The White House
Office of the First Lady
Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event
Creative Arts Center
1:52 P.M. MDT
MRS. OBAMA: Wow! (Applause.) Yeah, Pueblo! Wow! (Applause.) Thank you all. Thank you so much. (Applause.) Oh, my goodness. This is awesome. Oh, let me tell you, this is amazing. Look back. Just look at you all. This is good stuff. (Applause.) I am beyond thrilled. We love you, too, and we’re going to work so hard -- so hard.
Before I get started, on behalf of Barack and myself, I just wanted to say that -- and I said this earlier -- that our hearts and our prayers are going out to all of the families affected by the fires here in this state and in other states throughout the west. And I want to give a special thanks to all of the brave firefighters and first responders -- (applause) -- who, not just in this situation but in every situation, they put themselves in harm’s way to make sure that our lives and our communities are safe. So we are so grateful for their heroic efforts.
And we’re also proud of how communities here in this state are coming together as you continue to support each other to respond, and begin to do the hard work of recovering. I just want you to know that you have a country that is standing behind you every step of the way, so -- (applause.)
And with that, I want to thank Carla for that very kind introduction. Let’s give her another round of applause. (Applause.)
And I want to thank a few more people as well. I want to thank our National Campaign Co-Chairs: Secretary Federico Peña, who’s a dear, dear friend of ours -- (applause) -- State Senator Giron, who is here, I know, with her husband; she’s been amazing -- City Councilwoman -- City Councilman Leroy Garcia -- (applause) -- Pastor Kimal James, who is here as well -- (applause) -- and Democratic Party Chair Rick Palacio, who has just been amazing every step of the way. (Applause.) And I just got to meet the Regional Field Director here, Eva Siepersad, who -- she’s been doing phenomenal work, so I got to meet her. (Applause.) And to all the Pueblo County Commissioners, all the City Councilmembers who have taken time out to be here today, thank you all. Thank you for your service. Thank you to your families. We are just so grateful.
And finally, I want to thank all of you -- (applause) -- yes! -- our extraordinary volunteers and organizers, our team leaders. (Applause.) Thank you for everything you do, day in and day out, to make this campaign possible. We could not do what we do with you. And you should know that all of the hard work that you do -- that tough work knocking on people’s doors that you don’t know, right? That’s not always easy. The work that you do registering voters, making calls, giving people here in this area the information they need about the issues they care about.
And you have to know that that kind of grassroots work that you all are doing to get people focused and fired up -– that is the work that is at the core of this campaign. It makes all the difference. That’s how we did it four years ago, and that’s how we’re going to do it again today -- with your help. (Applause.) So, thank you. Thank you so much.
And one thing I’ve learned, being married to my husband, is that the work you all are doing, it’s not easy. And I know that so many of you are putting in such long hours, and I know you’re doing it even though you all have busy lives of your own -- you have your own families to take care of; you’ve got your jobs to do; many young people are still getting their education, which we want you to continue to do. (Applause.)
But I also know that there’s a reason why all of us are here today doing this kind of work. And it’s not just because we all support an outstanding President, my husband. (Applause.) I’m a little biased. I might just be a little biased. There may be other biased people in the room, but I think our President is awesome. (Applause.) And we’re not just doing this because we want to win an election -- which we do, and we will. (Applause.) What I like to remind folks around the country -- and I even remind myself -- we’re doing this because of the values we believe in. That’s really it. We’re doing this because of the vision for this country that we all share. I don’t care who we are, we believe and want so much of the same things.
We’re doing this because we want all of our children to be able to go to good schools, you know? (Applause.) You know those schools -- the kind of schools that inspire them; the kind of schools that push them to be their best and prepare them for the jobs and careers of the future. We want that for all of our kids.
We want our parents and our grandparents to be able to retire with dignity, because after a lifetime of hard work, these folks in our lives should be able to enjoy their golden years, don’t you agree? (Applause.)
We’re doing this because we want to restore that basic middle-class security for our families, because we believe that in America folks shouldn’t go bankrupt because they get sick. Not here. (Applause.) People shouldn’t lose their homes because someone loses a job. We believe that responsibility should be rewarded and hard work should pay off. We believe that everyone should do their fair share, but they should play by the same rules. (Applause.)
And the truth is, these are basic American values, right? This isn’t new. These are the values that so many of us were raised with, including myself. And I tell my story; I’m proud of my background. You all know my father was a blue-collar city worker. He worked at the city water plant his entire life. And he supported our family -- we lived in a little-bitty apartment on the South Side of Chicago. South Side! (Applause.) And growing up, I saw firsthand how my parents saved and sacrificed. I was talking to Eva about this, about my dad, because her dad was the same kind of person. How my parents poured everything they had into me and my brother because they wanted us to have the kind of education they could only dream of. Education was everything in my family -- everything. It was our ticket to the middle class. It was our path to the American Dream. It was a chance for us to have opportunities our parents never had -- the chance to get a college degree; the chance to own a home; the chance to provide an even better life for our own families, right? (Applause.)
So to make this happen for us, my parents worked hard. My mom spent hours volunteering in our neighborhood public school. And she made us finish every bit of homework, every night. (Applause.) That was important in our household. And when we finally went off to college, pretty much all of my college tuition came from student loans and grants. I know there are people here in this room who know what that feels like, right? (Applause.) But for my brother and I, our dad still paid a small portion of that tuition himself, and every semester my dad was determined to pay that portion of his bill, his share, and to pay it right on time. He was so proud to be sending his kids to college, and he couldn’t bear the thought of me or my brother missing that registration deadline because his check was late.
And really, more than anything else, that is what’s at stake in this election. That’s what we’re fighting for. It’s 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 an even better life for your kids. That is the American Dream. (Applause.) That is the American Dream that we’re all working for.
And from now until November, we’re going to need all of you to get out there and tell everyone -- tell everyone you know about how Barack is on our side, fighting for the values we believe in and the vision we all share. (Applause.)
And I want you to start by reminding people how Barack is fighting every day for working families, starting with tax cuts so folks can keep more of their income for things like gas and groceries and school clothes for their kids. (Applause.) You can tell people how he cut taxes for small businesses 18 times -- 18 times. (Applause.) Because your President knows that rebuilding our economy, it starts with folks who are running the restaurants and the shops and the startups that create jobs that put people back to work. (Applause.)
But also remind people, though, and Carla mentioned this, about how, back when Barack first took office, this economy was losing an average of 750,000 jobs every single month. That’s what he inherited. And people need to understand that. That’s what he walked into. But also let them know that for the past 27 straight months, we have actually been gaining private sector jobs -– a total of more than 4 million jobs in just two years. (Applause.)
So while we know we still have a long way to go to rebuild our economy, today, millions of people are collecting a paycheck again; millions of people like my dad are able to take care of their bills again.
But you can also tell people about health reform, because we passed health reform, and as a result -- (applause) -- yes, indeed, together we passed health reform. (Applause.) And because of that reform, the people we love will no longer have to skip important health screenings because they can’t afford them. Not in America. Instead, insurance companies will have to cover preventative care, basic things like contraception, cancer screenings, prenatal care, and cover them at no extra cost. That’s what health reform has done. (Applause.) But people have to know. They have to understand what this all means.
Because of this reform, millions of our senior citizens have saved an average of more than $600 a year on their prescription drugs -- yes, because of health reform. (Applause.) And for all of the parents out there with college-aged kids, because of reform, children who are -- can stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26 years old. (Applause.) And as parents, I know you know how much that means. That is how 3.1 million more young people in our country are getting the health care they need. (Applause.)
But I also want you to tell people about all that this President is doing for health care [sic]. Tell people how Barack has invested in Head Start, and he’s raised standards in our public schools, and helped more than -- to be able to -- helped more of our young people be able to afford college. That’s the work he’s been doing. (Applause.)
And I want you to tell them -- understand why he’s doing it. Because Barack knows -- both of us know what it’s like to be drowning in student debt. (Applause.) Because back when we first started out, our combined student loan bill was actually higher than our mortgage. How many people can relate to that? (Applause.) So that is why he has doubled Pell Grants, helping 4 million more students attend college. (Applause.) And Barack has a vision for education in this country: By the end of this decade, he wants more Americans to hold a college degree than any other country in the world. That’s his plan. (Applause.)
But you can also tell people how Barack has been fighting for the DREAM Act, because he believes that -- (applause) -- your President believes that it is time to stop denying responsible young people opportunities in this country just because they’re the children of undocumented immigrants. (Applause.) And I'm sure, as you all know, last week this administration announced new measures to lift the shadow of deportation from many of these young people who came here as children and were raised as Americans. (Applause.)
But while this step is an important one, it is not a permanent solution. So Barack is going to keep on fighting to get Congress to give these young people a real pathway to citizenship. (Applause.) That’s what your President is working on.
I want you to remind people also that Barack kept his promise and he brought our troops home from Iraq. (Applause.) Remind people about that. And he’s working hard to give our veterans and military families the support and benefits they’ve earned for the sacrifices they’ve made. (Applause.)
And as far as us ladies in the house -- (applause) -- our President has been working for us, too. Tell people that it is now easier for women to get equal pay for equal work because of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. (Applause.) That was the first bill Barack signed as President of the United States, the first thing he did was to look out for us. (Applause.)
But it's also important to let people know why he signed this bill. He signed this bill because he knows that closing that pay gap for women can mean the difference between them losing $50, $100, $500 from every paycheck, or having that money to pay their bills and provide for their families. He did it because when so many women are now breadwinners for our families in this country, women’s success in this economy is the key to families’ success in this economy. We know that. (Applause.)
And I definitely don’t want you to forget to tell people about those two brilliant Supreme Court Justices Barack appointed –- Justice Elena Kagan, Justice Sonia Sotomayor. (Applause.) And for the first time in history, our daughters and sons watched three women take their seats on our nation’s highest court. (Applause.)
Now, that is only the tip of the iceberg. I could go on, and on, and on. You all know it, everybody knows it. But what is important to understand is that all of this and so much more is at stake this November. It's all on the line.
And in the end, it all boils down to one simple question: are we going to continue the change we’ve begun and the progress we’ve made? Or are we going to allow everything that we’ve fought for to just slip away? No, we know what we need to do. We can’t turn back now. We have to keep moving forward. (Applause.) We have to keep moving forward! (Applause.)
Four more years!
AUDIENCE: Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: And more than anything else, that is what we’re working for –- the chance to finish what we started, all the great work. The chance to keep fighting for the values we believe in and the vision we all share.
And that is what my husband has been doing every single day as President -- every single day. And let me tell you, over the past three-and-a-half years, I have had the privilege of seeing up close and personal what being President really looks like. (Laughter.) And I have seen how the issues that come across a President's desk, they're always the hard ones -- they're the problems with no easy solutions, the judgment calls where the stakes are so high and there's no margin for error.
And as President, you can get all kinds of advice from all kinds of people, but at the end of the day, let me just tell you, when it comes time to make that decision, as President, all you have to guide you are your life experiences. All you have to guide you are your values and the vision that you have for this country. That’s all that’s there.
In the end, it all boils down to who you are and what you stand for, right? (Applause.) And we all know who my husband is. (Applause.) We all know -- we all know -- what he stands for.
Barack Obama is the son of a single mother who struggled to put herself through school and pay the bills. Barack Obama is the grandson of a woman who woke up before dawn every day to catch a bus to her job at a bank. And even though Barack’s grandmother worked hard and was good at her job, like so many women she hit that glass ceiling, and watched men no more qualified than she was be promoted up the ladder ahead of her. But she didn’t complain -- that’s what Barack saw. He watched her just keep getting up, just keep giving her best every single day to support her family. How many people do we know like that in our lives? (Applause.)
So, understand, your President knows what it means when a family struggles. He knows what it means to work hard because you want something better for your kids. And like so many -- like me, like so many of you, Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it. It is his life. And he wants everyone who’s willing to work hard to have that same opportunity -- everyone.
So when it comes time to stand up for our children and our workers and our families, you know what my husband is going to do. When there’s a choice about protecting all of our rights and our freedoms, you know where Barack stands, don’t you? (Applause.) When we need a leader who will be on our side, fighting for us no matter what, you know you can count on my husband because that’s what he’s been doing every single day as President of the United States. And I am proud of him. (Applause.)
But I have said this before, and I will say it again, and again: Barack can't do this alone. He needs all of you. He needs you to keep doing what you've been doing -- working hard making those phone calls, knocking on those doors, registering as many voters as possible. (Applause.) That’s right.
I want you to think about it this way -- I want you all here to multiply yourselves. Multiply yourselves. Reach out to everyone you know -- your friends, family, neighbors. Anyone who is not paying attention, make sure they're paying attention. You find them, you make sure that they know how to get involved in this campaign. Send them to barackobama.com -- it's an easy way to get started -- and tell them about giving just a little part of themselves each week to this campaign, and all the difference it's going to make in all of our lives.
Tell them that when it comes to the issues we care about –- whether our kids can get an education, whether our families will have health care, whether we will finally pass the DREAM Act –- (applause) -- I want you to tell them that if we stay home this November, we won’t just stop moving forward, we're going to start moving backwards. We can't do that.
MRS. OBAMA: So this is a make or break moment. It truly is. This is it. We're at a crossroads.
And as Barack has said, this election will be even closer than the last one -- that you can count on. And if you doubt for a minute the difference that you all will make in this election, I just want you to remember that in the end, this election could come down to those last few thousand people we get to the polls, those last few thousand people we get registered to vote. And when you think about those kind of numbers across an entire state -- just think for a minute as these numbers are spread out all over this state. Think about what that means. That could mean just registering one more person, right?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes!
MRS. OBAMA: It could mean just getting one more person to the polls on Election Day.
So as you're out there working, just remember with every door you knock on, with every event you host, with every single conversation you have, think about it this way -- think, this could be the one that makes the difference. That is the kind of impact that each of us can have here. You got it? This could be the one. (Applause.) This could be the one. Think about that.
And I’m not going to kid you, this journey is going to be long, and it is going to be hard, and there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way. That is the only guarantee I can give you. But we have to understand that that’s how change always happens in this country. That’s how real change happens.
But if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight, if we keep doing what we know is right and fighting for the values we believe in, then we always get there. We always do. We have never moved backwards, we've always moved forward.
MRS. OBAMA: Maybe not in our lifetimes, but maybe in our children’s lifetimes. Maybe in our grandchildren’s lifetimes.
Because in the end, that’s what this is all about. It's about them. And that’s what I think about every night when I put my girls to bed. I think about the world I want to leave for them, and for all our sons and daughters. (Applause.)
I think about how I want to do for them what my Mom and Dad did for me. I want to leave them a foundation worthy of their dreams. I want to give them opportunities that matches their promise, because every single child in this country has promise. I want to give all our kids that sense of limitless possibility -- the belief that here in America, there’s always something better if you’re willing to work for it.
So Pueblo, we cannot turn back now. We have come so far, but we have so much more work to do.
So I have one last question: Are you in?
MRS. OBAMA: No, no, no, are you really in?
MRS. OBAMA: Are you ready to roll up your sleeves? Are you ready to have those conversations, share our vision, get people registered to vote, make sure they're at the polls, make sure that President Obama wins Colorado and wins the Presidency? Are you ready for that?
MRS. OBAMA: Because I am so ready. I am so fired up. I can't wait to make this happen.
You all are amazing. Thank you so much. God bless you.
2:22 P.M. MDT