Remarks by the First Lady at Hfa Rally in Charlotte, North Carolina
Charlotte Convention Center
Charlotte, North Carolina
12:53 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Well, hello, Charlotte! (Applause.) How's everybody doing? (Applause.) Ya'll fired up, ready to make this happen?
MRS. OBAMA: Well, let me say, I am beyond thrilled to be here today to support the next President and Vice President of the United States -- Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine! (Applause.)
But before we get into things, I just want to take a moment to thank your Attorney General and soon-to-be Governor, Roy Cooper, for that wonderful introduction. (Applause.)
And I want to recognize a few more people as well -- Congresswoman Alma Adams, who is here. (Applause.) Your candidate for Lieutenant Governor, Linda Coleman. (Applause.) And of course, I want to thank all of you for being here, taking the time out of your busy days. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I love you!
MRS. OBAMA: I love you, too! (Applause.) It's good to be back in North Carolina, and it's a beautiful day with a beautiful room full of people.
And I have been so nostalgic campaigning. Can you believe I'm campaigning again? (Laughter and applause.) But I'm happy to be out here because this is the last time, and I can't believe that it's almost Election Day -- we're getting there, folks! (Applause.) And we're coming to the end of our time, my family's time, in the White House.
AUDIENCE: Awww --
MRS. OBAMA: As I've said, it's fine! It's fine because we've got a good replacement in Hillary Clinton, so we'll be good. (Applause.) But as I've been traveling around campaigning, I've just been sharing how this time is a little -- I'm mixed about this time. It's a little bittersweet because we are experiencing a time of great transition for me and Barack and Malia and Sasha and Bo and Sunny and Grandma -- all of us -- (laughter) as we figure out what we're going to do next.
I've got to get my husband to work. I'm going to need a job, but it will be a job out of politics. And my husband has got to get a job -- somebody has got to hire that man. (Laughter and applause.) They're making us move, so we're getting a new house. (Laughter.) We have to pack up the old house and, as Barack says, we've got to make sure we get our security deposit back, so we're working on that. (Laughter and applause.)
But as it is a great time of transition for our family, I know it's a great time of transition for the entire country as we decide who our next President is going to be. And times like these can be difficult -- we're feeling it, right? There's a lot of anxiety, a lot of uncertainty, and that's natural. We saw that in 2008. When Barack was first elected, I reminded people that there were folks who had plenty of questions about what kind of President Barack would be. They wondered, would he understand us? Rightly, they wanted to know, would he protect us?
But then of course, there were those who had different questions. Questions that they continued to ask for the past eight years -- whether Barack was born in this country. As I've said, these questions are hurtful, deceitful and they were designed to deliberately undermine his presidency. And I want to remind people, these are questions that cannot be blamed on others; they cannot be swept under the rug with an insincere sentence at a press conference.
And I think that during his time in office, my husband has answered those questions with the example he’s set and the dignity he has shown. (Applause.) By always going high when they go low -- (applause) -- and he has answered those questions with the progress that we have all achieved together. Progress like passing health reform, creating millions of jobs, slashing the unemployment rate, lifting millions of people out of poverty, expanding LGBT rights so marriage equality is now the law of the land. (Applause.) I could go on and on and on. (Applause.)
But even after all this progress, it is understandable that folks are feeling a little uncertain as we face this next transition. So the question now before us all is: How do we sort through all the negativity, all the name-calling that we've been experiencing and choose the right person to lead our country forward?
Well, I'm out here because I'm sharing what I think is a unique perspective that I have. As someone who has seen the presidency up close and personal, I want to share with you what I have learned about this job, watching it every day for the last seven and a half years.
First and foremost, this job is very hard. I have said it again and again -- it is the highest-stakes, most 24/7 job you can possibly imagine. The issues that cross a President’s desk are never easy. He doesn't get the easy questions. The solutions to persistent, systemic challenges are never black and white.
I mean, just think about the crises that Barack has faced just these last eight years. In his first term alone, Barack had to rescue our economy from the worst crisis since the Great Depression. (Applause.) He had to make the call to take out Osama bin Laden. (Applause.) He's had to respond to devastating natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy and so much more.
So, when it comes to the qualifications that we should demand of our President, to start with, we need someone who will take the job seriously. (Applause.) And that means we need someone who will actually study and prepare so that they understand the issues better than anyone else on their team. (Applause.)
And trust me, we need someone with superb judgment in their own right. Because, yes, 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 -- always has to make the final call.
We also need someone who is steady and measured, because when making life or death, war or peace decisions, a President can’t just pop off or lash out irrationally. And I think we can all agree that someone who’s roaming around at 3 a.m. tweeting should not have their fingers on the nuclear codes. (Applause.)
We need someone who is honest and plays by the rules, because not paying taxes for years and years while the rest of us pay our fair share doesn't make you smarter than the rest of us. (Applause.) No, we need a President who will choose to do what's best for the country, even when it doesn't personally benefit them. (Applause.)
And finally, we need a President who’s compassionate, and who truly cares about all our families; someone who will help us take on the hard issues our communities face not just with slogans about law and order, but with real solutions to heal our divisions -- here in Charlotte and all across this country. (Applause.)
So, at the end of the day, as I’ve said again and again, the presidency doesn’t change who you are -- it reveals who you are. (Applause.) And the same is true of a presidential campaign. U.S. presidential campaigns are very long -- nearly two years or half of one presidential term -- which gives voters a chance to get to know and observe a candidate’s behavior over a meaningful period of time. So if a candidate traffics in prejudice, fear and lies on the campaign trail, if a candidate mocks people with disabilities or folks who are sick, if a candidate implies that veterans who served our country so bravely are somehow weak because they’re dealing with the wounds of war, if a candidate regularly demeans and humiliates women -- making cruel and insulting comments about our bodies, criticizing how we look and how we act -- well, sadly, that’s who that candidate really is. That’s the kind of President they will be. And trust me, a candidate is not going to suddenly change once they’re in 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’s no way to hide who they really are.
But see, 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, fundamentally change the course of our planet.
So, who in this election is truly ready for this job?
MRS. OBAMA: Well, I agree. (Applause.) For me, there is only one candidate in this race who we can trust with those responsibilities; only one person with the qualifications and temperament for this job; and that person is our friend, Hillary Clinton, without a doubt. (Applause.) Without a doubt. We know that Hillary’s the right person because we’ve seen her character and commitment -- not just during the campaign, but over the course of her entire life. (Applause.)
We’ve seen her dedication to public service -- how after law school, she became an advocate for kids with disabilities. She fought for children’s health care as First Lady, for quality child care as a senator. And when she didn’t become President in 2008, Hillary didn’t just throw in the towel. No, she once again answered the call to serve and earned sky-high approval ratings. She earned sky-high approval ratings as our Secretary of State. (Applause.)
And for those who question her stamina to be President, Hillary’s resilience is more than proven. As she said in the debate last week, she’s the only candidate in this race who has traveled to 112 countries, who has negotiated a ceasefire, a peace agreement, a release of dissidents; who’s spent 11 hours testifying before a congressional committee. (Applause.)
Hillary Clinton is tough. See, I've watched her -- when she gets knocked down, she doesn’t complain. She doesn't cry foul. No, she gets right back up and comes back stronger for the people who need her most. (Applause.)
And let’s not forget that 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 -- (applause) -- the staggering stakes, the brutal hours, the overwhelming stresses. See, and this is the beauty of it. She knows this, and yet, she’s still willing to do this job. (Laughter and applause.) See, because Hillary was raised to believe that she has an obligation to use her talents to help as many people as possible. And that is why she's running. See, now, for me, that's dedication. That's what love of country looks like. (Applause.) So when I hear folks saying that they're just not feeling inspired in this election, I really have to disagree.
Because right now, we have an opportunity to elect one of the most qualified people who has ever endeavored to become President: Hillary -- I remind people -- 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. (Applause.) See, Charlotte, that is why I am inspired by Hillary. That's why I'm here. I'm inspired by her persistence and consistency. I'm inspired by her heart and her guts. And I’m inspired by her lifelong record of service. (Applause.)
No one in our lifetime has ever had as much experience and exposure to the presidency -- not Barack, not Bill, nobody. And, yes, she just happens to be a woman. (Applause.) So, with someone who has experienced this, trust me -- experience matters. Preparation matters. Temperament matters. And Hillary Clinton has it all. (Applause.)
She is the real deal, and I have come to know her very well over the years. And I know that she is more than ready, more than able to be an outstanding President for us all. So we cannot afford to squander this opportunity, particularly given the alternative. Because we know that being President isn’t anything like reality TV -- this is not an apprenticeship. It’s about whether someone can handle the awesome responsibility of leading this country.
So really take the time and think about this. As you prepare to make this decision -- and this decision is yours -- I urge you to ignore the chatter and the noise and ask yourselves: Which candidate really has the experience, the maturity and the temperament to handle this awesomely hard job? Which candidate’s words and actions speak to the values we share -- values like inclusion, opportunity, sacrifice for others. See, because your answers to these questions on Election Day will determine who sits in the Oval Office after Barack Obama.
And I want to be very clear: Elections are not just about who votes, but who doesn’t. (Applause.) So for any of you who might be thinking that your one vote doesn’t really matter, or that one person can’t really make a difference, I want you to consider this -- and I share this with everyone I go because it's the same every election -- every election -- not just the presidency. But back in 2008, Barack won North Carolina by about 14,000 votes -- (applause) -- and that sounds like a lot, but when you break that number down, the difference between winning and losing this state was a little over two votes per precinct. Do you hear that? (Laughter.) If just two or three folks per precinct had gone the other way or stayed at home, Barack would have lost this state. But then, let's not forget what happened in 2012 -- Barack actually did lose this state by about 17 votes per precinct.
So I just want you all to think about -- everybody in this room who didn't vote, everybody who didn't pick up the phone, who thought, I didn't feel good, I forgot, I didn't talk to my mother, didn't pick her up, it didn't matter, what does it matter? It matters. Do you hear me? It matters. (Applause.) So the fact is that each of you just in this hall could swing an entire precinct and win this election for Hillary just by getting yourselves, your friends, your family -- that's it -- out to vote. Just take care of you. Find a neighbor, find a friend. You could win this. (Applause.)
But you could also help swing an entire precinct for Hillary’s opponent with a protest vote -- don't play with that -- (laughter) -- or by staying home out of frustration. Because here’s the truth: Hillary Clinton or her opponent will be elected President this year. And if you vote for someone other than Hillary -- or if you don’t vote at all -- then you are helping to elect her opponent. (Applause.) And the stakes are far too high to take that chance.
Remember, it’s not about voting for the perfect candidate -- there is no such thing. Candidates happen to be human. In this election, it’s about making a choice between two very different candidates with very different visions for our nation. So the question is: Do you want Hillary Clinton to be your President or do you want her opponent to be your President?
AUDIENCE: Hillary! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: If you choose Hillary, like I do, then we have to get to work because it's not enough to just come to a rally, post selfies. I mean, elections are still about rolling up your sleeves. It's not enough to get angry and just speak about the change -- we all need to take action. And being here is an important first step, but we've got to take action to elect folks who will stand with us to make that change.
So we need you to leave here with all the energy and get yourself -- and everyone you know -- registered to vote today. (Applause.) And we're fortunate because the Clinton campaign is highly organized, so there are a number of volunteers here today who can help. I want you, if you are not registered, find them and get registered before you leave. You can also go to IWillVote.com for all our young people who do this -- (laughter) -- so you can check your registration status and you can also get registered to vote there as well.
And then we need you to roll up your sleeves, make calls, think about that two votes -- every call you make, every door you knock on, 17 votes. Think about that to get folks out on Election Day. You and you alone can turn this race. (Applause.) And, again, you can sign up again with Hillary campaign folks who are here today. I want to see the numbers here. See, one of the things that gets me going is that when I leave a rally and folks really sign up -- see, I call and go, what'd they do? Where they listening? (Laughter.) And then I get some numbers and I'm like, yes! They were listening! (Applause.) So don't embarrass me, ya'll. (Laughter and applause.)
As you all are working your hearts off for Hillary, if you start to feel tired and discouraged by all the negative in this election, if you just want to hide under the bed and come out when it's all over, I will leave you just reminding you what's at stake. The choice you make on November the 8th could determine whether young people can afford their college tuition; whether folks will have the health care they need for themselves and their families. It will determine whether we close tax loop holes that allow billionaires to game the system at the expense of working folks. (Applause.) On November the 8th, you will decide whether we have a President who believes in science and will combat 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.) A President who thinks that women deserve the right to make their own choices about our bodies and our health -- or not. (Applause.) You will decide that. That's what's at stake -- just a sliver or what's at stake.
So we cannot afford to be tired or turned off. Not now. Because while this might feel like a time of great uncertainty and division, I just want to remind you, I have never felt more hopeful about the future of this great nation -- never. And I feel this way because for the past eight years, I have had the great honor of traveling from one end of our country to the other. And I have met 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, are fundamentally decent people. Every last one of us. And we all truly want the same things. We really do. (Applause.)
Time and again, Barack and I have met people who disagree with just about everything we've ever said, but they still welcome us, warmly, into their communities -- folks who are open-hearted and willing to listen. And while we might not always change each other's minds, we always walk away reminded that we're just not all that different. I just wish everyone could see that.
Millions of folks in this country are working long hours to send their kids to college, just like my mom and dad did. They're helping to 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 teaching our girls -- that you work hard for what you want in life; you don't take shortcuts; you treat people with respect, even if they don't look or think like you. (Applause.) That when someone is struggling, you don't turn away, and you certainly don't take advantage of them. No, you imagine walking a mile in their shoes -- empathy. I mean, you do what you can to help.
So I remind people, in this election -- especially our young people -- don't ever let anyone take away your hope. Hope matters. (Applause.) Because that's what we do in America -- a country where a girl like me from the South Side of Chicago, whose great, great grandfather was a slave can go to the finest universities on Earth. (Applause.) A country where a biracial kid from Hawaii, who is the son of a single mother, can become President. (Applause.) 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 us who we are today. (Applause.) That is what makes America great. (Applause.)
And North Carolina, we deserve a President who can see those truths in all of us. A President who believes that each of us is part of the American story and we are always stronger together. (Applause.) A President who will bring out the best in us -- our kindness, our decency, our courage, our determination -- so we can keep perfecting our union and passing down those blessings of liberty to our kids, who are watching.
Hillary Clinton will be that President. (Applause.) And I am confident -- I would not be here if I didn't believe that. You all know me well enough to know over these years that I do things that I believe in. I don't have to be here. (Applause.) I am here because I care about this country, and I care about every last one of our citizens in it, and I care about our kids. (Applause.) Hillary Clinton is that President. So from now until November, all of us -- we need to do everything we can to help her and Tim Kaine win this election. (Applause.)
So as I leave you, Charlotte, and go on to Raleigh, my question is, are you all with me?
MRS. OBAMA: Are we fired up? (Applause.) You all in this room can make the difference, but you've got to get to work. Are we ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work? (Applause.) Well, I'm going to be right there with you.
Thank you all. God bless. (Applause.)
1:20 P.M. EDT