The White House
Office of the First Lady
Remarks by the First Lady at a DCCC Event
4:29 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Woo hoo! (Applause.) Are we fired up, ladies and a few gentlemen? (Applause.) Yes! Yes! Thank you all. Thank you so much. All right. I want you to rest yourselves, because we have a lot of work to do. I don’t want you to expend too much energy here because I want you out there winning. (Laughter.)
Let me start by just saying it is a pleasure and an honor to be here. I want to start by thanking Representative Clark for that very wonderful introduction and for all the work that she has done to make this possible. Mom, you should be proud. (Laughter.) I’m just adding to the good things that I’m saying about your daughter. You can include the First Lady -- I think she’s terrific. (Laughter.)
And I also want to recognize our fabulous leader, Leader Nancy Pelosi, for her outstanding leadership every day in Congress. (Applause.) I’m going to embarrass you because, you know, I love Nancy Pelosi. Barack Obama loves Nancy Pelosi. (Laughter.) It’s just amazing to watch her in action. She is tireless. She is fearless. She is so deeply passionate about making a difference in the lives of families across this country.
We are in awe when we watch her in action, and we couldn’t be more grateful for everything she has done not just for us -- she has become a friend, her family has become our family. Paul is like my second husband. (Laughter.) So we are truly grateful for everything that you have accomplished, and we love you dearly. So thank you so much. (Applause.)
I also want to thank Congressman Israel for his terrific leadership of the DCCC. Where are you? Where did you go? Where is he? (Laughter.) He’s around here somewhere. But he’s doing a great job. I want to give a huge shout-out to -- yay. (Applause.) You know, the few men that are here, you’re lucky we let you stay. (Laughter.)
I want to give a huge, huge shout-out to all of the fantastic members of Congress who are here, many of whom are in the midst of their bus tour and have stopped here today to join us. And I want to just congratulate them on the work that they’ve done, for always having my back, for working so hard. So, you guys, get it done. Keep getting it done. (Applause.)
And I got to meet for the first time your terrific new mayor -- Mayor Walsh was here, as well, so I’m so glad that he could be here. And I’m just grateful for his willingness to step up and lead this great city.
And of course, most of all, I want to thank all of you. As I look around the room, I see so many old friends who here today, folks who have been with us from the very beginning -- do you remember the beginning? (Laughter.) Back when we were pounding the pavement in Iowa and New Hampshire -- Carol, Ann, you guys remember my children in and out of the state -- talking about hope and change. And then there were those of you -- joined us after the primaries, and you were there when Barack and I first took office -- or I took office alongside -- or he took office and I was there -- (laughter) -- and both of us were wondering what on Earth we had gotten ourselves into. Remember that? (Laughter.)
But do you remember what was going on in the country at that time? Remember where things were back then when our economy was on the brink of collapse -- do you remember that? Wall Street banks were folding. Our auto industry was imploding. Our businesses were losing 800,000 jobs a month. Newspapers were using words like “meltdown” and calamity,” and saying that we were headed for another Great Depression. Do you remember that?
MRS. OBAMA: And that was just here at home. Abroad, we were fighting not one but two wars. And the man behind 9/11 was still on the loose -- do you remember that? Well, this is what Barack walked into on day one as President -- day one.
But today, just five years later, now that we’ve had 50 straight months of job growth -- (applause) -- now that this administration has created 9.2 million private sector jobs, and our auto industry has come roaring back -- now that we’re here, it’s easy to forget where we started. But just think about all that we’ve achieved together in just five short years.
Think about all that we’ve achieved together. We’ve cut our deficit by more than half. We’re producing more clean energy than ever before. We’ve raised high school graduation rates and college enrollment rates to new heights. We brought Osama bin Laden to justice. We’re bringing our brave men and women in uniform home. And after a century of talk -- a century of talk -- and decades of trying to pass health reform, today, millions of American families have health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act. That is saving lives.
And think about all of the intangible changes going on, how different our country looks to children growing up today. Think about how kids today take for granted that there are three brilliant women serving on our Supreme Court. They take it for granted that a black person can be President of the United States –- and, yes, even a woman. They don’t even notice it now.
They take for granted that their President will end hurtful policies like “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and will speak out for gay marriage because, as Barack said in his inauguration speech, “If we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.” (Applause.)
So today, when folks ask me whether I still believe everything we said about hope and change back in 2008, I tell them that I believe it more strongly now than ever before because I’ve seen it with my own eyes. While we still have plenty of work to do, we have actually made so much of that change we were talking about.
But here’s the thing I want you to remember: Barack didn’t do all of this just by sitting alone in the Oval Office. Remember the Recovery Act that helped rescue our economy? Remember the legislation that helped save the auto industry, the Affordable Care Act that gave all those folks insurance? Well, those bills were all passed by a Democratic Congress under the leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi back in 2008, 2009 and 2010. (Applause.) That’s how all that stuff got done. And it is so easy to lose sight of that reality.
Too often, we forget what we learned in civics class back in middle school, about how we have a separation of powers between three branches of government. I cannot tell you how many people have asked me things like, well, just tell Barack to pass health care, just tell him to do it; why can’t he just get immigration reform done; why hasn’t he just fixed infrastructure yet; when is he going to just raise the minimum wage, he should just do it. I get these questions. (Laughter.) And I have to tell them, well, infrastructure -- that’s a budget issue; immigration and wages are legislative issues -- and you all know who has the final say on all of that, don’t you? Who? Congress. You guys remember civics. It’s Congress.
So the truth is, if we want to keep making that change we all believe in, then we need a President who will fight for that change, but we also need a Congress who will pass it.
So make no mistake about it, Barack’s last campaign was not in 2012. Barack’s last campaign is this year, 2014, because that election in 2012 -- (applause) -- that election wasn’t the change we sought, it was the only -- it was only the chance for us to make that change.
And frankly, if we lose these midterm elections, it’s going to be a whole lot harder to finish what we’ve started together. Because we will see more of the same out in Washington –- more obstruction, more re-investigations, more votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And, look, I have to give them credit for their persistence on that one. (Laughter.) While they won’t let equal pay or the minimum wage come up for a vote, they voted to repeal Obamacare 50 times, and they even shut the entire federal government down. Anybody remember that?
In fact, it’s gotten so bad, as Katherine mentioned, they’re even trying to block the work that I do on childhood obesity -- and that’s really saying something. I mean, for most folks in this country, making sure our kids get decent nutrition isn’t all that controversial. And that’s why, back in 2010, we passed legislation to ensure that our school lunches meet modern nutrition standards -- standards set by experts, based on sound science. Because I think we can all agree that when parents are working hard to serve balanced meals at home, they have a right to expect that their kids will get decent food in our schools. And we all have a right to expect that our hard-earned taxpayer dollars won’t be spent on junk food for our kids.
But believe it or not, some folks in Congress are actually working to repeal these standards. And that’s simply not acceptable. It is not. As parents, there is nothing we wouldn’t do for our kids -- nothing. We always put our kids’ interests first -- always. We wake up every morning, go to bed every night thinking and worrying about their health and their happiness and their futures.
So we deserve a Congress that will do the same, I believe, don’t we? We deserve a Congress that believes, like we do, that no matter how our kids start out in life, if they’re willing to work for it, they should have every opportunity to fulfill their boundless promise. They should have every opportunity to get a good education, build a decent life for themselves and an even better life for their kids. And that’s the American Dream we all believe in. That’s what we’re working for. And that’s what these midterm elections are all about.
And here’s the thing: We know that we can win these elections. We can do this. Right now, we are just 17 seats -- 17 -- that’s a doable number -- 17 seats away from taking back the House. Seventeen. (Applause.) And, more importantly, we have all the votes we need right now to take back those seats and more if we get to the polls in November.
Just look at the numbers. For example, in the first district in New Hampshire, if just 62 percent of the folks who voted for Barack back in 2012 show up in November and vote for Carol Shea-Porter, she will win. Sixty-two percent of our voters have to show up -- Carol wins. In the second district, if just 57 percent of those Obama voters get out and vote for Annie McLane Kuster, she will win, too. In the sixth district, right here in Massachusetts, if just 60 percent of Obama voters make it to the polls, John Tierney will win. Do you hear me? It’s on us. (Applause.) All of us this is on us.
And, yes, there’s too much money in politics. Yes, special interests have too much influence. But they had all that money and influence back in 2008 and 2012, and we still won those elections. And you want to know why? Because we showed up and we voted.
And at the end of the day, the folks running those special interest groups, they each have just one vote. The folks who poured millions of dollars into the 2012 election –- they each have just one vote, too. And so do each of us. And ultimately, the only thing that counts are those votes. That’s what decides elections in the United States of America.
But the fact is that during the midterms, this is what happens -- a lot of our folks, we don’t show up. Women, minorities, young people -- we don’t show up in the midterms. And these are folks who agree with us. They support our policies and ideas, so we don’t have to change any hearts and minds, we don’t have to spend hours persuading folks that we have the best plan. We just need to get these folks out to vote. And we need to call them and remind them that the midterms are coming, and then we need to give them a ride to the polls on Election Day to make sure they get there.
This is about work on the ground. It is doable. We need to convince them to be as passionate and as hungry as they were back in 2008 and 2012. In fact, we should tell them to be even more passionate and more hungry, because these midterm races will be even harder and even closer than those presidential elections. We are talking about races that will be won or lost by just a few thousand or even a few hundred votes.
So we can’t just sit back and hope for the best, and then be surprised when things don’t work out. We need to be engaged right from the very beginning. And that’s where all of you come in. That’s why I’m here. (Laughter.) Happy to be in Boston. Great to see you. But I’m here because we need you.
And there’s something that all of you can do right now, today, to make a difference -- and I say this everywhere I go, because it matters -- you can write a big, fat check. (Laughter.) That’s what we need you to do right now. We need you to write the biggest, fattest check you can possibly write. I am so serious.
And I know that some of you might occasionally feel a little bit annoyed that we’re always hitting you up for money -- especially the folks in this room, because I know a bunch of people are about to do a fundraiser for Barack two days from now or something like that. But that’s okay. You can be annoyed. You can admit it -- we annoy you.
But we do this because writing those checks is the single most impactful thing that you can do right now. Because it is simply not enough for us to have the best candidates if they don’t have the resources they need to win elections. It’s not enough to have the best values and ideas if we never get to make them into laws and policies. We can’t just stake out the moral high ground and feel good about ourselves. We need to act.
Because when you dig deep and we all dig deep, when you max out, that translates into staff hired and offices opened. It translates into calls made, and doors knocked on, and ads running where they need to run. And we can’t wait until September or October to get going, because these candidates need these resources today.
And then once you’ve given what you can, then we need you to get out there and volunteer. Because we know that those person-to-person contacts, those calls made and doors knocked on, all of that can mean the difference between victory and defeat. So we need your manpower. We need you to roll up your sleeves. Because the stakes this year simply could not be higher.
So many people are counting on us to give Barack the Congress he needs to finish what he started. Folks who are working harder than ever before, they need a Congress that will raise the minimum wage, because no one in this country should work 40 or 50 hours a week and still be stuck in poverty -- not in America. That’s now who we are. (Applause.) That is not who we are.
Women across this country who are more than capable of making our own choices about our bodies, we need a Congress that will protect our rights and freedoms. (Applause.) We need a Congress that will help women like us get equal pay for equal work, because, as everyone says, “When women succeed --
AUDIENCE: -- America succeeds.”
MRS. OBAMA: See, I was listening. (Laughter.)
And our children and grandchildren across this country, they need a Congress that will vote for quality preschool, better teacher training, affordable college -- because that’s what our kids deserve. That’s what they need to fill every last bit of their God-given potential.
So our kids are counting on us to stand up for them this November. They’re kids like a young man named Lawrence Lawson, who I met at a college affordability event in Virginia a few months ago. Lawrence, this amazing kid -- his father died when he was just 8 years old. And at the age of 9, Lawrence suffered a major seizure and it required him to have to learn to read and walk and speak again. And then when he was 12, his mom died, so Lawrence was passed from his aunt in Atlanta to his sister in Baltimore.
But no matter where he was, Lawrence did his best in school -- do you hear me? This kid stayed focused. He joined the marching band. He interned at Johns Hopkins Hospital. And he graduated as the valedictorian of his high school class.
And let me tell you, as I travel this country, I meet so many kids just like Lawrence. Kids who wake up early and take the long route to school to avoid gangs. Kids who juggle afterschool jobs to support their families, and stay up late to get their homework done -- I know those kids. Kids whose parents don’t speak a word of English, but who are fighting every day to realize their dream of a better life.
These kids have every reason to give up, but they are so hungry to succeed. They are so desperate to lift themselves up. And that’s why we’re here today -- because those kids never give up, and neither can we.
So between now and November, we need to be energized for them -- do you hear me? We need to be inspired for those kids. We need to pour everything we have into these elections so that they can have the opportunities they need to build the futures they deserve.
And if we all do that -- this is so within our power -- if we all keep stepping up and digging deep and bringing others with us along the way, then I know that we can keep on making that change we believe in. I know that we can finish what we started. And together, we can keep working on building a future worthy of all of our children.
Are you all ready?
MRS. OBAMA: We can do this. Didn’t you -- did you hear that? It’s us, our voters. We can get -- do you know where our voters are? We’ve got to find them. We’ve got to get them out. We know. The DCCC knows. We’ll get this done, but we need you guys really working hard on this.
Are you ready for this? Can you guys get this done? (Applause.) Let’s just say we will make it happen. We will make it happen. We have great folks to send to Washington to keep in Washington, but it’s going to be on us to make it happen. And I’m going to be there every step of the way.
So thank you, all. God bless. Let’s get it done. (Applause.)
4:53 P.M. EDT