The White House
Office of the First Lady
Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event -- Racine, WI
Racine Civic Centre
1:04 P.M. CDT
MRS. OBAMA: Racine! (Applause.) You know what this room feels like. It feels like four more years in here. (Applause.) For the next 18 days, coming here to Racine is the closest thing I'm going get to be at home in Chicago. (Applause.)
I want to start by thanking Linda for that very kind introduction, and to hear about all the wonderful work she’s doing in her community and for the campaign, and the fact that she’s going to be focused on nothing else for the next 18 days
-- we love that. Let’s give Linda a round of applause. (Applause.)
I want to recognize a few more people as well. I know that Mayor Dickert is here, as well as Rob Zerban. Give them a round of applause. (Applause.) Yes, indeed! There you go -- yes, that's their area, over there. (Laughter.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Love you, Michelle!
MRS. OBAMA: Love you, too. (Applause.)
Also here is State Senator Wirch and Representatives Turner and Mason are here. (Applause.) They’re here somewhere out there. And I want to give a big hello to Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, who’s going to make a tremendous senator for this state. (Applause.) We want her in.
But most of all, I want to thank all of you for being here -- (applause) -- for supporting us, for being so fired up and ready to go! (Applause.) And I have to tell you that one of the things that makes me very excited, after hearing my husband talk about his values and his vision for this country during the debate on Tuesday -- (applause) -- that makes me pretty fired up and ready to go, too. (Applause.)
I’m fired up today because I get to do one of my favorite things, and that is talk about the man that I have loved and admired since I met him 23 years ago -- my husband, our President. (Applause.) As I said in one rally, see, the thing about campaigning is that I get to say all these nice things about my husband and he doesn’t always hear it. (Laughter.) So don't tell him how much I really love him. I kind of keep that leverage. That's between you and me. (Laughter.)
I think he’s pretty awesome. I think he is handsome -- (applause) -- and charming -- (applause) -- and most importantly, he’s incredibly smart. (Applause.) But with all that, let me tell you, that is not why I married him. That is not why I'm standing with him through all of this. What truly made me fall in love with Barack Obama -- now, here’s the secret -- get in a little closer. (Laughter.) In all seriousness, it was -- it’s his character. It’s what you see in him every single day. It’s his decency, his honesty. (Applause.) It’s what Linda said. I know as his wife, I've always been able to trust him. He does what he says. He has compassion and conviction. That's why I married him. And that's why I'm here, making sure that he’s going to be our next President for four more years. (Applause.)
But when I first met him, one of the things I loved about Barack was that he was always so committed to serving others -- so committed that he turned down high-paying jobs, and instead, started his career working in struggling neighborhoods to get folks back to work. He was always committed to service. (Applause.) I loved that about him.
I loved that Barack was so devoted to his family, especially the women in his life, ladies. (Applause.) That meant a lot to me. Seeing the respect he had for his mother, how proud he was that she put herself through school while still struggling to support he and his sister as a single mom.
I saw the tenderness that he felt for his grandmother. I saw 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 the bank, doing whatever she could to support his family. And he watched as she was passed over again and again for promotions simply because she was a woman. But he also saw how she kept getting up every day, doing her best, year after year, without complaint or regret. (Applause.)
And with Barack, you see, 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 --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: South Side!
MRS. OBAMA: South Side! (Applause.)
But I watched my own father make that same uncomplaining journey every day to his job at the city water plant. And I saw how he carried himself with that dignity -- we've seen it, right? That same pride in being able to provide for his family; that same hope that his kids would one day have opportunities he never dreamed of.
See, 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. They didn’t mind if others had much more than they did -- in fact, they admired it. That’s why they pushed us to be the best we could be. (Applause.)
But here’s what they did believe. They simply believed in that fundamental American promise that even if you don’t start out with much, if you work hard and you 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 your grandkids. (Applause.)
And they also believed in something very important -- that when you’ve worked hard, and done well, and you finally walked through that doorway of opportunity, you don’t slam it shut behind you. (Applause.) No -- you reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.
See, that is how Barack and I and I know so many of you were raised. Those are the values that we were taught. And, truly, more than anything else, that’s what this election is all about. It’s a choice. It’s 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 our grandkids. (Applause.)
And let’s talk a little bit about that America we’re working to build together. See, we believe in an America where every child -- you hear me -- every child, no matter where they’re born or how much money their parents have, every child in this country should have good schools to go to, the kind of schools that push them and inspire them, and prepare them for college and jobs of the future. (Applause.)
We believe in an America where no one goes broke because someone gets sick -- (applause) -- where no one loses their home because someone lost a job. (Applause.) 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 we all know that in this America, the America we’re working for, that when one of us stumbles -- because all of us have the potential of stumbling -- when one of us falls on hard times, we don’t turn our backs and tell them, “Tough luck, you’re on your own.” No, instead, we extend a helping hand until they can get back on their feet again. That’s the America we’re working for. (Applause.)
And in this America, the truth matters -- (applause) -- so you don’t take shortcuts, you don’t game the system, you don’t play by your own set of rules. And finally, we believe in keeping our priorities straight. So what does that mean? We know good and well that cutting “Sesame Street” is no way to balance our budget. (Applause.) We know better than that. We know better -- that shortchanging our children is not how we tackle our deficit, not at all.
We know that if we want to truly build opportunities for all Americans -- do you hear me -- all of them -- then, yes, we need to cut wasteful spending, but also have to make smart investments in things like education and infrastructure for an economy that is built to last. (Applause.) We know that. And that is what my husband stands for. That is the country that he has been working to build for the last four years. Those are his values.
And trust me -- over the past few years as First Lady, I’ve had the chance to see up close and personal what being President really looks like. And I have seen, truly, 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 -- always -- the decisions that aren’t just about the bottom line, but they’re about laying a foundation for the next generation. (Applause.) And I’ve seen how, as President, 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 -- and especially when it’s hard. (Applause.)
And when it comes times to make those tough calls and everyone around you is urging you to do what’s easy, what polls the best, what gets good headlines -- as President, you have to be driven by the struggles, hopes, and dreams of every American, every person you serve. (Applause.) That's how you make the right decisions for this country. That's what it takes to be a leader.
And since the day he took office, on issue after issue, crisis after crisis, that’s what we’ve seen in my husband. I’ve seen it. Think back to when Barack first took office. You remember where this economy was?
MRS. OBAMA: This economy was on the brink of collapse. You hear me? (Applause.) And don’t take my word for it. Newspapers were using words like “meltdown,” “calamity,” declaring “Wall Street Implodes,” “Economy in Shock.” You remember? For years, folks had been lured into buying homes they couldn’t afford, and their mortgages were underwater. The auto industry was in crisis. This economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month -- you hear me -- a month. And folks were wondering whether we were headed for another Great Depression. This is what Barack faced on day one as President of the United States. He inherited an economy in rapid decline. (Applause.)
But here’s the thing -- instead of pointing fingers, instead of placing blame, fortunately, our President got to work, because he was thinking about folks like my dad and folks like his grandmother. That’s why he cut taxes for small businesses and for working families, because he believes that teachers and firefighters should not pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires. (Applause.) Not in America. No way. That makes no sense.
And if you recall, that’s why, while some folks were willing to let the auto industry go under -- you remember that -- with more than a million jobs that would have been lost, Barack had the backs of American workers. He fought hard to protect jobs for thousands of American families. And that’s why, today, the auto industry is back on its feet again, and new cars are rolling off the line at proud American companies like GM. (Applause.)
And while we still have a long way to go to completely rebuild our economy, let me tell you, there are more and more signs every day that we're headed in the right direction. The stock market has doubled. (Applause.) Exports have grown by 45 percent. Manufacturers have added 500,000 jobs. Do you hear me? (Applause.) We have had 31 straight months -- most of this President's term -- of private sector job growth, a total of 5.2 million new jobs created right here in the United States of America. (Applause.) Those are the facts. (Applause.)
Now, in addition to focusing on creating jobs -- because, as President, you've got to be able to do more than one thing at a time -- your President has also focused on improving access to health care for millions of Americans. (Applause.) And, thankfully, he's done that. Barack didn’t care whether health reform was the easy thing to do, politically, because that’s not who he is. He only cared that it was the right thing to do. Because he was thinking about all the folks -- and I know you know these folks if they're not you -- (applause) -- the woman diagnosed with breast cancer whose insurance company wouldn't cover her care; the seniors pinching pennies to save up for the medicine they need; they're the parents who couldn’t get lifesaving treatment for their children because someone lost a job. That's who he was thinking about.
And today, because of the health reform he fought for, our parents and grandparents on Medicare are paying hundreds less for their prescription drugs -- thanks to health reform. (Applause.) Because of health reform, our kids can stay on our insurance until they’re 26 years old. (Applause.) Today, because of health reform, insurance companies now have to cover basic preventive care with no out-of-pocket costs -- things like contraception, cancer screenings. Do you hear me? Today. (Applause.)
Today, they won’t be able to discriminate against us because we have a preexisting condition -- let's say, diabetes or asthma. And here's something that really gets me -- that if you get a serious life-threatening cancer that requires expensive treatment, no longer can they tell you, sorry, you’ve hit your lifetime limit and we’re not paying a penny more. That is now illegal because of health reform. (Applause.)
When it comes to giving our young people the education they deserve, see, Barack knows that, like me, and I know like so many of you, we never, ever could have attended college without financial aid -- never. (Applause.) We would not be here if it weren't for financial aid. In fact, when we were first married, our combined student loan bill was actually higher than our mortgage. And I know there are people in here who can relate to that. (Applause.)
So when it comes to student debt -- believe me, Barack and I, we've been there. This is not a hypothetical for us. And that is why Barack fought to double funding for Pell grants and keep interest rates down for our schools. (Applause.) We have a President who knows that all of our kids have to be able to afford a college education.
And, finally, when it comes to understanding the lives of women, when it comes to standing up for our rights and opportunities, as Linda said, we know that my husband will always have our backs -- always. (Applause.) And let me tell you why we know this. We know this because Barack knows from personal experience what it means for a family when women aren’t treated fairly in the workplace. And believe me, as a father of two girls, he knows what it means to want our daughters to have the same freedoms and opportunities as our sons. (Applause.)
And that is why the very first bill he signed into law as President of the United States was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to make sure women get equal pay for equal work. (Applause.) And hear me on this one -- that is why he will always, always fight to make sure that we as women can make our own decisions about our bodies and about our health care, always. (Applause.) That’s what my husband stands for. (Applause.) That's one of the reasons I'm here.
So, Wisconsin, here we go. We got 18 days. And I know you all are going to be out there, right? (Applause.) Yes, you're going to come across folks -- aren't you?
MRS. OBAMA: When you come across people and they ask you what this President has done for our country, when you're talking to folks who are still trying to decide which of these two people is best to move this country forward, there are just a few things that you can tell them.
Tell them about the millions of jobs Barack has created. Tell them about how kids in this country -- how many millions of them can finally afford college. Tell them about the millions of lives that will be changed forever because of health reform. Tell them about how Barack ended the war in Iraq, took out Osama bin Laden. (Applause.) Tell them about that.
Tell them about how hard this President is fighting to make sure that our veterans and our military families get the benefits they’ve earned. (Applause.) Tell them about all those young immigrants who will no longer have to live in fear of being deported from the only country they have ever called home. (Applause.) Tell them about our brave servicemembers who served and sacrificed who will never again have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love. You tell them. (Applause.)
And believe me, I could go on and on and on. But here’s what I really want you to remind people about their President -- remind them that Barack Obama knows the American Dream because he’s lived it. (Applause.) And he is fighting every day -- every day -- so that every one of us 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.
But here’s the thing. Let’s be clear -- while he is so proud of all that we have achieved together -- for that little one right there, who is incredibly precious -- my husband is nowhere near satisfied. Barack, of all people, knows that too many folks in this country are still hurting. He knows better than anyone that there’s still plenty of work left to be done.
And as President Clinton said, it’s going to take a lot longer than four years to rebuild an economy from the brink of collapse. (Applause.) They know that. They know that. But thankfully, thankfully in Barack --
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: Four more years! You just go -- you just go --
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: With your help -- with your help.
See, but, thankfully, in Barack we have a leader with a deep and unyielding faith in the American people; a leader who understands that this country was built by men and women in our lives who wake up every day and work hard for their families without complaint or regret. (Applause.)
And as President, let me tell you, that is what my husband has been fighting for. As President, he has been fighting for us. (Applause.) And that is why when the stakes are so high, we can always trust Barack to have our backs. Always. (Applause.)
And what we have to understand is that over these last four years, together, slowly but surely, we have been pulling ourselves out of that hole that we started in. Slowly but surely, we are making progress and moving this country forward, making real change.
So now we have to ask ourselves, 18 days out, are we going to turn around and go back to the same policies that got us into this hole in the first place?
MRS. OBAMA: Are we going to just sit back and watch everything we fought for and worked for to just slip away?
MRS. OBAMA: What are we going to do? Are we going to move this country forward? (Applause.) Forward! Move this country forward! Forward. We move forward! (Applause.)
But in the end -- and this is where we get serious -- because in the end, these questions are on us -- right now. It’s on us because truly all of our hard work and all the progress that we’ve made, understand that it is all on the line. It is all at stake this November. The choices are clear.
And as my husband has said, this election will be closer than the last one. That's the only guarantee. And it could all come down to just a few battleground states like right here in Wisconsin. (Applause.) This state could be decided by just a few thousand votes. And while thousands might sound like a lot, I want you to remember that those votes are spread out across the entire state, across hundreds of cities and thousands of wards. So when you break down those numbers, it turns out that just a handful of votes in every ward could make all the difference in the world.
That could mean just one vote in your neighborhood, on your your block. It could mean a single vote in your apartment building, maybe just one vote in your dorm room if you’re in school. So I want anyone hear to think that -- if you ever think for a second that your vote doesn’t count, that your involvement doesn’t matter, that in this complex political process that ordinary folks can’t possibly make a difference, I want you to think about those numbers.
We’re not talking about a lot of numbers. So that one neighbor you get to the polls, that one voter you register and persuade, that one volunteer that you recruit -- understand that will be the one that puts us over the top. Know that -- (applause) -- it will be that margin of difference.
So for the next 18 days, with just a few evenings on a phone bank, with just a few hours knocking on doors, just a few of you -- look at this room -- (laughter) -- this room could swing an entire ward for Barack Obama. (Applause.)
And if we win enough wards, we will win this state. And when we win Wisconsin, we’ll be well on our way to putting back my husband into the White House for four more years. (Applause.)
So here’s the plan -- here’s the plan. We’re going to get focused, right? (Applause.) We’re going to get it done. So for the next 18 days, we need you to work like you’ve never worked before. Sign up with one of our volunteers here today, if you’re not already volunteering, just to make some calls or knock on some doors. But more importantly, everyone in this room, talk to everyone you know. Talk to everyone you know -- your friends, your neighbors, that cousin you haven’t seen in a while, that classmate you don’t talk to -- talk to him. (Laughter.) Call him up. Remind them what’s at stake.
And especially for all of our young people out there. I can’t tell you how many young people I’ve met over the last four years who told me that in 2008 they said, my parents and grandparents weren’t going to vote for Barack Obama in 2008, but because I talked to them about what this election means for my future, they changed their minds. (Applause.) So never underestimate the power that you have in this process.
And you can also tell people that they don’t have to wait until November the 6th to cast their ballots. And to lead by example, on Monday, I voted early by mail for Barack Obama. (Applause.) Just in case you were wondering. (Laughter.) And I did it because I wanted to be able to spend Election Day really helping to get the vote out. And hopefully you all think that way, too.
And also, voting early allows you to vote when it works for you. Because sometimes Election Day -- you don’t know what’s going to happen. You might wake up and be sick. You might wake up and not have a babysitter. Your car might break down. It might be raining. Anything can happen. But if you start voting on Monday, when early voting starts here in Wisconsin on Monday, you have many, many, many, many, many, many, many days to find the time that works for you and you get that done.
And if you’re not registered yet, don’t worry -- here in Wisconsin you can register on the spot when you go to vote. (Applause.) So that’s a very good thing. And that is not true in every state, so I want people to take advantage of that. That means if you have somebody, especially young people, who are not registered, somebody who’s never voted, take them with you to early vote. Help them register, because sometimes if you’ve never voted before or you’re hesitant, it’s easier to go with somebody that you know and you trust who’s going to help you walk through that process.
And by the way, just go to OwnYourVoteWI.com -- that’s another place you can go to find out where and when to vote early. And if any of you know anyone who doesn’t vote early, make sure they get to the polls and make their voices heard on Election Day.
Can we do this? (Applause.) Yes, we can. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can!
MRS. OBAMA: You guys are great. So as --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Si, se puede!
MRS. OBAMA: Si, Senate puede! Yes, indeed. Yes, indeed. (Applause.)
Now, as we enter this last phase, the final phase of this journey, I just want to be honest with you. Because it is going to be hard, and there are going to be lots of ups and downs over the next 18 days. That’s how this stuff works. But here’s what I want you to do. When you start to get tired -- and you will -- when you start to think about taking a little time off -- and you will -- I just want you to remember, and know, and understand that what we do for the next 18 days will absolutely make the difference between waking up on November the 7th, the day after Election Day, and wondering, could I have done more, or feeling the promise of four more years. That’s the difference. It’s this work that we do on the ground.
So from now until November the 6th, we need you to keep working, and struggling, and pushing forward. (Applause.) And we do this work -- we do this work not just for the President that we love, but we do this because that’s how change always happens in this country.
And again, I want to really focus on our young people here today. Because this -- forget this election. Let’s talk about your future. Because we know from our history that change is hard. Do you hear me? Real change is hard. And it requires patience and tenacity. Do you understand me? There are going to be so many bumps that you hit in your life, so many people that will try to block your path, and it will be your patience and your tenacity and your focus -- you see your President, how calm he is, how forward-thinking he is? That is a lesson for all of our young peoplen because that’s what life does to you.
But remember this: If we keep showing up -- know this -- if we keep fighting the good fight, if we keep doing in our hearts what we know is right, then eventually we get there. We always do. Understand -- don’t let anyone talk down your dreams. Don’t let anybody deny your aspirations. (Applause.) Don’t let anyone talk down our country and our country’s future. (Applause.) We and all of our young people have every reason to be optimistic about what lies ahead -- do you understand this? Because here in America, we always move forward -- always. We always make progress. Do you hear me, young people? (Applause.)
And in the end, that’s what this is about. That is what elections are always about. Don’t let anybody fool you -- elections are always about hope. Do you hear me?
The hope that I saw on my father’s beaming face as I walked across the stage to get the college diploma that he took out loans to help me get. (Applause.) The hope that Barack’s grandmother felt as she cast the ballot for the grandson she loved and raised -- that’s the hope I’m talking about. (Applause.) The hope of 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 be here and be something more. The hope that so many of us see when we look into the eyes of our kids and our grandkids -- that’s what this is about.
That’s why we’re here today -- because we want all of our kids in this country to have a foundation for their dreams, every single one of them. We want all of our children to have opportunities worthy of their promise -- because all of our kids are worthy. I don’t care what party you belong to -- you know that’s true. (Applause.) We want to give our kids that sense of limitless possibility -- that belief that here in America, the greatest country on the planet -- you hear me, young people -- there is always something better out there if you’re willing to work for it. Do you see me standing here?
So this is what Barack and I tell ourselves every day -- every day. We will not turn back now -- not now. We have come so far. But we know we have so much more work to do. So here’s the question: Are we ready for this?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: Can we get this done?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: Are we ready to roll up our sleeves?
MRS. OBAMA: Eighteen more days, working hard. I know we can do it.
We love you guys. God bless. (Applause.)
1:38 P.M. CDT