The White House
Office of the First Lady
Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event -- Sterling, VA
Loudoun County Fairgrounds
5:34 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Yes! (Applause.) Oh, yes! Now, this is what I call a rally! Yes! (Applause.) Wow. Thank you all so much. (Applause.)
Let me start by saying a -- I want to -- I have to do a few thank-yous. You guys, keep it up. Stay fired up. (Applause.) But I have to start by thanking Dana. Truly, this is what keeps your President going. It's stories like Dana and her familY, which remind all of us what's at stake. So I want to thank her for all her work and her sacrifice, for her introduction, for everything she's doing on behalf of this campaign. (Applause.) We are going to keep working for Dana and for her family.
I also want to acknowledge Mayor Umstattd who's here, I believe, and your former First Lady and my dear friend, Anne Holton. (Applause.) We are so thrilled that they're here. And we know that Anne's husband, former governor Tim Kaine, will make an outstanding senator. (Applause.)
But most of all, I want to thank all of you. We are so proud of you all, so proud of the work that you're doing. Thank you for joining us today. We're more proud of you! (Applause.) We stand here because of you. Absolutely.
And it seems like you're a little fired up and ready to go, right? (Applause.) Well, I am feeling pretty fired up and ready to go myself.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you, Michelle!
MRS. OBAMA: Love you -- yes. You're making me blush now. (Laughter.)
But let me tell you, one of the many things that I love about campaigning is I get to talk about the man I have loved and admired since we met 23 years ago. (Applause.) And I am proud of my husband. Now, although Barack is handsome, charming and incredibly smart -- (applause) -- that is not why I married him. No, no, not for a second. What truly made me fall in love with Barack Obama was his character. It was his decency and honesty; it was his compassion and conviction.
Look, I loved that Barack was so committed to serving others that he turned down high-paying jobs and instead, started his career fighting to get folks back to work in struggling communities. I love that Barack was so devoted to his family -- especially the women in his life. (Applause.)
I saw the respect he had for his mother. I saw how proud he was that she had put herself through school while supporting him and his sister as a single mom. I saw the tenderness that he felt for his grandmother, how grateful he was that long after she should have retired, she was still getting up every morning, catching that bus to her job at that community bank to help support his family.
And he watched as she was passed over for promotions simply because she was a woman, but he also saw how she kept on doing that same job, kept getting up every day, year after year, without complaint or regret. See, with Barack, I found a real connection, because in his life story, I saw so much of my own.
Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, I watched my father make that same uncomplaining journey every day to his job at the city water plant. I saw how my father carried himself with that same dignity, that same pride and determination in providing for his family –- always saving and sacrificing so that we could one day have opportunities he never dreamed of. Now, how many people have folks like that in their lives? (Applause.) How many folks here?
Like so many families in this country, our families just weren’t asking for much. They didn’t want much. They didn’t begrudge anyone else’s success, and they didn’t mind if others had much more than they did –- in fact, they admired it. And that’s why they pushed us to be the best that we could be. They simply believed in that fundamental American promise that even if you don’t start out with much, in America, if you work hard and do what you’re supposed to do, then you should be able to build a decent life for yourself and an even better life for your kids and grandkids. (Applause.)
And our families also believed that when you’ve worked hard and done well, and when you've walked through that doorway of opportunity, you don't slam it shut behind you -- you reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed. (Applause.) That’s how Barack and I and so many of us were raised. Those are the values we were taught.
And more than anything else, that is what this election is all about. It is a choice about our values, our hopes, and our aspirations. It’s a choice about the America we want to leave for our kids and grandkids.
See, we believe in an America where every child –- no matter where they’re born, or how much money their parents have –- every child should have good schools. We know those schools -- the kind of schools that push them -- (applause) -- and inspire them, and prepare them for college and jobs for the future. We believe in an America where no one goes broke because someone gets sick -- (applause) -- where no one loses their home because someone loses their job.
We believe in an America where we all understand that none of us gets where we are on our own; that there is always a community of people lifting us up; where we treat everyone with dignity and respect, from the teachers who inspire us to the janitors who keep our schools clean. (Applause.) And when one of us stumbles, when one of us falls on hard times, we don’t tell them, “tough luck, you’re on your own.” No. Instead, we extend that helping hand while they get back on their feet again.
We believe that the truth matters, that you don’t take shortcuts -- (applause) -- you don’t game the system, you don’t play by your own set of rules. Instead, we reward hard work and success that’s earned fair and square. (Applause.)
And finally, we believe in keeping our priorities straight. We all know good and well that cutting Sesame Street is no way to balance the budget -- (applause) -- that shortchanging our kids is not how we tackle our deficit. Because if we truly want to build opportunities for all Americans, we know that we have to have a balanced fiscal strategy, one that cuts wasteful spending but makes sure that we're investing in our future -- like in education and infrastructure for an economy that’s build to last.
See, that’s what my husband stands for. That’s the country he wants to build. Those are his values. (Applause.) And let me tell you something, for the last three and a half years as First Lady, I have seen up close and personal what being President really looks like, and I have seen how critical those values are for leading this country.
I’ve seen how the issues that come across a President’s desk are always the hard ones -- the decisions that aren’t just about the bottom line, but they're about laying a foundation for the next generation. And I’ve seen how important it is to have a President who doesn’t just tell us what we want to hear, but who tells us the truth even when it’s hard -- especially when it’s hard. (Applause.)
And I’ve seen when it comes time to make those tough calls, and everyone’s urging you to do what’s easy or what polls best or what gets good headlines, as President, you have to be driven by the struggles, hopes, and dreams of all the people you serve. You need to be committed to lifting up every single American. That’s how you make the right decisions for this country. That’s what it takes to be a leader. (Applause.)
And since the day he took office, on issue after issue, crisis after crisis, that is exactly what we’ve seen in my husband. We’ve seen his values at work. We’ve seen his vision unfold. We’ve seen the depths of his character, courage, and his conviction.
Think back to when Barack first took office. Where were we?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: A mess! (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: Our economy was on the brink of collapse. Newspapers were using words like “meltdown," “calamity;" declaring “Wall Street Implodes," “Economy in Shock.” You know what was going on.
For years, folks had been lured into buying homes they couldn’t afford, their mortgages were underwater. Banks weren’t lending, companies weren’t hiring. The auto industry was in crisis. This economy was losing 800,000 jobs every single month, and a lot of folks wondered whether we were headed for another Great Depression.
See, that is what Barack faced on day one as President. He inherited an economy in rapid decline. But instead of pointing fingers or placing blame, your President got to work. See, because he was thinking about folks like my Dad, folks like his grandmother. (Applause.)
And that’s why he cut taxes for small businesses and working families -- because he believes that in America, teachers and firefighters shouldn’t pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires. (Applause.) And that is why, while some folks were willing to let the auto industry go under with more than a million jobs that would have been lost, Barack had the backs of the American workers. He ignored the naysayers, and fought hard to protect jobs for families across America. That’s why, today, the auto industry is back on its feet -- (applause) -- and new cars are rolling off the line at proud American companies like GM.
And yes, while we still have a long way to go to completely rebuild our economy, there are so many signs that we are headed in the right direction. The stock market has doubled. Housing prices are rising. The unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been since my husband took office. (Applause.) We have had 31 straight months of private sector job growth and 5.2 million new jobs have been created under this administration -- good jobs right here in the United States of America. (Applause.)
Now, in addition to focusing on job creation, Barack was also focused on improving access to health care for millions of Americans. (Applause.) And let me tell you, Barack didn’t care whether health reform was the easy thing to do politically, because that’s not who he is. He cared that it was the right thing to do.
And today, because of health reform -- you've heard -- our parents and grandparents on Medicare are paying hundreds less for their prescription drugs. Our kids, our children can stay on their parent's insurance until they’re 26 years old. (Applause.)
Insurance companies now have to cover basic preventative care -- things like contraception, cancer screenings -- with no out-of-pocket cost. (Applause.) They won’t be able to discriminate against you because you have a preexisting condition like diabetes or asthma. (Applause.)
And here's the one that still gets me -- if you get a serious illness -- let's say breast cancer -- and you need expensive treatment, no longer can they tell you, “sorry, you’ve hit your lifetime limit, and we’re not paying a penny more.” (Applause.) That is now illegal because of health reform.
And for our young people, when it comes to giving them the education they deserve, Barack knows that like me and like so many of you, he never, never could have attended college without financial aid -- never. In fact, when we were first married, our combined monthly student loan bills were actually higher than our mortgage. So when it comes to student debt, Barack and I have been there. This is not a hypothetical for us. (Applause.)
And that is why Barack doubled funding for Pell grants and fought so hard to keep interest rates down -- because he wants all of our young people to have the skills they need for jobs of the future, jobs that will drive an economy for decades to come.
Are we good right there? We got somebody down right here. Bring -- get water. We're coming. Help is on the way. (Applause.) Just bend your knees. Here's the trick when you're standing up: You've got to bend those knees. Bend the knees. You got it? (Applause.) Together. Together.
Now, finally, when it comes to understanding the lives of women, when it comes to standing up for our rights and opportunities, we know that my husband will always have our backs. (Applause.) Because Barack knows from personal experience what it means for a family when women aren’t treated fairly in the workplace. (Applause.) And believe me, today, as a father, he knows what it means to want our daughters to have the same rights and freedoms and opportunities as our sons. (Applause.)
And that is why the very first bill he signed into law as President was to make sure that women get equal pay for equal work. (Applause.) And that is why he will always, always fight to ensure that women, that we can make our own decisions about our bodies and our health care. That’s what my husband stands for. (Applause.)
So I want to make sure we're good. Are we good? Yay! (Applause.) Do we need water over there? Water! (Laughter.) You know, it's hard to stay fired up. I want to make sure everybody is okay.
So here's the thing -- listen up -- so when people ask you what this President has done for our country, when you're running into folks who are deciding who will keep America moving forward for four more years, here's what I want you to tell them -- just a few things. I want you to tell them about the millions of jobs Barack has created. Tell them about all the kids in this country who can finally afford college. Tell them about the millions of lives that will be changed because of health reform.
Tell them how Barack ended the war in Iraq. (Applause.) Tell them how, together, we took out Osama bin Laden. (Applause.) Tell them how Barack fought to get veterans and military families the benefits they have earned.
Tell them about young immigrants who will no longer live in fear of being deported from the only country they’ve ever called home. (Applause.) Tell them about the brave servicemembers who will never again have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love. (Applause.)
Look, I could go on and on and on, but here's what I really want you to tell them -- tell them that Barack Obama knows the American Dream because he’s lived it -- (applause) -- and he is fighting every day so that everyone in this country can have that same opportunity no matter who we are, or where we’re from, or what we look like, or who we love. (Applause.)
But let’s be clear --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Love you, Michelle!
MRS. OBAMA: Love you guys. We will do this together. (Applause.) But I want to be clear --
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Love you, Michelle!
MRS. OBAMA: Are we up? We're up? We're up! (Applause.) All right. Now I'm happy.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I love you, Michelle!
MRS. OBAMA: Love you, sweetie. (Applause.)
But let's be clear -- while he is proud of what we’ve all achieved together, my husband is nowhere near satisfied -- understand that. Because Barack knows better than anyone that too many people are still hurting. He knows that there’s plenty of work left to be done. And as President Clinton said, it’s going to take a lot longer than four years to finish rebuilding an economy from the brink of collapse. (Applause.)
But here's what we know -- we know that together, slowly but surely, we have been pulling ourselves out of that hole that we started in. We are steadily moving this country forward and making real change.
So we have to ask ourselves, in the midst of this, are we going to turn around and go back to the same policies that got us into that hole in the first place? Are we going to just sit back and watch everything we’ve worked for and fought for to just slip away?
MRS. OBAMA: Or are we going to keep moving this country forward?
MRS. OBAMA: What are we going to do? Forward! (Applause.) Yes, you all -- fired up.
But in the end -- so here's the serious business -- the answer to these questions is up to us. It's on us. Because all our hard work, all of the wonderful progress we’ve made, it is all on the line. It’s all at stake this November -- 28 days.
And as my husband has said -- he's always said this election will be even closer than the last one. That’s the only guarantee. And it could all come down to what happens in just a few key battleground states like right here in Virginia. (Applause.) You know it. You all hold the key.
Now, back when -- I want to put this in perspective, especially for the young people, especially for new voters. See, back in 2008, we won Virginia by about 235,000 votes. And to some, that may sound like a lot. But when you break that down, that’s just 100 votes per precinct. All right? You understand, right? In many states it's even lower than that. That could mean just a couple of votes in a neighborhood, right? Just a single vote in an apartment building. Somebody in your dorm room who wakes up and votes can make the difference. (Applause.)
So if there is anyone here who might be thinking that their vote doesn’t matter; if you know someone out there who is thinking that their involvement doesn’t count, that in this complex political process, that ordinary people can’t possibly make a difference -- if you know anybody like that, I want you to get them to think about that 100 votes, 100 people. I want you to think about how, with just a few evenings on a phone bank, with just a few weekends knocking on doors -- because we only have a few weekends left -- a few of you here, right here today, could swing an entire precinct for Barack Obama. (Applause.)
And if we win enough precincts, we will win this state once again. And when we win Virginia, we’ll be well on our way to putting Barack Obama back in the White House for four more years. (Applause.)
So for the next 28 days -- 28 days -- we need you to work like you’ve never worked before. You hear me? Sign up with one of our volunteers here today to make phone calls, to knock on doors. I want you -- more importantly -- to talk to everyone you know –- your friends, your neighbors, that nephew you know who's not registered. Smack him in the back of the head. (Laughter.) The classmate you haven't talked to in years -- call them. Tell them what’s at stake. Make sure they register to vote.
And see, this is important, because the voter registration deadline here in Virginia is Monday, October the 15th. So it's coming, right? So I don’t want anybody waking up on Election Day going, "I'm going to vote!" and they didn’t register. (Laughter.) Especially if you're a new voter, if you've moved, right? Students, you've got a new address, you've got to reregister. So you can get registered today, because we've got volunteers here with clipboards and forms today. We are about action today.
So if you are not registered, if you know somebody that you're with who's not registered, do not leave here until you've registered, okay? You promise me? (Applause.) And you can also go to VoteBarackObama.com. You can go to that website for everything you need to make your voices heard. And then once folks are registered, make sure you get to the polls and cast your ballots on Election Day -- do that.
And I'm going to be honest with you, because I have said this for the entire campaign -- this journey is going to be hard, all right? Are we ready for this? And there will be plenty of ups and downs over the next 28 days. You understand?
MRS. OBAMA: See, but when you start to get tired –- and you will -- when you start to think about taking a day off -– and you will -- I want you to remember, don’t do it! (Laughter.) And remember that what we do for the next 28 days will absolutely make the difference between waking up the day after Election Day and asking ourselves “Could we have done more?”, or feeling the promise of four more years. (Applause.) Four more years.
So we need you all on board. From now until November the 6th, we need you to keep on working, and struggling, and pushing forward. Because that is how change always happens in this country -- I was just talking to some folks -- that’s how change always happens.
But if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight, then eventually we get there -- we always do. In America, we always move forward. We always have. Maybe not in our lifetimes, though -- here's the trick -- maybe in our children’s lifetimes, maybe in our grandchildren’s lifetimes.
Because in the end, that is what this is about. That is what elections are always about -- don’t let anyone tell you any differently. Elections are always about hope.
The hope that I saw on my dad’s beaming face as I crossed the stage to get my college diploma. The hope Barack’s grandmother felt as she cast her ballot for the grandson she loved and raised. The hope that all those men and women in our lives who worked that extra shift for us, who saved and sacrificed and prayed so that we could have something more. The hope that so many of us feel when we look into the eyes of our kids and grandkids today. That’s what we're talking about. That’s why we're here today -- because we want to give all our kids a foundation for their dreams -- all of them.
We want to give all of our children opportunities worthy of their promise, because we know that all of our kids are worthy -- opportunities to fulfill every last bit of their God-given potential. We want to give these kids that sense of limitless possibility -- the 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 this is what I tell myself every morning: We cannot turn back now. Not now. Not now. We have come so far, but we've got so much more to do.
So let me ask you all one last thing, because I know you're already fired up -- (applause) -- but are you in? Are you ready for this? (Applause.) 28 days! Roll up your sleeves! We've got to get it done. We need each and every one of you to work like never before. Are you with me? (Applause.)
Thank you guys. God bless. Love you all so much.
6:03 P.M. EDT