Remarks of First Lady Michelle Obama in Support of Senator Russ Feingold
Thank you so much. I am so thrilled to be here with all of you today.
Thank you, Russ, for that very kind introduction. And thank you for inviting me here today.
Now, when my husband was here in Wisconsin a couple of weeks ago, he talked about how independent and outspoken Russ is…and how Russ doesn’t always agree with him. So Russ, that’s something that you and I have in common.
But my husband also said something else about Russ that I think is worth repeating today. He said that Russ is always looking out for the people of this state.
And I think that’s clear in just about everything Russ has done during his time in office.
Over the years, he’s held more than 1,200 town hall sessions to listen to the people he serves…and day after day, he’s taken courageous and principled stands on their behalf.
He’s stood up for health insurance reform. He’s stood up for campaign finance reform. And he’s fought to create jobs and cut taxes for working folks.
So he’s been out there every day working hard for families here in Wisconsin. And I’m proud to be here for him today. Let’s give him a round of applause.
And let’s also give a round of applause for this state’s terrific First Lady, Jessica Doyle…for this District’s terrific Representative, Congresswoman Gwen Moore…and for our terrific candidate for Congress, State Senator Julie Lassa…thanks to all of you for joining us today.
Now, to tell you the truth, this isn’t something I do very often.
In fact, I haven’t really done it since a little campaign you might remember a couple of years ago.
As a self-described Mom-in-Chief, my first priority has been making sure that my girls are happy and healthy and adjusting to their new life in the White House.
Like every parent I know, my children are the center of my world. My hopes for their future are at the heart of every single thing I do.
And that’s really why I’m here today.
You see, more than anything else, I come to this as a mom.
When I think about the issues facing our nation, I think about what it means for my girls…and I think about what it means for the world we’re leaving for them and for all our children.
As I travel around this country, and look into the eyes of the children I meet, I see clearly what’s at stake.
I see it in the child whose mom has just lost her job and worries about how her family will pay the bills.
I see it in the child whose dad has just been deployed and is trying so hard to be brave for his younger siblings.
I see it in the child stuck in a crumbling school, who looks around and wonders, “What does this mean for my future?”
That’s how I see the world. And I think that’s how most folks see the world.
That’s something that we all share…that regardless of where we’re from…or what we look like…or how much money we have…we all want to leave something better for our kids.
I know that was true in my family growing up.
That’s why even after my Dad was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, he hardly ever missed a day of work at the city water plant, no matter how sick he was, or how tired he felt…because he wanted something better for me and my brother.
And it was also true in Barack’s family.
That’s why Barack’s grandmother woke up before dawn each morning to catch the bus to her job at a bank. And even when she was passed over for promotions year after year because she was a woman, she rarely complained…because she wanted something more for Barack and his sister.
That’s what the American Dream is all about…that fundamental belief that even if you don’t have much…if you work hard, if you do what you’re supposed to do…you can build a decent life for yourself, and an even better life for your children.
But for too many folks, that dream feels like it’s slipping away.
Even before this recession hit, for too many people, all that hard work wasn’t adding up like it used to.
For years now, middle class families have seen their incomes falling while the cost of things like health care and college tuition have gone through the roof.
This is something that Barack and I heard in every corner of the country during the campaign – folks asking themselves: Are we going to go broke if we get sick?
What if we can’t pay the mortgage…what will we do then?
How will I ever afford to send my kids to college if I’m not rich?
Where can I find a good public school for my kids? And if I can’t, what do I do then? How will I give my kids the same chances that I had?
Folks all over the country were worrying that maybe that fundamental American promise was being broken – and that no one in Washington was listening.
And that’s why my husband ran for President in the first place. Because he knows that his life, like mine, is only possible because of the American Dream. And keeping that dream alive and within reach for all Americans is what drives him every single day.
That’s why folks like you across this country joined our campaign.
That’s why you made those calls and knocked on those doors in the freezing snow and the blazing sun.
And that’s why you and I are here today.
We’re not here just because of an election. We’re not here just because we support Russ.
We’re here to renew that promise. We’re here to restore that dream.
We’re here because we believe that no child’s future should be limited because of the neighborhood they’re born in. We believe that every child should have access to good public schools like I had…and that every child should have a chance to go to college even if their parents aren’t wealthy, like Barack and I did.
We believe that if you’re sick, you should be able to see a doctor. And if you work hard, you should make a decent wage, and have a secure retirement.
We believe that if you fulfill your responsibilities every day, you should be able to provide for your family, just like my folks did…and have opportunities to pursue your dreams and leave behind something more for your kids, just like we’re all trying to do today.
That is the vision we all share. It’s the same vision my husband fought for as a young community organizer all those years ago, trying to bring jobs and hope to struggling neighborhoods on the South Side of Chicago.
It’s the same vision he fought for in the Illinois State Senate and the U.S. Senate.
It’s the same vision he talked about all those months on the campaign trail.
And it’s the same vision that has guided him…the change he’s been fighting for…every single day in the White House.
Barack knows that too many folks are out of work right now, and too many paychecks just don’t stretch to cover the bills.
That’s why he cut taxes for middle class families. He cut taxes for small businesses as well – not just once, not just twice, but 16 times – so these businesses can start creating jobs again.
He stopped credit card companies from jacking up their rates and slapping folks with hidden fees.
And the very first bill he signed into law as President was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, to ensure that women get equal pay for equal work.
Barack believes that every young person deserves the chances that he and I had to get an education.
That’s why he’s reforming our schools from top to bottom.
He’s made historic investments in our community colleges.
He’s increased student aid and tuition tax credits. He’s eliminated tens of billions of dollars in wasteful subsidies to big banks that provide student loans…and he’s sending that money where it belongs: to students.
And that’s not just an investment in their future, it’s an investment in our country’s future.
Barack believes that it is our solemn obligation to serve our men and women in uniform as well as they’ve served us.
So he’s made one of the largest investments in our veterans in decades.
He’s helping them get the education they’ve earned and the good jobs they deserve.
And he’s making sure they get the health care they need…including treatment for the wounds of today’s wars like traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder.
And as many of you know, I’ve also made supporting military families one of my top priorities as First Lady…because I want to make sure that these hard working families get the respect, the appreciation, and the support they deserve.
Barack is also investing in clean energy, so we can create good jobs and leave a healthier planet for our kids.
He’s investing in scientific research, including stem cell research, that will transform our children’s lives long after we’re gone.
And he’s appointed two brilliant, accomplished women to serve as Supreme Court Justices. And for the first time in history, our daughters – and our sons – watched three women take their seats on our nation’s highest court.
Finally, Barack knows the heartbreak and frustration that our health insurance system has caused far too many families. That’s why he refused to take the easy route and walk away from health insurance reform.
Because he’ll never forget how his own mother spent the final months of her life fighting with her insurance company because they said her cancer was a pre-existing condition.
Barack doesn’t want any family to go through something like that ever again.
And thanks to the reform that Russ and so many of you helped pass, they won’t have to.
Thanks to this reform, insurance companies can no longer drop your coverage just because you get sick.
They can no longer deny coverage to kids with pre-existing conditions.
Kids can stay on their parents’ plans until they’re 26 years old.
And insurance plans have to provide preventive care – things like breast cancer screenings and prenatal care – at no extra cost. No extra charges, no extra fees. And that’s not just going to save money, that’s going to save lives.
Now, these are just some examples of the kind of change that we’re making. And it’s because of all of you…it’s because of leaders like Russ…that so much has been accomplished in such a short period of time.
But I know that a lot of folks are still hurting.
I know that for a lot of folks, change hasn’t come fast enough. It hasn’t come fast enough for Barack or for Russ either. Not when so many folks are still looking for work…and struggling to pay the bills…and worrying about providing for their kids.
I think that many of us came into this expecting to see all the change we talked about happen all at once, right away, the minute Barack walked through the Oval Office door.
But the truth is, it’s going to take a lot longer to dig ourselves out of this hole than any of us would like. The truth is, this is the hard part.
But remember, that’s exactly what Barack told us. That’s exactly what we all told each other during all those months on the campaign trail.
He told us that change is hard…he said that change is slow…and it doesn’t just happen on its own. We all understood that change takes struggle and sacrifice and compromise.
From our first days as a nation, every time folks have tried to make change, they faced fear and doubt. They faced setbacks and disappointments.
But as Americans, we have always pushed past the cynicism and kept moving forward.
And that’s what we need to do again today.
Because there is so much at stake right now – for our future and for our children’s future.
And we’ve come much too far to turn back now.
We’ve come too far to stop giving our kids the chances in life they deserve.
We’ve come too far to stop rebuilding that middle class security for our families.
We’ve come too far to stop putting the American Dream that I know…and that my husband knows…and that Russ knows…back within reach for all of us.
Now, it won’t be easy. Real change never is.
But you know what I do during those times when change seems hardest? I think about my Dad.
I think about how, no matter how tired he got as he struggled to walk…no matter how frustrated he felt trying to dress himself in the morning…he just kept on going every day.
And that keeps me going.
I think about Barack’s grandmother…and how no matter how discouraged she felt…she just kept getting up and giving her very best.
And I think about all the folks just like her who I’ve met these past few years…the folks who work that extra shift…the folks who take that extra class…the folks who wake up every morning without complaint or regret and do everything they can for the people they love.
Those folks inspire me every single day.
Finally, I think about how we all felt on Election Night.
And I think about how we felt on Inauguration Day.
We were excited. We were energized. We were hopeful, because we knew we had a chance to change the country we love for the better.
And the truth is, we have that same chance – and we have that same responsibility – today. The chance to continue the progress we’ve made. The chance to finish what we’ve started.
Because this election isn’t just about all that we’ve accomplished these past couple of years…it’s about all we have left to do in the months and years ahead.
But my husband can’t do this alone. He needs leaders like Russ to help him.
And we need folks like all of you to make that happen. We need you to make those phone calls for Russ. We need you to knock on those doors for Russ.
And we need you to get everyone you know to vote for Russ. And folks can do that right now, today, because early voting has already started here in Wisconsin. All you have to do is log on to VoteNowWisconsin.com to find out where to cast your ballot.
We also need you to find those folks who are planning to sit this one out, and we need you to tell them that they can’t vote just once and then just hope for change to happen.
They’ve got to vote all the time, every time. They’ve got to vote for their council-members, and their mayors, and governors, and for Senators like Russ Feingold.
Because in the end, our campaign was never just about putting one man in the White House.
It was about building a movement for change millions of voices strong – a movement that lasts beyond one year and one campaign.
And if you keep standing with Russ, and bringing folks together for Russ…if you’re still as fired up and ready to go as you were two years ago…then I know that we can keep that movement going. I know we can keep that American Dream alive.
And years from today, our children and grandchildren will be able to look back and say that we kept faith with the values we were raised with…that we gave them that better life they deserved…and that we met our obligation to leave for them, and for their kids and grandkids, an America worthy of their dreams.
Yes we can, and yes we must, and yes we will.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.