Remarks by the First Lady at HFA Rally in Raleigh, North Carolina
Reynolds Coliseum, North Carolina State University
Raleigh, North Carolina
3:29 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Oh my goodness! What's going on? (Applause.) You all are taking my breath away. (Applause.) Wow, how are you all doing? (Applause.) Good, me too. I am -- well, you all have got me all pumped up! I'm so excited to be here. (Applause.)
I don't know about you, but I am here to support the next President and Vice President of the United States -- Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine. (Applause.)
But let me do a few things first. I want to start by --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Happy anniversary!
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you. Happy anniversary -- sad. (Applause.) Yes, me and Barack just celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary yesterday. (Applause.) Thank you, guys. (Applause.)
But let me first thank Kaitlin, because she is a phenomenal representative of this school. I know that she speaks for all of you because she is amazing, hardworking, articulate, beautiful, well-dressed, well-mannered. (Applause.) So I want to thank Kaitlin for that wonderful introduction -- it takes a lot to come out here and talk to all you with all this excitement, so she did a phenomenal job. (Applause.)
I also want to recognize a few other people -- your candidate for U.S. Senate, Deborah Ross, is here. (Applause.) And I want to recognize Congressmen Butterfield and Price -- I know Congressman Price is here. (Applause.) And your former Governor, Governor Hunt and First Lady Hunt -- former First Lady Hunt. (Applause.)
But I have to say that I have to thank all of you here at NC State for coming out! (Applause.) Oh my goodness, thank you! (Applause.)
So I'm back on the campaign trail -- wow, who would have thought? It is hard to believe that we are so close to Election Day. And as I've been sharing with people as I've been going around the campaign trail, we're almost at the end of our time, our family, at the White House. (Applause.) It's okay. It's okay. Because we've got --
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: The President gets two terms, eight years, that's our democracy, it's a good thing. It's a good thing. But our job -- we have to replace with a good next family, and that's why we're here. (Applause.) But I've been sharing with people that this time is bittersweet for me. This is going to be the last time I campaign.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I love you!
MRS. OBAMA: I love you all, too. I love you all so much. I do. (Applause.) I do. I love you all more than you will know. Don't get me crying up here because I will do that. (Applause.)
But this is really a time of great transition for me and Barack and the girls and my mom and Bo and Sunny. (Laughter.) As I've been saying, I'm really trying to make sure that my husband finds a new job so he's not sitting around the house. (Laughter.) I'm going to find a new job, so if you guys have been working on your résumés, you'll be able to give me some tips. NC State may be hiring -- we'll take a look. (Applause.)
But we've got to move out of our house -- you know, that White House? We've got to move out, we've got to pack it up, make sure it's clean for the next occupants so we don't lose our security deposit. (Laughter.) So we've got a lot going on. So we're kind of dealing with all of this. But I know that 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 are difficult, because they involve a lot of uncertainty. And we saw that back in 2008 when Barack was first elected. Some of you may be too young to remember because I'm looking at you all, and you all are so young. (Laughter.) So many of you.
But back then, I don't know if you remember, but people had all kinds of questions about what kind of President Barack would be. Things like, would he understand us? Would he protect us? (Applause.) But as I am -- want to remind people that there were also those who had other kinds of questions -- questions they continued to ask for the past eight years, like whether Barack was born in this country.
AUDIENCE: Booo --
MRS. OBAMA: And I make a point to point this out because these questions were hurtful. They were deceitful. They were deliberately designed to undermine my husband's presidency. And they are questions that cannot be blamed on others. They can't be swept under the rug -- I'm certainly not sweeping anything under the rug. (Laughter and applause.) But during this time in the White House, I think that Barack has answered those questions with the example he has set and the dignity he has shown by going high when they go low. (Applause.)
But more importantly, I think he's answered those questions with the progress that we all achieved together. Progress like passing health reform; creating millions of new jobs and slashing the unemployment rate; lifting millions out of poverty; expanding LGBT rights so marriage equality is now the law of the land. (Applause.) I could go on, but even after all this progress, it is understandable that folks are feeling a little uncertain as we face the next transition. So the question is, how do we sort through all of the negativity, all the name-calling in this election and choose the right person to lead our country?
But one of the reasons why I'm out here -- and I wanted to be out here -- was because I have a unique perspective on the presidency. I have seen it up close and personal for seven and a half years, and I've learned a lot about what it takes to do this job. First and foremost, this job is hard. It is really hard. It is the highest stakes, most 24/7 job you can possibly imagine. The issues that cross a President's desk are never easy. The easy questions don't even get to the President. Solutions to persistent, systemic challenges are never black and white.
Just think about the crises Barack has faced these past eight years. In his first term alone, he 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 we should demand in a President, to start with, we need someone who will take the job seriously. (Applause.) Someone who will study and prepare so that they understand the issues better than anyone else on their team. (Applause.) We need someone with superb judgement in their own right, because yes, a President can hire the best advisors on Earth, but I guarantee you this: Five advisors will give five different opinions. And it is the President -- and the President alone -- who always makes the final call. We also need someone who is steady and measured, because when you're making life or death, war or peace decisions, a President cannot just pop off or lash out irrationally. (Applause.) He can't do it. (Applause.)
And I just have to say this: I think we all agree that someone who is 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 -- (applause) -- see, that does not make you smarter than the rest of us. We need a President who will choose to do what's best for the country, even when it doesn't personally benefit them. (Applause.)
Finally, we need a President who is compassionate -- someone who truly cares about 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 North Carolina and all across this country. Because at the end of the day, as I've said before and I will say it again and again until Election Day, the presidency does not change who you are -- it reveals who you are. (Applause.)
And trust me, the same thing is true of a presidential campaign. U.S. presidential campaigns are very long -- nearly two years, or half of one entire 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 people who are sick, if a candidate implies that our veterans who have served our country so bravely are somehow weak because they’re dealing with the wounds of war -- (applause) -- if a candidate regularly demeans and humiliates women -- (applause) -- making cruel and insulting comments about our bodies, criticizing how we look and how we act -- see, well, sadly, that’s who that candidate really is. (Applause.) And that is -- that’s the kind of President they will be. So trust me, a candidate is not going to suddenly change once they’re in office.
See, just the opposite, because the minute that individual takes that oath, they are under the hottest, harshest light there is and there’s nowhere to hide who they really are. See, but at that point, it’s too late. They’re the leader of the world’s largest economy. They're 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, the question we all have to honestly ask ourselves: Who in this election is truly ready for this job?
AUDIENCE: Hillary! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: I am obviously here because it is crystal clear to me that there's only one person in this race 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. (Applause.) So here's why I believe that. And trust me, I don't campaign for just anybody. (Laughter.) See, we know that Hillary’s the right person because we’ve seen her character and commitment not just during this campaign, but over the course of her entire life. (Applause.)
We’ve seen her dedication to public service -- how after law school -- and a lot of students will understand this -- she became an advocate for kids with disabilities. That's what she did with her law degree. (Applause.) She fought for children’s health care as First Lady, and for quality child care as a senator. And this is the thing about Hillary: When she didn’t become President in 2008, she didn’t throw in the towel. No, she once again answered the call to serve and earned sky-high approval ratings. Let me say that again: She earned sky-high approval ratings -- she was fine then. She was competent then. We liked her then, as she served as our outstanding Secretary of State. (Applause.)
And for those who question Hillary Clinton's stamina to be President, Hillary’s resilience is more than proven. As she discussed during 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. When she gets knocked down, she doesn’t complain. She doesn't cry foul. (Applause.) No, she gets right back up and she comes back stronger for the people who need her most. 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 actually entails -- (applause) -- the staggering stakes, the brutal hours, the overwhelming stresses. And here's what I say about Hillary: She knows all that, and she's still willing to take this job on. (Applause.) Because here's what I want our young people to understand. Hillary represents everything we teach these kids -- that you use your talents to help as many people as possible -- that's why she's running. (Applause.) See, now for me, that's dedication. That's what love of country actually looks like. So when I hear folks saying that they just don't feel inspired in this election, I 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 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.) And that's why I'm inspired by Hillary. (Applause.) Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? (Applause.) I'm inspired by her persistence. I am inspired by her consistency. How many times, young people, have parents told you, persistence and consistency is the key to everything? I'm inspired by her heart and her guts. And I'm inspired by her lifelong record of public service. (Applause.)
So just understand this: No one in our lifetime has ever had as much experience and exposure into the presidency -- not Barack, not Bill, nobody -- and, yes, she happens to be a woman. (Applause.)
So, trust me. I've been there. I've seen this job. I've lived with this job. Experience matters. Don't be fooled. Preparation matters. Temperament matters. (Applause.) And Hillary Clinton has it all. She's the real deal, and I have come to know her very well over these 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. (Applause.) Because what we do know is that being President is nothing like reality TV -- this is not an apprenticeship. (Applause.) It’s about whether someone can handle the awesome responsibility -- do you hear me, the awesome responsibility -- of leading this country.
So as you all prepare to make this decision -- and I hope that there are people here who are undecided -- 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 job? Which candidate’s words and actions speak to the values we share -- values like inclusion, opportunity, sacrifice for others. (Applause.) Because your answers to these questions on Election Day will absolutely determine who sits in the Oval Office after Barack Obama.
And I want to be clear: Elections are not just about who votes, but who doesn’t vote. (Applause.) And that's especially true for our young people, like many of you. So any of you -- for any of you who might be thinking that your vote doesn’t really matter, or that one person can’t really make a difference, consider this -- and I have shared this every campaign I've been on because it is true for every race, every election. So I want you all, our young people, to think about this every time it's time to vote. Back in 2008, Barack won North Carolina by about 14,000 votes -- (applause) -- that sounds like a lot, right? But when you break that down, the difference between winning and losing this state was a little over two votes per precinct. Yeah. Two or three votes per precinct -- they had gone the other way, stayed home, forgotten about it, got mad, whatever happens. If it had gone the other way, Barack would have lost that state, probably could have lost the entire election. But let's not forget that in 2012, Barack actually lost this state by about 17 votes per precinct -- that was it. Seventeen votes. So whoever your candidate is, understand that your vote matters. Seventeen votes, two votes per precinct. So the fact is that each of you could swing an entire precinct and win this election for Hillary just by getting yourselves, your friends, your family out to vote. But you could also swing an entire precinct for Hillary's opponent with a protest vote or by staying home out of frustration. (Applause.)
Because here's the reality: Either Hillary Clinton or her opponent will be President this year. And if you vote for someone other than Hillary or if you don't vote at all, then you'll be helping to elect Hillary's opponent. And in my opinion, the stakes are far too high to take that chance. And remember, it is not about voting for the perfect candidate -- there is no such thing. Presidents are 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?
MRS. OBAMA: If you choose Hillary, like I do, we've got to get to work -- it's plain and simple. Things are close here. And it's not enough to come to a rally, get a selfie -- I know ya'll love your selfies. (Laughter.) It's not enough to get angry and just speak out about the change we need. We all must take actions to elect folks who will stand with us to make that change. (Applause.)
So, you need to get yourself and everyone you know registered to vote today. And we have volunteers here today who can help. I want you to find them and get registered before you leave. And you can also visit IWillVote.com to check your registration status, especially for students. And you can get registered online as well. And then after you do that, we need you to roll up your sleeves and make calls and knock on doors and get folks out. (Applause.) And as you do that, think about those two votes; think about those 17 votes with every call you make, with every door you knock on, with every friend who may already be supporting your candidate -- just getting them out to vote could mean the difference.
So, again, you can sign up with campaign volunteers to actually work over this next month to get this done. And as you're working your hearts out for Hillary, as I will be, if you start to feel tired, if you start to feel discouraged by the negativity in this election, if you just want to hide under your bed until it's all over, I really want you all to remember what's at stake. Because the choice we make on November 8th could determine whether you can afford your college tuition. (Applause.) It can determine whether you can keep your health care when you graduate. The election in November will determine whether we close tax loopholes that allow billionaires to keep gaming the system at the expense of working folks. (Applause.) On November 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 of a nation of immigrants -- or not. (Applause.) You will decide whether we have a President who thinks that women deserve the right to make our own choices about our bodies and our health -- or not. (Applause.) That's what's at stake. That's just the tip of the iceberg.
So we can't afford to be tired or turned off. Not now. And I want you all to hear this, because while this might feel like a time of uncertainty and division, when I look out at crowds like this, at our young people, I have never felt more hopeful about the future of this great nation. (Applause.) See, because what I have the opportunity to do as First Lady these past eight years -- it's been an honor to travel from one end of this country to the next. I've met people from every conceivable background and walk of life. And I want you all to understand this, time and again, I have seen proof of what Barack and I have always believed in our hearts -- that we, as Americans, are fundamentally decent, all of us. And we all truly just want the same things. Time and again, Barack and I have met people who disagree with just about everything we've ever said, but who still find it in their hearts to welcome us into their communities with open hearts, willing to listen. And while we might not always change each other's minds, we always walk away reminded that we're not all that different. (Applause.)
Millions of folks in this country are working long hours to send kids like you to college, just like my mom and dad did for me. (Applause.) There are folks out there who are helping to raise their grandkids, just like Barack's grandparents did for him. (Applause.) There are parents who are working hard to teach their kids the exact same values 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 -- (applause) -- that you treat people with respect, even if you don't -- they don't look like you or think like you. (Applause.) That when someone is struggling, you don't turn away from them, and you certainly don't take advantage of them. (Applause.)
We're trying to teach our kids that we have to imagine walking a mile in one another's shoes, and that we do what we can to help our brothers and sisters, our neighbors. So I want our young people to understand this, even in this election: Don't every let anyone take away your hope. (Applause.) Don’t do it. (Applause.) Hope matters. Because that's who we are in this country. This is 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.) We live in a country where a biracial kid from Hawaii, who is the son of a single mother, can become President. (Applause.) That is our country -- a country that has always been a beacon for people who have come from shores all over this world, who have poured their hopes and their prayers and their back-breaking hard work into making us who we are today. That is what makes America great -- don't ever let anybody tell you otherwise. (Applause.)
And I am here today because we deserve -- our young people 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 that we are always stronger together. (Applause.) A President who can bring out what is best in us -- our kindness, and our decency, our courage and determination -- so that we can keep perfecting our union and passing those blessings of liberty down to our children.
Hillary Clinton will be that President. (Applause.) And what I want you to understand is that I don't have to be here -- I do this because I truly believe that this election matters. I truly want for our young people a President that they can look up to, a foundation that can be lain so that they can be the best that they can be. We have an opportunity to do that, right now, in this election. So my question for you is, are you all with me? (Applause.) Can we get this done? (Applause.) We've got to roll up our sleeves and we have to work every day until Election Day. I know we can do this, you all. I love you so much. (Applause.)
Thank you all. God bless. (Applause.)
4:02 P.M. EDT