The White House
Office of the First Lady
Remarks by the First Lady at a DNC Event -- Los Angeles, CA
Private Residence, Los Angeles, California
1:18 P.M. PST
MRS. OBAMA: All right! (Applause.) All right, this is some good stuff. This really is. (Applause.) Wow. Thank you all so much. Please, rest yourselves, because you obviously have been working hard already. (Laughter.)
Wow, the power of women -- and a few brave men, too. (Laughter.) It's a good thing. Thank you so much. It is such a pleasure and an honor to be here with so many fabulous, fabulous women. And you all brothers are okay, too -- the men -- men are good, men are good. (Laughter.)
I want to start by thanking Mattie for that very kind introduction. But, more importantly, she and Michael have -- they have been with us from the way beginning; the "Barack Obama Who?" beginning; the Barack -- what? You want me to write a check for that guy? (Laughter.) They were there from the very start, and they have not just been supporters but they have been friends, they have been our encouragers, they have been the handful of people who kind of keep us grounded in ways that I don't think they even really understand. So I want to take this time to just give them a shoutout of love, because they are just amazing people. Thank you. Thank you, guys. Thank you for opening up your home. (Applause.)
I've been in L.A. for a couple of days, doing a few things, but today we had a wonderful event with your wonderful mayor, in Inglewood. And it was a true privilege. I mean, that's something that -- I know we come here to raise money, but it is so important for us to get out in the neighborhoods and to focus on what's going on on the ground. (Applause.) Thank you, mayor. Thank you for your leadership, thank you for your service, and thank you for taking time to be here with me today. It means a lot.
And of course, I want to recognize all the co-chairs and all the host committee people, and everyone here who worked so hard to make this event what is obviously a tremendous success. Thank you all so much.
And finally, I want to thank everyone -- everyone -- for being here this afternoon. Because the women in this room, the people in this room are busy folks. And I know there's a reason why you are all here today. And while you all may love me, it's not just because you like me -- which I hope you do. (Laughter and applause.)
But you’re here because you also know that we stand at a fundamental crossroads for our country. This is serious stuff. You’re here because you know that in less than a year from today, we're going to make a choice that will impact our lives for decades to come.
And you’re here because you know that that choice won’t just affect all of us, but more importantly, it's going to affect our children and our grandchildren and the world we leave for them long after we're gone. And that's why I'm here today. That’s why I'm going to be out there, working hard. That's -- we have only just begun.
You see, as First Lady, I have had the privilege -- and this is a wonderful job -- of traveling all across this country, something that we should all have the privilege and the honor to do. Because when you do that, you get to meet folks -- folks from all different kinds of backgrounds -- and I get to hear what’s going on in their lives.
Every day, I hear about how people are struggling to keep it together -- the bills they're trying to pay, the business they're trying to keep afloat. I hear about how folks are doing everything in their power to make it work, taking the extra shift, or working that extra job; how so many people are saving and sacrificing, not spending a dime on themselves because they desperately want something better for their kids.
This is our America. And make no mistake about it, these struggles are not new. For decades now, middle-class folks have been squeezed from all sides. While the cost of things like gas and groceries -- tuition -- have continued to rise, people’s paychecks just haven’t kept up.
So when the economic crisis hit, for far too many families the bottom completely fell out. Now, over the past three years, your President has worked very hard to dig us out of this mess. And there has been a lot of progress made. A lot of progress made. (Applause.) What I want you all to remember, if anybody asked: We have had 22 straight months of private sector job growth. (Applause.) And the unemployment rate is now the lowest it’s been in nearly three years. (Applause.)
But we know that we still have a very long way to go. Folks are still struggling. And your President has been working hard to rebuild our economy based on a vision. See, a President has to have a vision, and his is one that we all share -- the belief, as my husband says, that hard work should pay off; that responsibility should be rewarded; and that everyone -- everyone -- in this country should get a fair shot, do their fair share, and play by the same rules. (Applause.) See, these are basic American values. They're the values that so many of us were raised with, including myself. We know these values. We know who we are.
My father was a blue-collar city worker; worked at water plant. My family lived in a little-bitty apartment on the South Side of Chicago. Neither -- (applause) -- yeah, South Side. (Laughter and applause.) Neither of my parents -- I'm sure like many people in this room -- they didn't attend college. But what my parents did, like so many -- they worked, and they saved, and they sacrificed everything for us. My mother is still sacrificing her life to be a part of ours. Because they want so much to have me and my brother to have more than they could ever imagine.
See, and more than anything else, we have to remember that's what’s at stake -- that fundamental promise that no matter who you are, or how you started out, if you work hard, you can build a decent life for yourself, and yes, an even better life for your kids. That's what's at stake.
And on just about every issue -- from health care to education to the economy -- that's the choice we face.
For example, when we talk about tax cuts for middle-class families, when we talk about unemployment insurance for folks out of work, we're talking about whether people can heat their homes; put a hot meal on the table; put gas in their car so that they can even look for work. We talk about these issues -- this is about whether folks can afford to own a home, send their kids to college, retire with just a little dignity and security. It’s about whether people will have more money in their pockets, which means more money in our economy, which in turn means more jobs.
And that’s what’s at stake. That is the choice we face. That's why you're here.
And if you think, for a minute, about what the Obama administration has done to stand up for the American consumer -- see, I’m talking about families getting hit with those hidden credit card fees; I’m talking about students -- our students, America's students -- drowning in debt; our seniors losing their homes, losing their savings because they were tricked into loans they couldn’t afford, couldn't understand.
And that’s why my husband created a new consumer watchdog with just one simple mission, and that is to protect folks from exactly these kind of abuses. Because when you’ve worked, and you’ve saved, and you've followed the rules, you shouldn’t lose it all to someone looking to make an easy buck. That is not fair. That is not right. And your President is working to do something about that. That's what's at stake. (Applause.)
And what about what we've all done together for our small businesses? I mean, these are the companies that create two-thirds of all new jobs each year in this country -- two-thirds. We're talking about the mom who opens up a drycleaners in her neighborhood to help provide for her kids -- that's who we're talking about. We're talking about the family that's been running that neighborhood diner for generations, or the veteran who launches a startup and pursues that American Dream that he fought so hard for.
See, it's these folks who work themselves to the bone during the day, and then they head home, pore over the books late into the night, determined to make those numbers add up. See, for these folks, the small business tax cuts that this administration has passed, that means the difference from these folks hiring new employees or handing out pink slips; it's the difference between them closing their doors for good, or having a place open forever.
That is the choice we face.
And how about the very first bill my husband signed into law -- the very first thing he did as President of the United States: the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, to help women get equal pay for equal work. (Applause.)
And he did this because he knows what it means when women aren’t treated fairly in the workplace. See, he watched his own grandmother, woman with a high school education, who worked her way up to become the vice president at a little community bank. And he saw how hard she worked. He saw how good she was at her job. Yet, like so many women, she hit that glass ceiling and watched men no more qualified than she was -- men she had actually trained -- climb that corporate ladder ahead of her.
So, believe me, Barack, for him, this issue is not abstract. This is not hypothetical for your President. He signed this bill because he knows that closing that pay gap can mean the difference between women losing $50, $100, $500 from each check, or having that money to buy gas and groceries, to put school clothes on the backs of their children.
He did it because when nearly two-thirds of women are breadwinners or co-breadwinners, he knows that women’s success in this economy is the key to families’ success in this economy. (Applause.) And he did it because, as he put it, we believe that here in America, there are no second-class citizens in our workplace.
That is what’s at stake in this election.
And let’s talk just a minute about health care. Just a little second about health care. (Applause.) Because last year, we made history together by finally passing health reform. We did that together. But now, there are folks actually talking about repealing this reform. So today, we have to ask ourselves, are we going to stand by and let that happen? Or are we going to stand up to those insurance companies? Are we going to let them refuse to cover things like cancer screenings, prenatal care; things that save money, but more importantly, save lives? Or are we going to stand up for our lives, and the lives of the people we love? What are we going to do? (Applause.)
Are we going to go back to the days when insurance companies could deny our children coverage because they have a pre-existing condition like cancer, diabetes, even asthma? Or will we stand up and say that in this country, no one should ever have to choose between going bankrupt or watching their child suffer because they can’t afford a doctor?
And when our kids get older and they graduate from school, we all know how hard it is for them to find jobs, let alone jobs with insurance. And that’s why, as part of health reform, kids can now stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26 years old. (Applause.) And today, that is how 2.5 million of our young people are getting their coverage.
So will we take that insurance away from our kids? Or will we say that we don't want our sons and our daughters going without health care when they’re just starting out, trying to build families and careers of their own? But that is the choice we face.
And think, for a minute, about what's been done on education. Think about all the investments your President has made to raise standards and reform our public schools. I mean, this is about -- (applause) -- yes, it's about improving the circumstances for millions of children in this country. I mean, these are all our kids we know are sitting in crumbling classrooms; our kids, with so much promise, kids who could be anything they wanted if we just gave them a chance.
And think about how we've tripled investments for job training at community colleges. I mean, this is about hundreds of thousands of hard-working folks who are determined to get the skills they need to better their job and better their wages. I mean, these are the folks who are doing it all. They’re working full-time, raising kids, but they still make it to class every evening, study late into the night because they desperately want something better for their families.
And make no mistake about it, this kind of investment in our students and our workers will determine nothing less than the future of this economy. It will determine whether we’re prepared to make the discoveries and to build the industries that will let us compete with any country, anywhere in the world. That’s what’s at stake.
And let us not forget what it meant when my husband appointed those two brilliant Supreme Court Justices -- (applause) -- and for the first time in history, our daughters and our sons watched three women take their seat on our nation’s highest court. (Applause.) And let's not forget the impact their decisions will have on our lives for decades to come -- on our privacy and our security; on whether we can speak freely, worship openly and, yes, love whomever we choose. That’s what’s at stake here. (Applause.) That’s the choice we're facing in this election. That's why you're here. (Applause.)
And finally, let’s not forget about all this administration has done to keep our country safe and restore our standing in the world. (Applause.) And thanks to our brave men and women in uniform, we finally brought to justice the man behind the 9/11 attacks and so many other horrific acts of terror. (Applause.)
My husband ended the war in Iraq, brought our troops home for the holidays. (Applause.) And, yes, we are working, now that these wars are coming to a close, to make sure that our veterans and their families get the education, the employment, the benefits that they have earned. (Applause.)
And because my husband ended "don’t ask, don’t tell," never again will our troops have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love. (Applause.) Believe me, that is what’s at stake. That's the choice. That's what's going on this year. (Applause.)
So make no mistake about it, whether it’s health care, whether it's the economy, education, foreign policy, you name it -- I could go on, but we don't have all day. (Laughter.) The choice we make will determine nothing less than who we are as a country, but more importantly, who do we want to be. Who are we?
Will we be a country where opportunity is limited to a few at the top? Is that who we are?
MRS. OBAMA: Or will we be a place where if you work hard, you can get ahead no matter who you are or how you started? Who are we? That's what we have to ask ourselves. (Applause.) Will we tell folks who’ve done everything right, but are struggling just a little bit -- are we going to tell those folks, tough luck, you’re on your own? I mean, who are we?
Or will we honor that fundamental American belief that this country is strongest when we’re all better off? Who do we want to be? Will we continue all the change we’ve begun, all the progress that we’ve made, or will we allow everything to just slip away? What are we going to do? But that is the choice we face. See, those are the stakes.
And, believe me, your President, my husband, he knows this far too well. He understands these issues, because he’s lived them. He was raised by a single mother he watched struggle to put herself through school, pay the bills. And when she needed help, who stepped in? His grandmother, waking up every morning before dawn to take that bus to the job at a bank. And even though she was passed over -- clearly faced disappointment -- she didn’t complain. How many people do we know like that in our lives? She didn't complain. She just kept showing up, just kept doing her best. (Applause.)
So, believe me, Barack knows what it means when a family struggles. This isn't a joke to him. He knows what it means when someone doesn’t have a chance to fulfill their potential, what that does to the spirit. Those are the experiences that have made him the man, and yes, the President he is today. And we are blessed to have him. (Applause.)
And I share this with everyone: It is that -- is what I hear in his voice when he returns home from a long day traveling around the country, and he tells me about the people he’s met. See, that's what I see in those quiet moments late at night, after the girls have gone to bed, and he is up poring over those letters -- the thousands of letters people send him. The letter from the woman dying of cancer whose insurance company won’t cover her care; the letter from the father still struggling to pay his family’s bills; the letter from too many young people with so much promise, and so few opportunities.
And I hear the passion and the determination in his voice. He says, "You won’t believe what folks are going through." He says, "Michelle, this is not right. We have to fix this. We have so much more to do."
See, when it comes to the people Barack meets, he has a memory like a steel trap. (Laughter.) He might not remember your name, but if he's had a few minutes and a decent conversation, he will never forget your story. It becomes imprinted on his heart. And that's what he carries with him every single day -- it is our collections of struggles and hopes and our dreams.
And that is where he gets his passion. That is where he gets his toughness and his fight. And that’s why, when he faces those hard moments, when it seems like all is lost and we're all sweating it, wringing our hands and sweating him -- "Oh, lord, Barack" -- (laughter) -- "What you going to do now?" "Oh, no!" -- because I've done it, too. (Laughter.) Barack Obama never loses sight of the end goal. He sees it. (Applause.) He never lets himself get distracted by all that chatter and noise. He just keeps moving forward. (Applause.)
Because, as I said earlier, he has a vision for this country. And it is a vision that we all share. But I have said this before and I will say it again and again -- he cannot do this alone. He cannot do this alone. That was never the promise -- never the promise. I know I didn’t make that promise. (Laughter.)
He needs your help. He needed it then, he needs you now. He needs you to be fired up. He needs you to understand like nothing else what is at stake. So you make those calls. Look what you've done just in this room. This has to be multiplied 100-fold. We need you to register those voters. He needs you to take your “I’m In” cards, sign them up. Sign up your friends, your neighbors, and your colleagues. Do not underestimate the power of that one-on-one connection. People have to know what this President has done, what's at stake, and what more we have to let -- have left to do. You have to convince them to join in giving just a little part of their lives each week to this campaign.
Because we all know that this is not just about one extraordinary man. Although, I think my husband is very cute, very wonderful. (Laughter and applause.) And as it turns out, he can sing. (Laughter and applause.) But it was never about Barack Obama. This election, this presidency was not about Barack Obama. It's always been -- it always has been about us. All of us. All of us coming together for the values we believe in, and the country that we want to be.
And I’m not going to kid you, this journey is going to be long. It already has been. (Laughter.) There are going to be many twists and turns along the way. See, but the truth is that’s how change always happens in this country -- always. The reality is -- and we have to own this -- real change is slow. Real change does take time. Real change never happens all at once. But if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight, then eventually we will get there. Because we always do. We have never moved backwards -- never. There has never been a point in time when we moved backwards. Maybe it won't happen in our lifetimes, but maybe it will happen in our children’s lifetime, maybe it will happen in our grandchildren’s lifetimes.
Because in the end, that’s what this is about. In the end, we are not fighting these battles for ourselves. It's not about us. We are fighting them for our sons and our daughters. We're fighting them for our grandsons and our granddaughters. (Applause.) We’re fighting for the world we want to leave for them. This is about them, it's not about us. (Applause.)
And I am in this not just as a mother who wants to leave a legacy for my girls. I’m in this as a citizen who knows what we can do together to change this country for the better. Because the truth is that no matter what happens, my girls will be fine. See, they're blessed. My girls will have plenty of advantages and opportunities in their lives, and that's probably true for so many of your kids as well.
But I think the last few years have shown us the truth of what Barack has always said: that if any child in this country is left behind, then that matters to all of us, even if she is not our daughter, even if he is not our son. (Applause.) If any family in this country struggles, then we cannot be fully content with our own family’s good fortune, because that is not who we are. (Applause.)
In the end, we cannot separate our individual story from the broader American story. That is not who we are. Because we know that in this country, we rise and we fall together. And we know that if we make the right choices, if we have the right priorities, we can ensure that everyone gets a fair shake, that everyone has a chance to get ahead. That is what's at stake.
So it's time for us to get moving. It is time for us to get to work. We don't have time to be tired, or disappointed, or complacent. We don't have time. So I have one last question: Are you in?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: No, no, are you in?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: Are you ready for this? Because I am in, and I am so fired up. (Applause.) I hope you all are ready to go. We've got work to do. We've got a vision to create. We've got more people who need help. We've got more kids who need work done. And I am looking forward to getting out there, and I need every single one of you just as passionate today as you will be in 10 months.
You all -- thank you all so much. Thank you for having our backs. God bless you all. (Applause.)
END 1:45 P.M. PST