The White House
Office of the First Lady
REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY AT A CAMPAIGN EVENT
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Springfield, Massachusetts
MRS. OBAMA: Yay! (Applause.) All right. You guys are already fired up. I can go home. (Applause.) Thank you so much. You all, rest yourselves, rest yourselves. Let me check the mic -- can you all hear me?
MRS. OBAMA: Is everybody good? All right, I just wanted to make sure. Since I’m going to be talking, I want to make sure you can hear me, right? (Laughter.)
Let me tell you, I am beyond thrilled to be with all of you this afternoon. Your warmth, your enthusiasm, it really fills me up; it fills up me and Barack. So it means a lot.
I want to start by thanking Tom for that very kind and very moving introduction, for me at least. He’s just been a true supporter, he and his family, and we’re just so grateful. I also want to thank Nicole as well for all of her hard work, as both of them have been terrific hosts for this event. So let’s give them a round of applause. (Applause.)
And I want to thank my dear friend, Governor Patrick. He’s meeting me, I think, at the next event, but he was here. I want to thank my new buddy -- I don’t think you realize -- Grant Hill. I mean, we were hanging out at the Opening Ceremonies. (Laughter.) I want to adopt you as my younger brother, all right? (Laughter.) I won’t say son yet. I don’t think I’m that old. (Laughter.) But he is an amazing individual, and we had a terrific time. Thank you, thanks for being here, and thanks for your words earlier.
I know that State Auditor Suzanne Bump is here, and I want to thank her for joining us. There she is. (Applause.) And Mayor Sarno is here as well. I got a chance to say hello to him. Thank you, Mayor, for being here as well. Thank you for your kind words of support. Not sure if he’s still here, but he was.
And finally, of course, I want to thank all of you for taking time to join us today. And I know that all of you are busy. Every time I come to these things I’m amazed at how much people are -- time people are willing to take out of their lives. Because I know folks have jobs to do; we’ve got young people who have got classes to attend; people are investing and raising their families.
So I know that it takes something to come out and be here. Even if we all know we support Barack Obama, it’s still time out of your busy lives. But I also know there’s a reason why all of you are here, and it’s not just because we support what I think we all agree is an outstanding President of the United States, my husband, Barack Obama. (Applause.) And I know you’re not just here because you want to win an election -- which I know we will indeed win. (Applause.)
We’re all here, investing ourselves in this way, because of the values we believe in. I say this everywhere I go, because I think it’s important for people to understand what this is all about. This is about 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 in America, everyone should have a fair shot. And that means that all of our kids -- not some of them; all of them -- should be able to go to good schools, should be able to attend college without a mountain of debt.
We believe that everyone in this country should do their fair share. That means that teachers and firefighters shouldn’t pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires. Not in this country. (Applause.) We believe that if you work hard, you shouldn’t go bankrupt because someone gets sick. You shouldn’t lose your home because someone loses a job. And after a lifetime of hard work, you should be able to retire with dignity and security.
And what I remind people is, these are basic American values, right? This is the foundation of this country. They’re the values that so many of us were raised with, including myself. And I share my story everywhere I go because I’m proud of where I came from. My father was a pump operator at the city water plant in Chicago -- many people know that already. But neither of my parents had a college degree. But what my folks did for us is that they saved for us, and they sacrificed everything; they poured everything they had into me and my brother so that we could get the kind of education and have the kind of opportunities they could only dream of.
Education was everything in my family. It was our ticket to the middle class. It was 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, like so many people. But my dad still had to pay a small portion of that tuition himself. And let me tell you, every semester my father was determined to pay his little portion, and to pay it on time. He was so proud to be sending his kids to college, and he made sure that we never had to miss a registration deadline because his check was late. Like so many people in this country, my father took great pride in being able to earn the kind of living that allowed him to handle his responsibilities to his family -- to pay his bills and to pay them on time. That’s all my father wanted. That’s it.
My dad’s life is a testament to that basic American promise that no matter who you are in this country, 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. And let me tell you something, my husband understands that promise because that’s his story as well. That’s why I married him. (Laughter.)
He’s the son of a single mother who struggled to pay the bills and put herself through school. He’s 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 saw men no more qualified than she was be promoted up that ladder ahead of her. But let me tell you something that Barack saw -- a woman that never complained. No, she never complained. She just kept getting up, giving her best every single day to help support her family.
So what I remind people is that 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. And like me, and like all 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 do not slam it shut behind you. Not in America. You reach back and you give other folks a chance to succeed as well. (Applause.)
And more than anything else, that’s why we’re here. That’s what this election is all about. That’s what’s at stake -- it’s that dream, that fundamental American promise. And let me just tell you, from now until November -- what is it, 95, 96 -- can’t keep count, how many days?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Ninety-five.
MRS. OBAMA: Ninety-five -- 95 days. We are going to need all of you to get out there and tell everyone you know about your President. Tell them about his values. Tell them about our vision and about the choice we face in this election. That’s what we need from you.
This election is a choice about 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, and he has cut taxes for small businesses 18 times -- 18 times. Because what your President understands is that building our economy starts with the restaurants and the stores and the startups that create two-thirds of all new jobs in this economy. That’s what we need you to do.
And I want you to be sure 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 awaited him after the inauguration. But I also want you to remind people that for the past 29 straight, consecutive months, we’ve actually been gaining private sector jobs -- more than 4.5 million jobs under this administration.
So, yes, while we have a long way to go to rebuild this economy, people should understand that, today, millions of people are collecting a paycheck again; millions of people like my dad are able to pay their bills again.
But this election is also a choice about the health of our family. I mean, the fact is that over the past century -- understand this: Over the past 100 years, so many of our Presidents have tried and failed to meet the challenge of health care reform. But let me tell you something, your President was determined. That’s the difference. 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 that’s what kept him going day after day. That’s why he fought so hard for this historic reform.
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, so they don’t lose their health care when they graduate and they’re just starting out, trying to build a life.
Because of this reform, insurance companies now have to cover basic preventative care -- things like contraception, cancer screenings, prenatal care, at no extra cost. (Applause.) They can’t discriminate against you because you have an illness that they call a preexisting condition. (Applause.) And if you get really sick -- something real serious like breast cancer -- and you need real 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. Because of this reform that is now illegal.
But make no mistake about it, this November we get to decide. Are we going to see these reforms repealed? Or do we want the people we love to have the care they need? That’s our choice. That’s what this is about.
This election is a choice about whether our kids can attend college without a mountain of debt. I mean, what I’ve shared with people is that when Barack and I were first starting out, and we were so in love, building a life together -- (laughter) -- we’re still in love -- (laughter) -- we are; I love him -- (laughter and applause) -- but when we were young, just starting out, our combined student loan bill each month was actually higher than our mortgage. And that is not uncommon, unfortunately.
So 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 interest -- loan rates from rising. Because he wants all our young people to be able to get the education they need for the jobs and career options they deserve.
Your President wants all of our kids to fulfill their promise in this country. And that’s why he’s been fighting so hard for the DREAM Act. I mean, think about this: He is fighting for responsible young people who came to this country as children, through no fault of their own, and were raised as Americans because he believes that these young people, too, deserve the chance to go to college, to contribute to our economy -- yes -- and serve the country that they love. All of our kids deserve this promise. (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 -- 10 long years, where we’ve seen our men and women in uniform sacrificing, serving, giving their lives -- finally, Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat to this country. I want you to remind people. (Applause.)
You can also remind people that Barack kept his promise to bring our troops home from Iraq, and he’s been working very hard to make sure that they get the benefits and the support that they’ve earned. (Applause.)
And today, our troops no longer have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love because Barack finally ended “don’t ask, don’t tell.” (Applause.)
This election is also a choice about supporting women and families in this country. So please, please, be sure to tell people that Barack believes firmly that women should be able to make our own choices about our health care, plain and simple. (Applause.)
Remind them that it’s now easier for women to get equal pay for equal work because Barack signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act -- the first bill he signed into law as President of the United States. (Applause.)
And finally, remind people about those two brilliant Supreme Court Justices he appointed and how, for the first time in history, our daughters and sons watched three women take their seat on our nation’s highest court. (Applause.)
I could go on. (Laughter.) So when folks ask you what this President has done for our country, why don’t you tell them about how many jobs he’s created. Tell them how much money he’s put back in the pockets of American people. Tell them that more of our kids can afford college; more of our seniors can afford their medicine. Remind folks how he ended the war in Iraq, passed historic health reform, and stood up for our most fundamental, basic rights again and again and again. That’s what you tell them. (Applause.)
But also remind them that all of that -- all of it and so much more -- all of it’s at stake. It’s all on the line in November. That’s the choice we face. Are we going to continue the change we’ve begun and the progress we’ve made? Or are we going to just sit by and allow everything we fought for to just slip away? Who are we? We know what we need to do -- I hope we do. We can’t turn back now. This country needs to keep moving forward. Forward.
And more than anything else, that’s what we’re working for. Hopefully, that’s why you’re here -- the chance to finish what we’ve started; the chance to keep fighting for the values that we believe in and the vision for this country that we all share. This is our vision. And that’s what my husband has been doing every single day as President of the United States.
And let me share something with you. As First Lady, I have had the privilege for the last three and a half years to see up close and personal what being President really looks like. And I’ve seen some things. (Laughter.) But most importantly, I’ve seen how the issues that come across a President’s desk are always the hard ones -- running for President is the easy part; how the problems that a President faces has no easy solutions; the judgment calls where the stakes are so high, and there is no margin for error.
But as President, I’ve seen how you’re going to get all kinds of advice, all kinds of opinions from all kinds of people. But let me tell you, at the end of the day, when it’s 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 -- is your vision for this country. Let me tell you something, in the end, what I have learned is that it all boils down to who you are and what you stand for.
And what I remind people is, we all know who my husband is, don’t we? And we all know what he stands for. And we have seen again and again just how hard he’s willing to fight for us. I mean, remember when Barack -- back in Washington, folks were telling him to let the auto industry go under -- you remember that? -- with more than a million jobs on the line. That’s the advice he was getting. But fortunately, your President had the backs of American workers. He put his faith in the American people. And fortunately, as a result, today, the auto industry is back on its feet again, and more importantly, people are back at work collecting a paycheck, taking care of their families.
Remember how folks were telling Barack not to take on health care? You remember that? I certainly do. They said, leave it for another day, another President. Just keep kicking that can down the road. That’s what they told him. But fortunately, Barack had the backs of American families. And as a result, today, millions of people in this country can finally see a doctor when they’re sick; they can get the care that they need to stay well.
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, right? 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 this President because that is what he’s been doing every single day.
But I have said this before and I will say it again and again: He cannot do this alone. That was never the promise. Barack has said this election is going to be closer than ever before. And what I try to remind people is that, in the end, it could all come down to those last few thousand votes.
I mean, think about it -- think about those small number of votes spread out over an entire state, across hundreds of cities and thousands of precincts. So what I try to get people to imagine is that that one new voter that you register in your precinct, that one neighbor that you help get to the polls on November the 6th, that could be the one that makes the difference in this election. That’s how I’m trying to get you all to think. That one conversation -- don’t take for granted that one volunteer that you recruit. That could be the one that puts us over the top. That could be the difference, as Tom said, of waking up on November 7th and asking yourself, “Could I have done more?”, or feeling the promise of four more years. It’s as simple as that.
And that’s one of the reasons why we launched this new effort called “It Takes One,” because I’m trying to get people to think about multiplying themselves. It takes one -- it’s a simple concept. Every time you take an action to move this campaign forward, we want you to inspire just one more person to step in there with you. I mean, think about it, it’s not enough that you do it; bring one more person.
So if you’re making phone calls, bring somebody along. If you’re knocking on doors, find that neighbor that is not involved, that’s not focused. If you’re writing a check, find somebody to write another check. (Laughter.) When you’re voting early or on Election Day, find that person that may not make it to the polls. Bring them with you. Everyone counts -- that one friend, that one colleague, that one person in your family. Everybody has one. Shake them up. Shake them up! (Applause.)
This is not a passive process. Send them to barackobama.com/one. They don’t even have to leave their house to get involved with the campaign. And you can get started right now. I mean, I’m an action-oriented kind of First Lady -- (laughter) -- so I want you to think about signing up with one of our grassroots volunteers who are with us today. Sign up. We want you to get to work. We’ve going to need every single one of you to join us.
It’s like Barack has always said: It just takes 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. That’s what this election is about. That is the power of one -- the one act you can do to keep moving this country forward.
And I’m not going to kid you, because I never do. This election is going to be long. It’s getting shorter by the moment, but it doesn’t feel that way to me. (Laughter.) And it’s going to be hard, and there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way. But what I remind people is that that’s how change always happens in this country. That’s how it always happens. Real change takes time, requires patience. But if you keep showing up, if we keep fighting that good fight and doing what we know is right, then eventually we’ll get there, because we always do. We have never gone backwards in this country. Maybe not in our lifetimes, though, but maybe in our children’s lifetimes; maybe in our grandchildren’s lifetimes.
Because in the end, what I remind myself is that’s what this is about. This is not about us. It’s about them. In the end, that’s what elections are always about. Don’t let anybody tell you differently -- elections are always about hope. They’re about our hopes for our children. They’re about the world that we want to leave behind for them, the next generation.
And that’s what I think about every night when I kiss my girls and put them to bed. I think about how I want to do for them what my dad did for me, what Barack’s mother and grandmother did for them. I want to give my daughters, and all of our sons and daughters, a foundation for their dreams -- a solid foundation. I want to give them opportunities worthy of their promise. All these kids are worthy -- all of them. I want our children in this country to have that sense of limitless possibility -- the belief that here in America, there is always something better if you’re willing to work for it. That’s why we’re here.
So let me just tell you this: We have come too far. We cannot turn back now. We owe more to our kids than that. But we have so much more work to do.
So I have one final question to ask you, after all of my talking. (Laughter.) Are you in? (Applause.) No, I’m not sure how in you are. Yes, is that you’re kind of in, or are you all the way in? (Applause.) We need you to be fired-up kind of in. We need you to be actively and passionately engaged in the process of getting this done. We need you to be fired up and shaking everybody in your lives, whether they’re here in this state or outside. We need you to remind them why we’re here, what we’re fighting for. That’s the kind of in we need you to be. Are you in?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
You all, thank you so much. Let’s get it done. God bless. (Applause.)