Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event
Southern New Hampshire University
Manchester, New Hampshire
5:31 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Hello! (Applause.) Wow. Thank you all so much. Wow! (Applause.) Thank you so much.
First of all, I am so excited to be here. And I want to thank you all. It is hot in here, and you guys -- (applause) -- are hanging in there. Let me just say this, if anybody needs to sit down, sit down. (Laughter.) I will not be offended. If you start feeling -- just sit down. Sit down. (Laughter.)
Thank you so much. I am thrilled. I want to start by thanking Meredith for that very kind introduction -- heartfelt, passionate -- and for all of her work and service to this campaign, to this country. Let’s give her a round of applause. (Applause.)
And I want to thank the State Party Chair, Ray Buckley, for joining us today, as well as Pam Brown for her words earlier today. (Applause.)
And most of all, I want to thank all of you. You all, our extraordinary volunteers, our organizers -- thank you for everything you’re doing every single day, day in and out, to make this campaign possible. I want to thank you for knocking on those doors, registering voters, giving people the information they need about the issues they care about. Because the grassroots work that you all are doing, that is at the core of everything we do in this campaign. And that’s how we did it four years ago; that’s how we’re going to do it again today. So thank you. (Applause.)
And I know this work that you’re doing, that it’s not easy. Being involved in a campaign is not easy. And I know you all are busy. Everybody is busy. You’ve got lives to live, jobs to do, classes to attend, families to raise. But I also know that there’s a reason why you’re here today, and it’s not just because we all support a phenomenal President, my husband. (Applause.) And it’s not just because we want to win an election -- which we do, and we will. (Applause.)
What I remind people everywhere I go is that we’re here and we’re doing this because of the values we believe in. It’s our values. We’re doing this because of the vision for this country that we all share. We’re doing this because we believe that everyone in this country should have a fair shot. (Applause.) And that means that every single child in this country should have good schools to go to, right? (Applause.) All of our kids should be able to attend college without a mountain of debt. (Applause.)
We believe that everyone should do their fair share, which means teachers and firefighters shouldn’t pay higher taxes than millionaires and billionaires. (Applause.) We believe that if you work hard, you shouldn’t go bankrupt because somebody gets sick. (Applause.) You shouldn’t lose your home because someone loses a job. And after a lifetime of hard work, you should be able to retire with dignity and security. (Applause.)
These are basic American values, right? These are the foundation of this country, the values that so many of us were raised with, including myself.
You all know my story by now. My father was a pump operator at the city water plant. He did that job his entire life. And neither of my parents had a chance to get a college degree. But let me tell you what my parents did do for me, which I know many people share this story -- my parents saved for us. They sacrificed everything for us. They poured everything they had into me and my brother so that we could get the kind of education and have the kind of opportunities they could only dream of. And education was everything in our family. It was our ticket to the middle class, our pathway to the American Dream. (Applause.)
And when my brother and I finally made it to college, pretty much all of our tuition came from student loans and grants. People can understand that, right? (Applause.) But my dad still had to pay a small portion of that tuition himself. And let me tell you, every semester he was determined to pay that bill, and to pay it on time. My father was so proud to be sending his kids to college, and he made sure that we never missed a registration deadline because his check was late. Like so many people in this country, my father took great pride in being able to earn a living that allowed him to handle his responsibilities to his family. That’s all he wanted. He wanted to be able to pay his bills, and pay them on time.
My father’s life is a testament to the basic American promise that no matter who you are or how you started out, in this country, if you work hard, you can build a decent life for yourself and an even better life for your kids. (Applause.) And what I want people to understand is my husband understands that promise because that’s his story as well. That’s why I married him. (Applause.)
He’s the son of a single mother who struggled to put herself through school and pay the bills. He’s the grandson of a woman who woke up every day before dawn to catch a bus at her job at the bank. And even though Barack’s grandmother was good at her job and she worked hard to support his family, like so many women she hit that glass ceiling and watched men no more qualified than she was climb up the ladder ahead of her. But what he also saw was a woman that never complained -- never complained. How many people do we know like that in our lives? She just kept getting up, just kept giving her best every single day to support her family.
So what I want everybody to know is Barack knows what it means when a family struggles. It’s not a hypothetical for him. He knows what it means to work hard because you want something better for your kids and your grandkids. And like me, and like so many of you, Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it. (Applause.) And he believes that when you’ve worked hard -- right? -- when you’ve worked hard and done well, and you’ve had the chance to walk through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back and you give other folks the chance to succeed. (Applause.)
And more than anything else, that’s what’s at stake in this election. That’s why we’re here -- it’s that dream; it’s that fundamental American promise. And from now until November, we’re going to need all of you -- all of you to get out there and tell people that you know -- tell them about Barack’s values. Tell them about his vision -- our vision -- and about the choice we face in this election.
This election is a choice about our economy. It’s about building a strong and growing middle class. So I want you to remind people that Barack has cut taxes for working families by $3,600. (Applause.) He has cut taxes for small businesses 18 times -- (applause) -- because your President knows that rebuilding our economy starts with the restaurants and stores and the startups in this country that create two-thirds of all new jobs in America.
And I want you to remind people how back when Barack first took office, this economy was losing an average of 750,000 jobs a month -- a month! That’s what he inherited. That’s what welcomed him after his inauguration. But I also want you to tell people that for the past 28 straight months, we’ve actually been gaining private sector jobs -- a total of more than 4 million new jobs in this economy. You have to let them know. (Applause.)
So while we have a long way to go to rebuild our economy, people have to understand, today, millions of people are collecting a paycheck again; millions of people like my dad are able to pay their bills again.
This election is also a choice about the health of our families. The fact is that over the past century -- okay? -- 100 years, so many Presidents have tried and failed to meet the challenge of health care reform. But your President was determined. (Applause.) Yes, he was determined. Barack was driven by the stories of the people he’d met -- the grandparents who couldn’t afford their medicines, the families going broke because a child got sick, the woman dying of cancer whose insurance company wouldn’t cover her care. And that’s what kept him going day after day. That’s why he fought so hard for historic reform.
And today, because of that reform, our parents and grandparents are paying hundreds less for their prescription drugs. (Applause.) Our kids can stay on our insurance until they’re 26 years old -- (applause) -- so our young people in this country don’t have to go without health care right after they graduate and they’re out there trying to build their lives and look for a job.
Because of this reform, insurance companies have to cover basic preventative care -- things like contraception, cancer screenings, prenatal care, at no [extra] cost. (Applause.) They can no longer discriminate against you because you have an illness that they call a preexisting condition. (Applause.) And also, if you get a serious illness -- something like breast cancer -- and you need really expensive treatment, your insurance company can no longer tell you, sorry, you’ve hit your lifetime limit and we’re not paying anymore. That is now illegal thanks to health reform. No more. (Applause.)
But make no mistake about it, this November we get to decide: Do we want these reforms to be repealed?
MRS. OBAMA: Or do we want the people we love to have the care that they need? It’s our choice. That’s the choice we face in this election.
This election is a choice about whether our kids can attend college without a mountain of debt. Let me share something with you -- when Barack and I were first starting out in our lives, and we were all in love and buying a house and doing -- our combined student loan bill each month was actually higher than our mortgage. How many people can relate to that? (Applause.)
So when it comes to student debt, trust me, my husband and I, we’ve been there. And that’s why Barack doubled funding for Pell Grants, fought so hard to stop student loan interest rates from increasing. (Applause.) Because he wants all young people to be able to get the education they need for the jobs they deserve.
Barack wants all of our kids to fulfill their promise. And that’s why he’s been fighting so hard for the DREAM Act. (Applause.) He’s fighting for responsible young people who came to this country as children, through no fault of their own, and were raised as Americans, because he believes that, yes, these young people also deserve a chance to go to college, to contribute to our economy, to serve the country they know and love -- all of our kids. (Applause.)
This election is a choice about keeping our country safe. So I want you to remind people that after 10 long years of war, after so many of our heroic men and women in uniform served, sacrificed, gave their lives, Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat to this country. (Applause.)
And you can remind folks that Barack kept his promise to bring our troops home from Iraq, and he’s working hard to make sure they get the benefits and support they’ve earned. (Applause.)
And today, our troops no longer have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love because Barack ended “don’t ask, don’t tell.” (Applause.)
This election is a choice about supporting women and families in this country. So be sure to let people know that your President believes that women should be able to make our own choices about our health care. (Applause.)
I want you to remind people that it’s now easier for women to get equal pay for equal work because of the first bill he signed into law, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. First thing he did as President. (Applause.)
And of course, we have to remind people about those two brilliant Supreme Court Justices he appointed, and how, for the first time in history, we watched three women take their seat on our nation’s highest court. (Applause.)
So when people ask you what this President has done for our country, here’s what you tell them: Tell them how many jobs he’s created. Tell them how much money he’s put back in the pockets of American people. You tell them that more of our kids can afford college, more of our seniors can afford their medicine. Remind folks how Barack ended the war in Iraq, passed historic health reform, and stood up for our most fundamental rights again and again and again. That’s what I want you to tell them. That’s what I want you to tell them. (Applause.)
But I also want you to remind everyone that all of that and so much more -- it’s all at stake this November. It’s all on the line. That is the choice we face. Are we going to continue the change we’ve begun and the progress we’ve made? Or are we going to just let everything we’ve fought for to just slip away?
MRS. OBAMA: No, we can’t do that. We can’t turn back now. We need to keep moving forward, right? This country needs to keep moving forward. Forward! Forward! (Applause.)
And really, more than anything else, that’s what we’re working for. That’s why we’re here -- the chance to finish what we’ve started; the chance to keep fighting for the values we believe in and the vision that we all share, I don’t care who you are. And that’s what my husband has been doing every single day as President. (Applause.)
But let me share something with you. See, as First Lady, I have had the privilege for the last three and a half years of seeing up close and personal what being President looks like. And I’ve seen some things. (Laughter.) But most importantly I have seen how the issues that come across a President’s desk are always the hard ones -- the problems with no easy solutions, I don’t care what anybody says; the judgment calls where the stakes are so high, and there is no margin for error.
And I’ve also seen that, as President, you’re going to get all kinds of advice and guidance from all kinds of people. But at the end of the day, when it comes time to make that decision as President, all a President has to guide them are their life experiences. All you have as President to guide you are your values and your vision for this country. In the end, it all boils down to who you are and what you stand for.
And we all know who my husband is, don’t we? (Applause.) We all know what Barack Obama stands for. (Applause.) And we have seen again and again just how hard he’s willing to fight for us. (Applause.) Remember when folks in Washington told Barack to let the auto industry go under, with more than a million jobs on the line? Remember that? But fortunately Barack had the backs of American workers. He put his faith in the American people. And as a result, today, the auto industry is back on its feet again, and more importantly, people are back at work earning a paycheck for their family. (Applause.)
Remember how folks were telling Barack not to take on health care, right? Remember that? Because I do. They said, leave it for another President, another day. Just keep kicking that can down the road. But fortunately Barack had the backs of American families, and as a result, today, millions of people in this country can finally see a doctor when they’re sick; they can get the care that they need to stay well. (Applause.)
So what you’ve got to tell people is that when it comes time to stand up for the middle class so our kids can go to college and our families can make a decent living and save for retirement, you know what my husband is going to do, don’t you? (Applause.) When we need a President to protect our most basic rights, no matter who we are or where we’re from or what we look like or who we love, you know you can count on my husband because that’s what he’s been doing every single day as President of the United States. (Applause.) That’s why I’m fired up. (Applause.)
But I have said this before -- I have said this before and I will keep saying it: He cannot do this alone. That was never the promise -- never the promise. Barack has said this election will be even closer than the last one. That is the only guarantee.
And I want you to think about it, because in the end this could all come down to those last few thousand votes -- particularly here in New Hampshire. And when you think about the number, right -- and remember that those votes are spread out across an entire state, across hundreds of cities and thousands of precincts -- so when you’re out there, wondering whether what you’re doing is mattering, I want you to think that that one new voter that you register in your precinct, that one neighbor that you help get to the polls on November the 6th, I want you to think that could be the one that makes the difference.
That one conversation that you have, that one new volunteer that you recruit -- that could be the one that puts this over the top. That could be the difference between us waking up on November the 7th and wondering, “could we have done more?”, or feeling the promise of four more years. That’s the difference -- one person. One person. (Applause.)
And that’s why we’re launching our new initiative, It Takes One. It Takes One. Let me explain, because it’s simple. Meredith explained it. With every action you take to move this campaign forward, we’re asking you to inspire one more person. One more person -- bring them with you. Have them step up and do their part.
So if you’re knocking on doors, bring one more person. Bring a friend. If you’re going to an event, bring a neighbor who has never been involved in an election before. When you’re voting early, or even on Election Day, bring one new voter along with you. Everybody knows one person, right? One friend, one colleague, one somebody who is standing on the sidelines who needs you to just shake them up. Send them to barackobama.com/one. Find them and help them get involved.
It’s like Barack has always said: It takes one voice to change a room. And if one voice can change a room, it can change a city. And if it can change a city, it can change a state. If it can change a state, it can change a nation. That is the power of one person stepping up and moving this country forward. (Applause.) So we want you all to multiply yourselves.
And I’m not going to kid you, this journey is going to be long, and it is going to be hard, and there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way. But I just want you all to remember, that’s how change always happens in this country. Real change is slow. But if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight, then eventually we get there. We always do -- maybe not in our lifetimes, but maybe in our children’s lifetimes, maybe in our grandchildren’s lifetimes.
Because in the end, that’s really what this is about. In the end, I want you to remember that’s what elections are always about. Don’t let anybody tell you differently. Elections are always about hope. They’re about our hopes for our children. They’re about the world that we want to leave for them. It’s not about us.
And that’s what I think about every night when I put my girls to bed. I think about how I want to do for them what my dad did for me, what Barack’s grandmother and mother did for him. (Applause.) I want to give my daughters, and all of our sons and daughters, a real foundation for their dreams. I want to give them opportunities worthy of their promise. Because what each of us knows is all of our kids are worthy. They’re all worthy. I want to give our kids that sense of limitless possibility, that belief that here in America, there is always something better out there if you’re willing to work for it.
So when I get tired, I just say to myself, we just can’t turn back now. Not now. We have come so far, but we have so much more work to do. (Applause.)
So I’ve got one last question to ask you: Are you in?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: Are you way in? Are you ready to roll up your sleeves, and fired up? And get it ready to go. We’re going to need you every step of the way. Multiply yourselves. Bring one person into the fold. We’re going to need you every step of the way.
Thank you all. God bless.
5:57 P.M. EDT