The White House
For Immediate Release
August 09, 2012
Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event - Bethlehem, PA
7:26 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Wow! (Applause.) You guys are all here. (Applause.) Thank you so much. Wow, I am just blessed to be here. It’s just really great to see you all. (Applause.)
I want to start by thanking Yvonne for that very kind introduction and for all that she’s doing for the campaign. Let’s give Yvonne a round of applause. (Applause.)
I want to recognize a couple of other people as well -- Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan, who is here. (Applause.) And the First Lady of Allentown, Lisa Pawlowski, is here with her daughter as well. I want to thank them both for joining us. (Applause.) And I know that Laura was out here earlier getting you all fired up, ready to go. I want to thank Laura. (Applause.)
And finally, I want to thank all of you -- wow -- our extraordinary volunteers and organizers. (Applause.) Thank you all for everything you do, day in day out, to make this campaign possible. Just know that all of that work you’re doing -- knocking on doors, registering voters, giving people the information they need about the issues they care about -- all of that work, that grassroots work is at the foundation, it’s at the core of what this campaign is all about. That’s how we did it four years ago; that’s how we’re going to do it again today -- with your help. (Applause.)
And let me say that I understand that the work you’re doing isn’t easy. I’ve had my experiences campaigning, and it is hard work. And I know you all are busy. I know you’re out here -- and it was pouring rain here, I understand. This is amazing that you are here -- you came out in the pouring rain. (Applause.) That’s why we’re going to win. This is it! (Applause.) And you all are making these sacrifices even with the busy lives you have. You’ve got classes to attend, young people. (Applause.) Folks, you all have jobs to do, you’ve got families to raise, but you’re here anyway. (Applause.)
And there is a reason why all of us are here today, and it’s not just because we support a phenomenally -- very cute -- (applause) -- very smart, outstanding, wonderful President, who happens to be my husband. (Applause.) And yes, I’m a little biased. I’m fair game; I think our President is phenomenal. And we’re not just here because we want to win an election -- which we do, and we will. (Applause.)
What I try to remind people is that we’re here, we’re making these sacrifices, we’re making these investments because of the values we believe in. I mean, this is really about 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 in America everyone should have a fair shot, which means -- (applause) -- that means that all of our kids should have good schools, right? (Applause.) All of our young people in this country should be able to attend college without a mountain of debt. (Applause.)
We’re here because we believe that everyone in this country should do their fair share, which means teachers and firefighters shouldn’t pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires. That’s why we’re here. (Applause.) We believe that if you work hard, you shouldn’t go bankrupt because someone 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 some security and dignity. (Applause.)
And what we all know is that these are basic American values. It’s nothing new; this is the foundation of this country. They’re the values that so many of us were raised with, including myself. And I share my story everywhere I go because I’m proud of where I came from. (Applause.)
My father was a pump operator at the city water plant. That was the only job I ever knew him to have. And neither of my parents had a college degree. But what I tell folks is that what my parents did have, they had the ability and drive and desire to save, and they sacrificed, and they poured every ounce of themselves into me and my brother. That’s what we saw. They wanted us to have the kind of education they could only dream of. (Applause.)
And I know that my story isn’t unique. Education was everything in our family. It was our ticket to the middle class, right? It was our pathway to the American Dream. And when my brother and I finally made it to college, pretty much all of our tuition came from student loans and grants. Can people relate to that? (Applause.) But my dad still had to pay a very tiny portion of that tuition himself. And let me tell you, every semester my dad was determined to pay his little portion, and to pay it right on time. See, because he was proud to play a role in sending his kids to college. And he made sure that we never missed a registration deadline because his check was late.
That’s what my father did. That’s who he was. (Applause.) And like so many people in this country, my father took great pride in being able to earn a simple living that allowed him to handle his responsibilities to his family. That’s all he ever wanted. He wanted to be able to pay his bills, and pay them on time. That’s all he wanted.
And let me say this -- what we know is that my dad and so many like him, their lives are a testament to that basic American promise that no matter who you are or how you started out, 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 to share with people about my husband is that he understands that promise because that’s his story as well. That’s one of the many reasons why I love and respect him -- because 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 before dawn to catch a bus to her job at the bank. And even though Barack’s grandmother was good at what she did and she worked hard, like so many women, she hit that glass ceiling and watched men no more qualified than she was -- some she had actually trained -- climb up that ladder ahead of her. But what Barack also saw in his grandmother was someone who never complained. How many people do we know like that in our lives -- never complain? Just kept getting up. He watched her just keep giving her very best every single day to help support her family. (Applause.)
So, believe me, Barack knows what it means when a family struggles. This is not a hypothetical for him. (Applause.) He knows what it means to work hard because you want something better for your kids and your grandkids. Like me, and like so many of us, Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it. And one important thing he believes is that when you’ve worked hard, and you’ve done well, and you’ve walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. (Applause.) You reach back and you give other folks the chance to succeed as well. That’s what we do in America. (Applause.)
And more than anything else, that’s why we’re here. That’s what’s at stake in this election. It’s that dream, that fundamental promise. And from now until November -- less than 90 days -- we’re going to need all of you to get out there and to tell everyone you know -- tell them about Barack’s values. Tell them about his vision. Tell them about the choice we face in this election, because this is an election about choices.
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. Let them know. (Applause.) He has cut taxes for small businesses in this country 18 times -- did you hear me? 18 times. (Applause.) Because what your President understands is that rebuilding our economy starts with the restaurants and the stores and the startups that account for two-thirds of all new jobs in this country. That’s why he did it. (Applause.)
And I also want you to remind people, back when Barack first took office, what awaited him after inauguration, it was an economy that was losing an average of 750,000 jobs every month. Every month. That’s what he inherited. But I also want you to let people know that for the past 29 straight months, we’ve actually been gaining private sector jobs -- a total of 4.5 million new jobs under this administration. (Applause.)
So, yes, while we have a long way to go, we have more work to do to rebuild this economy, let us not forget 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 a choice about the health of our families. I mean, the fact is -- listen to this -- that over the past century -- okay, 100 years -- so many of our Presidents have tried and failed to meet the challenge of health reform. But your President was determined. (Applause.) Your President was driven by the stories of the people he’d met. You know these people -- the grandparents who couldn’t afford their medicine, 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. And that’s why he fought so hard for this historic reform. (Applause.)
And today, because of this reform our parents and grandparents are paying hundreds less for prescription drugs. (Applause.) Out kids, our young people are able to stay on our insurance until they’re 26 years old. (Applause.) I mean, think about it -- we all know; we don’t want our kids out there graduating, trying to build their lives without health care. No more. And also because of this reform, insurance companies can no longer deny you coverage for illnesses that they call preexisting conditions. (Applause.) And they have to cover basic preventative care -- things like contraception, mammograms, at no extra cost. (Applause.)
And also because of this reform -- this is something that’s really important -- you know that if you really get sick, you get a serious illness -- something like breast cancer -- and you need expensive treatment, your insurance company can no longer tell you, sorry, you’ve hit your lifetime limit and we’re not paying a penny more. Thanks to health reform, that is now illegal. (Applause.)
So 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 they need?
AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: But that’s the choice in this election.
This election is a choice about whether our kids can attend college without a mountain of debt. Look, believe it or not, when Barack and I were first starting out our life together -- (laughter) -- we bought our little first place; we were so in love -- we still are -- (laughter) -- just a little busier -- (laughter) -- but our combined student loan bill each month was actually higher than our mortgage. Can I get an Amen from people who understand that?
MRS. OBAMA: That’s how we go to school. 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. (Applause.) And that’s why he fought so hard to stop student loan interest rates from rising -- (applause) -- because he wants every young person to be able to get the education they need for the jobs they deserve. He wants all of our kids in this country to fulfill their promise -- all of them.
And that’s why he’s been fighting so hard for the DREAM Act. (Applause.) He has been fighting for responsible young people who came to this country as children, through no fault of their own, and were raised as Americans -- they know no other country -- because your President believes that, yes, these young people also deserve the chance to go to college and contribute to our economy and serve the country they know and love. (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 young heroic men and women in uniform served and sacrificed and so many of them have given their lives, Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat to this country. (Applause.)
And I want you to remind people that Barack kept his promise and brought our troops home from Iraq -- (applause) -- and he’s working hard to make sure that they get the benefits and the support they’ve earned. And today, no longer will our troops have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love because Barack finally ended "don't ask, don't tell." (Applause.)
This election is a choice about supporting women and families in this country. (Applause.) So, ladies, in particular, I want you to tell folks that Barack believes that women should be able to make our own choices about our health care. (Applause.) Yes, we can!
AUDIENCE: Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can!
MRS. OBAMA: Remind them that it’s now easier for women to get equal pay for equal work because [of] the first bill Barack signed into law, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. (Applause.)
And finally, don’t forget about those two brilliant Supreme Court Justices my husband appointed, and for the first time in history our sons and daughters watched three women take their seats on our nation’s highest court. (Applause.)
So when folks ask you what this President has done for our country, here's what I want you to tell them: I want you to tell them how many jobs he’s created. Tell them how much money he’s put back in the pockets of working people. You can 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 care reform, and stood up for our most fundamental rights again and again and again. (Applause.) That’s what I want you to tell them. That’s what I want them to know. That’s why you're here. (Applause.)
But I also want you to remind them that all of this and so much more, it's all at stake this November. It is all on the line. And that's the choice we face.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: Yes, sweetie, four more years, for you. (Laughter and applause.)
The question we have to ask ourselves is are we going to continue the change we’ve begun and the progress we’ve made? (Applause.) Or are we going to allow everything that we’ve worked so hard for to just slip away? What are we going to do?
No, no. We can't turn back now. We need to keep moving forward.
AUDIENCE: Forward! Forward! Forward!
MRS. OBAMA: Forward! Forward! (Applause.) Absolute -- forward. That’s where we're going. We're going forward. (Applause.)
And more than anything else, that’s what we’re working for -- the chance to finish what we started. The chance to keep fighting for the values we believe in and the vision we all share. (Applause.) This is our vision. And that’s what my husband has been doing every single day as President.
And let me share something with you -- over the past three and a half years, as First Lady I’ve had the opportunity to see up close and personal what being President looks like. And let me share a few things with you, because I’ve seen how the issues that come across a President’s desk are always the hard ones –- the problems with no easy solutions, the judgment calls where the stakes are so high and the margin for error is absent.
And as President, you're going to get all kinds of advice and opinions from all kinds of people. But at the end of the day, when it comes time to make that decision, as President, all you have to guide you are your life experiences. All you have to lead you are your values, is your vision for this country. Because in the end, it all boils down to who are you, 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, and we have seen again and again just how hard he’s willing to fight for us. (Applause.)
Remember when folks in Washington were telling Barack to let the auto industry go under with more than a million jobs on the line? Remember that was the advice he was getting? But fortunately, your President had the backs of American workers. He put his faith in the American people. And fortunately, today, the auto industry is back on its feet again and people are back at work again collecting a paycheck. (Applause.)
Remember how folks were telling Barack not to take on health care? They said, leave it for another day, another president; just keep kicking that can down the road. But Barack had the backs of American families, and as a result, millions of people today in this country can finally see a doctor when they’re sick. (Applause.) They can get the care they need to stay well.
So I just want you to think about this: 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 Barack Obama is going to do. 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.) Every day. He's been working for us.
But I have said this again and again: he cannot do it alone. That was never the promise. He needs all of you. Because Barack has said this election will be even closer than the last one. That’s a guarantee. And in the end -- I want you to think about it -- this election could all come down to those last few thousand votes, right? Particularly here in this state. (Applause.) And when you think about a few thousand votes spread across an entire state -- think about it -- across hundreds of cities and thousands of precincts -- think about that -- one new voter, that one new voter that you register in your precinct, that one neighbor you help get to the polls, that could be the one that makes the difference. That’s how I want you all to think.
That one conversation you have, that one new volunteer you recruit, that could be the one that puts us over the top. That could be the difference between us waking up November 7th and asking ourselves, “could I have done more?” or feeling the promise of four more years. That’s the difference. (Applause.)
And that’s exactly why we’ve launched this new initiative that we’re calling It Takes One. It Takes One. It's simple. Because sometimes people underestimate the power that they have as individuals. So what we're asking people is every time you take action to move this campaign forward, we’re asking you to inspire one more person to step up and do their part along with you.
So if you’re making phone calls, if you're knocking on doors, bring that little knucklehead friend of yours. (Laughter.) The one that’s just kind of hanging out, he hasn't really registered, he's not really sure -- pick that one. (Laughter.) If you’re coming to an event, bring a neighbor who’s never been involved in this campaign, who's not sure, who doesn’t know what the President has done, who doesn’t understand the choices -- bring them. If you're going to go vote early or on Election Day, bring that one new voter along with you who's going to need some help and some encouragement.
Find one friend, one colleague, one person in your family -- we all have them, right? We all know them. Some of them may be here. (Laughter.) And you can also send people directly to “barackobama.com/one." They don’t even need to leave their house to find out ways they can get involved.
Because it’s like Barack has always said -– it takes just one voice to change a room. And if a voice -- one voice -- can change a room, it can certainly change a city. And if it can change a city, it can change a state. And if it can change a state, it can change the nation. (Applause.) That is the power of one. That is the power of one. (Applause.)
So think about it. Find your one. And if you can find more, that’s good, too. (Laughter.)
But I’m not going to kid you, this journey is going to be long -- even though the days are closing in -- and it is going to be hard. And there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way. But what I remind people, and what I remind myself, is that’s how change always happens in this country.
Real change takes time. Real change takes patience. (Applause.) But when we keep showing up, when we keep fighting that good fight, what we have to remember is that eventually we’ll get there, because we always have. In this country, we've always moved forward. But maybe not in our lifetimes -- maybe in our children’s lifetimes. Maybe in our grandchildren’s lifetimes.
Because in the end, that’s what this is about. It's not about us, it's about them. In the end, that’s what elections are always about. Don't let anyone tell you differently. Elections are always about hope. They’re about our hopes for our children. They’re about the world we want to leave for them, the next generation.
And let me tell you -- that is what I think about every night when I put my girls to bed. That’s what keeps me fired up. That’s what keeps me motivated. That’s what keeps me energized. I think about how I want to do for them what my Dad did for me, what Barack’s mom and grandma did for him. (Applause.)
I want to give my daughters –- and all of our sons and daughters -– a foundation for their dreams, you know what I mean? I want to give them opportunities worthy of their promise. Because all of our kids are worthy. They are so worthy. I want to give our kids that sense of limitless possibility, that belief that here in America -- the greatest country on the planet -- there’s always something better out there if you’re willing to work for it. (Applause.)
So in my mind, we can’t afford to turn back now. Not now. (Applause.) Not when we have come so far. But we have so much more to do. We do.
So let me ask you this: Are you in?
MRS. OBAMA: Are you ready for the work?
MRS. OBAMA: Are you ready to roll up your sleeves for the next generation, find that one friend, shake them up? Get them involved? I hope you're fired up, because if you haven't noticed I'm fired up. (Applause.) And we're going to need all of you out there working hard.
Thank you all. God bless.
7:55 P.M. EDT