The White House
Office of the First Lady
Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event
Flight Operations Center
Charlotte, North Carolina
3:12 P.M. EST
MRS. OBAMA: Whoa! (Applause.) That’s right. Wow. (Applause.) Thank you! Very nice. Wow! (Applause.) Well, this is very exciting. Thank you so much. You know what, this is an exciting day; we're going to have an exciting day tomorrow.
But before we get started, something that I've been doing in light of what has happened on the east coast with the devastating storm is just to make sure that we take a moment and remember that there are folks still suffering. And our hearts and prayers are going out to all those who have been affected this storm.
I know that you know that over the past week, Barack has been in constant contact with the governors and our mayors and our extraordinary first responders to make sure that everyone has the support they need. But one of the things that we do know -- as a country, whenever there is a crisis, we always come together as one American family. (Applause.) So we have to remember that even in these times of great excitement.
So with that said, I want to just thank a few people. First of all, I know that you got to see some good folks here. I know that Congressman Watt is here; Mayor Foxx, Governor Hunt. (Applause.) Thank you all. We love you. We are so grateful. You all are just phenomenal leaders. They've been terrific all through these last four years. Let's give them a round of applause. (Applause.)
And of course, you had a few special guests. (Applause.) I want to thank Mariah Carey -- (applause) -- and, of course, Derek Fisher. (Applause.) Yes. We are so blessed to have just some wonderful supporters in both Mariah and Derek. The fact that they have come all this way to be here to support not just us but to support this country means a great deal. And we have to show them our love and thank them again. (Applause.)
But most of all, I want to thank all of you. This is phenomenal. It really is. (Applause.) It really, really is. And it's good to see you all so fired up and ready to go. (Applause.)
Because, yes, I, too, am fired up and ready to go. (Applause.) Because tomorrow -- tomorrow -- (applause) -- we have the opportunity to reelect such a decent, honest man -- (applause) -- a man whose courage and integrity we have seen every day for the past four years, the man that I have known and loved for 23 years -- (applause) -- my husband, our President, Barack Obama. We will get it done. (Applause.)
And the thing I have to tell you is that all that wonderful stuff, all those wonderful qualities in my husband -- that’s not just the reason why I fell in love with him. I fell in love with Barack because of his character, his compassion, his conviction; the fact that he has always been committed to helping others.
And I also loved the fact that Barack was always so devoted to his family, especially the women in his life. (Applause.) Yes. I talk about this everywhere I go because I think these qualities are so important. But I saw the respect that Barack had for his mother, and how proud he was that she put herself through school while still supporting him and his sister as a single mom -- because I know there are a lot of folks out there in that same situation.
I saw the tenderness that he felt for his grandmother, and how grateful he was that long after she should have retired she was still waking up every morning, catching her bus to the job at that community bank, doing whatever it took to support their family. And he also watched as she was passed over for promotions simply because she was a woman, but he also saw how she kept getting up every day, year after year, going to that same job without complaint and without regret.
See, the thing is, 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. And let me tell you something, I still remember my father getting up on his crutches because he had MS -- carrying himself with that same dignity, that same pride in being able to do whatever it took to provide for his family; that same hope that his kids one day would have opportunities he never dreamed of for himself.
And like so many families in this country -- this is the beauty about America -- see, our families weren’t asking for much. They didn’t want much, and they didn’t begrudge anyone else’s success. They didn’t mind if others had much more -- in fact, they admired it. And that’s why they pushed us to be the best that we could be.
But here's the thing -- what they did believe in was that fundamental American promise that even if you don’t start out with much, 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 your grandkids. (Applause.) And they believed that when you’ve worked hard, and done well, 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.)
And that is how Barack and I and I know so many of you were raised. And more than anything else, what keeps me going in this job, on this campaign is that that's what this election is all about. It’s about choices. 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.
We believe in an America where every child has access to good schools -- the kind that push them and inspire them and prepare them for jobs of the future. We believe in an America where no one goes broke or loses their home because someone gets sick or loses a job. (Applause.)
We believe in an America where we all understand that none of us gets where we are on our own; where we treat everyone with dignity and respect, from the teachers who inspire us to the janitors who keep our schools clean. (Applause.) And here's something we also believe -- we believe that the truth matters, and you don’t take shortcuts, you don’t game the system.
And finally, we believe in keeping our priorities straight. Because we all know good and well that cutting Sesame Street is no way to balance our budget. We know better than that. (Applause.) Instead, we know that we need to cut wasteful spending, but we also have to make smart investments in things like education and infrastructure for an economy that’s built to last. And that is what my husband stands for. That's the country he’s been working to build for the last four years.
And let me tell you, since the day he took office, on issue after issue, crisis after crisis that's exactly what we’ve seen in our President.
Let's go back to when Barack first took office. Where were we as a country? Our economy was on the brink of collapse. And you don’t have to take my word for it. Newspapers were using words like “meltdown," “calamity;” declaring “Wall street implodes," “Economy in Shock.” The auto industry was in crisis. This economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month, and a lot of folks wondered whether we were headed for another Great Depression.
And this is what Barack faced on day one as President. But instead of pointing fingers or placing blame, our President got to work. (Applause.) Because he was thinking about folks like my Dad and like his grandmother. And that’s why he cut taxes for small businesses and working families -- because he believes that in America, teachers and firefighters should not pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires. That’s not right. (Applause.)
And while some folks were willing to let the auto industry go under -- you know who I'm talking about. (Laughter.) With more than a million jobs that would have been lost, Barack had the backs of American workers, and that’s why, today, the American auto industry is back on its feet again. (Applause.)
And, yes, while we have more work to do to completely rebuild our economy, we all know there are more and more clear signs every day that we are on the road to recovery. What do we know? Exports have grown by 45 percent. Companies hired more workers in October than at any time in the last eight months. We have had, under this President, 32 straight months of private sector job growth -- the majority of his presidency -- more than five and a half million jobs created right here in the United States of America. (Applause.)
And we also know that when it comes to giving our young people the education they deserve, let me tell you something -- Barack knows all too well like me and I know like so many of you, we never could have gone to college without financial aid -- never. (Applause.) Barack and I wouldn't be here. See, our parents just couldn’t write a check for our tuition. (Applause.) They couldn’t do it.
So when it comes to student debt, believe me, Barack and I, we've been there. And that’s why Barack doubled funding for Pell grants -- (applause) -- and fought so hard to keep interest rates down -- because fortunately, we have a President who understands how important it is for all of our young people --all of them -- to have the opportunity to go to college without a mountain of debt. (Applause.)
And finally, when it comes to understanding the lives of women -- look, here's the thing I can tell you -- we know that Barack will always have our backs -- always. Because Barack knows from personal experience what it means for a family when women aren’t treated fairly in the workplace. (Applause.) And that is why the very first bill -- do you hear me -- the very first thing he signed as President was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. (Applause.) And here is what we do know -- our President will always, always fight to ensure that we as women can make our own decisions about our bodies and our health care. (Applause.)
And let us not forget about the historic health reform that my husband passed. Because of that reform, insurance companies can no longer charge women more than men for the same coverage. (Applause.) Because of health reform, they won't be able to discriminate against any of us because we have a preexisting condition like diabetes or asthma. (Applause.) Our seniors on Medicare are paying hundreds less for their prescription drugs, and our young people can stay on their parent’s insurance until they're 26 years old. (Applause.)
And here is the thing that has crushed so many families -- if you get a life-threatening illness -- and so many families are facing this -- and you need expensive treatment, insurance companies can no longer tell us, "sorry, you’ve hit your lifetime limit and we’re not paying a penny more." That is now illegal because of health reform. (Applause.)
So this is the last day before the election. This is it. And I know many of you voted already. (Applause.) That’s a good thing. And I know that many of you will be voting tomorrow. (Applause.) And I know all of you are going to be out there talking to folks. (Applause.) So when you're out there and you're reaching out to folks who are deciding who will keep this country moving forward for four more years, here are some things I want you to tell folks.
In addition to all that Barack has done for our economy, our health care and education, I want you to remind them that this is the President who ended the war in Iraq. (Applause.) This is the President that worked with us to take out Osama bin Laden. (Applause.) Barack is the President who has been fighting every day to make sure that our veterans and our 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 have ever called home. (Applause.) Tell them about our brave servicemembers who will never have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love. (Applause.)
I could go on and on and on, but you don’t have to tell them everything -- just send them to the website: barackobama.com/plans. And there, they can learn not just about all he has done, but all he is going to do to create even more jobs, reduce our deficit -- and so much more.
But here’s what I want you to really tell them about my husband: Tell them about this President. Tell them about this man who has been leading us with such poise and grace. (Applause.) I want you to tell them that Barack Obama knows the American Dream because he’s lived it. (Applause.) And he is fighting every day so that every one of us 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 also be clear -- while he is very proud of all that we’ve achieved together -- because the thing that this President understands is we don’t do anything alone. It is all up to all of us. So while he is very proud, my husband is nowhere near satisfied. Barack of all people knows that there are too many people still hurting. 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.) That is clear.
But let me tell you this -- what I have seen is that over these past four years -- this is the beauty -- together, slowly but surely, we have been pulling ourselves out of that hole we started in. We have been moving forward and making real and meaningful progress.
So here's the question that anybody you talk to has to really confront: Are we going to turn around and go back to the same policies that got us into that hole in the first place?
MRS. OBAMA: Are we going to just to sit back and watch everything we’ve worked for and fought for to just slip away.
MRS. OBAMA: What are we going to do? Are we going to keep moving this country forward?
MRS. OBAMA: It is all about going forward. And in the end, it is now up to somebody other than us. We are handing it over. This question, now, is up to the voters. It's all on us. Because, truly, all of our hard work, all of the progress that we’ve made, it's all at stake tomorrow. Tomorrow is the day.
And as Barack has said since he started running, this election will be even closer than the last one -- just know that. Own that. Believe that. And it is all going to come down to what happens in just a few key battleground states like right here in North Carolina -- right here. (Applause.)
When we win this state, with your help -- (applause) -- we'll be well on our way. But understand -- and I've said this everywhere I go, just putting it in perspective -- because all of you have voted, but if you know anyone out there who hasn't, understand the impact.
Because in 2008, Barack won North Carolina, but he won by 14,000 votes. And when you spread that number across precincts, that’s just five votes per precinct. I say that everywhere I go. And that has been the margin -- the typical margin of victory in all of these battleground states -- five votes here, 40 votes over here. That is the margin of difference.
So this is why -- when you leave here and you reach out to anyone you know, anyone who might be sitting around thinking that maybe my vote doesn’t matter, that my involvement doesn’t count, that in this complex political process that ordinary folks somehow cannot possibly make a difference, I want you to remind them of those five votes.
Because we all know five people who might not vote. We all know five people who might not make it to -- might roll over tomorrow and just go, you know, never mind. And that -- the difference in this election could be one vote in your neighborhood; could be just one vote in a single apartment building or on a college campus.
So understand that -- the power that all of you have. We all know that one person, right? So our job is reach out and get to that one person. (Applause.) That’s your job right now.
So tomorrow is the day that you can make it happen if you haven't already. I voted early. (Applause.) A lot of you all voted early. And the whole strategy behind voting early is that tomorrow, you can spend the day working -- that’s right. You spend tomorrow helping other people get to the polls.
Barack and I, we are going to be on the radio, on TV; we're going to be talking -- reminding people when the polls open, what they can do. And it's important to know that the polls stay open until 7:00 p.m. here in North Carolina. And it's very important for people to understand that as long as you are in line at 7:00 p.m. --
AUDIENCE: 7:30 p.m.!
MRS. OBAMA: 7:30 p.m.? Is it 7:00 p.m. or 7:30 p.m? I don’t want to give out any -- 7:30 p.m. As long as you are in line --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible.)
MRS. OBAMA: Well, we'll get you the right time. (Laughter.) But once you are in that line, do not get out. (Applause.) Don’t get out -- and the waits could be long. We need you to wait it out, because I want you to think about those five votes. Do everything you can between now and tomorrow to make your voices heard.
Because make no mistake about it -- what we do for the next day will absolutely make the difference between us waking up on Wednesday and asking ourselves, “Could I have done more?”, or feeling the promise of four more years. You all are the difference. (Applause.)
So from now until the time the polls close, we need you working and struggling and pushing like never before. Because here is the thing -- that is how change happens in this country. That’s how change happens.
And I take this time to talk to young people, because what we have to realize is that, from our history as a country, we know that change is hard, right? Shoot, we know life is hard. And especially our young people -- you watched this President; how many bumps and bruises, how much he confronts on a daily basis -- we all deal with that. That is life. And it requires a level of patience and tenacity.
But the thing we have to know -- and our young people have to know -- if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting that good fight and doing in our hearts what we know is right, then eventually we get there. We always do. That is the reason we have every reason in this country to be optimistic about what lies ahead, because we know that here in America, we always move forward. We always make progress.
And in the end -- know this for sure -- that’s what this is about. That’s what elections are always about. Don’t let anybody tell you differently. Elections are always about hope.
The hope that I saw on my father’s beaming face as I walked across the stage to get my college diploma -- the diploma that he took out loans to help me get. The hope that Barack’s grandmother felt as she cast her ballot for the grandson she loved and raised -- that’s the hope that I'm talking about. 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 standing here. The hope that so many of us feel when we look into the eyes of our kids and our grandkids -- that’s the hope I’m talking about.
Because in the end, we are here today for our children. We want to give all of our children a solid foundation for their dreams. We want to give all of our kids opportunities worthy of their promise. Because we know good and well -- I don’t care where we're from, what party we belong to -- we know good and well that every single child in this country is worthy, and we want them to have that sense of limitless possibility -- you know what I'm talking about -- that belief that in America, the greatest country on the planet, there is always something better out there if you’re willing to work for it. (Applause.)
So this is what I tell myself every day as First Lady; this is how your President operates -- we know that we cannot turn back now. We will not turn back now. Now now. (Applause.) We have come so far, but we have so much more work to do.
So here's my last question: Are we ready to work for this? (Applause.) One more day -- are we ready to roll up our sleeves? (Applause.) Are we ready to talk to everyone we know -- our friends, our neighbors? (Applause.) Get them to the polls.
We've got one more day to make it happen. Are you all fired up? (Applause.) All right, let's make it happen.
Love you all so much.
3:39 P.M. EST