The White House
Office of the First Lady
Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event - Denver, CO
Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, Colorado
6:02 P.M. MDT
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, my goodness. (Applause.) This is good stuff. I am very excited to be here, first of all because most of my events are, like, in a hotel banquet hall -- (laughter) -- and tonight I’m here. This is amazing -- it’s an amazing building, it’s an amazing group of people. Thank you all. It’s been a treat. (Applause.)
And I want to start by thanking Elena, first of all for that very kind introduction and for all of her hard work on behalf of our campaign.
And I also want to thank the Governor for his kind words earlier and for his tremendous leadership here in Colorado during some very difficult times. Barack and I know how much everyone here in this state has gone through over the past few months, and I got an opportunity to visit the hospital earlier.
And also, as people get warm -- I know it’s warm -- do not hesitate to go and sit down. We’ve been through this, so I will not consider it rude. Take your heels off, ladies -- (laughter) -- because that helps as well. Bend your knees. (Laughter.) But do not hesitate to go lean on a wall. I know how you feel.
But I just want to make sure everyone here knows that our thoughts and prayers are still with you every single day. And it was amazing to meet some of the staff at the hospital, to just see how they rallied and how they continue to support one another in these times. I know it is just a blessing to know that you have resources like those individuals -- the hospital staff, the first responders; to know that in a time of crisis, that you have the resources in your midst to get the job done. So we are so proud and grateful, and we will continue to do all that we can to support this state.
I also want to recognize David Kenney, as well as Helen Thorpe and Scott Miller, for their words earlier today and for all of their hard work. (Baby coughs.) I know, the baby. (Laughter.) It’s a baby. It’s just so hot. (Laughter.)
But thank you all so much for everything you’ve done to make this event such a success. And while Senator Udall couldn’t be here, I’m thrilled that his wife, Maggie, could join us today.
And finally, I want to thank all of you, really, for taking the time to be here. I know that you all are busy. And I’m always amazed, even though people -- you know, it’s the First Lady, we love you, we’re excited -- but look, you all are busy. You have busy lives to lead. You’ve got jobs to do, classes to attend, families to raise. So it’s always an honor when people take time out to get involved and to get engaged. So I’m grateful.
But I also know that there is a reason why all of us are here today, and it’s not just because we all support one extraordinary man, who happens to be my husband, our President of the United States. (Applause.) And I am very biased. I am one of his biggest fans, and I’m going to do my part to make sure he is there for another four years. (Applause.) And we’re not just here because we want to win an election -- which we do, and we will.
But what I remind everybody, because I think it’s so important to remember, especially for the people here in this state who have been through so much -- we are doing this because of the values we believe in. This is about our values. We’re doing this because of the vision for this country that we all share, I don’t care who we are. We’re doing this because we believe that everyone in this country should have a fair shot. That means simply that all our kids -- all of them -- should have good schools, right? They all should be able to attend college without a mountain of debt -- simple things. We believe that everyone here in America 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 in America because someone loses a job. And after a lifetime of hard work, you should be able to retire with some security and dignity.
And these are basic American values. They’re the foundation of this country, and they’re the values that so many of us were raised with, including myself. And I tell my story everywhere I go because I’m proud of where I’m from, my background. My father was a pump operator at the city water plant, the only job he had his entire life. And neither of my parents had a college degree. But what I remind young people -- because we still see it in our parents and our grandparents -- what my folks did for us is that they saved, and they sacrificed, and they poured every little bit of anything they had into me and my brother so that we could get the kind of education they could only dream of.
Education was everything in our family. It was our ticket to the middle class, quite frankly. It was our pathway to the American Dream. (Applause.) And when my father -- my brother and I finally made it to college, most of our tuition came from student loans and grants, which is how most people go to college. But my dad still had to pay a small portion of that tuition himself. And let me tell you, every semester my father did everything in his power to pay that little portion of his bill right on time, because he was so proud to be a part of sending his kids to college. And he made sure that we never missed a registration deadline because his check was late. And like so many people in this country, my father took great pride in being able to earn a simple living, the kind of living that would allow him to handle his responsibilities to his family. That’s all he wanted to do -- to be able to pay all of his bills, and pay them on time. That’s what made him who he was.
And my father’s life is a testament to the 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. And trust me, my husband understands that promise because that’s his story as well. That’s why I married him. He’s cute and all, but -- (laughter and applause.) Barack is the son of a single mother who struggled to put herself through school and pay the bills. That’s who he grew up with. He’s the grandson of a woman who woke up before dawn to catch a bus every day 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, she saw how, like so many women, she hit that glass ceiling and watched men no more qualified than she was -- men she had actually trained -- climb up that ladder ahead of her. But what Barack also saw and learned from his grandmother is that she was someone who never complained. Never complained; just kept 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. It is not a hypothetical situation for him. He knows what it means to work hard because you want something better for your kids or your grandkids. And like me, and like so many of us, Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it. He has lived it. And one of the important things he understands is that when you’ve worked hard and you’ve done well in this country, and you’ve walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back. (Applause.) You reach back and you find every way to give others the chance to succeed as well. That’s who we are. (Applause.)
And more than anything else, that’s why we’re here. That’s why we’re here, and that’s what’s at stake in this election. It is that dream, that fundamental American promise. And let me just tell you, from now until November, we are going to need all of you out there, more fired up than ever before; out there telling everyone you know -- tell them who your President is. Tell them about his values. Tell them about our vision. And please, tell them about the choice we face in this election -- because this is an election about choices -- so many choices.
This is an election about -- this is a choice about our economy. It’s about building a strong and growing middle class. So we need you to remind people that Barack has been working to do that by cutting taxes for working families by $3,600; cutting taxes for small businesses 18 times during his presidency. Because he knows that rebuilding our economy starts with the restaurants and the stores and the startups that create two-thirds of all new jobs in this country.
And I also want you to remind them what he inherited. When Barack took office, he inherited an economy that was losing an average of 750,000 jobs a month. That’s what awaited him after inauguration. But also let people know that for the past 29 straight months, we’ve actually been gaining private sector jobs -- a total of 4.5 million new jobs under this President. Let them know. (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. Let them know.
This election is a choice about the health of our families. I mean, the fact is -- think about this: Over the past century -- 100 years -- so many American Presidents have tried and failed to meet the challenge of health care reform. But your President was determined. Yes. (Applause.) Fortunately for us, your President was driven by the stories of the people he’d met. We know these people -- the grandparents who couldn’t afford their medicine, the families going broke because a child got sick, the woman dying of cancer whose insurance company won't cover her care.
And let me tell you, those are the stories that kept him going day after day. That’s why he fought so hard for historic reform. And today, because of that fight, because of that reform, today, our parents and grandparents are saving hundreds for their prescription drugs. Our kids -- moms and dads -- can now stay on our insurance until they’re 26 years old. And we all know what that means -- (applause) -- for our young people graduating from college trying to figure out their lives; having good health care in the midst of all of that.
Because of this reform, insurance companies have to cover basic preventative care -- things like contraception, cancer screenings, prenatal care at no extra cost. (Applause.) They can’t discriminate against us because we have an illness that they call a preexisting condition.
And if you get seriously ill -- maybe something like breast cancer -- and you need real expensive treatment, you really need medicine then, your insurance company can no longer tell you, sorry, you’ve hit your lifetime limit, and we won't pay a penny more. No longer can they do that. That is now illegal because of health care reform. (Applause.)
So make no mistake about it -- this November, we get to decide: Do we want these reforms to be repealed?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: No!
MRS. OBAMA: Or do we want the people we love to have the care they need?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: That's the choice we face. Those are the stakes.
This election is also a choice about whether our kids can go to college without a mountain of debt. So let me share a little something -- Barack and I are first starting out, so in love -- (laughter) -- fewer resources, but a lot of love. (Laughter.) Our combined student loan bill each month was actually higher than our mortgage -- and that is not unusual.
So when it comes to student debt, believe me, my husband and I, we've been there. And that’s why Barack fought so hard to double funding for Pell Grants, he fought so hard to stop student loan interest rates from rising. (Applause.) Because he knows how important it is for all of our young people to be able to get the education they need for the jobs and the opportunities they deserve.
All of our young people deserve a chance to fulfill their promise. And that’s also why he’s been fighting so hard for the DREAM Act. Because he’s fighting for responsible young people who came to this country as children through no fault of their own, were raised as Americans; this is the only country they know, because your President understands that these young people also deserve a chance to go to college, to contribute to this economy, to serve the country they know and love. (Applause.) All of our kids.
This election is a choice about keeping our country safe. So I want you to remind people that after ten long years of war –- ten years of war -- after so many of our men and women in uniform served and sacrificed, and so many gave their lives, finally, Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat to this country. (Applause.) Remind people about that.
Remind people that Barack kept his promise and brought our troops home from Iraq -- (applause) -- and he’s working to make sure they get the benefits and the support that they’ve earned. (Applause.) And of course, today, our troops no longer have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love, because your President finally ended "don't ask, don't tell." (Applause.)
This election is a choice about supporting women and families in this country. So be sure to tell people that Barack believes that women should be able to make our own choices about our health care. (Applause.) Let's be very clear about that. Remind them that it’s now easier for us to get equal pay for equal work because of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act -- you know what I'm talking about. (Laughter and applause.) The first bill Barack signed into law.
And finally, especially in these times, tell people about those two brilliant Supreme Court Justices Barack appointed –- Justice Elena Kagan, Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Because of those appointments, for the first time in history, our daughters and sons watched three women take their seat on our nation's highest court. (Applause.)
So when you're out there, and you've got your sleeves rolled up and you're making that case, and someone asks you, well, what has this President done for our country, here's what I want you to tell them: Tell them how many jobs he's created for this country. Tell them how much money he's put back in the pockets of American families.
I want you to tell them that more of our kids can go to college; more of our seniors can afford their medicine. Tell them that Barack ended the war in Iraq, he passed historic health reform, and he has stood up for our most fundamental rights again and again and again. That’s what I want you to tell them.
But I also want you to remind them that all of that -- and so much more –- it is all on the line. It's all at stake this November. And that's the choice we face.
Are we going to continue the change we’ve begun and the progress that we’ve made? Or are we going to just sit back and watch everything we’ve worked so hard for to just slip away? What are we going to do?
We know what we need to do, right?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: That’s right!
MRS. OBAMA: We can’t turn back now. Not now. That’s why we need to keep moving forward -- I've said this -- we keep moving forward in this country. (Applause.) Forward.
And more than anything else, that’s what we’re working for -- that’s what we have to understand -– the chance to finish what we started; the chance to keep fighting for the values we believe in and the vision for this country that we all share. And that’s what my husband has been doing every single day as President.
And one of the things I've shared with people as I've gone around the country -- over the past three and a half years as First Lady, I've had the opportunity to see up close and personal what being President really looks like. (Laughter.) I've seen some things. I've learned some things, some very important things. Because I have seen how the issues that come across a President’s desk are always the hard ones. Running for President is the easy part -- the problems with no easy solutions, the judgment calls where the stakes are so high that there is no margin for error -- none.
I have seen that as President, you're going to get all kinds of advice and opinions from all kinds of people all the time. (Laughter.) But at the end of the day, when it comes time to make that decision, as President, what I have learned is that all that person has to guide them are their life experiences -- truly. All you have as President to really keep you steady are your values, is that vision that you have for this country -- truly. In the end, it all boils down to who that person is and what they stand for.
And what I remind people -- to know about their President -- they know who he is, and we all know what this President stands for, don't we? (Applause.) And we have seen again and again just how willing he is to fight for us. (Applause.) For us.
Remember when folks in Washington told Barack to let the auto industry go under? Many people said, let it go. That was the advice he was getting. That was the guidance he was receiving with more than a million jobs on the line. Just let it go. But fortunately, our President had the backs of American workers. He put his faith in the American people. And as a result of those actions, the auto industry is back on its feet again, and, more importantly, people are back at work, collecting a paycheck, paying their bills, taking care of their families.
And remember how folks were telling Barack not to take on health care? Remember that? Because I do. (Laughter.) I was there. (Laughter.) They said, leave it for another day, another President; just keep kicking that can down the road.
But fortunately for us, Barack had the backs of American families. And as a result, today, millions of people can finally see a doctor when they’re sick. Millions of people can finally get the care they need to stay well, thanks to your President.
So when it comes time to stand up for us -- what I want you to ask yourselves when it's time to stand up for the middle class, and when it's time to stand up so that our kids can go to college, and our families can make a decent living, save for retirement, you know what my husband’s going to do. That you know. 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 of America. That you know. (Applause.)
But I have said this before -- and so many of you have probably heard it -- he can't do it alone. That was never the promise. He needs your help. And this election, as Barack has said, is going to be even closer than the last one. And in the end, it could all come down to those last few thousand votes. We've seen that before -- particularly in this very important state.
And what I'm trying to get people to visualize is, take those thousands of votes and think about them spread out over an entire state. Think about those few thousand votes spread across hundreds of cities and thousands of precincts, and then the numbers sort of change.
So when you think about it, that one new voter that you register in your precinct -- think about that one neighbor that you help get to the polls on November 6th. That could be the one that makes the difference. That is the truth. That one conversation you have, that one new volunteer you recruit -- that could be the one that puts us over the top.
So never underestimate your individual power to impact this process. That’s what our democracy is about. That could be the difference between waking up on November the 7th and asking ourselves “could I have done more?” or feeling the promise of four more years. (Applause.) It is as simple as one.
And it's because of that reality that we’ve launched this effort that we’re calling, It Takes One. Because it's really a simple concept to grasp: It takes one. Every time that you take an action on behalf of this campaign to move it forward, we’re asking you to inspire just one more person to step up and do their part as well -- just one.
So if you’re making phone calls or knocking on doors, bring that one friend along that’s not involved; maybe never has been involved in the process. If you’re coming to an event, bring that one neighbor who’s never been done something like this. Bring them along.
When you’re voting early or on Election Day, take that one person with you who might struggle a bit on that day. Find that one friend -- we all have them -- one colleague, one person in your family -- they don’t even have to leave their house -- send them to barackobama.com/one. It's as simple as that -- and they can find a way to get involved in this campaign.
And you can get started right now by signing up with one of our grassroots volunteers who are here today. I mean, I am an action-oriented First Lady; there are people in the back room with pads right now. Pads up! (Laughter.) So we want some rolling-up-sleeve action going on here today, because we need every single one of you to join in.
Because 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 the nation. That is the power of one person stepping up to move this country forward, and that’s going to be the difference for us in this election.
And I’m not going to kid you, this journey is going to be long -- although it's getting shorter every day. (Laughter.) And it is going to be hard, and there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way -- we're watching it unfold right now, right? Oh so drama-filled. (Laughter.)
But what I also try to remind people is, that’s how change always happens in this country. Change -- real change -- requires patience and tenacity. But if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting that good fight, the thing we have to understand is that eventually we will get there because we always do. We always have.
In this country, we've always moved forward. But maybe not in our lifetimes -- here's the trick -- maybe in our children’s lifetimes, maybe in our grandchildren’s lifetimes. Because in the end, that should really be why we're here. That’s what this is about.
In the end, that’s what elections are always about. Don’t let anybody tell you differently. Elections are always about hope -- always. They’re about our hopes for our children. They’re about the world we want to leave for them. This is not about us, this is about the next generation; the people who did for us what we should be doing for them.
And that is what I think about every night when I look my girls in the eye and put them to bed -- every single night. Whenever I get tired and I'm thinking, oh, I have to travel again, I look at them in the eye and I think about how I want to do for them what my dad did for me, what Barack's grandma did for him. That’s who we want to be.
I want to give my daughters -- and I want to give all our sons and daughters –- a real foundation for their dreams, you know? Something solid. I want to give them opportunities worthy of their promise, because we know that all of our children are worthy -- every last one of them are worthy. I want to give these kids a sense of limitless possibility –- that belief that here in America, the greatest country on the planet, anything is possible; there’s always something better out there if you’re willing to work for it.
So what I tell myself is that we cannot turn back now. No. Not now. We have come so far, but we have so much more work to do, don't we?
MRS. OBAMA: So my final question is, are you in?
MRS. OBAMA: Are you ready for this? (Applause.) Are you ready to really roll up your sleeves and do this hard work, this last little chunk of work to get us to the finish line? Because it's going to take every single one of you, and everyone you know, and the power of your voice to be engaged in this process; to be passionately and actively engaged in this process.
If you haven't noticed, I'm fired up. (Laughter.) So I hope that you are as fired up as we need you to be. You have been there for so long, for so often, for so much hard work. And we are so grateful and so blessed to have such tremendous supporters.
So we need to get this done, right?
MRS. OBAMA: All right. Thank you all. God bless.