the WHITE HOUSEPresident Barack Obama

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The White House
Office of the First Lady
For Immediate Release

Remarks by the First Lady at a Democratic National Convention Committee Event

Ballantyne Hotel
Charlotte, North Carolina

5:42 P.M. EST

MRS. OBAMA:  Oh, my goodness.  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)  You all, rest yourselves.  Thank you.  Thank you so much.  It is truly just a pleasure and a joy and an honor to be here with all of you in the Queen City.

I want to start by thanking Mayor Foxx for that very kind introduction.  Thank you for sharing your story.  It was wonderful to meet your mom and your grandma, too, and that history is very profound and it's something that we should all stay focused on.  That's why Charlotte is so special.  It's that community.  It's that history.  But thank you for your leadership and thank you for being here today.

I also want to thank Governor Perdue, who's here.  How are you?  (Applause.)  I also have to thank my basketball buddy today, Senator Kay Hagan -- we were hanging out at the CIAA today.  (Applause.)  We didn't actually shoot hoops, but we cheered some little people on and it was a lot of fun.  We also have Congressmen Mel Watt, and Larry Kissell, and G.K. Butterfield, who are here somewhere -- maybe they didn't -- there they are.  (Applause.)  Thank you, guys.  Thank you so much.  You all will be sick of me before September.  We'll be seeing a lot of each other.  (Laughter.) 

And I also want to thank and recognize host committee co-chair Jim Rogers.  (Applause.)  He was telling me that he saw the President last night, in New York, and he told -- the President told you to take care of me.  So when I get -- I told him when I got home safely I'd tell him that it was all because of you, Jim.  (Laughter.)  But thank you so much for your work.  This is a wonderful event and I'm glad I could be here.

And of course, I want to give a special hello to dear friends of ours who have just been so amazing throughout this wonderful journey -- the legendary James Taylor, his wife Kim and their family.  I want to thank them for performing tonight.  (Applause.)  And they have their two fabulous sons here who I just met.  They're terrific -- handsome and tall, too.  I like that in you.  And they promised me they would be fluent in French in a month.  (Laughter.)  Setting the bar high; putting you on the spot.  But thank you, thank you.  You all are terrific.  I know everybody enjoyed the performance and they will -- those who will be joining us later.

And finally, I want to thank all of you.  Thank you for being here tonight.  Thank you for your commitment to this city and to this state.  And most of all, thank you for supporting the convention that we’ll be holding here in September.

And I don’t know about you, but for me, it is hard to believe that 2012 is here already and the convention is just six months away, because it seems like it was just yesterday when Barack and I were beginning this journey. 

And I have to say, I have to be honest with you, that when Barack first started talking about running for President, I was a little hesitant about the idea.  Malia and Sasha were very young then.  They were 10 and seven -- no, it was even -- they were even younger than that.  They were babies.  And I was worried about the toll that the process would take on our family.  And I’m sure, like a lot of folks, I still had some cynicism about politics.  So to say that it took some convincing on Barack’s part is a bit of an understatement.  And even as I began to travel around the country, I was still a little uneasy about the whole “President thing” -- that's what Malia called it throughout.  It was like, "Dad still doing that President thing?"  (Laughter.) 

But something happened during those first few months on the campaign trail that changed me.  I realized right from the beginning that all this wasn’t just about handshakes and photo ops and stump speeches.  It was really about those one-on-one conversations that you get to have with your fellow Americans in living rooms and on back porches, where you can really get to know people.  And that's something that I hadn’t expected.

And as I traveled the country, I would have the privilege of hearing about what was going on in people’s lives, hearing about their hopes and their dreams, their worries, their struggles.  Folks would tell me about the businesses that they were trying to keep afloat; about the homes that they loved but could no longer afford; about the child in their life that was so smart, who could be anything she wanted, if she could just get to college, if they could just afford that tuition.

And truly, these stories moved me in a way that was so unexpected.  And more than anything else, these stories were familiar to me.  They reminded me of my own family’s stories.   They reminded me of Barack’s family’s stories.

And the folks I met weren’t content to just talk about the challenges that they were facing.  They wanted to act.  They wanted to get involved.  They wanted to do their part.  They wanted to be a critical part of this democratic process.  And many of them were doing it for the very first time.  Some for the first time in years, some for the first time ever. 

And that’s why I’m so proud to be here today.  Because that spirit of engagement, that belief that everyone has a role to play -- that is what’s truly driving this convention.  For instance, I know the convention team has been reaching out to people online, asking folks to share their ideas about how we can make this whole process most open and accessible for people.  I know that there are plans to engage as many as 10,000 volunteers, many of them right from the Charlotte community.  And like Mayor Foxx said, the funding for all of these efforts comes only through the support of people like all of you.  So there’s a lot happening to make sure that everyone feels welcomed and included here in Charlotte this September. 

And luckily all of you here in Charlotte have shown again and again that you know how to get people engaged.  I know that you’re already making long-term plans to use this convention as a way to build a stronger city, and that’s a good thing.  You’re centering those plans on sustainability, on economic inclusion, and two issues dear to my heart:  youth engagement and healthy families.  You’re leading civic efforts to strengthen your schools and provide affordable housing.  You’re a national leader in charitable giving and workplace donations. 

And of course, you all know a thing or two about welcoming folks to this city and this state, and that is what’s going to be the most important thing.  Because my family and I, we have experienced this firsthand.  It isn’t an accident that we’re here in this state.  I mean, over the past five years, we have spent a lot of time here in North Carolina -- from the Atlantic coast to the research triangle to the smoky mountains and everywhere else in between.  And I’ll tell you, the President loves it here.  Loves it here.  (Applause.)  And I do, too.  In fact, we chose to spend a family vacation in Asheville in 2010 and he’s still talking about that.

I have to tell you, every time we visit, from the minute we first set foot in this state, you all make us feel right at home.  And that’s true regardless of party.  This is a welcoming state in so many ways.  You all truly embody the idea of southern hospitality to the core.  You’ve opened your homes to us.  You have been so kind to our girls, which means so much to a mom.  And everywhere we’ve gone, we’ve met so many bighearted folks, who are eager to help others and give back to their communities -- and to their country.  And that’s one of the many things that makes this city and this state -- and this country -- so great, and we can’t lose sight of that.

And that was never more clear to me than back in March of 2009, when I took my first -- very first trip outside of Washington, D.C., as First Lady.  And where did I come?  I chose to come here, to North Carolina, to visit with military families at Fort Bragg.  And I will never forget that it was a wonderful day.  I met with troops, I met with military spouses, some of the cutest kids, the smartest kids you’ll ever want to meet.

And let me tell you, these folks are incredible.  I mean, this is your state, your community; I know you’ve encountered some of these awesome men and women.  These military families -- they’re spouses who run their households, and raise their kids, and juggle full-time jobs all alone through multiple deployments.  They are wounded warriors who’ve undergone surgery after surgery, enduring pain that most of us couldn’t even imagine.  But they still tell you they’re not just going to walk again, but they’re going to run, and they’re going to run marathons.  They are brave men and women from every background and every walk of life, who signed up to serve their country in a time of war.

They and their families are making all kinds of sacrifices every day, and they’re doing it without complaint, and without ever asking for anything in return.  And they are the very best this country has to offer.  Every day, they make us so proud.  Every day, they’re doing their part -- they’re fighting for everything we hold dear, everything that makes us who we are as Americans.

And in the end, when I think about this convention, that’s what this is about, this convention.  It’s a chance for us to connect with each other around our shared values.  It’s a chance to get more people involved in our democracy.  And it’s a chance to write another chapter in the beautiful story that is America -– the story of folks who come together, year after year, each of us doing our part to perfect our union.

So I’m looking forward to this.  It’s going to be good.  It’s going to be fun.  And we are glad we are doing it here.

So once again, I want thank you all -- thank you all for making this all possible.  Thank you for your support of Charlotte in 2012.  Thank you for welcoming us to this great American city.  We are so excited to be coming back here, and we can’t wait to see you all again in September.  So don’t get sick of us.  (Laughter.)

Thank you so much.  (Applause.) 

5:56 P.M. EST