The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event - Philadelphia, PA
University of the Sciences
2:06 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, my! (Applause.) Well, thank you so much. Four more years! Four more years!
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: With your help. With your help. We’re going to need all of you all. I am beyond thrilled to be with you all today -- beyond thrilled. (Applause.)
Let me start by thanking Zakiyyah and all the Obama mamas and papas. (Applause.) See, that’s what keeps me and Barack standing up straight -- it’s all those mamas and papas, and people praying and working. You all keep us going. I want to thank Zakiyyah and everyone for the work that you all are doing, and for that kind introduction. So let’s give Zakiyyah a round of applause. (Applause.)
I also want to thank Congressmen Brady and Fattah for their words earlier and for their leadership every single day. (Applause.) And I also want to thank David, who I also know is out here getting people fired up and ready to go. So we’ve got to thank David. (Applause.)
And finally, I’m really here to thank all of you -- our extraordinary volunteers.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you!
MRS. OBAMA: We love you. We love you! We love you! (Applause.) Thank you for everything -- everything that you’re doing day in and day out to make this campaign possible. And everything you’re doing -- you’re doing the tough stuff, knocking on those doors, registering voters, giving folks the information they need about the issues they care about. And I want you to know that the grassroots work that you all are doing on the ground to get people focused and fired up, that work is at the core of everything we do in this campaign. That’s how we did it four years, and that’s how we’re going to do it again today. Do not underestimate the work that you’re doing. Don’t do it. (Applause.)
And I know this work isn’t easy. I’ve done it myself; it is not easy. Folks got busy lives -- everyone in here has something on their plate. You’ve got jobs to do, classes to attend for all the young people. (Applause.) People have families to raise. But I also know, as I say everywhere I go, there is a reason why we are all here today. There’s a reason why we’re doing this work, and it’s not just because we all support what I know to be a phenomenal President that we have, my husband, Barack Obama. (Applause.) Awesome. Awesome. (Applause.) I may be a little biased, but -- (laughter.) And we’re not just here because we want to win an election -- which we do, and we will. Yes, we will. (Applause.)
What we have to remember, and I try to remind people everywhere I go, we’re doing this because of the values we believe in. We’ve got to hold true to that. We’re doing this because of 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 here in America, everyone should have a fair shot. And what that means is that, for example, all our kids in this country should have good schools to go to. (Applause.) It means that all of our kids in this country should be able to go to college without a mountain of debt. (Applause.) That’s what that means. We also believe that everyone in America should do their fair share. That means simply that teachers and firefighters shouldn’t pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires, right? (Applause.) We believe that hard work should pay off, and we believe that if you work hard you shouldn’t go bankrupt because you get sick. You shouldn’t lose your home because someone lost a job. And we believe that after a lifetime of hard work, you should be able to retire with a little dignity and security. That’s what we believe. That’s why we’re here. (Applause.)
And we have to remember these are basic American values, right? This is the foundation. They’re the values that so many of us were raised with, including myself. And I am telling my story everywhere I go because I’m proud of where I’m from. (Applause.) My father -- and I want young people to know this -- my father was a pump operator at the city water plant his entire life. That was the only job he had. And neither of my parents had a college degree. But let me tell you something my folks did for me and my brother: They saved and they sacrificed everything for us; they poured everything they had into me and my brother so that we could get the kind of education they could only dream of.
And as Zakiyyah said, young people, education was everything in our family. It was everything. That was our ticket to the middle class. That was it. That was our pathway to the American Dream. That was how we were going to get there. (Applause.) So when my brother and I finally made it to college, let me tell you, pretty much all of our tuition came from student loans and grants. Can I get an Amen?
AUDIENCE: Amen! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: That’s how we go to school, right? But my dad still had to pay a tiny portion of that tuition himself. And let me tell you, every semester my father was determined to pay his little portion of that bill right on time. See, my father, like so many parents, he was proud to play a role in sending his kids to college, and he made sure that we never missed a registration deadline because his check was late. Listen to this -- like so many people in this country, my father took great pride in earning a simple living that allowed him to meet his responsibilities to his family. That’s all my father wanted. He wanted to be able to pay all of his bills, and pay them on time. That’s all he wanted. (Applause.)
And what I remind people is that my father, and so many others like him in this country, their lives are 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 decent life for yourself and an even better life for your kids. (Applause.)
And what I want people to understand is that my husband, your President, understands that promise because that’s his story as well. That’s why I married him. (Applause.) See, I want you to remember that Barack Obama was 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 support he and 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. See, but what Barack also saw in his grandmother, he saw a woman who never complained. How many people do we know like that in our lives -- never complain? (Applause.) She just kept getting up, just kept giving her best every single day to help support his family.
So what I want you to understand is that Barack Obama 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 us, Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it. (Applause.) And he believes that when you’ve worked hard, and when you’ve done well, and you’ve walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. Not in America. (Applause.) You reach back and you give other folks the 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 just say, from now until November -- less than 90 days -- we are going to need all of you -- all of you out there, telling everybody you know. Tell them about Barack’s values. Tell them about our vision for this country. Tell them about the choice that we face in this election -- because this election is definitely about choices.
This election is a choice about our economy. It’s about building that strong and growing middle class. So I want you to remind folks, when you’re out there -- remind them that Barack cut taxes for working families in this country by $3,600. (Applause.) Also remind them that he cut taxes for small businesses 18 times -- 18 times. (Applause.) Because what he understands is that rebuilding our economy starts with the restaurants and the stores and the startups that create two-thirds of all jobs in this economy. You’ve got to tell them. (Applause.)
And I also want you to be sure to remind people how, back when Barack first took office, what awaited him was an economy that was losing an average of 750,000 jobs every month. That’s what welcomed him to the Oval Office. Let people know. But also remind them that for the past 29 straight months, we’ve actually been gaining private sector jobs -- a total of more than 4.5 million new jobs in this economy. You’ve got to let them know. (Applause.)
So while, yes, we have a long way to go, we have more work to do to rebuild our economy, today -- today, millions of people are back at work collecting a paycheck again; millions of people like my dad are able to pay their bills again. Let them know. (Applause.)
This election is also a choice -- it’s a choice about the health of our families, right? I mean, the fact is -- listen to this. Just remember this: That over the past century -- yes, 100 years -- so many of this country’s Presidents have tried and failed to meet the challenge of health care reform. A hundred years! But your President was determined. (Applause.) Yes. You see, Barack was driven by the stories of the people he’d met. You know these people -- 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’s what kept him going day after day. It was our stories. That’s why he fought so hard for this historic reform.
And today, because of this reform that he fought for for us, our parents and grandparents are paying hundreds less for their prescription drugs today. (Applause.) Because of this reform, today our kids can stay on our insurance until they’re 26 years old -- (applause) -- so that our young people don’t have to go without health care when they first graduate from college and they’re out there trying to build a life and start a career. Because of this reform, insurance companies have to cover basic preventative care -- things like contraception, cancer screenings, prenatal care, with no extra cost. (Applause.) Because he fought for us, these insurance companies cannot discriminate against us because we have an illness that they call a preexisting condition -- because of this reform. (Applause.) And if you have a real serious illness -- something 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 for anymore. No more. 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 repealed?
MRS. OBAMA: Or do we want the people we love to have the care they need?
MRS. OBAMA: This is the choice that we face. That’s why we’re here.
This election is a choice about whether our kids can attend college without a mountain of debt. (Applause.) Now, believe it or not, back when Barack and I were first getting together -- got married, building a life together, buying a house --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Kids.
MRS. OBAMA: Kids? Not yet. Not then. Kids were later. (Laughter.) But this was early on. Our combined student loan bill each month was actually higher than our mortgage. Yes, how many people -- can I get an Amen on that one?
AUDIENCE: Amen! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: So let me just tell you, when it comes to student debt, my husband and I, we’ve been there. And that’s why Barack doubled funding for Pell Grants. (Applause.) That’s why Barack fought so hard to stop student loan interest rates from increasing, because he wants all of our young people to get the education they need for the jobs they deserve -- all of them. (Applause.)
Your President wants all of our young people to fulfill their promise. And that is why he’s been fighting so hard for the DREAM Act. (Applause.) Now, understand this: He is fighting so that responsible young people in this country who came to this country as children, through no fault of their own, and were raised as Americans -- listen to this -- they were raised here -- because he believes that, yes, those young people also deserve the 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 -- all right? -- after so many of our heroic men and women in uniform sacrificed and gave their lives, Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat to this country. Remind them about that. (Applause.)
And also remind folks that Barack kept his promise to bring our troops home from Iraq, and he’s fighting hard every day to make sure that they get the benefits 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.)
Ladies, this election is a choice about supporting women and families in this country. (Applause.) So be sure to let people know that your President believes women should have -- be able to make our own choices about our health care. (Applause.) Remind them that it is now easier for women to get equal pay for equal work because of the first bill he signed into law, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. (Applause.)
And of course, you have to remind them about those two brilliant Supreme Court Justices he appointed -- Elena Kagan, Justice Sonia Sotomayor -- and how, for the first time in history, our sons and daughters watched three women take their seat on our nation’s highest court. (Applause.)
So when someone asks you what this President has done for our country, here’s what I want you to tell them: Tell them how many jobs he’s created. Tell them how much money he’s put back in the pockets of working people. Tell them that more of our kids can afford college; more of our seniors can afford their medicine. Remind folks that Barack ended the war in Iraq, passed historic health care reform, and stood up for our most basic, fundamental rights again and again and again. That’s what you tell them. That’s what I want you to do -- again and again and again. (Applause.)
But I also want you to remind them that all of that and so much more, it’s all on the line. Everything is at stake. That’s why we’re here. 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 allow everything that we fought for to just slip away? What are we going to do? No, we can’t turn back now. We have to keep moving forward. Forward! Forward! Forward! (Applause.)
And more than anything else, that’s what we’re working for -- truly, the chance to finish what we’ve started; the chance to keep fighting for the values that we all believe in, the vision that we all share. And let me tell you, that is what my husband has been doing every single day as President.
And let me just share something with you. Because as First Lady, over the past three and a half years, I have had the chance to see up close and personal what being President looks like. And I have seen some things. So let me share something that I’ve come to know. I have seen how the issues that come across a President’s desk are always the hard ones. Let me tell you, running for President is the easy part of the job. Because he’s faced with problems with no easy solutions -- the judgment calls where the stakes are so high, and there is no margin for error. And as President, you’re going to get all kinds of advice and opinions from all kinds of people. But at the end of the day, when it comes time to make that decision, as President -- let me share with you what I have found -- 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. That’s all you draw on. In the end, it all boils down to who you are and what you stand for.
And we all know who my husband is, don’t we? And we all 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? Remember that? But fortunately, your President 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, millions of people are back working, collecting a paycheck again.
And remember, there were folks telling Barack not to take on health care. You remember that? I do. They told him -- they said, leave it for another day, another President. Just keep kicking that can down the road. You remember that? But Barack had the backs of American families. And as a result, today millions -- 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. (Applause.)
So I want to ask you, what do you think? 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, 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 single day as President of the United States. Every day. You know who he is. (Applause.)
But I have said this before and I will keep saying it: He cannot do this alone. You hear me? That was never the promise. He cannot do this alone. Because, as Barack has said -- understand this: He has said this election will be even closer than the last one. That is the only guarantee. And in the end, think about this: It could all come down to those last few thousand votes, especially here in this state. And while that may not sound like a lot, just think about it -- just think about those small number of votes spread out across an entire state, across hundreds of cities and thousands of precincts. Think about it. So with that one new voter that you register, that one neighbor that you help get to the polls on November the 6th, just say to yourself, that could be the one that makes the difference in this election. Say that: That could be the one. (Applause.) That one conversation you have, that one new volunteer that you recruit -- we all know one person, right? That one knucklehead nephew -- just slap him in the back of the head. (Laughter.) That one colleague that quite doesn’t understand health reform and what it does for them -- that one could be the one that puts us over the top. That could be the difference between waking up on November the 7th and asking yourself, “Could I have done more?”, or feeling the promise of four more years. That is the difference. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: With your help. With your help.
And that’s why we have launched this wonderful effort that we’re calling It Takes One. It’s simple. It is as simple as it sounds. Every time you take action to move this campaign forward, we’re asking you to inspire just one more person to step up and do their part as well. So if you’re making calls, knocking on doors, bring that friend -- that little lazy friend, bring them. Bring them. (Laughter.) If you’re coming to an event, bring a neighbor who has never been involved, may be undecided. Bring them with you. When you’re voting early or on Election Day, find that person in your life; help them get to the polls. Find that one friend, that one colleague, that one person in your family. They don’t even have to leave their house. Tell them to go to barackobama.com/one so that they can get involved in this campaign.
And think about it, as Barack has always said: It just takes one voice to change a room. And if a voice can change a room, he says, 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 the nation. That is the power of one. (Applause.) One! One! You all know that one to keep this country moving forward.
Now, I am not going to kid you, because I don’t kid a lot. (Laughter.) This journey is going to be long, and it is going to be hard, and there is going to be lots of twists and turns along the way; lots of highs and lows; lots of nail-biting moments. But what I remind people is that is how change always happens in this country. Real change requires patience. It takes time. But remember this: When we keep showing up, when we keep fighting that good fight, then eventually we get there because we always have and we always will. Maybe not in our lifetimes -- understand this -- but maybe in our children’s lifetimes; maybe in our grandchildren’s lifetimes. How many people have sacrificed for us? (Applause.)
Because in the end, that’s what this is about. We’re not in this for ourselves. 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 the hopes for our children. They are about the world we want to leave for our next generation. And let me tell you, that is what keeps me fired up. That is what I think about every night when I put my girls to bed. Every night, I think about the world I want to leave for them. I think about how I want to do for them what my dad did for me, what Barack’s grandmother did for him. I want to give my daughters, and all of our sons and daughters, a foundation for their dreams, something they can hold onto. I want to give them opportunities worthy of their promise. Because all of our -- all of them are worthy. (Applause.) I want our kids to have that sense of limitless possibility -- that belief that here in America, the greatest country on Earth, there is always something better out there if you’re willing to work for it.
So I tell myself, we cannot turn back now. Oh, no. We have just come too far. (Applause.) But we have so much more work to do. So I have one last question to ask you: Are you in?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: Are you ready for this? Are you ready to roll up your sleeves, find that one person? Shake them up. Get them involved. I hope you’re fired up, because if you haven’t noticed, I’m fired up and very ready to go. (Applause.) We’re going to need you every step of the way.
We love you. God bless. Let’s get to work.
2:36 P.M. EDT