The White House
Office of the First Lady
Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event
Three Rivers Club, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
5:03 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Wow. Yes! (Applause.) Pittsburgh! Now let me tell you -- (applause) -- I have to say, every time we come around -- or come through it, and we -- you step out into this magnificent city, it just takes your breath away. And today was no exception. This is a beautiful day in this glorious city, and it is such a pleasure and an honor to be here with all of you. Thank you so much.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you, Michelle.
MRS. OBAMA: Love you guys. Love you guys. (Applause.)
I want to start by thanking Betsy for that very kind and right-on-point introduction and for her outstanding work. Thank you so much, Betsy. (Applause.) Yay for Betsy! (Applause.)
And I know that they had to leave early to make it to our next event, but I also want to recognize County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Mayor Ravenstahl, who were here. I want to thank them for their leadership and for their service. I also want to acknowledge the state party chair, Jim Burn, and I want to thank him for his terrific work. Thank you, Jim.
And I want to give a good-old shoutout to Cliff and to Lazar for -- and to the entire Host Committee -- (applause) -- all of you for making this such a successful event. Thank you guys so much.
And finally, I want to thank all of you. I want to thank you for your support. I want to thank you for your love, for your prayers. Thank you for being here today.
And I know that there’s a reason that you're all here, and it's not just to see me -- while I'm happy that you're here. We're here because we all know that next November we’re going to make a choice that will impact our lives for decades to come. We know this. You're here because you know that choice will not just affect all of us in this room, but it's going to affect our children, it's going to affect our grandchildren, and it's going to impact the world we leave for them long after we’re gone. And trust me, that is why I'm here today as well, and that's why I am going to be campaigning like nobody's business all over this country for the next six and a half months. (Applause.)
One of the great things I've had the privilege of doing as First Lady is traveling across our magnificent country, meeting folks from all different backgrounds and hearing what’s going on in their daily lives. And every day, I hear about how people are working to try to keep it together. Everyone, struggling to make ends meet; how they're trying to pay the bills; about the businesses they’re trying to keep afloat; about the home they love but are struggling to afford.
But no matter what they’re going through, no matter what the challenges they face, they keep on working and sacrificing because they desperately want something better for their kids. That's what we all do. We're all here for our kids. Folks across America believe in the fundamental vision for our economy that we all share -- the idea, as your President says, that hard work should pay off, that responsibility should be rewarded -- things we teach our kids -- that everyone should get a fair shot, do their fair share, play by the same rules.
See, those values are the foundation for an economy built to last. And more importantly, they're basic American values, the values -- yes -- that so many of us were raised with, including myself.
You guys know my story by now. My father was a blue-collar city worker; worked all his life at the city water plant. My father lived -- my family, we lived in a little-bitty apartment on the South Side of Chicago. It's the home my mother still occupies when she goes back to Chicago.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yeah, Chicago!
MRS. OBAMA: My room is exactly the same as it was. (Laughter.) Same pillows, same pictures -- hasn't changed a thing. And neither of my parents had the opportunity to attend college. But let me tell you what my folks did do -- they saved everything they had, they sacrificed everything because they wanted something more for me and my brother.
And more than anything else, truly that is what’s at stake. That's what we're fighting for -- that fundamental promise that no matter who you are, or how you started out, if you work hard -- right, kids? -- if you work hard, you can build a decent life for yourself and, yes, an even better life for your kids. And let me tell you, on just about every issue, that is the choice we face.
Since today is tax day -- (laughter) -- sorry to remind you -- let’s start with those tax cuts my husband passed for working-class families. (Applause.) See, we have to remember that those cuts, that’s about whether people can heat their homes. That's what's at stake. It's about whether they can send their kids to college, whether they can retire with dignity and security. It’s about putting more money in the people’s pockets, which means more money in our economy, which means more jobs. And it’s about making sure that everyone pays their fair share. (Applause.) That’s why my husband proposed the Buffett Rule -- to close tax loopholes so that millionaires and billionaires aren’t paying lower taxes than firefighters and teachers. (Applause.) But that’s what’s at stake. See, those are the choices we're facing.
And how about everything that my husband has been doing to create jobs? I mean, let's just think back, when all those folks in Washington were telling Barack to let the auto industry go under -- remember that? -- with more than a million jobs on the line. They just said, let it go. See, but Barack Obama didn't listen; he had the backs of American workers. He put his faith in the American people. And as a result, today, the auto industry is back on its feet, and more importantly, people are back at work providing for their families. Think about that.
Think about when Barack first took office: We were losing an average -- on average 750,000 jobs every single month. That's what he inherited. Those are the facts. But for the past 25 straight months, we’ve actually been gaining private sector jobs -– a total of more than 4 million jobs in just two years. Those are the facts. (Applause.)
So while we know we have a long way to go to rebuild our economy, we have more work to do, millions of folks today are collecting a paycheck again. And that is what’s at stake in this election. That’s the choice we face.
And what about all that this administration has done for our small businesses –- these are the companies that create two-thirds of all new jobs in this economy every year. I’m talking about the mom who opens up a drycleaners to help provide for her kids. That’s who we’re talking about. The family that’s been running that neighborhood diner -- I know you’ve got some of that here, some Pam’s, yes, pancakes for generations -- those are who we’re talking about. (Laughter.)
See, for folks like these, the small business tax cuts this administration has passed mean the difference between those kind of businesses hiring new employees or handing out pink slips. It’s about whether they can keep their doors open, remain vibrant in their community, or close their doors for good. That’s the choice we face. And we cannot forget that.
And as Betsy said, we cannot forget the very first bill my husband signed into law -- the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to help women get equal pay for equal work. (Applause.) I mention that everywhere we go because Barack did it because he knows what it means when women aren’t treated fairly in the workplace. For him, it’s not hypothetical. As Betsy said, he watched his own grandmother –- a woman with a high school education -– work her way up to become a vice president at a little community bank. And she was good at what she did. She worked hard. But like too many women, she hit that glass ceiling and watched men no more qualified than she was -– men she had actually trained -– be promoted up the ladder instead of her. How many stories are there like that?
So for Barack, this issue is not abstract. He signed this bill because he knows that closing that pay gap can mean the difference between women losing $50, $100, $500 each paycheck, or having that money in their pockets to buy gas and groceries and to put clothes on the backs of their kids. He did it because when so many women are breadwinners for our families, women’s success in this economy is the key to families’ success in this economy. That’s the truth. (Applause.) We are only as strong as our women. And he did it because, as he put it, he believes that here in America, there are no second-class citizens in our workplace. That’s what’s at stake. That’s what we’re fighting for. (Applause.)
And let’s go back to health care. Two years ago, we all, together, made history by finally passing health reform -- something no other President was able to do. (Applause.) And because we passed this law, as Betsy said, insurance companies now have to cover basic preventative care like mammograms, prenatal care, and to do it at no extra cost. Insurance companies can no longer deny our children coverage because they have preexisting conditions -- maybe diabetes, maybe asthma.
Because of this reform, kids can now stay on their parent’s insurance until they’re 26 years old. And we know what this means -- (applause) -- when our young people graduate from college, as a result, they don’t have to go without health care right in the middle of trying to look for a job and build a career and build a family. And today, that’s how 2.5 million of our young people in this country are getting their coverage today. (Applause.)
And it’s also important to remember that since that law was passed, millions of our senior citizens have saved an average of more than $600 a year on their prescription drugs. So we have to ask ourselves, are we going to take that savings away? Is that who we are? Are we going to allow insurance companies to refuse coverage for our children?
MRS. OBAMA: Or will we say that here in America, no one should ever have to choose between going bankrupt or watching their child suffer because they can’t afford a doctor. But that’s the choice that we face.
And think, for a moment, about all that we’re doing to give our kids a good education. Think about the investments we’ve made to raise standards and reform our public schools. Think about how my husband has been fighting for the DREAM Act so that talented, hardworking young people who were brought here to this country through no fault of their own can have a chance to earn their citizenship. This is about responsible young men and women -- (applause) -- they want to go to college, they want to defend our country, they want to contribute to our economy. It is time that we gave them that chance. It’s time.
And I want you to think about how my husband took billions of dollars in taxpayer money that used to go to middleman banks and lenders, and he sent that money where it belongs -- to help millions of our young people go to college. (Applause.) And understand that these kind of investments won’t just determine our children’s success -- they’re going to determine nothing less than the success of our entire economy.
These investments will determine whether we’re prepared to make the discoveries and to build the industries that will allow us to compete with any country, anywhere in the world. That’s what’s at stake.
And let’s not forget about my husband’s appointment of those two brilliant Supreme Court justices -- (applause) -- and how 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 that Court’s decisions will have on our lives for decades to come -- on our privacy and security, on whether we can speak freely, worship openly, and yes, love whomever we choose. (Applause.) That’s what’s at stake. That’s the choice we face.
And finally, let’s not forget all this administration has done to keep our country safe and restore our standing in the world. (Applause.) 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. That’s a fact. My husband kept his promise -- he ended the war in Iraq and brought our troops home for the holidays. (Applause.) And more importantly, now that they’re home we are working hard to make sure that we give our troops, veterans, and their families the benefits they’ve earned. (Applause.)
And finally, because my husband ended “don’t ask, don’t tell,” our troops will never again have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love. (Applause.) That’s what’s at stake.
And I could go on. I could. (Laughter.) There’s a lot that’s happened in three years -- a lot of good stuff. It’s a wonderful story that we can tell about our country’s growth. So make no mistake about it, whether it’s health care or the economy, whether it’s education or foreign policy, the choice we make in this election will determine nothing less than who we are as a country, and more importantly, who do we want to be. Who are we?
Will we be a country where opportunity is limited to just the few at the top? Who are we? Or will we be a place where if you work hard, you can get ahead, no matter who you are or how you started out? We have to ask ourselves, who are we? Who do we want to be?
Are we going to tell folks who’ve done everything right -- they've hit on hard times, may be struggling just a little bit -- are we going to tell our neighbors, “tough luck, you’re on your own”? Who are we? Or will we honor that fundamental American belief that we’re all in it together, and this country is strongest when we’re all better off? (Applause.) Who do we want to be? Will we continue all the change we’ve begun and the progress we’ve made? Or will we allow everything we’ve worked for so hard to just slip away? But believe me, those are the choices -- plain and simple. Those are the stakes.
And believe me, Barack knows this better than anyone else. He understands these issues because he’s lived them. This isn’t a game. He was raised by a single-parent mother who struggled to put herself through school and pay the bills. He watched her struggle. And when she needed help, who stepped up? His grandmother stepped up, waking every morning before dawn to get on that bus to that job at the bank. And even though she was passed over again and again for all those promotions, she never complained. How many people in our lives do we know like that? She never complained. She just kept showing up, just kept doing her best.
So believe me, Barack knows what it means when a family struggles. He knows what it means when someone doesn’t have a chance to fulfill their potential -- how much that hurts. Because those are the experiences that have made him the man, and more importantly, the President he is today. And we are blessed to have him. (Applause.)
And that’s what I hear in his voice when he returns home after a long day traveling, and he tells me about the people that he’s met. That’s what I see in those quiet moments when he’s up at night, long after the girls have gone to bed, and he’s poring over the letters that he gets from so many people.
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, but so few opportunities. And I hear the passion and the determination in his voice. He says, “Michelle, you won’t believe what folks in this country are still going through.” He says, “It’s not right. We’ve got to fix it. We have so much more work to do.”
See, because what you need to know about your President is that when it comes to the people he meets, Barack has a memory like a steel trap. He may not remember your name, but if he’s had a few minutes with you and a decent conversation, he will never forget your story. It becomes imprinted in his heart. And that is what he carries with him every single day. He’s not worried about himself. He is working for our struggles, our hopes, our dreams. That is where Barack gets his passion. That’s where he gets his toughness and his fight.
And that’s why, even in the hardest moments -- and there have been many -- and it seems like all is lost, Barack Obama never loses sight of the end goal. Like his grandmother, he never lets himself get distracted by the chatter and the noise.
He just keeps moving forward. Because, see, he can see the end goal; he has a vision for this country. And that’s the kind of President we need -- someone with a vision. Someone with a focus. (Applause.) Someone who knows where he wants this country to go.
But let me tell you something, Barack Obama cannot do this alone. That was never the promise. He needs you. He needs you to keep doing what you’re doing. Make those calls. Register those voters. He needs you out there grabbing those “I’m In” cards -- sign yourself up, sign your neighbors up, shake them up. Sign them up. Tell them to -- they need to give just a little part of themselves to this campaign each and every week. That’s all it takes. Because we all know that this is not just about one extraordinary man -- while I admit, I think my husband is awesome. (Laughter and applause.) That’s why I’m in this. Not just as a husband, but as a man, as a President, I think he’s amazing.
But it has never been about him. It has really always been about us -- about all of us coming together for the values we believe in and for the country we want to be.
Now, I’m not going to kid you -- because I never do -- this journey, this next phase, it is going to be long. It is going to be hard. And there will be so many twists and turns along the way. But what I need you to remember is, the truth is, that’s how change always happens. That’s how real change in this country always happens. It’s always slow, and it never happens all at once.
But if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight, if we keep doing what we know in our hearts is right and fair and just, then eventually we’ll get there -- we always do.
We have never moved backwards -- not in my lifetime. But maybe we won’t see this change in our lifetimes; maybe we have to be content with seeing it in our children and grandchildren’s lifetimes. In the end, we have to remember that’s what this is all about.
This is not about us. In the end, we are fighting these battles not for ourselves; we are fighting them for our sons and daughters. We are fighting them for our grandsons and our granddaughters. Like so many people who came before us, who made sacrifices, not because it would help them today but it would help us -- we stand here because of them. And we’re fighting for the world we want to leave for our children.
That’s what brings me passion. See, because I love my children and I love our children. That is what’s at stake. That’s what we’re facing.
So we need you all to get moving. We really do. It is time for us to get to work. Right? (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: So I’ve got one last question for you: Are you in?
MRS. OBAMA: No, no, are you really in? Are you ready for this long haul? Are you ready to roll up your sleeves? Are you ready to make those calls? Are you ready to shake up some neighbors who aren’t clear, who don’t understand what’s at stake? It’s going to be up to each and every one of you to tell the story. Barack and I can’t do it. It’s just impossible for us to call every American. But you can -- you can call everyone you know. Find out who’s not going to vote, who’s a little tired, who’s not registered, what young people aren’t focused. Find them and shake them up. Because this is about their world. They have to be ready to be engaged.
So I hope you all are fired up, because I certainly am. I’m in this like nothing else. I’m going to work hard to make sure that we leave our kids the kind of country we can be proud of.
So I look forward to you all getting out there, working hard. (Applause.) We can do this.
Thank you all so much. God bless. (Applause.)
END 5:26 P.M EDT