Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event
Sheraton Iowa City
Iowa City, Iowa
1:19 P.M. CDT
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, my goodness! (Applause.) I think I came out before Taylor was done, but she was really introducing me, so I figured I'd just come out. (Laughter.)
How are my Hawkeyes! You guys good? (Applause.) Thank you --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you!
MRS. OBAMA: We love you guys. I can't tell you -- (applause.) This is so full circle -- being back in Iowa City. I mean, this is the state where it all started for us. (Applause.) Right here. So being back here with all of you today, it touches me in more ways than I can even imagine. And I'm not going to cry right here -- (laughter) -- not in front of all those cameras. But let me just tell you we love you so much. We love you so much. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you!
MRS. OBAMA: But before we get started, I do want to take a moment to just say that our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by Hurricane Sandy. And Barack has assured state and local authorities that he is going to cut through red tape and be there to assist with whatever resources and support that are going to be needed over these next few days. He has made this storm his priority. (Applause.) And he's going to do whatever it takes to make sure that the American people are safe and secure.
And the thing that we have to remember, that in times of crisis, we all pull together as one American family. We absolutely do. (Applause.) And I know that all of us are going to do whatever we need to, to help our fellow citizens as they weather this storm and as they recover. So I didn’t want to get started without saying that.
But today I also want to thank Taylor for that very kind introduction that I interrupted. (Applause.) And I want to thank her for everything that she's doing on behalf of the campaign.
I also want to recognize a few people -- I want to recognize Congressman Loebsack. (Applause.) There's our Congressman. Mayor Hayek, as well -- the Mayor was here. Not sure if he's still here. (Applause.) Attorney General Tom Miller. (Applause.) Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald -- I know they were all here. (Applause.)
Let me just say this -- these guys and their families -- their wives, their loved ones -- have been with us from the very beginning, before anybody knew anything about Barack Obama. (Laughter.) It was just this guy from Chicago with a funny name -- they were always, always there. And it really means a lot to be here with you guys. Thank you so much. (Applause.)
And of course I want to thank all of you all for joining us today and for working so hard. And I love that you all are fired up and ready to go! (Applause.) Let me tell you I am fired up and ready to go. And this campaign has been just a wonderful blessing and a gift. We have worked hard over these last four years, but --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: Four more -- and we'll be ready to work for four more years! (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: Four more years! We are ready! We are ready! We're going to make it happen! (Applause.)
But when I campaign, I get to do one of my favorite things, and that's to brag about the man that I have loved and admired for 23 years, since the day we met.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Amen!
MRS. OBAMA: My husband, you know him. I get to say all these wonderful things -- because after this campaign we're going to go back to normal where I tell him, pick up his shoes, and all that great stuff. (Laughter.)
But although Barack is handsome and charming and smart, what I tell people around the country -- that's really not why I married him. (Laughter.) And that is not why I've stuck by his side for 23 years. The thing that made me fall in love with Barack is the thing that we have all seen -- you all have seen it probably even more than the rest of the nation because you've known him for a bit longer -- but it's his character. (Applause.) It's that decency and honesty that we see. It’s that compassion and conviction that you have come to know.
When we first met, I loved that Barack, he was always committed to helping; so committed that he turned down high-paying jobs and instead started his career doing what he has always done, helping folks in struggling communities get back to work. That's how he started his career. And I respected him for that -- still do. (Applause.)
And one of the things that makes Barack such a fighter for all of us -- and I saw back then -- was how devoted he was to his own family, especially the women in his life. (Applause.) Yes, indeed. And, ladies, I looked for that when I was choosing a husband. (Laughter.) I saw the respect that he had for his own mother, how proud he was that she was able to put herself through school and still support him and his sister as a single mom.
I saw the tenderness that he felt for his grandmother, how grateful he was that long after she should have retired, she was still getting up every day, going to her job at that community bank, catching that bus every morning, doing whatever it took to support their family. And he watched as she was passed over again and again for promotions simply because she was a woman. But what he learned from her struggle was that he saw a woman who got up every day, year after year, doing that same job without complaint or regret.
See, and with Barack, I found a real connection, because in his life story, I saw so much of my own. Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, I watched my own father make that same uncomplaining journey every day to his job at the city water plant. And I saw how he carried himself with that dignity, that same pride that you get when you can support your family -- that same hope that his kids would one day have opportunities he never dreamed of for himself.
And see, this is the thing. Like so many families in this country -- and I know there are so many of you here who can relate to our families' stories -- our families just weren’t asking for much. They didn’t want much. And they didn’t begrudge anyone else’s success. They didn’t mind if others had much more -- that wasn’t how they measured their worth in life. In fact, they admired it. And that’s why they pushed us to be the very best that we could be. But they simply believed in that fundamental American promise that even if you don’t start out with much, if you do what you’re supposed to do, in this country, if you work hard, then you should be able to build a decent life for yourself and an even better life for your kids and grandkids. (Applause.)
And they also believed in something that I think is very important -- they believed that when you worked hard and done well, and you finally walked through that doorway of opportunity, you don’t slam it shut behind you. (Applause.) You reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed. (Applause.)
Yes, that is how Barack and I and I know so many of you were raised. Those are the values we were taught. And more than anything else, that is what this election is all about. It is a choice about our values and our hopes and our aspirations. It’s truly a choice about the America that we want to leave for our kids and our grandkids.
And what does that America look like? Well, we believe in an America where every child -- you hear me -- every child in this country, no matter where they’re born or how much money their parents have, every child should have good schools -- the kind of schools that push them and inspire them and prepare them for college and jobs of the future. (Applause.) Every one of our children deserves that.
We believe in an America where no one goes broke because someone gets sick -- (applause) -- where no one loses their home because someone loses a job. (Applause.) We believe in an America where we all understand that none of us gets where we are on our own; that each of us has a community of people lifting us up -- (applause) -- where we treat everyone with dignity and respect, from the teachers who inspire us to the janitors who keep our schools clean. (Applause.)
And in this America that we’ve been building together, when one of us stumbles -- and all of us have the potential to stumble -- when one of us falls on hard times, we don’t turn our backs and tell them, tough luck, you’re on your own. No, instead we extend a helping hand until they can get back on their feet again. (Applause.)
Oh, and we absolutely believe that the truth matters. (Applause.) You don’t game the system. You don’t play by your own set of rules. You don’t --
AUDIENCE: Buy your way. (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: I didn’t say that. (Laughter.)
And finally, we believe in keeping our priorities straight
-- because everyone in this country knows very well that cutting Sesame Street isn’t the way to balance our budget. (Laughter and applause.) We know better than that. We know that shortchanging our kids is not how we tackle the deficit.
If we truly want to build opportunities for all Americans we know that we need to cut wasteful spending, but we also have to make smart investments in things like education and infrastructure if we want an economy that’s built to last. (Applause.) That is what my husband stands for. That is the country he has working to build for four years. Those are his values.
And let me just tell you, over the past four years as First Lady, I have seen up close and personal just how critical those values are for leading this country. I have seen how the issues that come across a President’s desk, let me tell you, they’re always the hard ones -- the decisions that are not just about the bottom line, but they’re about laying a foundation for the next generation.
And 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. (Applause.) And I’ve also seen that when it comes time to make those tough calls and everyone around you is urging you to do what’s easy, what polls best, what gets good headlines, as President you have to be guided by the struggles and hopes and dreams of all of the people you serve. And that’s how you make the right decisions for this country. That’s what it takes to be a leader. And since the day he took office, on issue after issue, crisis after crisis, that is exactly what we’ve seen in my husband.
Let us think back to when Barack first took office. So many of you were right there. This economy was on the brink of collapse. Newspapers were using words like “meltdown” and “calamity”; declaring “Wall Street implodes”; “Economy in Shock.” It’s not my words -- those were their words for years.
Folks had been lured into buying homes they couldn’t afford so their mortgages were underwater. The auto industry was in crisis. And this economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month. A lot of folks wondered whether we were headed for another Great Depression.
That is what Barack faced on day one as President. He inherited an economy in rapid decline. But instead of pointing fingers, instead of placing blame, because of that character that we talked about, your President got to work. (Applause.) He was thinking about folks like my dad and like his grandmother, and that’s why he cut taxes for small businesses and working families -- because he believes that here in America, teachers and firefighters should not pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires. That doesn’t make any sense. (Applause.)
And that’s why, while some folks, if you recall, were willing to let the auto industry go under -- you remember that?
MRS. OBAMA: With more than a million jobs that would have been lost, your President had the backs of American workers. He fought hard to protect jobs for American families. And that’s why today the American auto industry is back on its feet again. (Applause.)
And, yes, while we still have more work to do 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 have had 31 straight months -- that is the majority of my husband’s presidency -- with private sector job growth. More than 5.2 million new jobs created under this President, good jobs right here in the United States of America. (Applause.)
Now, in addition to focusing on creating jobs -- because as President, you’ve got to be able to do more than one thing at the same time -- (laughter) -- our President also focused on improving access to health care for millions of Americans. (Applause.)
And here’s another thing that I love about our President -- Barack didn’t care whether health reform was the easy thing to do politically, because that’s not who he is. He cared that it was the right thing to do -- because he was thinking about all the folks he had met around the country, all the struggles they were facing because of health care -- the woman diagnosed with breast cancer whose insurance company wouldn’t cover her care. The seniors in our lives pinching pennies to save up for the medicines they need. The parents who couldn’t afford lifesaving treatment for a child because someone lost a job. Those are the stories that guided him.
And today, because he fought for health reform, today, our parents and grandparents on Medicare are saving [paying] hundreds less for their prescription drugs. (Applause.) Because of health care, young people can stay on their parent’s insurance until they’re 26 years old. (Applause.)
Today, because of health reform -- the reform our President fought for -- insurance companies now have to cover basic preventative care with no out-of-pocket cost -- things like contraception, cancer screenings. (Applause.) Because of the health reform our President fought for, insurance companies won’t be able to discriminate against us because we have a preexisting condition -- let’s say, diabetes or asthma. (Applause.)
And if you get a life-threatening illness -- this is the thing that gets me -- and you need really 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 our young people and giving them the education they deserve, believe me, Barack knows that like me and like so many of you, he never could have attended college without financial aid. We would not be here if it weren’t for financial aid. We didn’t have parents who could help us through. (Laughter.) In fact, when we were first married, our combined monthly student loan bills were actually higher than our mortgage. And I know there are a lot of people here who can relate to that.
So when it comes to student debt, Barack and I, we have been there. This is not a hypothetical situation for us. (Laughter.) And this is why Barack fought so hard to double funding for Pell grants and keep interest rates low. (Applause.) Because he knows how important this is to ensure that all of our young people -- all of them, not just the lucky ones, not just the wealthy ones -- that all of them can afford to attend college. All of them. (Applause.)
And finally, when it comes to understanding the lives of women -- (applause) -- when it comes to standing up for our rights and opportunities -- you know that Barack will always have your back -- always. (Applause.) Because Barack knows from personal experience what it means for a family when women aren’t treated fairly in the workplace. And believe me, as a father of two beautiful girls, he knows what it means to want our daughters in this country to have the same freedoms and opportunities as our sons.
And that is why the first bill he signed into law, the first thing he did as President of the United States was to sign the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to ensure that women get equal pay for equal work. (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 about our health care. (Applause.) That is what my husband stands for.
So we got eight days. Eight days. And I know you all are going to be out there. You and many, many more people are going to be out there. So when people ask you what this President has done for our country, when you’re talking to folks who are deciding which of these two people are going to keep this country moving forward for four years, in addition to everything that your President has done for our economy, our health care, and education, I want you to remind them of a few more things.
Tell them about how this President ended the war in Iraq. (Applause.) Tell them how he took out Osama bin Laden. (Applause.) Tell them how their President is fighting every day to make sure veterans and military families get the benefits they have earned. (Applause.)
Remind them about all of the young immigrants who will no longer have to live in fear of being deported from the only country they’ve ever called home. (Applause.)
Tell them about our brave servicemembers who will never again have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love. (Applause.)
Remind them of the concrete plans your President has laid out for the next four years. And, yes, we, too, have a website. (Laughter.) BarackObama.com/plans. (Applause.) Send them there. And the folks who are still figuring out can learn how this President is going to create millions of new jobs, train the best workforce in the world, boost American-made energy, reduce our deficit, and end the war in Afghanistan so that we can do some nation building here at home. (Applause.) Send them to the website.
But of all the things that I want you to tell them, here’s what I really think is the most important thing for people to know: Tell them that Barack Obama knows the American Dream because he’s lived it. He has lived it, and he is fighting every day -- 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. (Applause.)
But let’s also be clear, while he is so very proud of all that we’ve achieved together -- because understand this, none of this happens without all of us -- but my husband is nowhere near satisfied -- nowhere near satisfied. Barack, of all people on this planet, knows that there are still too many people hurting. He knows that there’s plenty of work left to be done. But as President Clinton said, it’s going to take a lot longer than four years to rebuild an economy from the brink of collapse. Everyone knows better than that. (Applause.)
But here’s what I tell myself every day. Every day, what makes me so proud as a wife and a citizen, that, 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 who wake up every day and work hard for their families without complaint or regret.
And as President, that is what my husband has been fighting for. As President, he’s been fighting for us. And that’s why, when the stakes are so high, we can always trust Barack to have our backs. And over these past four years, together -- we have to know this -- slowly but surely, together, we have been pulling ourselves out of that hole that we started in. We are steadily moving this country forward and making real and meaningful change.
So here is the question that we have to ask ourselves sincerely, and all those that you come in contact with: 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 sit back and watch everything that we worked for and fought for to just slip away?
MRS. OBAMA: Or are we going to keep moving this country moving forward? (Applause.) Forward! (Applause.) What are we going to do?
MRS. OBAMA: But, see, the thing is, in the end, the answer to these questions is now on us. It’s on us. Because understand this very clearly: All of the hard work, all that progress that we’ve made, it is all on the line. The choices couldn’t be more clear. It’s all at stake this November.
And as my husband said -- she doesn’t have to shush; she’s having a good time in that little corner -- (laughter and applause.) Whoever that little one is, there is a party going on right there. (Applause.) So you just let her have fun -- (laughter) -- or him, whoever is down there. (Laughter.)
But as my husband has said, this election is going to be closer than the last one, and it could all come down to what happens in just a few key battleground states like right here in Iowa. (Applause.) See? Right here.
And just to put it in perspective so that we know what kind of work we have to do, let’s look back at what happened in this state in 2008. Back then, we won Iowa by about 147,000 votes. (Applause.) Now, good stuff. Good stuff. But to give you a sense of how close these elections are -- all of them can be -- when you break that number down across precincts throughout the state, that’s just 87 votes per precinct. Right?
Now, when we caucus, we see those numbers because we’re in there. But these general elections -- and I make this point for every single battleground state. That’s why they’re battleground states, because it’s close. (Laughter.) So 87 votes -- now, that could mean just one vote on a block, right? Just a couple of votes in a neighborhood. Just a single vote in an apartment building or a dorm room, right? (Applause.)
So here’s what I want you to think about for these next eight days. If there is anyone here or anyone you know in your life who could possibly be thinking that 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 -- because you can see how people can feel a little frustrated about this process -- but I want you to remind them about those 87 votes. Just think about the power that voters truly have. Regardless of the money and the ads, it all comes down to 87 people who are willing to get out there and talk and build, and talk to the next person, and leave no stone unturned.
So I want you to think about how, with just a few more evenings on a phone bank -- we’re right there -- just a few more hours knocking on doors, just a few of you -- a few of you people, you in this room alone could swing an entire precinct for Barack Obama. You can do it. (Applause.)
And when we win enough precincts, we will win this state. And when we win Iowa, we will be well on our way to putting Barack Obama back in the White House for four more years. Right here! (Applause.)
It is breathtaking how much power folks have. So for the next eight days, we need you to work like never before -- never before. Be focused. Sign up. If you haven’t, sign up with one of our volunteers that are here today. Make some phone calls. Knock on some doors. But more importantly, talk to everyone you know -- your neighbors, the friends, the cousin that you haven’t seen in a while, that classmate -- all students here, you know that classmate. (Laughter.) They’re not quite going to wake up on Election Day. You know them. (Laughter.) Talk to them. Tell them what’s at stake.
Especially for our young people, here’s something that I always remind young people, because I’ve met so young people over these four years who said -- told me, my parents and grandparents were not going to vote for Barack in 2008 until I talked to them and I told them what this election means for my future, and because of that conversation they voted for him. Now, that’s the power that young people can have.
And it doesn’t matter how old you are. I’ve had 10-year-olds who are on a phone bank -- (laughter) -- 14-year-olds. I mean, I’m telling you, there is power because this is your future. And you can tell people that they don’t have to wait until November the 6th to cast their ballots. We all know that early voting has started, and there’s some good early voting happening right here in this state. I voted by mail early already, a couple of weeks ago. (Applause.) And I voted for Barack Obama, just in case you were wondering. (Applause.) I really, objectively feel that he’s the best man for the job. (Laughter.) There are a few things he’s done for this country. He’s the man for me. (Laughter.)
But one of the reasons why I voted early is that I’m going to spend the rest of this time, including Election Day, working to get the vote out, doing events like this in small groups and big groups, just making sure people vote.
And I hope that you do the same. I really do, because we need the vote, but we also need the manpower. And here in Iowa, voting, as you know, has already begun. In fact, right after this event, we’ve got a group that’s going to walk to the Iowa City Public Library to cast their votes. (Applause.) So after I’m done speaking -- don’t leave yet, don’t leave just yet -- (laughter) -- I want you all -- all of you -- as many of you to go upstairs, follow the volunteers across the Ped Mall, and do your part to move this country forward.
And then after you vote, I want you to tell everyone you know that from now until Election Day, they can vote early in person, too. Because the other thing about early voting is that you can do it on your own timeframe. Because you wake up on Election Day, babysitter might not show up, maybe you’re sick, car might not start -- life happens. (Laughter.) But in the span of eight days, at some point you can make it happen. So take advantage of early voting.
And here in Iowa, if you’re not registered you don’t have to worry. You can tell people that if they’re not registered, they can register on the spot when they vote here in the state. (Applause.) And that’s a beautiful system, because that’s not true in every state. (Applause.) But if anybody has questions, just send them to vote.BarackObama.com to find their nearest voting location. And if they don’t vote early, then make sure that they get to the polls on Election Day.
Are we going to do that? That’s our plan. (Applause.) That’s our plan. (Applause.) That’s our plan. We can make it happen. (Applause.)
Now with eight days to go, I’m going to be honest with you, this is the hard part right here, that waiting and those last few days of wondering, oh, my goodness, what’s going to happen? And there will still be plenty of ups and downs for these next eight days. I mean, just think of what has happened over this past year, over the past couple of weeks.
But here’s the thing, when you start getting tired -- and you will when you start thinking about taking the day off -- don’t do it. (Laughter.) But I just want you to remember that what we do -- all of us, what we do for the next eight days will absolutely make the difference between waking up the day after an Election Day and wondering, could we have done more? And let me tell you, I don’t want to feel that feeling. Or the alternative is feeling the promise of four more years. That’s the difference. That is the difference. (Applause.)
Eight days. So from now until November the 6th, we need you to push and work and struggle like never before. (Applause.) Because here’s what we have to remember -- that kind of struggle for change, that is how change always happens in this country.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Michelle, will you marry me? (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: I’m already taken. (Laughter and applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Want one more? (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: I’ll see you after the speech. (Laughter.)
But here’s what I want our young people to know, because this --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Our kids have school today.
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, okay, so that means you really got to vote. (Laughter.) You got it make it worthwhile.
But for our young people, here’s what I want you all to know, that we know from our history in this country change is hard. Shoot, life is hard, right? How many of us old people know in life you just hit bump after bump after bump. There is always somebody there telling you what you can’t do.
But see, if you’ve got that patience and that tenacity that we want all our young people to have -- you all hear me -- with that patience and tenacity, if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight and more importantly doing in our hearts what we know is right, there is just a truth about who we are as a nation. Eventually, if we fight that fight we get there. We always do.
So I don’t want anybody to let -- don’t let anybody talk down your dreams. Don’t let anybody squash your aspirations. Now, think of where Barack would be. I wouldn’t be standing here. You see me? (Laughter.) I wouldn’t be here. Don’t let anyone talk down our country or our country’s future, because you all have every reason to be optimistic about what lies ahead -- do you hear me -- every reason, because here in America, we always move forward. We always have. We never go backwards.
And in the end, that is what this election is about. And that is what elections are always about. Elections are always about hope. Don’t let anybody tell you differently -- they’re always about hope. The hope that I saw on my father’s beaming face as I crossed the stage to get my college diploma, the diploma he took out loans to help me get -- that’s the kind of hope we’re talking about. The hope that Barack’s grandmother felt as she cast her ballot for the grandson she loved and raised. The hope that all of those men and women in our lives who worked that extra shift for us, who saved and sacrificed and prayed so that we could stand here. We are standing on their shoulders. The hope that so many of us feel when we look into the eyes of our kids and grandkids, that’s the kind of hope that we’re working for.
That is why we’re here today, because we want all of our kids to have that foundation for their dreams. We want all of our kids to have opportunities worthy of their promise, because I don’t care where you’re from or what party you belong to, we all know that all of our kids are worthy. That’s just the beauty of it. We want to give them all that sense of limitless possibility -- that belief that here in America, the greatest country on the planet -- (applause) -- that there is always something better out there if you’re willing to work for it.
So this is what I tell myself. For the next eight days and for the next four years, we will not turn back, not ever. We cannot turn back, because we have come so far. But we still have more work to do.
So here’s my last question: Are we ready for this?
MRS. OBAMA: Are we ready to work for eight more days and then four more years and roll up our sleeves, do the hard work, keep pushing and be patient and work hard? Are we willing to do that? (Applause.)
Then let’s get it done. Eight more days, I know we can make it happen. (Applause.)
Thank you all. We love you so much. God bless. (Applause.)
1:58 P.M. CDT