The White House
Office of the First Lady
Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign event
Sioux City Convention Center
Sioux City, Iowa
4:28 P.M. CDT
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you so much! (Applause.) Yes! Let me tell you, I am beyond thrilled to be back in Sioux City and to be with all of you. (Applause.) As we enter this last week, being back in Iowa really -- I was in Iowa City and I have to tell you all, it really moves me, because we really got started here, right here in this state. (Applause.) And I can’t tell you how much your support and your love and your thoughts and your hard work has meant to all of us -- me, Barack, Malia, Sasha, and Bo. (Laughter.) So it’s really good to be back, and we love you all so much.
But before we get started, I did want to take a moment -- I said this in Iowa City and I want to say it again -- to take a moment to say that our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by Hurricane Sandy -- because that’s happening right now. (Applause.) And Barack has assured both state and local authorities that he will cut through red tape and be there to assist with whatever resources and support they need. And he's made, really, this storm his priority, even in the midst of the final days of this campaign. He’s going to do whatever it takes to make sure that the American people are safe and secure. (Applause.)
And what times likes this always remind us is that in times of crisis, in this country we always pull together as one American family. And I know that we will all do everything we can to help our fellow citizens as they weather this storm and also the recovery. So we will be thinking about folks. I know that we’re getting some strong winds right now and rain in D.C., but we’ve got a team of people working.
And I also want to take the time to thank Joan for that very kind introduction and for everything she’s doing on behalf of the campaign here on campus. (Applause.) But most of all, again, I want to thank you all. Thank you for the time for being here today. (Applause.) And it is so good to see so many people fired up and ready to go. And I have to tell you --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes, we are!
MRS. OBAMA: (Applause.) Yes! Fired up and ready to go!
And I’m feeling pretty fired up and ready to go myself, because what this campaign has given me an excuse to do -- which I don’t get to do often, and many wives will understand -- I get to talk about the man that I have loved and admired since the day I first met him 23 years ago.
Now, a lot of things that I’m saying to you, I don’t tell him every day -- so don’t tell him. (Laughter.) And although Barack, yes, is handsome and charming and incredibly smart, that is not why I married him. Not in the least. (Laughter.) Let me tell you, what made me fall in love with Barack Obama is something that we see every day, what we’ve seen for the last four years -- it’s his character, his decency, his honesty, his compassion, his conviction. (Applause.)
And he is the same man that I met all those years ago. When we first met, I loved that Barack was so committed to serving others that he turned down high-paying jobs, and instead, he started his career doing what he does best -- fighting to get folks back to work in struggling communities. That impressed me. (Applause.)
And here’s something -- I really loved that Barack was so devoted to his family, especially the women in his life. (Applause.) This is something that was important to me. I saw the respect that he had for his mother. I saw how proud he was that she put herself through school while still being able to support him and his sister as a single mom.
I saw the tenderness he’s felt for his grandmother, and how grateful he was that long after she should’ve retired, she was still getting up every morning, catching that bus to her job at the community bank, doing everything she could to support their family.
But he also watched as she was passed over for promotions, again and again, simply because she was a woman. But he also saw something in her; he saw this woman just continue to get up every day, doing that same job, and doing it without complaint or regret.
See, with Barack, I found a real connection, because in his life story, I saw so much of my own. See, growing up on the South Side of Chicago, I watched my father --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yeah!
MRS. OBAMA: Yeah, we always have a few South Siders, Chicagoans. (Laughter and applause.) So I know you can relate to this.
I watched my father make that same uncomplaining journey every day to his job at the city water plant. And I saw how my father carried himself with that kind of pride, that same dignity in being able to wake up and provide for his family; that same hope that his kids would one day have opportunities he never dreamed of.
And 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 other people had much more than they did -- in fact, they admired it. And that’s why they pushed us to be the very best that we could be.
But they simply believed in that fundamental American promise that even if you don’t start out with much, in America, if you work hard, if 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 and taught us that when you’ve worked hard and you’ve done well, and you finally walked through that doorway of success and 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 is how Barack and I and I know so many of you were raised. Those are the values we were taught. And more than anything else, that is 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 that we want to leave for our kids and our grandkids.
And what does that America look like? Well, we believe in an America where every child –- every child in this country, no matter where they’re born, or how much money their parents make, every child deserves good schools -- the kind that push them, and inspires them, and prepares them for good jobs and college. (Applause.)
We believe in an America where no one goes broke because someone gets sick. (Applause.) Where no one loses their home because somebody loses a 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 in this America that we are trying to build together, when one of us stumbles -- because we all have the ability to stumble -- when one of us falls on hard times, we don’t turn our backs and say, “Tough luck, you’re on your own.” No -- instead, we extend a helping hand until they can get back on their feet again.
We believe that the truth matters in this America. (Applause.) And 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. What does that mean? Every one of us in this room, in this country knows good and well that cutting “Sesame Street” is no way to balance our budget. (Applause.)
Shortchanging our children is not how we tackle the deficit. If we want -- truly want to build opportunities for all Americans then yes, we have to cut wasteful spending, but we also have to make smart investments in things like education and infrastructure if we want an economy that’s built to last. (Applause.) And that is what my husband stands for. That is the country that Barack has been working to create, to build for the last four years. And those are the values that have guided him.
And let me tell you, over the past four years as First Lady, I have seen up close and personal just how critical those values are for leading this country. I’ve seen how the issues that come across a President’s desk, they 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 have 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. (Applause.) But I’ve also seen that when it comes time to make those decisions, those tough calls, and everyone around you is 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 of the people you serve. And that’s how you make the right decisions for this country. That’s what it takes to be a leader. (Applause.)
And let me tell you, since the day he took office, on issue after issue, crisis after crisis, believe me, I have been there -- that is what we’ve seen in my husband. I mean, let’s think back to when Barack first took office and where this economy was. This economy was on the brink of collapse. You don’t take my word for it. The newspapers were using words like “meltdown,” “calamity”; declaring “Wall Street Implodes,” “Economy in Shock.”
For years, folks had been lured into buying homes they couldn’t afford so their mortgages were underwater. If you recall, the auto industry was in crisis. The economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month -- a month! And a lot of folks wondered whether we were headed for another Great Depression. This is what your President faced on day one. He inherited an economy in deep and rapid decline. But instead of pointing fingers, instead of placing blame, fortunately he rolled up his sleeves and he got to work. (Applause.)
See, because the only folks Barack was thinking about -- he was thinking about folks like my dad and like his grandmother. That’s why he cut taxes for small businesses and working families, because he believes that teachers and firefighters should not pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires -- not in America. Not here. (Applause.)
And that’s exactly why, if you recall, while some folks were willing to let the auto industry go under -- do you remember?
MRS. OBAMA: With more than a million jobs that would have been lost, your President had the backs of American workers. He fought hard to protect jobs for American families. (Applause.) And that is why today -- today the auto industry is back on its feet again. (Applause.)
And yes, while we still have much more work to do to completely rebuild this economy, there are more and more signs every day that we are headed in the right direction. The stock market has doubled. Exports have grown by 45 percent. Manufacturers have added 500,000 jobs. We have had 31 straight months of private sector job growth. That’s the majority of this presidency. A total of 5.2 million new jobs created right here in the United States of America. (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 -- (laughter) -- Barack has also focused on improving access to health care for millions of Americans. (Applause.) See, this is another thing I love about my husband. He 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 let me tell you what moved him. See, he was thinking about all the stories that he heard from folks across this country -- the woman diagnosed with breast cancer whose insurance company wouldn’t cover her care; the seniors pinching pennies to save for the medicines they need; the parents who couldn’t afford life-saving treatment for a child because one of them lost a job.
And today, because of health reform, because of that fight, things have changed for so many people. Our parents and grandparents on Medicare are spending hundreds less for their prescription drugs because of health care today. (Applause.) Today, because of that fight for reform, our kids can stay on our insurance until they’re 26 years old.
Because your President fought for you, today insurance companies now have to cover basic preventative care -- things like contraception, cancer screenings -- with no out-of-pocket cost. (Applause.) They will no longer be able to discriminate against us because we have a preexisting condition like diabetes or asthma. (Applause.)
And here’s one that really gets me, so many people have dealt with this. If you get a life-threatening illness and you need really 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.)
Now, when it comes to our young people and making sure they have the education they deserve, let me tell you, Barack knows that like me, and I know like so many of you, we never, never could have attended college without financial aid -- never. (Applause.)
So understand that we would not be here, I would not be standing here, if it weren’t for financial aid. (Applause.) In fact, when we were first married, our combined monthly student loan bills were actually higher than our mortgage -- and I know a lot of people can relate to that. 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’s why Barack fought so hard to double funding for Pell grants and fought to keep interest rates low. (Applause.) Because he knows that’s the only way that we ensure that all of our young people, all of them, are able to afford college. That’s the only way.
And finally, when it comes to understanding the lives of women, when it comes to standing up for our rights and opportunities, let me tell you something. We know that Barack Obama will always have our backs. (Applause.) Because Barack is a man surrounded by women. (Laughter.)
And he knows from personal experience what it means for a family when women aren’t treated fairly in the work place. And believe me, today as a father of two beautiful daughters, he knows what it means to want all of our daughters to have the same freedoms and opportunities as our sons. (Applause.) And that’s why the very first bill he signed into law, the very first thing he did as President of the United States was to sign the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to help women get equal pay for equal work. (Applause.) And let me tell you something, that is why your President will always, always fight to ensure that we as women can make our own decisions about our bodies and our health care. (Applause.)
That is what my husband stands for. So here’s the thing. We’re eight days out and, hopefully, you will all be out there talking and working. You’re going to come across people who will ask you, so what has this President done for our country?
When you’re coming across folks who are trying to decide between these two men and who’s going to do the best job of continuing to move this country forward for four more years, here’s what I want you to tell them. In addition to everything that my husband has done for our economy, for health care and education, I want you to remind them that Barack ended the war in Iraq, took out Osama bin Laden. (Applause.)
I want you to tell them just how hard he is fighting every day to make sure that veterans and military families get the benefits they have earned. (Applause.) Tell them about all the young immigrants in this country who will no longer have to live in fear of being deported from the only country they ever called home. (Applause.) Tell them about our brave servicemembers who will no longer have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love. (Applause.)
Remind them about all of the concrete -- do you hear me, concrete -- plans that Barack has laid out for the next four years. And, yes, we too have a web site -- (laughter) -- BarackObama.com/plans, it’s very creative -- (laughter) -- where you can send people. They can learn how Barack is going to work to create millions of new jobs in this country, train the best workforce in the world, boost American-made energy, reduce our deficit, end the war in Afghanistan so that we can do some nation-building right here at home. (Applause.)
But in addition to all of that, here’s the thing I really want people to know about my husband. You tell them that Barack Obama knows the American Dream because he’s lived it. He has lived it. (Applause.) And he is fighting 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 let’s be clear, while he is very proud of what we have all done together -- because believe me, a President doesn’t do anything alone; he does it with a community of people -- my husband is nowhere near satisfied. Barack, of all people on this planet, knows that too many people are still hurting. He knows all too well that there is plenty of work left to be done. But as President Clinton reminded us, it is going to take a lot longer than four years to finish rebuilding an economy from the brink of collapse. (Applause.)
But here’s what I know and I have known about my husband -- thankfully, in Barack we have a leader with a deep and unyielding faith in the American people, in us -- (applause) -- a leader who understands that this country was built by men and women who wake up every day and work hard for their families, and they do it without complaint and without regret.
And as President, that’s what my husband has been fighting for. He has been fighting for us. And that’s why when the stakes are so high we can always trust Barack to have our backs -- because he always has. And over these past years, these four years, understand that together we have been working and 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 and meaningful change.
So here’s the question that folks have to ask themselves, a very serious question. Are we going to turn around after all of this and go back to the same policies that got us into the hole in the first place?
AUDIENCE: Booo --
MRS. OBAMA: Are we going to just sit back and watch everything that we built and worked and fought for to just slip away?
MRS. OBAMA: Or are we going to keep moving this country forward? (Applause.) What are we going to do? (Applause.) Forward! Forward! Absolutely. But in the end --
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: I’m not going to stop you on that one.
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: Eight more days to four more years. (Applause.)
But here’s the thing, the answer to all those questions is on us. It’s on us now, because truly all the hard work, all the progress we’ve made -- understand that it is all on the line. I mean, the choices in this election could not be clearer. Everything is at stake this November.
And as Barack has said, this election is going to be even closer than the last. That’s the only guarantee. And it’s all going to come down to what happens in just a few key battleground states like right here in Iowa. (Applause.) And this is something that I’ve been doing everywhere, because it helped me when I found out -- just putting it in perspective to understand how these races work.
Let’s look back to what happened in 2008. Barack won this state by 147,000 votes -- another close race. But while that number may sound like a lot, when you break that down across precincts over an entire state, that’s really just 87 votes per precinct. And I could break that down for every battleground state. It’s close. That’s why they’re battleground states. (Laughter.)
But when you look at that number, understand that that could mean just one vote in a neighborhood could make the difference -- just a single vote in an apartment building or in a dorm. So here’s the thing about our democracy: If there is anyone here, anyone that you know in your lives who might be thinking that their vote doesn’t matter, that their involvement doesn’t count, that in this complex political process that ordinary, hardworking folks can’t possibly make a difference -- I can understand how people could feel that way. It just seems so big, right?
But if anyone is thinking like that, I just want you to think about those 87 votes -- 87 votes that’s right here in this room. I want you to think about how with just a few more evenings on a phone bank, a couple of more hours knocking on doors, just a few of you in this room today could swing an entire precinct for Barack Obama. And if we win enough precincts, we will win this state. And if we win this state, we will be well on our way to putting Barack Obama back in the White House for four more years. (Applause.)
So understand the power that you have not just in this election, but in every election. So for the next eight days, we need you to work like you have never worked before. It’s eight days. It’s like you can hold your breath for eight days. (Laughter.) But we want you to sign up with one of our volunteers here today to make phone calls if you’re not already involved, and knock on doors.
But more importantly, here’s the thing that you can do -- you can talk to everyone you know. Everyone in your sphere of influence, talk to them -- your friends, your neighbors, that cousin you haven’t seen in a while. (Laughter.) For the students, kids sitting next to you in chemistry, you know he’s not going to vote. (Laughter.) You all know the kid. (Laughter.) Shake him. Talk to him. Tell them what’s at stake. Help them understand the issues, especially for young people.
And this is something that I really point out, because you all are just starting to vote, and I know -- I can’t tell you how many people, young people walked up to me over the past four years and told me that in 2008, they said, my parents and grandparents weren’t going to vote for Barack Obama, but because I talked to them about what this election means for me, they changed their minds.
So know that you all really can make a difference. You have that power of influence and persuasion. And, again, it’s not just about this election. That’s about life. We want you to embrace this life, this planet, this country that is yours.
And people don’t have to wait until November the 6th to cast their ballots. As Joan mentioned, you can vote early. And as she said, I voted early. (Applause.) I voted for Barack Obama -- (applause) -- just in case you were wondering. I looked over the information. I watched the debates. I read the materials. I’ve been to everyone’s website. (Laughter.) And my astute opinion, I felt that Barack Obama was the absolute best choice for this country. (Applause.)
But one of the reasons why I voted early -- and we’re encouraging everyone to vote early -- is that when you vote early, number one, you don’t take the chance that on Election Day -- because life happens. And we all know how life happens: You wake up, car is broken down, kid’s sick, the babysitter is missing. (Laughter.) Anything could happen. But now, for the next eight days, you can vote when it works for you and you can make sure that there’s nothing that stands in the way from you making your voices heard.
And also if you vote early, you can use Election Day like I’m going to use it and spend it trying to get other people to the polls. Because we all know that person who needs that ride, that new voter that might be just a little nervous about doing it on their own, and you could be that point of support for them -- taking them there, walking them through the process.
And here in Iowa, voting has already begun. In fact, right after this event, we’re loading up some buses, because we don’t want you to walk -- (laughter) -- it would be uncomfortable. So we’ve got buses that will take you to early vote at the Long Lines Rec Center. So after I’m done speaking, I want you all, if you haven’t voted, to follow the volunteers, get on a bus, and do your part to move this country forward.
And then, after you vote, I want you to tell everyone you know that from now until Election Day, they can vote early in person, too. And here’s the thing in this state: If they’re not registered, tell them they don’t have to worry -- you can register on the spot when you vote here in Iowa, which is a very good thing. (Applause.) That’s a very good thing.
And last but not least, send them to vote.barackobama.com, and there they can find out their nearest voting location. So we tried to make it easy. And if they don’t vote early, then make sure they get to the polls on Election Day and make their voices heard.
So that’s the plan. We got it? (Applause.) We can do this. We can do this. We can make this happen. (Applause.)
Now, here’s the thing: eight days. And I know -- I’ll be honest with you, the rest of this journey, although short, is going to be hard and there are going to be lots of ups and downs along the way. I mean, just look at the last couple of weeks, the last month; it’s up and down and up and down.
But when you start to get tired -– and you will -- and when you start to think about taking a day off -– and you will -- I just want you to remember that what we do for the next eight days will absolutely make the difference between us waking up the day after Election Day and thinking, “Could I have done” -- “Oh, my God, could I have done more?” -- (laughter) -- or feeling the promise of four more years.
So from now until November the 6th, we need you to keep working and struggling and pushing forward. Because here’s the thing: That is how change always happens in this country. And again, I want to talk to the young people here, because this isn’t just about this election. This is about life, right? Life is hard, and change in life -- you are going to hit some bumps in the road, some barriers, some people who will be there telling you what you can’t do, who you can’t be.
But it requires patience and tenacity and focus and determination. Because if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight and doing what we know in our hearts is the right thing -- because a lot of times your heart will get you to the right place, and that’s what happens in this country. We eventually get where we’re supposed to go. We always do.
So for the young people out there, I don’t want you to ever let anyone else talk down your dreams, talk down your aspirations. (Applause.) And more importantly, don’t let anyone talk down our country or our country’s future. (Applause.) You all have -- we have every reason to be optimistic about what lies ahead.
And our young people, for their sake, they always have to be optimistic about the future. We know that as parents. They have to be optimistic. And you have every reason to be, because here in America, we always move forward. We always make progress.
And in the end, that’s what this is about. That’s what elections are always about. Don’t let anyone tell you differently -– elections are always about hope. (Applause.)
What kind of hope? The hope I saw on my father’s beaming face as I walked across the stage to get my college diploma -- the diploma he took out loans to help me get. The hope Barack’s grandmother felt as she cast her ballot for the grandson she loved and raised. 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 have something just a little more. The hope that so many of us feel when we look into the eyes of our kids and our grandkids.
That’s why we’re here today -- because we all want to give our children in this country a foundation for their dreams. If I have passion, if you feel it, it’s because we all want to give all of our children opportunities worthy of their promise. Because I don’t care where you’re from or what party you belong to, we all know that all of our kids are worthy. We want to give them that sense of limitless possibility. (Applause.) That belief that here in America, the greatest country on the planet, there is always something out there better if you’re willing to work for it. (Applause.)
So this is what I tell myself every day: We will not turn back now. We cannot turn back now. Not for our kids. We have come so far, but we have so much more to do. We have more work to do. (Applause.)
So here’s my last question: Sioux City, are you ready for this? (Applause.) Are you ready to roll up your sleeves? Eight days! Four more years! We need you to work, work, work like you’ve never -- are you ready for this? (Applause.) We’re ready.
I love you all so much. God bless.
5:04 P.M. CDT