The White House
Office of the First Lady
Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event
War Memorial Auditorium
Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
5:28 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Wow! (Applause.) Oh, wow! It goes all the way back! (Applause.) All right. I don’t know about you, but this crowd feels a lot like four more years, doesn’t it? (Applause.)
Thank you all so much. You know, I am beyond thrilled. I am overwhelmed by this room -- overwhelmed. (Applause.)
Let me start with a few -- I want to start with a few thank-yous. I want to make sure everybody can hear me, right?
MRS. OBAMA: No? All right. You hear that, sound people? Everybody can't hear me. (Laughter.) Love you guys! (Applause.) All right, let me start by thanking a few people while the audio people get their acts together and raise the level.
But let me start by thanking Claudia for that very kind introduction and for everything she's doing for our campaign. And I also want to thank our outstanding DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. (Applause.) Mayor Seiler, I want to thank him for his kind words, and for all the work that both Debbie and the mayor are doing every single day -- every single day. (Applause.)
And we also have with us Representatives Frederica Wilson and Congressman Deutch -- (applause) -- as well as State Senator Chris Smith. (Applause.) And I want to thank them all for being here today.
How's the sound? Is it getting any better?
MRS. OBAMA: All right, that’s good. Because now -- I want to make sure you all hear this -- because I'm really here, actually, to thank all of you. I want to thank all of you. I want to thank our extraordinary volunteers, our organizers. (Applause.) Thank you all for everything you do every day, day in and day out, to make this campaign possible.
I want to thank you for doing the hard work of knocking on those doors -- (applause) -- registering all of those voters, and giving your neighbors, the people in your lives the information they need about the issues they care about. Because that kind of grassroots work that you all are doing, you have to know that that is what's at the core of this campaign. That’s the core of this campaign. That’s how we did it four years ago, and that’s how we're going to do it again, today. (Applause.)
And let me tell you something -- I've worked on a couple of campaigns myself and I know that the work you all are doing, that it is not easy. And I know that you're doing it even though you have busy lives. Everybody here has stuff on their plates -- I know that. You all have jobs to do; hopefully we've got young people who have classes to attend. School is back in session, everybody should be doing their homework. (Laughter.) We all have families to raise.
But I also know that there's a reason why all of us are here today. (Applause.) And it's not just because you love me or that extraordinary man who happens to be my husband, the President of the United States. (Applause.) And it's not just because we want to win an election -- which we do and we will. (Applause.)
We're all here, we're here and we're doing this work truly because of the values we believe in. And we cannot lose sight of that. 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. (Applause.) And what does that mean? That means that we want all of our kids -- not just some of them -- all of them to have good schools. They should all be able to attend college without a mountain of debt -- all of our kids. (Applause.)
We believe that everyone in America should do their fair share. (Applause.) What does that mean? It means that teachers and firefighters shouldn’t pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires. (Applause.) Here in America, we believe that if you work hard you shouldn’t go bankrupt just because someone gets sick. You shouldn’t lose your home because someone has 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. (Applause.)
These are basic American values. This isn't anything new. These are the basics. They're the values that so many of us were raised with, including myself. And I share my story everywhere I go -- you all know it.
My father was a pump operator for the city water plant, and neither of my parents had a college degree. But let me tell you what they did do -- and I know there are a lot of young people in this room -- a lot of people who can relate to this -- my parents saved and they sacrificed everything. They poured everything they had into me and my brother because they wanted us to have the kind of education and opportunities they could only dream of. (Applause.)
And listen, young people, because education was everything in our family. It was everything. Don’t forget that -- education was everything. 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. That’s how we went to school. Can I get an amen on that? (Applause.) But my dad still had to pay a small portion of that tuition himself. And let me tell you, every semester he was determined to pay that bill right on time.
See, because like so many parents, my father was so proud to be able to play a part in sending his kids to college. So 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 earning the kind of living that allowed him to handle his responsibilities to his family. That’s all he wanted. (Applause.) He wanted to be able to pay his bills and pay them on time -- all of them.
And why I share my story is because 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, in America, you can build a decent life for yourself and an even better life for your kids. (Applause.)
And let me tell you, your President, my husband -- (applause) -- he understands that promise because that’s his story, too. See, you want to know why I married him? That’s why. (Applause.)
He 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 every day to catch a bus to her job at the bank. And even though Barack's grandmother worked hard and worked to support his family, she was good at her job, like so many women she hit that glass ceiling and watched men no more qualified than she was be promoted up that ladder ahead of her.
But you know what else he saw? He saw a grandmother, a woman who never complained -- never complained. She just kept getting up every day, just kept giving her very best to help support his family. How many people do we know like that in our lives? (Applause.)
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. Like me and like so many of you, Barack knows the American Dream because he's lived it.
And one important thing he believes is 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. (Applause.) You reach back and you give other folks a chance to succeed as well -- the same chance as you had. (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 I'm talking about, that fundamental American promise that we are working for.
And from now until November, we are going to need all of you all. Get out there. We want you to tell everyone about Barack. Tell them about his values, tell them about our vision. Tell them about the choice we face in this election -- because this is an election about choices.
This election is a choice about our economy. It's about building a strong and growing middle class. So what I want you to remind people when you're out there, remind them that Barack has cut taxes for working families by $3,600. Remind them who he's working for. (Applause.) Let them know that he cut taxes for small businesses 18 times because he knows that rebuilding our economy, it starts with those restaurants and stores and mom-and-pop startups that create two-thirds of all new jobs in this economy.
And I want you to be sure to remind them that back when Barack first took office, this economy was losing an average of 750,000 jobs every month. That’s what he inherited. That’s what awaited him after he took the oath of office. But I also want you to tell them that for the past 29 straight months, we have actually been gaining private sector jobs steadily, a total of 4.5 million new jobs. (Applause.) Let them know.
So while we have a long way to go, we have more work to do to rebuild this economy, we cannot forget that today, millions of people are collecting a paycheck today, millions of people like my dad are able to pay their bills again. You've got to let them know.
This election is also a choice about the health of our families -- and this is something I want you to understand. Putting it in historical context, the fact is that over the past century -- you heard me right, 100 years -- so many of our presidents have tried and failed to meet the challenge of health care reform. (Applause.) See, but your President was determined. (Applause.) Yes, your President was driven by the stories of people he had met -- 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 wouldn’t cover her care.
See, and those were the stories that kept him going day after day. And thanks to his fight, he was able to get historic reform passed, and today, because of that reform -- (applause) -- because of that reform, today, where are we? Our parents and grandparents are paying hundreds less for their prescription medication. Our children can stay on our insurance until they're 26 years old. (Applause.) And we all know the value of that -- so that our kids, when they're out there just graduating and trying to build their lives, they're not out there without health insurance.
Because of this reform, insurance companies now have to cover basic preventative care -- things like contraception, cancer screenings, prenatal care at no [extra] cost. No [extra] cost. (Applause.) They can't discriminate you -- against you because you have an illness that they call a preexisting condition. (Applause.)
See, and here's another one -- if you get a serious illness -- let's say 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. (Applause.) No more. Thanks to health reform, that is now illegal -- cannot happen.
But make no mistake about it -- this November, we get to decide. Are we going watch these reforms be repealed?
MRS. OBAMA: Or are we going to work for insurance for the people that we love and we care about. What are we going to do? (Applause.) But that’s the choice we face. That’s what's at stake.
This election is a choice about our kids, and whether they can attend college without a mountain of debt. (Applause.) Let me share something with you -- back when Barack and I were just starting out our lives together -- no kids, just the two of us -- (laughter) -- yes, it was a beautiful time. (Laughter.) But our combined student loan bill each month was actually higher than our mortgage. Now, I know I can get an amen on that one. (Applause.)
So believe me, when it comes to student debt, my husband and I, we've been there. We've felt that sting. And that’s why Barack worked so hard to double funding for Pell grants -- (applause) -- fought so hard to stop student loan interest rates from rising. (Applause.) Because, as I said earlier, he wants all of our young people to get the kind of education they need to compete for the jobs of the future.
He wants all of our kids -- all of them -- to fulfill their promise. And that is why he's been fighting so hard for the DREAM Act. (Applause.) He has been fighting for responsible young people who came to this country as children through no fault of their own and were raised as Americans -- the only country they know -- because your President believes that, yes, these young people also deserve the chance to go to college, to contribute to our economy, to serve the country that they know and love -- all of our kids. (Applause.)
This election is also 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 saved and sacrificed and gave their lives, Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat to this country. (Applause.) You can remind folks that Barack kept his promise to bring our troops home from Iraq. (Applause.) And he's working hard -- we are both working hard -- to make sure that they get the benefits and the support that they've earned. (Applause.) And today, thankfully, 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 -- ladies -- is a choice about supporting women and families in this country. (Applause.) So it is up to us -- to remind people that it's now easier for women to get equal pay for equal work because of the very first bill he signed into law -- the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. (Applause.) I want you to tell them about those two brilliant Supreme Court Justices he appointed -- Justice 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.)
And finally, make sure that you tell people that your President believes that women should be able to make our own choices about our health care. (Applause.) You've got to tell them.
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: So when folks ask you -- because you're going to go out there, right? (Applause.) So when they ask 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 the American people. Tell them that our kids can afford college -- more of them can afford college. Tell them that 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 fundamental rights again and again and again. (Applause.) That’s what you tell them. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: Here's the thing -- you also have to remind them that all of that and so much more -- understand -- all of that’s at stake this November. It's all on the line. And that’s the choice we face. That’s on us.
Are we going to continue the change we've begun and progress we've made, or are we going to just sit back and watch everything we've worked so hard for to just slip away?
MRS. OBAMA: No. We can't turn back now. We have to keep moving forward. Forward! Forward! (Applause.) We keep moving forward!
And truly, more than anything else --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you, Michelle! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: -- that’s what we're working for. That’s why we're here. 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 that we all share.
And I really want you to listen to this, because something that I share with people -- that’s what my husband has been doing every single day as President. And as First Lady, one of the things that I've been able to see over the last three and a half years -- I've been able to see up close and personal what being President really looks like, you know? And I want to share something with you, because I think it's important for you to know as you go forward -- 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 absolutely no margin for error.
And I have watched and seen how, as President, you are going to get all kinds of advice and opinions from all kinds of people. But let me tell you something -- at the end of the day, when it comes time to make that decision, as President, truly, all you have to guide you are your life experiences. You understand me? All you have to guide you are your values and your vision for this country. Because in the end, it does all boil down to who you are and what you stand for -- know that. (Applause.)
And we all know who my husband is, don’t we? (Applause.) We all know what Barack Obama stands for, don't we? (Applause.) And we have seen time and time again just how hard he's willing to fight for us. (Applause.)
Remember when folks in Washington were telling Barack to let the auto industry go under with more than a million jobs on the line? That was the advice he was getting. But fortunately for us, 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, and, more importantly, people are back at work collecting a paycheck again. (Applause.)
And remember how folks were telling Barack not to take on health care? They said, leave it for another day, another President; just keep kicking that can down the road. But fortunately for us, our President had the backs of American families. (Applause.) And as a result, today, millions of people in this country can finally see a doctor when they're sick, they can finally get the care they need to stay well.
So here's what I want you to ask yourselves -- when it comes time to stand up for the middle class so our kids can go to college and our families can make a decent living and save for retirement, who's going to have your back?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Barack! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: 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, who is going to have your back? (Applause.) It's going to be Barack Obama, because that’s what he's been doing every single day as President of the United States -- every day. (Applause.)
But I have said this before and I will say it again -- he cannot do this alone. He cannot do this alone. He, we are going to need every single one of you. Because as Barack has said, this election will be even closer than the last one. That is the only guarantee.
And in the end -- I want you to think about this -- this election, like so many others, could come down to those last few thousands votes -- especially in states like Florida. (Applause.) And so let's just think about that, so you understand the power that you have. Because while a few thousand votes may sound -- not sound like a lot, but think about those numbers when they're spread out across an entire state. Those few thousand votes are spread across hundreds of cities and thousands of precincts -- think about that. That makes those numbers smaller, right?
So that one new voter that you register in your precinct -- think about it -- that one neighbor that you get to the polls on November the 2  I want you to understand, that could be the one that makes the difference. (Applause.) That one conversation, that one new volunteer you recruit, that could be the one that puts this over the top. It could be the difference between us waking up on November the 7th and asking ourselves, "could I have done more?" or feeling the promise of four more years. (Applause.) That’s the difference. That is the difference.
And that’s why I wanted to launch this new effort that we're calling It Takes One, because it is so simple. It just takes one. So every time you take an action to move this campaign forward, we want you to think about bringing in that one more person -- because we all know that one person in our lives. We all have them, right? That one person who's not registered to vote; that one person who's not focused, doesn’t understand what's going on in the campaign yet; that one person who's never been involved. We all know that one person.
So if you're making calls or knocking on doors, bring one friend. If you're coming to an event like this, bring that new neighbor who's never been involved in an election. When you vote early or on Election Day, bring one more new voter with you -- just one. Find one friend, one colleague, one person in your family. They don’t even have to leave their house -- send them to barackobama.com/one -- (applause) -- and help them get involved.
Our goal is to multiply ourselves. Because it's like Barack has always said -- Barack 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. (Applause.) That’s the power of one. (Applause.)
So think about that. Just this room alone -- if everybody in this room brings in one more person, that could make all the difference. The power of one.
Now, I'm not going to kid you, this journey is going to be long -- even though it's getting shorter every day -- and it is going to be hard. And there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way. But what I try to remind myself and others is, that’s how change always happens in this country.
Real change takes time. It takes patience and tenacity. But if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight, if we keep doing what we know is right, then eventually we get there -- because we always do. In this country, we always move forward. We always have. 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, hopefully, that’s why we're here. Hopefully that’s what this is about. (Applause.)
Know this -- in the end, that’s what election 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 the next generation. And let me tell you, that is what I think about every day when I get my girls up. I look them in the face -- that’s why I come out here so passionately -- I think about them. I think about how I want to do for them what my dad did for me, what Barack's grandmother did for him. (Applause.)
I want to give my daughters -- and all of our sons and daughters -- a real foundation for their dreams. I want to give them opportunities worthy of their promise, because we do -- I don’t care what we believe in -- all of our kids have promise -- all of them. I want to give them that sense of limitless possibility; that belief that here in America, the greatest country on the planet, there is always something better out there if you're willing to work for it.
So I tell myself, real seriously, we cannot turn back now. Not now. We have come so far, but we have so much more work to do.
So I have one last question to ask you all: Are you ready for this? (Applause.) Are you in? We need you so in. I'm so in. We need you to roll up your sleeves, get it done. (Applause.) We need you to find that one more person.
Are you ready? Are you in? (Applause.) From now until Election Day, we need you to work as hard as you've ever worked. Find the people in your lives, let them know what's at stake. Remember what we're working for: We're working for our children. We're going to need you every step of the way.
We love you so much. God bless.
6:01 P.M. EDT