Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event -- Delaware, Ohio
Ohio Wesleyan University
3:03 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you, guys. Thank you so much. This is so very cool. (Applause.) It is so great to be here.
I want to start by thanking Hayden -- not just for that wonderful introduction, but for all the hard work that she and so many people just like her are putting in on behalf of this campaign. So let’s give her a big round of applause. (Applause.)
And I also want to recognize Dr. Jones for hosting us here today. (Applause.) Where’s -- there he is. (Applause.) The good doctor, yes. And Melissa Jones as well. Thank you. (Applause.
And I also want to recognize Frances Strickland who was here today. I’m not sure if she’s still here, but she was here. She’s working hard, she has been just amazing. Let’s give her a round of applause as well. (Applause.)
But most of all, I want to thank all of you for being here, especially all of the students from Ohio Wesleyan University. Yes! (Applause.) Well, sounds like you all are pretty fired up and ready to go! (Applause.) And I have to tell you that I am pretty fired up and ready to go myself, especially because this morning I cast my vote early for Barack Obama. (Applause.) Today! I voted for my husband! Yes! (Applause.) It felt so good. Right now, my absentee ballot, it’s on its way to Illinois, my home state -- (applause) -- which means that we are one vote closer to reelecting my husband and moving this country forward for four more years. (Applause.) So forgive me if I’m a little excited today -- for me, it was Election Day. So I just have to relax.
But I am also very excited to be here in Ohio because -- (applause) -- because I get to do one of the --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you!
MRS. OBAMA: We love you, too. Love you guys. You guys are going to make it happen. (Applause.)
See, when I’m out on the campaign trail, I get to do one of my favorite things in the whole wide world, and that is to talk about the man I’ve loved and admired since we first met 23 years ago. (Applause.) Yes, he’s kind of cute. (Laughter.) And he’s charming, and he is incredibly smart. (Applause.) But let me tell you, that is not why I married him. No -- (laughter.) No, no, what truly made me fall in love with my husband was his character. And I mean that. It was his decency and honesty. It’s the same thing we see in him every single day as President, that compassion and conviction.
See, I loved that Barack was so committed to serving others that he turned down high-paying jobs and instead started his career working to get folks back to work in struggling communities. (Applause.) Yes, one of my favorite things about that man.
And I loved that Barack was so devoted to his family when we first met, especially the women in his life. I saw the respect that he had for his mother. I saw how proud he was that she’d put herself through school while supporting him and his sister as a single mom.
And I saw the tenderness that he felt for his grandmother. I saw how grateful he was that long after she should have retired, she was still waking up every morning to catch that bus to her job at the community bank, doing everything she could to support he and his family. And he also watched as she was passed over again and again for promotions simply because she was a woman. I know there are a lot of women who understand that. But he also saw how she kept on getting up every day, doing that same job year after year without complaint or regret.
See, with Barack, I found a real connection, because in his life story, I saw so much of my own. Because growing up on the South Side of Chicago, I watched my father --
AUDIENCE: We love Chicago!
MRS. OBAMA: I love Chicago, too. (Laughter and applause.) It’s where I grew up. And my father, he would make that same uncomplaining journey every day to his job at the city water plant. And I saw how my father carried himself with that same dignity, that same pride in providing for his family, that same hope that his kids would one day have opportunities he never dreamed of.
And like so many families in this country, see, our families just 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.) They simply believed in that fundamental American promise that even if you don’t start out with much, if you work hard and do what you’re supposed to do, in America, you should be able to build a decent life for yourself and, yes, an even better life for your kids and grandkids. (Applause.)
And they also believed that when you’ve worked hard, and you’ve done well, and you finally get the chance to walk through that doorway of opportunity, you don’t slam it shut behind you. No, you reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed. (Applause.)
See, that’s how Barack and I and I know so many of you were raised. Those are the values that we were taught. And really, what you see in my passion, right here, today, every day that I’m out here, is because more than anything else, that’s what this election is all about. It’s a choice about our values, our hopes and our aspirations. It’s a choice about the America we want to leave for our kids and grandkids -- because let me tell you about that America, the one we believe in.
We believe in an America where every child, no matter how much money their parents have or where they’re from, every child in this country should have good schools to attend, the kind that push them and prepare them for college and good jobs of the future. (Applause.)
We believe in an America where no one goes broke because someone gets sick -- (applause) -- where no one loses their home because someone lost a job. (Applause.) We believe in an America where we all understand that none of us gets where we are on our own -- none of us; that there’s 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. (Applause.) See, in this America, when one of us stumbles, when one of us falls on hard times, we don’t tell them, tough luck, you’re on your own. No, in this America, we extend a helping hand while they get back on their feet again. That’s what we believe. (Applause.)
We believe that the truth matters. (Applause.) And you don’t take shortcuts. You don’t game the system. You don’t play by your own set of rules. Instead, we reward success that’s earned fair and square.
And finally, we believe in keeping our priorities straight. See, because we know good and well that cutting Sesame Street is no way to balance our budget. (Applause.) We know this. We know that shortchanging our kids is not how we tackle our deficit. (Applause.) If we truly want to build opportunities for all Americans, yes, we need to cut wasteful spending, but we also need to make investments in our future -- in education and infrastructure for an economy that’s build to last. We know this. (Applause.)
And that is what my husband stands for. That’s the country that he has been working to build. 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, really, what being President really looks like. I have seen it. And I have seen just how critical those values are for leading this country. Let me tell you, I have seen how the issues that come across a President’s desk are always the hard ones -- always. The decisions that aren’t just about the bottom line, but they’re about laying a foundation for the next generation.
And let me tell you, I have seen how important it is to have a President who doesn’t just tell us what we want to hear, but who tells us the truth even when it’s hard -- especially when it’s hard. (Applause.)
And I’ve seen that when it comes time to make those tough decisions and everyone is urging you to do what’s easy, what polls best or what gets good headlines -- as President, you have to be driven by the struggles, hopes and dreams of all of the people you serve. That’s how you make the right decision for this country. That’s what it takes to be a leader. (Applause.)
And let me tell you, since the day he took office, on issue after issue, crisis after crisis -- I have been there -- that is what we’ve seen in my husband. We have seen his values at work. We have seen his vision unfold. We have seen the depths of his character, courage and conviction.
I mean, think back to when Barack first took office -- where were we? Our economy was on the brink of collapse. Newspapers -- don’t take my word for it -- newspapers, they were using words like "meltdown" and "calamity," declaring, "Wall Street implodes," "Economy in Shock." And we all know how we got there. For years, folks had been lured into buying homes they couldn’t afford, so their mortgages were underwater. Banks weren’t lending. Companies weren’t hiring. The auto industry was in crisis. This economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month and a lot of folks wondered whether we were headed for another Great Depression. Do you hear me?
MRS. OBAMA: And this is what Barack faced on day one as President. He inherited an economy in deep decline. (Applause.) But instead of pointing fingers, instead of placing blame, your President got to work, because he was thinking about folks like my dad, like his grandmother. And that’s why he cut taxes for small businesses and working families, because he believes that teachers and firefighters shouldn’t pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires -- not in America. (Applause.) Not here. (Applause.)
And that’s also why if you remember 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 worker. He put his faith in the American people. He fought hard to protect jobs for American families. That’s 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. Exports have grown by 45 percent. Manufacturers have added 500,000 jobs. We’ve had 31 straight months of private sector job growth -- a total of 5.2 million jobs created under this administration, good jobs right here in the United States of America. (Applause.) Those are the facts.
And, yes, while Barack was involved in a lot of job creation, he was able to do a few more things as well -- see, because as President, you have to be able to multitask. So Barack also focused on improving access to health care for millions of Americans. (Applause.)
See, and this is another thing I love about my husband -- he didn’t care whether health reform was the easy thing to do politically. That’s not who he is. He cared that it was the right thing to do. (Applause.) See, because he was thinking about all those folks he met across the country -- the woman diagnosed with breast cancer who couldn’t find an insurance company to 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, our parents and grandparents on Medicare are paying hundreds less for their prescription drugs. (Applause.) Today, because of health care, young people like so many of you can stay on your parent's insurance until you’re 26 years old -- because of health insurance. (Applause.) Today, insurance companies now have to cover basic preventive 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 like diabetes or asthma.
See, and here’s the one that really gets me. If you get a serious illness -- let’s say some debilitating, life-threatening cancer -- and you really 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.)
And when it comes to giving our young people the education you all deserve, Barack knows that like me and like so many of you, we never, never could have attended college without financial aid. We wouldn’t be here without financial aid. (Applause.) In fact, when Barack and I first got married, our combined monthly student loan bills were actually higher than our mortgage. So when it comes to student debt, Barack and I -- we’ve been there. This is not a hypothetical situation. That is why Barack doubled funding for Pell grants and fought hard to keep interest rates down -- (applause) -- because we have a President who wants all of our young people to be prepared for good jobs of the future, all of them.
And finally, as Hayden mentioned, 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. (Applause.) See, because Barack knows from personal experience what it means for a family when women aren’t treated fairly in the workplace. And today, believe me as a father, he knows what it means to want our daughters to have the same freedoms and opportunities as our sons.
And that is why the very first bill he signed into law was to make sure women get equal pay for equal work -- the first thing he did as President. (Applause.) And that is why he will always, always fight to ensure that we as women can make our own decisions about our bodies and our health care. That’s what my husband stands for. (Applause.) That you can count on.
So when people ask you over the next 22 days as you’re talking and canvassing, they ask you, well, what has this President done for our country -- when you’re talking to folks who are deciding who will keep this country moving forward for four more years, here’s just a few things I want you to tell them.
Tell them about the millions of jobs Barack has created. Tell them about all of the students in this country who can finally afford college. 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 get veterans and military families the benefits they have earned. (Applause.)
Tell them about all the young immigrants who will no longer have to live in fear about 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 tell them. You tell them that Barack Obama 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 what we look like, or where we’re from, or who we love. (Applause.)
But let’s be clear. While my husband is very proud of what we have achieved -- and we have achieved this together -- he is nowhere near satisfied. Trust me, Barack more than anyone in this country knows that too many people are still hurting. He knows that there is plenty of work left to be done, and as President Clinton said, it’s going to take a lot longer than four years to rebuild an economy from the brink of collapse. (Applause.)
But here’s the thing -- see, and this is what keeps me hopeful -- 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 just like you who wake up every day -- just like your parents and grandparents, who wake up and work hard every day to keep this country moving forward. He is a leader, just like you, who 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.
See, and together, slowly but surely, we have been pulling ourselves out of that hole that we started in. We have steadily been moving this country forward and making real change. So the question that we have to ask ourselves, after all of this, are we going to turn around and go back to the same policies that got us into this hole in the first place?
MRS. OBAMA: Are we going to just sit back and watch everything we’ve worked for and fought for to just slip away?
MRS. OBAMA: Or are we going to keep working to move this country forward? (Applause.) What are we going to do? What are we going to do? What are we going to do? It’s forward. (Applause.)
But see, in the end, the answer to these questions -- it’s on us now. Because all of our hard work, all the progress that we’ve made, believe me, it is all on the line. It’s all at stake this November. And as my husband said, this election will be even closer than the last one. That is the only guarantee, and it could all come down to what happens in just a few key battleground states like right here in Ohio. (Applause.) Right here.
So let me put it in perspective for you, especially to young people who are -- many of you will be first-time voters. (Applause.) Now, back in 2008, let me just explain what happened in Ohio. We won the state by about 262,000 votes. Now, that may sound like a lot, but when you break that number down, that’s just 24 votes per precinct -- you hear me -- 24. Everybody in here knows 24 people, 24 people who may not vote or may not vote for Barack Obama. We know those folks. That could mean just a couple of votes in a neighborhood, on a block, just a single vote in an apartment building or in a dorm.
So, see, the thing that I want particularly our young people to understand if there is anyone here who might be thinking for a minute that their vote doesn’t matter, if there’s anyone you come across who might think 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 those 24 votes in your mind. Can you do that? Just picture that. And I want you to think about how, with just a few more evenings on a phone bank or knocking on doors, just one or two of you -- shoot, look at this room! This auditorium could swing an entire precinct for Barack Obama. (Applause.) 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. Four more years, it could happen right here. You all have the power -- four more years.
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: Four more years! We can get it done right here.
So here’s the plan -- we’ve got a plan. (Laughter.) The press is looking, it’s a secret plan. (Laughter.) Don’t tell anybody about the plan. (Laughter.) But for the next 22 days, we are going to need you to work like never before. Sign up with one of our volunteers here today to make calls, knock on doors -- 22 days. But talk to everyone you know -- your friends, your neighbors, that cousin you haven’t seen in a while, that student sitting in your next class -- you know he’s kind of a knucklehead and may not be -- (laughter) -- you know the one. (Laughter.) Just tap him on the shoulder -- be nice. Don’t call him a knucklehead -- (laughter) -- not to his face. You just want to encourage him to get to the polls.
But tell them what’s at stake -- especially for our young people here. I have met so many young people who said to me last time in 2008, 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 got many of them to change their minds. So that is the power that you have in your own lives. (Applause.) That’s the power that you have.
So I want you and everyone here today to send anybody you know to vote.barackobama.com. And there they can find all the information they need to cast their votes. And tell them that they don’t have to wait until November the 6th. See, that’s the thing. All right, let’s focus, because here in Ohio, and in states all across the country, voting has already begun. And as I said, this morning I saw just how quick and easy it can be to do your part and to do it early.
And in the next couple of weeks, Barack is going to vote early back at our home town of Chicago in person. (Applause.) So he’s going to do a little early voting. So we really want as many people as possible -- all of you here to vote early as well, either by mail or in person in your community.
In fact, right after this event -- don’t leave yet -- we have a bus that is going to take any of you here who wants to go straight to the Board of Elections to cast your ballot for Barack Obama. (Applause.) We’ll take you there. So I want you all, when this is over, find our volunteers.
AUDIENCE: Get on the bus! Get on the bus!
MRS. OBAMA: Get on the bus! Get on the bus! Get on the bus! Yes, get on the bus -- get on that bus and make your voices heard.
And then after you vote, I want you to get everyone you know to vote by mail or vote early in person. And if you know anyone who doesn’t vote early, make sure they get to the polls and make their voices heard on Election Day. That is our secret plan. (Laughter.) You got it? (Applause.) We can do this.
But I’m going to be honest with you -- this journey is going to be hard. Count on that. And there will plenty of ups and downs over the next 22 days. There always is. But here’s the thing. When you start to get tired -- and you will -- when you start to think about taking a day off, I 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 asking ourselves, could we have done more, or feeling the promise of four more years.
So from now until November the 6th, we need you to keep on working and struggling and pushing forward -- because that’s how change always happens in this country. And again, I’m especially talking to all the young people here. You guys, listen up -- because we know from our history that change is hard and it requires patience and tenacity. But if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight and doing what we know is right in our hearts, then eventually we get there. We always do.
So don’t let anyone talk down your dreams and aspirations. You hear me? Don’t let anyone talk down our country or our future. You all have every reason to be optimistic about what lies ahead for you, because here in America, we always move forward. We always make progress. Do you hear me?
MRS. OBAMA: And in the end, that’s what this is all about. That’s what elections are always about. Don’t let anybody tell you any differently. Elections are always about hope. Let me tell you, the hope that I saw on my father’s beaming face as I crossed that stage to get my college diploma, it’s that kind of hope. The hope that Barack’s grandmother felt as she cast her ballot for the grandson she loved and raised, that kind of hope. It’s the hope of all those men and women in our lives who work that extra shift for us, who saved and sacrificed and prayed so that we could be here, and be better. That’s why you’re here. The hope that so many of us feel when we look into the eyes of our kids and grandkids -- it’s that kind of hope.
That’s why we’re here today, because we want to give all our kids a real foundation for their dream. Do you hear me? All of them. We want to give our kids opportunities worthy of their promise because all of our kids in this country are worthy. (Applause.) We want to give our kids that sense of limitless possibility, that 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. You all hear me? So we cannot turn back now. We will not turn back now. We have so much more to do. But we have come so far.
So here’s my last question: Are you ready for this? (Applause.) Are you fired up? (Applause.) You ready to roll up your sleeves? We can get this done -- 22 days.
Thank you all. God bless.
3:34 P.M. EDT