The White House
Office of the First Lady
Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event
Dayton Convention Center
3:50 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, wow! Look at you all! This is great! (Applause.) We're proud of you girls. Girls Rock! Keep it up. (Applause.)
Look, I am so excited to be here today and to be with all of you. (Applause.) But just one thing before I get started -- and I mentioned this in Columbus as well -- I just want to take a moment to make sure that we recognize the people in Aurora, Colorado who were involved in that tragic shooting last week. Barack and I are truly heartbroken. And he spent time with the families of the victims this weekend.
And we can't say it enough. We are all holding all of those families in our hearts and our prayers right now. And I know that we will continue to come together as one American family, to mourn those who lost their lives in what was a very devastating event, and we all have to keep coming together to support their loved ones in these difficult days ahead. So we cannot forget.
But I also want to thank you all. I want to thank Robin for that very kind introduction. We ought to give her another round of applause. (Applause.) And I also want to thank Sharen Neuhardt, who is here, for joining us today. (Applause.) And she is going to make an outstanding congresswoman. She's doing a terrific job. (Applause.) And of course, I want to thank Niki for her remarks today and for her terrific work on the campaign. (Applause.)
And again, to all of you, our extraordinary volunteers, our organizers. (Applause.) Thank you all for everything you do every day to make this campaign possible. You all are doing that good work. You're knocking on those doors and you're registering voters. You're giving people the information they need about the issues they care about. And it is truly important for you all to know that the grassroots work that you all are doing to get people focused and fired up -- that kind of work is at the core of this campaign.
And just remember, 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.) With your help. (Applause.)
And the one thing that I know, this work is not easy. And you all are making time to do it even though you all have your own busy lives to lead. You’ve got jobs to do. Hopefully there are young people who've got classes to attend -- right? (Applause.) And even not-so-young people attending classes. We all have our families to raise.
But I also know that there’s a reason why we're taking time away from our lives to be here today and to do that work. And it’s not just because we support a pretty awesome gentleman in the White House -- (applause) -- my husband, President Obama. (Applause.) And it’s not just because we want to win an election -- which we do and we will. (Applause.)
What I remind people when I travel around, everywhere I go, we’re doing this because of the values we believe in -- our values. We’re doing this because of the vision for this country that we all share. We're doing this because we believe that everyone in this country should have a fair shot. That means that all of our kids should have good schools. (Applause.) And they should be able to attend college without a mountain of debt -- right? (Applause.)
We believe that everyone in America should do their fair share -- which means teachers and firefighters shouldn’t pay higher taxes than millionaires and billionaires. (Applause.) We believe that if you work hard, you shouldn’t go bankrupt when someone gets sick. (Applause.) You shouldn’t lose your home when someone loses a job. And after a lifetime of hard work, you should be able to retire with dignity and security -- in America. (Applause.)
And these are basic American values, the foundation of this country. They are the values that so many of us were raised with, including myself. I talk about my background everywhere I go because I’m proud of how I was raised. As many of you know, my father was a pump operator at the city water plant, and neither of my parents had a college degree. But let me tell you something. My parents saved for us; they sacrificed everything for us. They poured everything they had into me and my brother so that they could give us the kind of education they only dreamed of.
And education was everything in our family. It was our ticket to the middle class, our pathway to the American Dream. And when my brother and I finally made it to college, pretty much all of our tuition came from student loans and grants. I know a lot of people understand that.
MRS. OBAMA: But my dad still had to pay a small portion of that tuition himself. And every semester, my father was determined to pay that bill right on time. See, because he was proud to be sending his kids to college, and he made sure that we never missed a registration deadline because his check was late. He didn’t want us to go through that. Like so many people in this country, my father took great pride in being able to earn a decent living that allowed him to handle his responsibilities to his family. That's all he wanted -- to pay his bills, and to pay them on time. That’s all he wanted. (Applause.)
See, my father's life is a testament to that basic American promise that no matter who you are, or how you started out, if you work hard you can build a good life for yourself and an even better life for your kids. (Applause.)
And my husband understands that promise because that’s his story, too. That’s why I married him. (Laughter and applause.) He is the son of a single mother who struggled to put herself through school and pay the bills. He is the grandson of a woman who woke up before dawn to catch a bus to her job at the bank. And even though Barack’s grandmother worked hard to help support his family -- and she was good at her job -- like so many women, she hit that glass ceiling, and men no more qualified than she was were promoted up the ladder right ahead of her. But let me tell you something. She never complained. How many people like that do we have in our lives? She just kept getting up, just kept giving her best every single day to help support her family. (Applause.)
So believe me, Barack knows what it means when a family struggles. This is not a hypothetical for him. He knows what it means to work hard because you want something better for your kids and your grandkids. Like me and like so many of you, Barack knows the American dream because he’s lived it. And he believes that when you’ve worked hard and you’ve done well and you’ve walked through that doorway of opportunity, you don’t slam it shut behind you. (Applause.) You reach back, and you give other folks a chance to succeed as well. That’s what we do in America. (Applause.)
And more than anything else, that’s what’s at stake in this election. That’s why we’re here. It’s that dream, that fundamental American promise.
And let me tell you something -- from now until November, we’re going to need you all to get out there and tell everyone you know, tell them about Barack’s values. You tell them about this vision that we share. And tell them about the choice we face in this election -- because this election is about choices, it’s about the choice we face on our economy. It’s about building a strong and growing middle class. So I want you to remind folks that Barack has cut taxes for working families by $3,600 per family. (Applause.) Let them know he has cut taxes for small businesses 18 times since he’s been President -- because he knows that rebuilding our economy starts with the restaurants and the stores and the start-ups that create two-thirds of all new jobs in this country. Let them know.
And I also want you to remind people 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. That’s what welcomed him after inauguration. But also let them know that for the past 28 straight months we’ve actually been gaining private sector jobs -- every month -- a total of more than 4 million new jobs.
So while we still have a long way to go, we have more work to do to rebuild our economy, today millions of people are collecting a paycheck again. Millions of people like my dad are able to pay their bills and take care of their families again.
This election is a choice about the health of our families. The fact is that over the past century -- okay -- 100 years, so many of our Presidents have tried and failed to meet the challenge of health care reform. But Barack was determined. (Applause.) See, he was driven by the stories of the people he’d met -- the grandparents who couldn’t afford their medications; the families going broke because a child got sick; the woman dying of cancer whose insurance company wouldn’t cover her care.
And let me tell you, that is what kept him going day after day. That’s why he fought so hard for this historic reform. He fought for us. And today, because of this reform, our parents and grandparents are paying hundreds less for their prescription drugs. Our kids can stay on our insurance until they’re 26 years old. (Applause.) So our young people don’t have to lose their health care when they graduate and are out there trying to build a life and look for a job.
Because of this reform, insurance companies have to cover basic preventative care -- things like contraception, cancer screenings, prenatal care -- at no extra cost. Because of this reform, they cannot discriminate against you because you have an illness they call a preexisting condition -- no longer. (Applause.) And thanks to this reform, if you get a serious illness like breast cancer, and you need expensive treatment, your insurance company can no longer tell you, sorry, you’ve hit your lifetime limit and we’re not paying a penny more. No longer. Thanks to health reform, that is now illegal. (Applause.)
And make no mistake about it, this November we get to decide: Do we want these reforms to be repealed?
MRS. OBAMA: Or do we want the people we love to have the care they need?
MRS. OBAMA: That is the choice in this election. This election is a choice about whether are kids can attend college without a mountain of debt. And believe it or not, back when Barack and I were first starting out, building a life together, -- we were so in love -- and still are, believe me -- (applause) -- but back then, our combined student loan bill each month was actually higher than our mortgage. And I know a lot of people can relate to that. So just understand, when it comes to student debt, my husband and I -- we’ve been there. And that’s why Barack doubled funding for Pell grants and fought so hard to stop student loan interest rates from rising. (Applause.) Because he wants all our young people to get the education they need for the jobs they deserve.
He wants all our kids in this country to fulfill their promise. And that is why he’s been fighting so hard for the DREAM Act. I mean, understand this; he is fighting for responsible young people who came to this country as children through no fault of their own, were raised as Americans -- because he believes that these young people also deserve a chance to go to college, to contribute to our economy, to serve the country that they know and love. (Applause.)
This election is also a choice about keeping our country safe. So I want you to remind people that after 10 long years of war, after so many of our heroic men and women in uniform served and sacrificed and gave their lives, Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat to this country. (Applause.) Remind them. You can remind folks that Barack kept his promise to bring our troops home from Iraq. (Applause.) And he is working very hard to make sure that they get the benefits and support that they’ve earned. And today, our troops no longer have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love -- because Barack ended "don’t ask, don’t tell." (Applause.)
This election is also a choice about supporting women and families in this country. So be sure to tell people that Barack believes women should be able to make our own choices about our health care. (Applause.) And remind them that it’s now easier for women to get equal pay for equal work because of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first bill Barack signed into law as President of the United States.
And finally, please tell them about those two brilliant Supreme Court justices Barack appointed -- Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. Remind them that, for the first time in history, our daughters and our sons watched three women take their seat on our nation’s highest court. (Applause.)
Dayton, when folks ask you what this President has done for our country, tell them how many jobs he’s created. Tell them how much money he’s put back in the pockets of the American people. Tell them that more of our kids can afford college and more of our seniors can afford their medicine. Remind folks how Barack ended the war in Iraq, passed historic health reform and stood up for our most basic, fundamental rights and freedoms again and again and again. (Applause.) Let them know.
But you also have to remind folks that all of that -- and so much more -- it’s all at stake this November. It’s all on the line. These are the choices we face. Are we going to continue the change we’ve begun and the progress we’ve made?
MRS. OBAMA: Or are we going to allow everything that we’ve fought for to just slip away?
MRS. OBAMA: No, we know what we need to do. We have to keep moving this country forward. Forward. And more than anything else, that’s what we’re here for. That’s why we’re here. That’s what we’re working for -- the chance to finish what we started, right?
MRS. OBAMA: The chance to keep fighting for the values we believe in and the vision for this country that we all share. And let me tell you, that’s what my husband has been doing every single day as President.
And I’ve shared this with many people, but over the past three and a half years as First Lady, I have had the opportunity to see up close and personal what being President really looks like. And let me just share something. I have seen how the issues that come across a President’s desk are 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 are going to get all kinds of advice from all kinds of people. But at the end of the day, 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 your vision for this country.
In the end, it all boils down to who you are and what you stand for. See, and we all know who my husband is. And we all definitely know what we stands for, and we have seen again and again just how hard he is willing to fight for us. Remember when folks in Washington were telling Barack to let the auto industry go under?
MRS. OBAMA: With more than a million jobs on the line -- you remember that?
MRS. OBAMA: But Barack had the backs of American workers. And as a result, the auto industry is back on its feet again and people are back at work again, earning a paycheck. (Applause.)
Remember how folks were telling Barack -- they were telling Barack not to take on health care. They said don’t do it -- said leave it for another day, another President, it’s too risky. Just keep kicking that can down the road. But Barack had the backs of American families. And as a result, today millions of people can finally see a doctor when they’re sick. They can get the care they need to stay well, thanks to him. (Applause.)
So when it comes time to stand up for the middle class so that our kids can go to college and our families can make a decent living and save for retirement, you know what my husband is going to do. When we need a President to protect our most basic rights, no matter who we are or where we’re from or what we look like or who we love, you know you can count on my husband -- because that’s what he’s been doing every day as President of the United States of America. (Applause.)
But I have said this before and I will say it again: He cannot do this alone. Because as Barack has said, this election will be even closer than the last one. And in the end, it could all come down to those last few thousand voters. And while that might not sound like a lot, when you think about those votes when they're spread out across an entire state, across hundreds of cities and thousands of precincts -- think about that -- so that one new voter that you register in your precinct, that one neighbor you get to the polls on November 6th, that could be the one that makes the difference. That could be the one.
That one conversation you have, that one new volunteer you recruit -- that could be the one that puts this election over the top. (Applause.) That could be the difference between waking up on November 7th and asking yourself, could I have done more, or feeling the promise of four more years. (Applause.) Just one.
And that is why we've launched this new effort that we're calling It Takes One. It's as simple as it sounds. Every time you take action to move this campaign forward, we're asking you to inspire one more person to step up and do their part as well. We all know one person, right?
So, if you're making phone calls or knocking on doors, bring along that friend who hasn't been involved. If you're coming to an event, bring a neighbor who has never heard about this election, doesn't know the issues. When you're voting early or on Election Day, bring one new voter along with you who might not be able to make it to the polls. Find one friend, one colleague, one person in your family -- send them to BarackObama.com/one. (Applause.) And that's a very easy way for them to get involved in the campaign.
And then I want you to bring them along to our very first It Takes One Weekend of Action that's happening this weekend, when folks will be meeting in cities across this country to register voters, and talk with their neighbors about this campaign. You all here, you can sign up on the website. We need every single one of you in this room, within the sound of my voice, to join us.
Because it's like Barack has always said. He said, "It takes just one voice to change a room. And if a voice can change a room, it can change a city. And if it can change a city, it can change a state. And if it can change a state, it can change a nation." Just one voice. That is the power of one person stepping up and doing their part to move their country forward -- just one. Just one. (Applause.) Just one will get us over the top.
And I am not going to kid you, this journey is going to be long, it is going to be hard, and there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way. But we have to keep reminding ourselves that is how change always happens in this country. Real change is hard. Real change is slow and requires some patience.
But if we keep showing up -- if we keep fighting the good fight, doing what we know is right, then eventually we get there. Because we always do. We always have. In this country, we always move forward -- (applause) -- 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 about. It's not about us. In the end, that's what elections are always about. Elections are always about hope, always about hope. They're about our hopes for our children. They're about the world we want to leave for the next generation. That's what I think about when I kiss my girls goodnight, and I think about how I want to do for them what my dad did for me, what Barack's mom and grandmother did for him. That's why we're here.
I want my daughters, and all our sons and daughters, to have a foundation for their dreams. I want to give them opportunities worthy of their promise, because all of our kids are worthy. I want to give them that sense of limitless possibility, that belief that here in America there is always something better out there if you're willing to work for it. (Applause.)
See, so we cannot turn back now -- not now. Not now. We can't turn back. We have so much more work to do, but we have come so far. So I have one last question to ask you all: Are you in? (Applause.)
No, you need to understand what kind of "in" I'm talking about. Are you the kind of roll-up-your sleeves in? "It Takes One" in? Finding that neighbor, getting up and registering those voters kind of in? Shaking people up, talking to the hard neighbors, the folks that aren't sure? Are you ready to put your views on the line? Are you ready to work hard for this President and this campaign and this vision? Are you in like that? (Applause.)
Because I am so in. If you haven't noticed, I am so fired up. I want these kids to have the future they deserve, but it is on us. It is on us. And we're going to need you all every step of the way.
Thank you all. Let's work hard. God bless. (Applause.)
4:18 P.M. EDT