The White House

Office of the First Lady

Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event

Colonial Theatre
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

4:29 P.M. EDT
 
MRS. OBAMA:  Thank you so much!  (Applause.)  Oh, my goodness!  That is very sweet, very sweet.  Okay, you're embarrassing me.  (Applause.)  I'm officially embarrassed.  (Laughter.)  Oh, I love you all too. 
 
I understand you all got a wonderful concert -- (applause) -- one of the loves of my life.  But let me start by thanking you all. 
 
I am so thrilled to be here this afternoon, and I want to thank Governor Patrick, Congressman Neal, and also Mayor Bianchi for joining us today.  (Applause.)  
 
And of course, I want to thank on of our biggest supporters, one of our dearest friends; a wonderful, gifted man with a sweet soul -- James Taylor and his wife Kim.  (Applause.)  Tremendous.  Tremendous.
 
And finally, I want to thank all of you.  I have to say, I'm not used to -- I can't see faces.  (Laughter.)  So I'm -- I can feel you.  My eyes are starting to adjust to the dark, but I know you're out there.  (Laughter.)  But I want to thank you all for taking the time to be here today.  And I'm always amazed at people who take the time out of their busy lives to come and be supportive and be engaged in this process, because I know people have busy lives; you all have jobs to do, classes to attend, families to raise. 
 
But what I remind people when I travel around the country is that I also know there's a reason why all of us are here today.  And it’s not just because we support an extraordinary man who happens to be my husband, President Barack Obama.  (Applause.)  And it’s not just because we want to win an election -- which we do and we definitely will.  (Applause.) 
 
We’re here and we're doing this because of the values we believe in.  It's 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 -- (applause) -- and what that means, for example, is that all our kids in this country -- every last one of them -- should have good schools.  (Applause.)  They should have the chance to go to college without a mountain of debt.  (Applause.)  
 
We believe that everyone should do their fair share, which means that teachers and firefighters shouldn’t pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires.  (Applause.)  We believe that if you work hard, you shouldn’t go bankrupt because someone gets sick.  (Applause.)  You shouldn’t lose your home because someone loses a job.  And after a lifetime of hard work, you should be able retire with dignity and security here in America. 
 
And what I remind people is that these are basic American values.  This is the foundation of this country.  These are the values that so many of us were raised with, including myself.
 
As many of you know, my father was a pump operator at the city water plant all his life; it was the only job he had.  And neither of my parents had a college degree.  But let me tell you what they did have, what they did do:  They saved, and they sacrificed.  They poured everything they had into me and my brother so that we could get the kind of education, have the kind of opportunities they could only dream of. 
 
And education was everything in my 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.  Can anybody relate to that?  (Applause.)  But my Dad still had to pay a small portion of that tuition himself, and every semester he was determined to pay that bill right on time.  And my dad was so proud to be sending his kids to college, and he made sure that we never missed 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 a decent living that allowed him to meet his responsibilities to his family.  That’s all he wanted -- to be able to pay his bills and pay them on time.  It wasn't much.  My dad didn’t want much.
 
My dad’s life is a testament to that basic American promise that no matter who you are in this country, no matter how you started out, if you work hard, you can build a decent life for yourself -- yes -- 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.  (Applause.)  That’s why I love him, and that’s why I'm supporting him.  
 
Barack is the son of a single mother who struggled to put herself through school and pay the bills.  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 watched men no more qualified than she was -- men she had actually trained -- be promoted up the ladder ahead of her. 
 
But let me tell you what Barack saw in this woman -- someone who never complained.  How many people have folks like that in their lives?  (Applause.)  Never complain, just keep getting up?  Just kept giving her best every single day to help support her family. 
 
So 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 so many of you, Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it.  And he believes that when you’ve worked hard and done well, and you've walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you.  (Applause.)  You reach back and you give other people the chance to succeed as well.
 
And truly, more than anything else, that’s why we're here. That’s what’s at stake in this election.  It's that dream, that fundamental American promise. 
 
But from now until November, we are going to need all of you to get out there and to tell people -- tell them about your President.  Tell them about his values.  Tell them about our vision, and tell them about the choice we face in this election.  The choices are clear. 
 
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.  Let them know.  Let them know that he’s cut taxes for small businesses 18 times, because your President understans that rebuilding our economy starts with the restaurants and startups and stores that create two-thirds of all new jobs in this country.   
 
But 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 month.  But for the last 29 straight months, we’ve actually been gaining private sector jobs –- more than 4.5 million new jobs in this economy under this administration.  (Applause.) 
 
So while 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 pay their bills again.  You've got to let them know. 
 
This election is a choice about the health of our families.  The fact is that over the past century -- over the past 100 years -- so many of our presidents have tried and failed to meet the challenge of health care reform.  But your President was determined.  (Applause.)  Yes, he was.  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 prescription drugs.  Our kids can stay on our insurance until they’re 26 years old so they don’t have to go without health care right when they're graduating and trying to start out, looking for jobs and getting their lives together.
 
Because of this reform, insurance companies have to cover basic preventive care -- things like contraception, cancer screenings, prenatal care at no extra cost.  (Applause.)  They can’t discriminate against you because you have an illness they call a pre-existing condition.  And if you get really sick -- something like breast cancer, for example -- and you need really expensive treatment, your insurance company can no longer tell you, sorry, you’ve hit your lifetime limit and we’re not paying you a penny more.  That is now illegal, thanks to health reform.  (Applause.)
 
And make no mistake about it, this November we get to decide:  Do we want these reforms to be repealed? 
 
AUDIENCE:  No!
 
MRS. OBAMA:  Or do we want the people we love to have the care they need? 
 
AUDIENCE:  Yes!
 
MRS. OBAMA:  But that’s the choice we face.
 
This election is a choice about whether our kids can go to college without a mountain of debt.  Believe it or not, Barack and I, when we were first starting our life together -- it was just me and him; we were in love.  I still love him.  (Laughter.)  We were trying to make it all together, buying a home, doing -- but our combined student loan bill each month was actually higher than our mortgage.  I know there's some people out there who understand that. 
 
So when it comes to student debt, my husband and I, we've been there.  And that’s why Barack has worked so hard to double funding for Pell Grants, and fought so hard to stop student loan interest rates from rising.  (Applause.)  Because he wants all of our young people to be able to get the kind education they need for the jobs they deserve. 
 
Your President wants all our kids to fulfill their promise, and that’s why he’s been fighting so hard for the DREAM Act.  (Applause.)  I mean, listen -- he’s 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, yes, 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.)  All of our kids deserve that opportunity. 
 
This election is also a choice about keeping our country safe.  So we have to remind people that after ten long years of war -- after so many of our heroic men and women in uniform have served, sacrificed, gave their lives -- Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat to this country.  (Applause.)  Thanks to them.  Remind people that Barack kept his promise and brought our troops home from Iraq, and he’s working hard to make sure they get the benefits and 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 a choice about supporting women and families in this country.  So I want you to be sure to tell people that your President believes that women should be able to make our own choices about their health care.  (Applause.)  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 very first bill Barack signed into law.  (Applause.) 
 
And finally, do not forget to tell them about those two brilliant Supreme Court justices that he appointed –- Justice Elena Kagan, Justice Sonia Sotomayor –- (applause) -- and how for the first time in history, we watched three women take their seats on our nation's highest court.  (Applause.) 
 
So when people ask you what this President has done for our country, I want you to tell them how many jobs he’s created.  Tell them how much money he’s put back in the pockets of American people.  I want you to tell them that more of our kids can afford college; 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 again and again and again.  That’s what I want you to tell them.  (Applause.)
 
But I also want you to remind everyone that all of this and so much more -- all of it -- is at stake this November.  It's all on the line.  And 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 back and allow everything we’ve fought for to just slip away?  Who are we?  What are we going to do?  We can’t turn back now.  We need to keep moving this country forward. 
 
And more than anything else, that’s what we’re working for:  the chance to finish what we started, 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. 
 
And what I've shared with people is that one of the things I have seen over the past three and a half years as First Lady is what it's like to be President.  I've seen that up close and personal.  (Laughter.)  I have seen how the issues that come across a President’s desk are always the hard ones –- the problems with no easy solutions, the judgment calls where the stakes are so high and there is no margin for error.
 
And I've also seen that as President, you're going to get all kinds of advice from all kinds of people.  But at the end of the day, what I've learned is that when it comes time to make that decision, as President, all you have to guide you in the end are your life experiences.  All you have to lead you are your values, is your vision for this country.  In the end, what I've learned is that it all boils down to who you are and what you stand for.  (Applause.)
 
And we all know who my husband is, don't we?  (Applause.)  We know what he stands for, don’t we?  (Applause.)  And we have seen again and again just how hard he’s willing to fight for us.
 
Remember when folks in Washington told Barack to let the auto industry go under with more than a million jobs on the line?  You remember that?
 
AUDIENCE:  Yes!
 
MRS. OBAMA:  But Barack 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 again; more importantly, people are back at work again, taking care of their families.  (Applause.)
 
And remember how people were telling Barack not to take on health care?  You remember that?  Because I certainly do.  They said, leave it for another day, another president; just keep kicking that can down the road.  But 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 they need to stay well thanks to your President.  (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’s going to do, don't you?  When we need a President to protect our most basic rights -- no matter who we are or what we look like or where we’re from or who we love -- you know what Barack Obama is going to do because that’s what he’s been doing every single day as President of the United States.  (Applause.)  
 
But let me just tell you something -- and I have said this before and I will say it again -- he cannot do this alone.  Cannot.  Barack has said this election will be even closer than the last one -- that's your guarantee.  And in the end, it could all come down to those last few thousand voters.  And I just want you all to think about a few thousand votes when it's spread across an entire state, across hundreds of cities and thousands of precincts -- just picture that.  Just a few thousand votes. 
 
So when you think on those terms -- you think that with just one new voter that you register in your precinct, that one neighbor that you get to the polls on November the 6th -- that could be the one that makes the difference.  That’s how I want you to think about that.  That one conversation you have, that one new volunteer you recruit –- that could be the one that puts this election over the top.  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.)  One.  One person.  You have the power.
 
And that’s why we’ve launched a new effort that we’re calling, It Takes One.  Simple concept; it's a concept of democracy.  Every time you take an action to move this campaign forward, we’re asking you to inspire one more person to step up and do their part as well. 
 
So if you’re making phone calls, knocking on doors, bring that friend along -- you know that friend.  That friend that’s sitting at home, not really following the election, just wondering, what planet are you on?  (Laughter.)  Take that friend.  If you’re coming to an event, bring that neighbor who’s never been involved in an election before.  You know that person as well.  That person is like, eh, I voted back in '70 -- can't remember.  (Laughter.)  When you’re voting early or on Election Day, bring one new voter -- that nephew of yours. 
 
AUDIENCE MEMBER:  All right.
 
MRS. OBAMA:   That knucklehead -- slap him in the back of the head.  (Laughter.)  Find that one friend, that one colleague, that one person -- we've all got that one person.  Send them to barackobama.com/one.  They don’t even have to leave their house to get involved in this campaign. 
 
And we can get started right now, because I'm that kind of action-oriented First Lady.  We want you signing up with one of our grassroots volunteers that are here today.  They can get you signed up, get you thinking along these lines.  I always tell people, think about multiplying yourselves, because we need every single one of you to join us -- every single one of you, plus some more folks.
 
And it’s like Barack has always said:  It just 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 surely change a nation.  (Applause.)  And that is the power of one person stepping up to move this country forward.  It will be the margin of victory in November.
 
And I will not kid you -- because I don’t lie very well -- (laughter) -- this journey is going to be long.  Even though we have only 95 more days, it's going to be long, and it is 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. 
 
Real change takes time.  Real change requires patience and tenacity.  But if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting that good fight, then eventually we’ll get there -- because we always do.  In this country we've always moved forward; we've never gone backwards.  Maybe not in our lifetimes, though, but maybe in our children’s lifetimes.  You know what I'm saying?  Maybe in our grandchildren’s lifetimes.
 
Because in the end, that’s what this is about.  That’s why we're here.  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 we want to leave for them, for the next generation.  It's not about us.
 
And let me tell you something -- every night I think about this when I look my girls into the eye and I put them to bed. I think about how I want to do for them what my Dad did for me and what Barack’s grandmother and mother did for him. 
 
I want to give my daughters -- and all of our sons and daughters --e a real, solid foundation for their dreams.  I want to give them opportunities worthy of their promise.  Because what we have to know is all of our children are worthy.  I want to give them that sense of limitless possibility –- (applause) -- that belief that here in America, there’s always something better out there if you’re willing to work for it. 
 
So what I know is that we cannot turn back now.  We owe it to our kids.  We have come so far, but we have so much more to do, right?
 
So I have one last question for you:  Are you in?
 
AUDIENCE:  Yes!  (Applause.) 
 
MRS. OBAMA:  Are you ready for this?  No, no, I mean are you really in?
 
AUDIENCE:  Yes!
 
MRS. OBAMA:  Are you -- rolling-up-your-sleeves in, and I'm talking about grabbing that one neighbor, smacking that nephew on the back of the head.  Are you that kind of in, where you're ready to -- passionately and actively engaged in this election?  Are you that kind of in? 
 
AUDIENCE:  Yes!
 
MRS. OBAMA:  All right.  Well, I want to see you fired up and ready to go, because this will not happen without you.  If you haven't noticed, I'm pretty fired up myself.  (Laughter.)  So I'm going to be doing my part.
 
Thank you all. 
 
END
4:56 P.M. EDT

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