Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event - Montgomery County, PA
Upper Dublin High School
Fort Washington, Pennsylvania
4:23 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Well, thank you so much. (Applause.) You all seem pretty fired up. It’s good stuff. (Applause.) I am beyond thrilled to be here today.
And I want to start by thanking Julie and her family for their hard work, for that very kind introduction and for everything they’re doing on behalf of the campaign. Let’s give Julie a round of applause. (Applause.)
And I want to thank and recognize a couple of people as well -- the Pennsylvania Treasurer, Rob McCord; Montgomery County Commissioners Leslie Richards and Josh Shapiro -- (audio interruption) -- they need about the issues they care about. And you have to know that the kind of grassroots work that you all are doing on the ground, that is the work that’s at the core of this campaign. It is how we did it four years ago, and it’s how we’re going to do it again today. (Applause.)
And I’ve been involved in a campaign or two, so I know that the work that you’re doing is not easy. And you all have busy lives. You all have a lot going on, like Julie, working full time, all the -- everybody is doing something, whether it’s handling your job, attending classes -- I see a lot of young people out here. (Applause.) You’re taking care of business. Folks have families to raise. So I know it takes a lot to invest in something like this.
But I also know that there is a reason why all of us are here today, and I know it’s not just because we all support who I believe is an extraordinary, phenomenal -- (audio interruption) -- (applause.) And yes, I’m a little biased, just a little bit. (Laughter.) And it’s not just because we want to win an election -- which we do, and we will. (Applause.)
We’re here and we’re doing this because of our values. That’s what I remind people. We’re here because of the values we believe in. We’re here, we’re doing this because of the vision for this country that we all share. I don’t care who we are, we all share this vision. (Applause.) We’re doing this because we believe that everyone in this country should do their fair share; they should have a fair shot. That means that all our kids should have good schools. (Applause.) All our kids should be able to attend college without a mountain of debt. (Applause.) And what I said before about doing our fair share, that means teachers and firefighters shouldn’t pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires. (Applause.) We believe that in America, if you work hard, you shouldn’t go bankrupt just because someone gets sick. (Applause.) And you shouldn’t lose your home because someone loses a job. (Applause.) And after a lifetime of hard work, you should be able to retire with dignity and security. (Applause.)
And what we have to remember is that these are basic American values. This isn’t new. This is the foundation of this country. They’re the values that so many of us were raised with, including myself. My father was a pump operator at the city water plant. That’s the job he did his whole life. And neither of my parents had a college degree. But let me tell you what they did do: They saved -- (audio interruption) -- my brother so that we could get the kind of education they could only dream of. (Applause.)
Education, as Julie said, was everything in our family. It was our ticket to the middle class. 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 anybody relate to that? (Applause.) But my dad still had to pay a small portion of that tuition himself. And let me tell you, every semester my dad was determined to pay his little portion of that bill, and to pay it on time. Because like so many people that we know in our lives, he was so proud to play a part in sending his kids to college. (Applause.) So he made sure that we never missed a registration deadline because his check was late. That was what my dad did for us. 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 meet his responsibilities to his family. All he wanted to do was be able to pay his bills, and pay them on time.
And his life is a testament to that basic American promise that no matter who you are in this country, no matter how you started out, if you work hard you can build a decent life for yourself and an even better life for your kids. And let me tell you something, my husband understands that promise because that’s his story as well. That’s one of the things I loved about him. I mean, 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 at her job at the bank. And even though Barack’s grandmother was good at her job and she worked hard, like so many women she hit that glass ceiling and watched men no more qualified than she was -- men she had actually trained -- climb the corporate ladder ahead of her. (Applause.) But the one thing Barack saw in his grandmother that so many of us have seen, he saw a woman who never complained. How many people do we know like that in our lives -- never complain? He watched her just keep getting up, just keep giving her best every single day to help support her family.
So what I want to remind people is that your President 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 or your grandkids. And like me, and like so many of you, Barack knows the American Dream because he’s lived it. And one thing he understands is that when you’ve worked hard, and when you’ve done well, and you’ve walked through that doorway of opportunity, the one thing you don’t do is that you don’t slam it shut behind you. (Applause.) You reach back and you give other folks the chance to succeed as well.
And truly, more than anything else, that’s what’s at stake in this election. That’s why we’re here. It is that dream, that fundamental American promise. And let me tell you, from now until November -- less than 90 days -- we’re going to need all of you out there, every last one of you out there reminding people about what’s at stake. (Applause.) Tell them about Barack’s values. Tell them about our vision. Let them know 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 folks that Barack has cut taxes for working families by $3,600. Remind them about that. (Applause.) He cut taxes for small businesses 18 times -- 18 times. (Applause.) Because he knows that rebuilding our economy starts with the restaurants and stores and startups that create two-thirds of all jobs in this economy.
And I want you to remind people also that, back when Barack first took office, what welcomed him after his inauguration was an economy that was losing an average of 750,000 jobs every month. Understand this -- every month. That’s where we started. But also 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 while we still have a long way to go to rebuild this economy again, 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. And the fact is -- understand this: That over the past century -- hear me; 100 years -- there have been many Presidents who have tried and failed to meet the challenge of health care reform. Tried and failed -- 100 years. (Applause.) But your President was determined. (Applause.) Barack was driven by the stories of the people he’d met. You know them -- the grandparents who couldn’t afford their medications; the families going broke because a child got sick; the woman dying of cancer whose insurance company wouldn’t cover her care. And let me tell you, that’s what kept him going day after day. That’s why he fought so hard for historic health reform. (Applause.)
And today, because of that reform -- understand where we are today -- our parents and grandparents are paying hundreds less for prescription drugs. (Applause.) Today, because of that reform, our kids can stay on our insurance until they’re 26 years old. (Applause.) And understand what this means for our kids graduating now, out there looking for work, trying to get their lives together. No longer do they have to go without health care. Because of this reform, insurance companies now have to cover basic preventative care -- simple things: contraception, cancer screenings, prenatal care, at no extra cost. (Applause.) They cannot discriminate against us because we have an illness that they call a preexisting condition. No more. (Applause.) And get this -- understand this: If you get a serious illness, 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. No longer. Thanks to health reform, that is now illegal. (Applause.)
And 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 we need?
MRS. OBAMA: That’s the choice in this election.
This election is a choice about whether our kids can attend college without a mountain of debt. Now, believe it or not, back when Barack and I were just starting out in our life together -- (laughter) -- we were so in love; we still are, not to worry -- (applause) -- but let me share something with you that you might relate to. Our combined student loan bill each month was actually higher than our mortgage. How many people can relate to that? (Applause.) That’s how we went to school. So let me just tell you, when it comes to student debt, my husband and I, we’ve been there. And that is why Barack doubled funding for Pell Grants and fought so hard to stop student loan interest rates from rising -- (applause) -- because he wants all our young people to get the kind of education they need for the jobs they deserve. He wants all of our kids to fulfill their promise.
And that’s the reason he’s been fighting so hard for the DREAM Act. Now, understand this: He is fighting for responsible young people who have come to this country as children, through no fault of their own, and were raised as Americans because Barack believes that, yes, those young people, too, deserve a chance to go to college, to contribute to our economy, to serve the country they know and love. (Applause.)
This election is a choice about keeping our country safe. So I want to remind people that after 10 long years of war -- let us not forget all the men and women in uniform who served and sacrificed and gave their lives -- (applause) -- thanks to them, Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat to this country. (Applause.)
And I want you to remind people that Barack kept his promise to bring our troops home from Iraq, and he has been fighting to make sure that they get the benefits and support that 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 finally 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 tell people that Barack believes women should be able to make our own choices about our health care. (Applause.) Remind them 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. (Applause.)
And of course, do not forget to remind people about those two brilliant Supreme Court Justices Barack appointed and how, for the first time in history, our sons and daughters watched three women take their seat on our nation’s highest court. (Applause.)
So when someone asks you what this President has done for our country, here’s what I want you to tell them: Tell them how many jobs he’s created. Tell them how much money he’s put back in the pockets of working folks. Tell them that more of our kids can afford college. Them more of our seniors can afford their medicine. Remind folks that Barack ended the war in Iraq, passed historic health reform, and stood up for our most basic fundamental rights again and again and again. (Applause.) That’s what I want you to tell them.
But I also want you to remind folks that all of that -- all of that and so much more -- all of that is at stake this November. It’s all on the line. And that’s the choice we face.
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 worked so hard for to just slip away?
MRS. OBAMA: No, no -- we know what we need to do. We can’t turn back now. We need to keep moving forward.
MRS. OBAMA: We need to keep moving this country forward. (Applause.) And truly, more than anything else, that’s what we’re working for. Hopefully, that’s why we’re here -- the chance to finish what we started, right? The chance to keep fighting for the values we believe in and the vision that we all share. And let me tell you -- that’s what my husband has been doing every single day as President.
And one of the things that I’ve come to learn over the last three and a half years as First Lady -- let me share this with you -- I have seen up close and personal what being President looks like. So let me share some observations. I have 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 there’s no margin for error. And as President, you’re going to get all kinds of advice, all kinds of opinions, from all kinds of folks, but at the end of the day, when it comes time to make that decision, what I have seen is that as President, all you have to guide you are your life experiences. All you have to guide you are your values, is your vision for this country.
And in the end, when it all boils down to it, who you are and what you stand for is critical. (Applause.) And we all know who my husband is, don’t we? (Applause.) And 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? That was the advice he was getting. But fortunately, for us, Barack had the backs of American workers. He put his faith in the American people, and as a result, the auto industry is back on its feet again. (Applause.) And, more importantly, people are back to work collecting a paycheck.
Remember when folks were telling Barack not to take on health care? Do you remember that? I do. They said, leave it for another day, another President. 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. (Applause.) They can get the care that they need to stay well.
So when it comes time to stand up for the middle class, I want you to ask yourselves, when it comes time to stand up for us, so that our kids can go to college and our families can make a decent living, save for retirement, you know what your President is going to do, don’t you?
MRS. OBAMA: 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.
But I have said this before and I will say it again and again: He cannot do this alone. That was never the promise. He needs you. As Barack has said, this election will be even closer than the last one. That is the only guarantee. And in the end, think about this -- it could all come down to those last few thousand votes. How many times have we been there?
And while that might not sound like a lot, I just want you to think about a few thousand votes, when they’re spread out across an entire state, across hundreds of cities and thousands of precincts, just think about that -- so that one new voter that you register in your precinct, that one -- that that one neighbor that you get to the polls on November the 6th, I want you to think to yourself, that could be the one that makes the difference in this election. (Applause.) It's as real as that -- that that one conversation that 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 on November the 7th and asking ourselves could I have done more, or feeling the promise of four more years. (Applause.) Four more years.
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: So this is how we're going to do it. This is how we're going to do it. That's why we launched It Takes One. It takes one -- it's as simple as it sounds, and Julie explained it earlier. Every time you take an action to move this campaign forward, we're asking you to inspire one more person to step up and do their part.
So if you're making phone calls or knocking on doors, bring along that one little knucklehead friend of yours, you know the one that's never really registered to vote and is not really sure about getting involved. Bring that friend. (Laughter.)
If you're coming to an event, bring a neighbor who is maybe on the fence, doesn't know the issues, unclear. Bring him with you. When you're voting early on Election Day, bring that one voter along with you who may not make it to the polls. Find one friend, one colleague, one person in your family. We all know that person, right? They don't even have to leave their house. Send them to BarackObama.com/one and they can get involved in this campaign. (Applause.)
It's like Barack has always said, it just takes one voice to change a room. And if a voice can change a room, it can 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 a nation. (Applause.) That is the power of one -- the power of one. (Applause.)
So never underestimate your individual ability to move this country forward. And I'm not going to kid you, this journey is going to be long. It's getting shorter, actually. (Laughter.) But it is going to be hard. And there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way.
But what we have to remember is that's how change always happens in this country. Real change takes time and patience. But when we keep showing up, when we keep fighting that good fight, then eventually we get there -- we always do. We always move forward in America, maybe not in our lifetimes. This is the thing we have to hold onto, but maybe in our children's lifetimes, maybe in our grandchildren's lifetimes. Because in the end, that's what this is all about. And in the end, that's what elections are always about.
Don't let anyone fool you, elections are always about hope. They're about our hopes for our children -- you know what I'm saying? They're about the world we want to leave for them, our next generation. And that's what I think about every night when I put my girls to bed. That's what keeps me passionate. I think about how I want to do for them what my dad did for me, what Barack's grandmother did for him. (Applause.)
I want to give my daughters -- and all of our sons and daughters -- a foundation for their dreams. I want to give them opportunities worthy of their promise, because all of our kids are worthy, every last one of them. (Applause.) All of our kids deserve that feeling, that sense of limitless possibility, that belief that here in the United States of America, the greatest country on Earth, there is always something better out there if you’re willing to work for it. (Applause.)
So what I say to myself is we can't turn back now. We have come so far. But we have so much more work to do. So I have one last question: Are you ready? (Applause.) Are you in? (Applause.) You think you can be in? (Applause.) You ready to roll up your sleeves now, find that one person -- shake them up? We need you to be fired up, focused, working hard. (Applause.)
If you haven't noticed, I'm a little fired up. (Applause.) I am going to be working as hard as I can. We need every single one of you out there. Thank you all for everything that you've done. God bless. (Applause.)
4:48 P.M. EDT