Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event -- Cleveland, Ohio
Tri-C Metro College Campus
6:11 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, my goodness. (Applause.) Oh, yeah. It is always so nice to be in Cleveland. You all, it’s like coming home. (Applause.)
Well, I am always thrilled to be here with you all in Cleveland. This is --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you!
MRS. OBAMA: I love you all, too. Love you so much. (Applause.) We’re going to get this done! We’re going to get it done. You all are fired up. I love it. (Applause.)
But I want to start by thanking Kenn for that very kind introduction and for all his leadership, his service to the community, his work on behalf of this campaign. Let’s give Kenn a round of applause. (Applause.)
And I want to recognize a couple more people who are here -- Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, as well as Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur. (Applause.) They’re both here. Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for being here. Let’s give them a round of applause. (Applause.)
And most of all, I want to thank all of you. I mean, I know that it’s the middle of the day and you all are out here ready to work, all fired up and ready to go. I love that! (Applause.) I love it. And let me tell you, I’m feeling pretty fired up and ready to go because this morning, let me tell you what I did -- I cast my ballot early for Barack Obama. (Applause.) Yeah! Yes, today! It felt so good. (Applause.)
Right now, my absentee ballot is on its way to my hometown
-- Chicago, Illinois -- and that means we are one vote closer to reelecting my husband and moving this country forward for four more years. (Applause.)
But I’m also --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: (Inaudible.) (Laughter and applause.)
MRS. OBAMA: This is my kind of crowd, my kind of crowd.
But I’m also excited to be here in Ohio because I get to do one of my favorite things. That is to talk about the man I have loved and admired for 23 years, since the day we met. (Applause.) Now, you all know -- you've seen him -- my husband is pretty cute -- (applause) -- still cute. (Applause.) He’s charming and incredibly intelligent, and he’s fine. (Applause.) He is fine. Now just cute, he’s fine. (Applause.)
But that is not why I married him. Oh, listen closely, especially to the fellas. Listen to this. What truly made me fall in love with Barack Obama was his character. It is what you see in this man every day. It’s his decency and honesty. Truly, it is his compassion and conviction. See, I loved that Barack was so committed to serving others that he turned down high-paying jobs, and he started his career fighting to get folks back to work in struggling communities. I loved that about him. (Applause.)
And you all know that I love the family man. I loved how devoted he was to his family, especially the women in his life. Let me tell you, I saw this in him: I saw the respect he had for his own mother. I saw how proud he was that she’d put herself through school while still supporting he and his sister as a single mom.
I saw the tenderness he felt for his grandmother and how grateful he was that long after she should have retired, she was still waking up every morning before dawn, catching that bus to her job at the community bank, doing everything she could to support his family. And he also watched as that woman was passed over for promotions simply because she was a woman, but he also saw how she kept getting up -- kept getting up year after year, without complaint or regret.
See, with Barack, I found a real connection, see, because in his life story, I saw so much of my own. See, growing up on the South Side of Chicago, I watched my own father make that same uncomplaining journey every day to a job at the city water plant. And I saw how my father carried himself with that same dignity. You know what I’m talking about? That same pride in being able to provide for his family; that same hope that his kids would one day have opportunities he never dreamed of. How many people do we know like that in our lives?
See, like so many families in this country, our families weren’t asking for much. They didn’t want much. They didn’t begrudge anyone else’s success. They didn’t mind if others had much more than they did -- in fact, they admired it. That’s why they pushed us to be the best we could be. (Applause.) But they simply believed in that fundamental American promise that even if you don’t start out with much, if you work hard, if you do what you’re supposed to do, then you should be able to build a decent life for yourself and an even better life for your kids and your grandkids. (Applause.)
They also believed something else. They believed that when you’ve worked hard and done well, and you had that 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 same chances that helped you succeed. (Applause.) That’s how Barack and I and so many of us were raised. Those are the values we were taught.
And let me tell you, more than anything else why I’m out here almost every day is that this is what this election is about. It is about a choice about our values and our hopes and our aspirations. It’s a choice about the kind of America we want to leave for our kids and our grandkids, and what does that America look like.
We believe in an America where every child, no matter where they’re born or how much money their parents make, every child deserves good schools -- the kind of schools that push them and inspire them and prepare them for college and jobs of the future -- every child. We believe in an America where no one goes broke because somebody got sick. (Applause.) Where no one loses their home because someone lost a job. Not in America. (Applause.)
We believe in an America where we all understand that none of us gets where we are on our own, that there is always a community of people lifting us up, where we treat everyone -- everyone -- with dignity and respect, from the teachers who inspire us to the janitors who keep our schools clean -- everyone. (Applause.)
See, in this America that we’re working to build, when one of us stumbles, when one of us falls on hard times -- and we all could possibly do that -- we don’t tell them, tough luck, you’re on your own. Not in this America. Instead, we extend that helping hand while they get back on their feet. (Applause.) We believe that the truth matters in this America, and you don’t take shortcuts, you don’t game the system, you don’t play by your own set of rules. Instead, that we reward success that’s earned fair and square. (Applause.)
And finally, we believe in keeping our priorities straight. What does that mean? Well, we know good and well that cutting Sesame Street is no way to balance our budget. We know that. (Laughter and applause.) We know that shortchanging our kids is not how to tackle our deficit. If we truly want to build opportunities for all Americans, yes, we need to cut wasteful spending. But we also need to make smart investments in our future -- in education and infrastructure, things that are necessary for an economy built to last. And that’s what my husband stands for. That’s the country he has been working to build for the last three and a half years. Those are his values.
And over the past three and a half years, as First Lady, let me tell you, I have seen up close and personal what being President really looks like. I’ve seen it. And I have seen how critical those values are for leading this country. I’ve seen how the issues that come across a President’s desk are always the hard ones -- the decisions that aren’t just about the bottom line, but they’re about laying a foundation for the next generation. And I’ve seen how important it is to have a President who doesn’t just tell us what we want to hear, but who will tell us the truth, even when it’s hard -- especially when it’s hard. (Applause.)
And I’ve also seen that when it comes time to make those tough calls, and everyone is urging you to do what’s easy, or what polls best, or what makes good headlines -- as President, you have to be driven by the struggles, hopes and dreams of all of the people you serve. (Applause.) That's what it takes to make the right decisions for this country. That’s what it takes to be a leader.
And since the day my husband took office, on issue after issue, crisis after crisis -- believe me, I have been there -- that's what we’ve seen in him. We have seen his values at work. We’ve seen his vision unfold. We’ve seen the depths of his character, courage and conviction.
Let me take you back to when Barack first took office. We were in the midst of an economy that was on the brink of collapse. You don’t have to take my word for it. Newspapers were using words like "meltdown," "calamity," declaring "Wall Street Implodes," "Economy in Shock." You remember that? See, for years folks had been lured into buying homes they couldn’t afford, so their mortgages were underwater. And banks weren’t lending. Companies weren’t hiring. The auto industry was in crisis. The economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month. Do you hear me -- 800,000 jobs a month. And a lot of folks were wondering whether we were headed for another Great Depression. Do you remember that? (Applause.)
Well, let me tell you, that is what Barack faced on day one as President of the United States. He inherited an economy in rapid decline. But let me tell you about your President. Instead of pointing fingers, instead of placing blame, your President got to work. (Applause.) Because he was thinking about folks like my dad, folks like his grandmother.
And that’s why he cut taxes for small businesses and working families, because your President believes that here in America, teachers and firefighters should not pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires -- not in America. (Applause.)
And that’s also, while some folks were willing to let the auto industry go under with more than a million jobs that would have been lost, Barack had the backs of the American workers. He fought hard to protect jobs for American families. And that is why today the auto industry is back and new cars are rolling off the line at proud American companies like GM. (Applause.)
And, yes, while we still have a long way to go to completely rebuild our economy, there are more and more signs every day that we are headed in the right direction. The stock market has doubled. Experts have grown by 45 percent. Manufacturers have added 500,000 jobs. We have had 31 straight months of private sector job growth -- 5.2 million new jobs under this President -- good jobs, right here in the United States of America. (Applause.)
Now, in addition to being a job creator, yes indeed, he was doing some other things. See, as President you’ve got to be able to do more things at once. Barack was also focused on improving access to health care for millions of Americans, millions. (Applause.) And let me tell you, Barack didn’t care whether health reform was the easy thing to do politically. No, that’s not who he is. He cared that it was the right thing to do.
He was thinking about the folks he had met all across this country -- a woman diagnosed with breast cancer who couldn’t find an insurance company that would cover her care; the seniors pinching pennies to save up for the medicine they need; the parents who couldn’t get life-saving treatment for their children because one of them lost a job -- that’s who he was thinking about.
And today, because of health reform, today our parents and grandparents on Medicare are paying hundreds less for their prescription drugs. (Applause.) Today, because of health reform, our kids can stay on our insurance until they’re 26 years old because of health care reform. (Applause.)
Because of health care reform, insurance companies now have to cover basic preventative care -- things like contraception, cancer screenings with no out of pocket cost. (Applause.) They won’t be able to discriminate against you because you have a preexisting condition -- maybe diabetes or asthma. (Applause.) And here’s one that always gets me -- if you get really sick, serious cancer, let’s say, and you need expensive treatment, no longer can they tell you, sorry, you’ve hit your lifetime limit and we’re not paying a penny more. That is now illegal because of health reform. (Applause.)
Now, when it comes to giving our young people the education they deserve, look, let me tell you Barack knows that like me and like so many folks he never could have attended college without financial aid. (Applause.) We would not be here without financial aid. (Applause.) In fact, when we were first married, our combined monthly student loan bills were actually higher than our mortgage. I know there are people who can relate to that. See, I see a few hands.
So let me tell you, when it comes to student debt, Barack and I, we have been there. This is not a hypothetical. That’s why Barack doubled funding for Pell grants and fought so hard to keep interest rates down -- (applause) -- because, fortunately, we have a President who wants all of our young people to be prepared for good jobs of the future.
And finally, when it comes to understanding the lives of women, when it comes to standing up for our rights and opportunities, we know that my husband will always have our backs -- always. (Applause.) Why? Because Barack knows from personal experience what it means for a family when women aren’t treated fairly in the workplace. And trust me, today as a father of two girls, he knows what it means to want our daughters to have the same freedoms and opportunities as our sons. And that’s why the very first bill he signed as President was to make sure women got equal pay for equal work -- the first thing he did. (Applause.)
And that is why he will always, always fight to make sure that we as women can make our own decisions about our bodies and our health care -- always. Always. (Applause.)
So let me tell you something. When people ask you over the next 22 days -- because you all are going to be out there, right?
MRS. OBAMA: And you’re going to come across people who are going to say, well, what has this President done for our country? When you run into those folks who are trying to figure out which of these two guys is going to be the best one to keep America moving forward, here’s a few things you could tell them.
Tell them about the millions of jobs Barack has created. Tell them about all those kids in this country who can finally afford college. (Applause.) Tell them about the millions of lives that will be changed because of health reform. Tell them how Barack ended the war in Iraq. (Applause.) Tell them how together we took out Osama bin Laden. (Applause.) Tell them how your President has been fighting every day to make sure veterans and military families get the benefits they have earned. (Applause.)
Tell them about all those young immigrants in this country who will no longer live in fear of being deported from the only country they’ve ever called home. (Applause.) Tell them about the brave servicemembers who will never again have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love. (Applause.)
I could go on and on and on, but here’s what I really want you to make sure they know. Remind them that their President, he knows the American Dream because he’s lived it. (Applause.) And he is fighting every day so that everyone in this country can have that same opportunity no matter who we are or where we’re from or what we look like or who we love.
But let’s be clear. While he is proud of all that we have achieved together -- because we have been doing this together -- my husband is nowhere near satisfied. Barack of all people in this country knows very well that too many folks are still hurting. He knows that there’s plenty of work left to be done. And as President Clinton said, it’s going to take longer than four years to finish rebuilding an economy from the brink of collapse. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: Four more years.
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: But here’s the thing, the thing I think about. And I am grateful as a mother and a citizen -- thankfully in Barack we have a leader with a deep and unyielding faith in the American people; a leader who understands that this country was built by men and women like all of us who wake up every day, who work hard to move this country forward; a leader who just like you is fighting every day to make sure that this country lives up to the values we were raised with -- values like trust and integrity, honesty and determination.
And understand this: Together -- slowly, but surely -- we have been pulling ourselves out of that hole we started in. We are steadily moving this country forward and making real change.
So here’s the question. Are we going to just turn around after all of this and go back to the same policies that got us in mess in the first place?
MRS. OBAMA: Are we just going to sit back and watch everything we’ve fought for to just slip away?
MRS. OBAMA: Or are we going to keep moving this country forward? (Applause.) What are we going to do? (Applause.) Forward, forward -- that’s the only choice, the only choice.
But in the end, the answer to these questions is truly on us. Do you hear me? Because understand this, all our hard work, all the progress that we’ve made -- it’s all on the line. It’s all at stake this November. And as my husband has said, this election will be even closer than the last one -- that’s the only guarantee. And as you know, it could all come down to what happens in just a few key states like right here in Ohio -- right here, right here, right here.
Just to put it in perspective -- I want to put it in perspective, especially for new voters, first-time voters. Listen, back in 2008, let me tell you what happened. Back then, we won Iowa by about 262,000 votes. Now, that might sound like a lot. But when you take that number and break it down across precincts, that’s just 24 votes per precinct. You hear me -- 24. We all know 24 people who didn’t vote last election. We all know 24 people in our lives. That could mean just a couple of votes on your block, just a single vote in an apartment building, just one or two votes in a college dorm.
So if there is anyone here who might thinking that somehow their vote doesn’t matter, that their involvement doesn’t count, that in this complex political process that ordinary folks can’t possibly make a difference, I just want you to keep that 24 votes in the back of your mind. And I want you to think about how with just a few more evenings on a phone bank, just a few more days knocking on doors -- (applause) -- just look at this room. This room could swing an entire precinct for Barack Obama.
And if we win enough precincts, we will win this state. And if we win Ohio, we’ll be well on our way to putting Barack Obama back in the White House for four more years, right here. (Applause.) Right here! This room can get it done. You all can get it done.
So for the next 22 days -- here’s the plan. We’ve got 22 days and we need everybody to work like you’ve never worked before. Sign up with one of our volunteers, if you haven’t already, today to make phone calls, knock on some doors in your neighborhood. Talk to everyone you know -- everyone you know -- your friends, your neighbors, that nephew you haven’t seen in a while. You know he’s not going to vote unless you stay on him. (Laughter.) That classmate you haven’t talked to in a few years -- tell them what’s at stake, especially for our young people out there.
Our young people. I have met so many young people who said to me that my parents and grandparents weren’t going to vote for Barack in 2008, but because I talked to them about what this election means for me and my future, they changed their minds. I can't tell you how many young people I talk to like that. That is the power you all have.
So I want you and everyone here today to send folks to vote.barackobama.com. for all the information you need, and tell them that they don’t have to wait until November the 6th to cast their votes. (Applause.) Here in Ohio, and in states all across the country, voting has already begun. And this morning I saw just how quick and easy it can be to do your part when I voted early.
And in the next couple of weeks, Barack is going to do the same -- he's going to vote early in person back home in Chicago. (Applause.) So we want you all to vote early. All right? We want you to think about voting early, whether it's by mail or in person -- vote early. Because when you vote early then you can spend that time on Election Day -- (applause) -- getting everyone you know out to vote. Right? (Applause.)
And if you're not going to vote early, then make sure you get to the polls and you bring a whole bunch of people along with you. You got it? That is the plan. That is it. That's the secret weapon -- it's you! You all are the secret weapon.
But I'm not going to kid you, this journey is going to be hard. And there will plenty of ups and downs during these last 22 days. You do realize that -- ups and downs. But when get tired -- and you will -- when you start to think about taking a day off -- and you will -- I just want you to remember that what we do for the next 22 days will absolutely make the difference between waking up the day after Election Day and wondering, could I have done more, or feeling the promise of four more years.
So from now until November the 6th, we need you to keep working and struggling and pushing forward -- because that is how change always happens in this country. (Applause.) And again, I’m especially talking to the young people here -- because we know from our history that change is hard and it requires patience and tenacity. You know what I'm saying?
MRS. OBAMA: But if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight and doing what we know in our hearts is the right thing, then eventually we get there. We always do.
So don’t let anyone talk down your dreams and aspirations. No one. (Applause.) Don’t let anyone talk down our country or our future. I want our young people to know you have every reason to be optimistic about what lies ahead, because here in America, we always move forward. We always make progress.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: God bless America!
MRS. OBAMA: God bless America. (Applause.) Yes, indeed.
Because in the end, that’s what this is about. We can't forget that’s what elections are always about. Don’t let anybody tell you differently. Elections are always about hope. The hope that I saw on my father’s beaming face as he watched me cross that stage to get the college diploma that he helped to pay for. (Applause.) The hope that Barack’s grandmother felt when she cast her ballot for the grandson she loved and raised -- that's the kind of hope I'm talking about. (Applause.) The hope of all those men and women in our lives -- you know those people -- those folks that work the extra shift for us; the folks who saved and sacrificed and prayed so that we could have something more. (Applause.) The hope that so many of us feel when we look into the eyes of our own kids and grandkids.
That’s why all of us are here today, because we want all our kids to have a foundation for their dream. We want to give all our children opportunities worthy of their promise -- because all of our kids are worthy. Every single child in this country is worthy. (Applause.) We want our children to have that sense of limitless possibility; the belief that here in America, the greatest country on the planet, there is always something better out there if you’re willing to work for it. (Applause.)
So what give me passion, what keeps me pumped up is the belief and understanding that we cannot turn back now. Not now.
MRS. OBAMA: Not now. We cannot, nor will we, because we have come so far. But we still have more work to do.
AUDIENCE: Yes, we do!
MRS. OBAMA: So here’s my last question: Are you ready for this? (Applause.) Are you ready to roll up your sleeves? Twenty-two more days. (Applause.) We can get this done right here in Ohio!
Thank you guys. God bless. (Applause.)
6:39 P.M. EDT