.
MRS. OBAMA: Yeah, it's almost time. And let me say -- I have to say --
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: No -- no. (Laughter.) Let me say this: You have me and Barack working on your behalf for the rest of our lives. So no need to worry. (Applause.) We're going to be here.
But let me just tell you, this time is really bittersweet for me. It’s a time of real transition for me and Barack and our girls. My husband is going to need a new job. (Laughter.) I'm going to have to find a job. We're going to be moving to a new home, so we'll have to pack. We got to get the old house cleaned up so we can get our security deposit back. (Laughter.)
But in all seriousness, this isn’t just a time of transition for my family -- but for our entire country -- as we decide who our next President will be. And transitions like this can be difficult. They involve a lot of uncertainty. And we saw that in 2008 when Barack was first elected.
I don’t know if many of you were old enough to remember -- (laughter) -- you remember? But back then, people had all kinds of questions about what kind of President Barack would be. Things like, does he really understand us? Will he protect us? And then, of course, there were those who questioned -- and continued to question for the past eight years, up through this very day -- whether my husband was even born in this country.
AUDIENCE: Booo --
MRS. OBAMA: Well, during his time in office, I think Barack has answered those questions with the example he’s set -- by going high when they go low. (Applause.) And he’s answered these questions with the progress that we’ve achieved together, progress like bringing health care to 20 million people. (Applause.) Creating 15 million private sector jobs. Helping millions of young people, like all of you, afford college. (Applause.) Expanding LGBT rights and marriage equality, marriage equality is now the law of the land.
And we just learned that, last year, the typical household income rose by $2,800 -- (applause) -- which, by the way, is the largest one-year jump on record. (Applause.) And 3.5 million people were lifted out of poverty. That’s the biggest one-year decrease in poverty in nearly 50 years. (Applause.) You hear me? All right.
But even after all this progress, it’s understandable that folks are feeling a little uncertain as we face the next transition. So the question is, for all of you and all of us, for the nation, is: How do we sort through all the negativity and the name-calling in this election, and choose the right person to lead our country forward?
Well, as someone who’s seen the presidency up close and personal, here’s what I’ve learned about this job. First and foremost, this job is hard. Okay? This is the highest-stakes, most 24/7 job you can possibly imagine. The issues that cross a President’s desk are never easy, none of them. They're never black and white.
I mean, just think about the crises this President has faced these last eight years. In his first term alone, Barack had to rescue our economy from the worst crisis since the Great Depression. He had to make the call to take out Osama bin Laden. (Applause.) He had to work to stop millions of gallons of oil that were gushing into our Gulf Coast. He had to respond to devastating natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy and so much more.
So when it comes to the qualifications we should demand in a President -- to start with, we need someone who is going to take this job seriously; someone who will study and prepare so that they understand the issues better than anyone else on their team. And we need someone not with good judgement, but with superb judgment in their own right. Because a President can hire the best advisors on Earth, but let me tell you, five advisors will give five different opinions. And the President, and the President alone, is always the one to make the final call. Believe me.
We also need someone who is steady and measured, because when you're making life or death, war or peace decisions, a President can’t just pop off. (Applause.) Finally, we need someone who’s compassionate, who’s unifying force, someone who will be a role model for our kids; someone who’s not just in this for themselves, but for the good of this country. See, at the end of the day, as I’ve said before, the presidency doesn’t change who you are -- it reveals who you are. (Applause.) And the same thing is true of a presidential campaign.
So if a candidate is erratic and threatening, if a candidate traffics in prejudice, fear and lies on the trail, if a candidate has no clear plans to implement their goals, if they disrespect their fellow citizens, including folks who have made extraordinary sacrifices for our country -- let me tell you, that is who they are. That is the kind of President they will be. Trust me, a candidate is not going to suddenly change once they get into office. Just the opposite, in fact. Because the minute that individual takes that oath, they are under the hottest, harshest light there is, and there is no way to hide who they really are.
And at that point, it’s too late. They’re the leader of the world’s largest economy, the Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful military force on Earth. With every word they utter, they can start wars, crash markets, change the course of this planet.
So who in this election is truly ready for this job? Who do we pick? Well, for me, I'm just saying -- it is excruciatingly clear that there is only one person in this election we can trust with those responsibilities, only one person with the qualifications and the temperament for that job. And that is our friend, Hillary Clinton. (Applause.)
We know that Hillary is the right person because we’ve seen her character and commitment -- not just on the trail, but over the course of her entire life. We’ve seen her dedication to public service; how after law school, she chose to be an advocate for kids with disabilities. She fought for children’s health care as First Lady, for quality childcare as a Senator.
And when she didn’t win the presidency in 2008, she didn’t throw in the towel. She once again answered the call to serve, keeping us safe as our Secretary of State. And let me tell you, Hillary has the resilience that it takes to do this job. See, because when she gets knocked down, she doesn’t complain or cry foul. No, she gets right back up, and she comes back stronger for the people who need her the most.
And here is what is also true -- and I want you all to think about this. Hillary is one of the few people on this entire planet -- and clearly the only person in this race -- who has any idea what this job entails, who has seen it from every angle. Hear me: the staggering stakes, the brutal hours, the overwhelming stresses. And here's the thing -- she still wants to take it on. (Applause.) See, because she believes that she has an obligation to use her talents to help as many people as possible. That is why she’s running.
Now, let me tell you, that is what dedication looks like. That is what love of country looks like. So when I hear folks saying they don’t feel inspired in this election -- well, let me tell you, I disagree. I am inspired. Because for eight years, I have had the privilege to see what it takes to actually do this job.
And here’s what I absolutely know for sure -- listen to this: Right now, we have an opportunity to elect one of the most qualified people who has ever endeavored to become president. (Applause.) Hillary has been a lawyer, a law professor, First Lady of Arkansas, First Lady of the United States, a U.S. Senator, Secretary of State. Do you hear me? (Applause.)
See, that’s why I’m inspired by Hillary. I’m inspired by her persistence and her consistency, by her heart and her guts. And I’m inspired by her lifelong record of public service. No one in our lifetime has ever had as much experience and exposure to the presidency -- not Barack; not Bill -- as he would say, nobody. And, yes, happens to be a woman. (Applause.)
So we cannot afford to squander this opportunity, particularly given the alternative. Because here is what we know -- that being President isn’t anything like reality TV. (Applause.) It’s not about sending insulting tweets or making fiery speeches. It’s about whether or not the candidate can handle the awesome responsibility of leading this country.
So, George Mason, Virginia, as you prepare to make this decision, I urge you, I beg of you to ignore the chatter and the noise and ask yourselves: Which candidate really has the experience, the maturity, and the demeanor to handle the job I described to you? Which candidate’s words and actions speak to the future we want for our country and the values we share -- values like inclusion and opportunity, service and sacrifice for others?
Your answers to these questions on Election Day will determine who sits in the Oval Office after Barack Obama. And let’s be clear: Elections aren’t just about who votes, but who doesn’t vote. And that is especially true for young people like all of you. In fact, in 2012, voters under the age of 30 provided the margin of victory for Barack in four key battleground states: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, and right here in Virginia. (Applause.) Right here. Without those votes, Barack would have lost those states, and he definitely would have lost that election -- period, end of story.
So for any of you who might be thinking that, "my vote doesn’t really matter," that one person can’t really make a difference in this election, I want you to consider this: Back in 2012, Barack won Virginia by about 150,000 votes. Now, that may sounds like a lot. But when you break that down, the difference between winning and losing this state was only 31 votes per precinct. Thirty-one votes. He won Ohio. The difference there was just -- in Ohio, the difference there was just nine votes per precinct. Do you hear me? In Florida, the difference was six votes per precinct. Take that in for a moment. Take that in. Those are real numbers. That's how elections, especially the presidential election, are won and loss on a handful of votes.
So there are plenty of states where each of you could swing an entire precinct and win this election for Hillary Clinton just by getting yourselves, your friends and your few family members registered and out to vote. (Applause.) But it’s going to take work. Yes, we can! (Applause.) It's going to take work. It's going to take work.
AUDIENCE: Yes, we can! Yes, we can!
MRS. OBAMA: We can do this. We can, and we must.
But here's the thing -- it’s not enough to just come to a rally. It's not enough to just get a few selfies. (Laughter.) It’s not enough to just get angry and just speak out. We also have to work and make that change, and take action. And that starts with electing folks who will stand with you and fight with you. And that’s why you need to get yourself and everyone you know registered to vote today. And we’ve got volunteers here. I want you all, if you're not registered, I want you to find them before you leave. Find them and get registered before you leave this building.
And then we need you to roll up your sleeves and get to work, making calls, knocking on doors, thinking about those handful of votes that you could carry, and get people out on Election Day. Again, you can sign up to volunteer with any of the staff who are here. So get it done. Right, George Mason? (Applause.) Work your hearts out.
And as you’re working your heart out for Hillary, if you start to feel tired or discouraged by all the negativity in this election, if you want to just hide under the bed and come out when it’s all over, I want you to remember what’s at stake. The choice you make on November 8th will determine whether you can afford a college tuition. It will determine whether you can keep your health care when you graduate.
On November 8th, you will decide whether we have a president who believes in science and will fight climate change -- or not. (Applause.) You will decide whether we have a president who will honor our proud history as a nation of immigrants -- or not. (Applause.) You will decide whether we have a president who thinks that women deserve the right to make their own choices about their bodies and their health -- or not. (Applause.)
And here's the thing. At a time when incomes are rising by thousands of dollars, when millions of people are being lifted out of poverty, ask yourselves: Is now really the time to fundamentally change direction when we’re making so much progress?
MRS. OBAMA: I mean, do we really want to go back to the way things were before Barack was President?
MRS. OBAMA: A time of economic crisis, stagnant wages when we were losing nearly 800,000 jobs a month. Or do you want a President who will keep moving this country forward? (Applause.)
Well, that’s what’s at stake. So we can't afford to be tired or turned off -- not now. Because while this might feel like a time of uncertainty and division, I have never felt more hopeful about the future of this great nation. Let me tell you. I feel this way because for the past eight years, I have had the great honor of traveling from one end of this country to the other. And let me tell you, I have met just some of the most amazing people -- people from every conceivable --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Ellen!
MRS. OBAMA: And Ellen. (Laughter and applause.) But people from every conceivable background and walk of life. And time and again, I've seen proof of what Barack and I have always believed in our hearts: that we as Americans, we're fundamentally good folks, and we all truly want the same things. I mean, that's the thing. We're not that different.
Time and again, Barack and I have met people who disagree with everything we’ve ever said, but they still welcome us into their communities. They keep their minds open, willing to listen. And while we might not always change each other's mind, we always walk away reminded that we’re really not that different.
Folks in this country are working long hours to send their kids to college just like my mom and dad did for me. They’re helping raise their grandkids just like Barack’s grandparents did for him. They’re teaching their kids the exact same values that Barack and I are trying to teach our girls: that you work hard for what you want in life and you don’t take shortcuts; that you treat people with respect, even if they look or think differently from you; that when someone is struggling, you don’t turn away, and you certainly don’t take advantage. No, you imagine walking a mile in their shoes and you do what you can to help, because that’s what we do in America. (Applause.)
We live in a country where a girl like me, from the South Side of Chicago, whose great great grandfather was a slave, can go to some of the finest universities on Earth. We live in a country where a biracial kid from Hawaii named Barack Obama -- (applause) -- the son of a single mother -- can become president. A country that has always been a beacon for people who have come to our shores and poured their hopes and their prayers, and their backbreaking hard work into making this country what it is today. That is what makes America great. Don't ever forget it. (Applause.)
And here's the thing. I know in my heart that we deserve a president who can see those truths in us, a president who believes that each of us is part of the American story and we're always stronger together. We deserve a president who can bring out what is best in us -- our kindness and decency, our courage and determination, so we can keep perfecting our union and passing down those blessings of liberty to our children.
Let me tell you this. I have never been more confident that Hillary Clinton will be that president. (Applause.) So here's what I'm pledging. From now until November, I'm going to work as hard as I can to make sure that Hillary and Tim Kaine win this election. I need your help to do that, as well. Are you with me? (Applause.) I can't hear you. Are you with me? (Applause.) You got to roll up your sleeves. You got to get to work, make it happen. Virginia will make the difference in this election. Are you ready, Virginia? (Applause.)
Thank you all. God bless.
3:28 P.M. EDT