Remarks by the First Lady at a Fundraising Event
Sheraton Premiere Hotel
Tyson's Corner, Virginia
5:31 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: (Applause.) Well, hello! (Applause.) Yes! I love it. You all are already fired up and ready to go. My work here is done. (Laughter.)
I want to start by thanking Terry for that very kind introduction and for his passionate commitment to families here in this state. I think it’s safe to say that if folks in this state are looking for a fighter, they’ve found one in our friend, Terry. Absolutely. (Applause.)
See, Terry knows what it means to work hard and struggle to get ahead like so many of us. He started working at 14 years old -- and I’m going to tell Malia that -- (laughter) -- because she needs to get up in the morning and earn a living. (Laughter.) But he started working at 14 years of age because he knew that that was the only way he could afford to go to college. I know a lot of people can relate to that. And he’s brought that same energy and dedication to everything he’s done, from politics to business, to being a husband, and a father to five beautiful, beautiful children.
So whether it’s building a stronger middle class, or investing in education, or ensuring that people have access to quality health care, this man, Terry, our friend, understands what folks are going through. And no one will fight harder for folks here in Virginia. And that’s why I am so proud to be here for Terry and I am so thrilled that he is going to be the next Governor of Virginia. Absolutely, we are going to get this done. (Applause.) Yes, we will! We absolutely will. Yes, we must! (Applause.)
But as the spouse of these people who do these things -- (laughter) -- I know how important it is to have a phenomenal partner. And I want to take a moment to recognize Terry’s fabulous, gorgeous, graceful, beautiful wife, Dorothy. Yes, indeed, let’s give Dorothy a round of applause. (Applause.) And she will be a phenomenal first lady. (Applause.)
I want to take a moment to recognize a few other people. I want to thank Congressman Moran and Congressman Connolly for their leadership and service, for being here. (Applause.) I also want to recognize our Virginia Democratic Party Chair, Charniele Herring, for her wonderful work. She is amazing. (Applause.)
I also want to give a special shout-out to the people who always get it done -- all of the neighborhood team leaders who are here today. (Applause.) Can all the team leaders raise your hand so we’ll see where you are? Team leaders! Yes, indeed! (Applause.)
Do not underestimate the power of grassroots leaders like these folks. They were the backbone of both of Barack’s campaigns and we could not have done it without you guys. And I know that you all are doing an outstanding job organizing communities for Terry across this state. So we are so proud of you. We’re so proud that you have continued that work, just like Barack asked. He said keep building, and you’re doing that. So I want us all to give our team leaders another round of applause. (Applause.)
And most important of all, I want to thank all of you for being here today to support Terry. I also want to thank you for being there for Barack. Yes. (Applause.) Not once, but twice. (Applause.) I want to thank you for doing that hard work -- the work that -- the same kind of work you’re doing for Terry. Thank you for making those calls, knocking on doors, getting everyone that you knew out to the polls.
Because of you, we didn’t just win two elections. We have made real and meaningful change in this country -- because of you. (Applause.) Because of you, our economy continues to strengthen with 38 straight months of job growth -- that’s more than three straight years. (Applause.)
Because of you, we have passed health reform; we’re taking on issues like climate change and comprehensive immigration reform -- because of you. (Applause.) Because of all of you, we have a President who stands up for our most fundamental rights, whether that’s equal pay for women or the freedom for all of us to marry the person we love. (Applause.)
See, all of that and so much more has happened because of you. And that’s what elections are all about. It’s like Barack said in his 2008 Election Night speech. He said, “This victory alone is not the change we seek -- it is only the chance for us to make that change.” It’s a chance. And that was true back then and it’s even more true today. Because while we’ve made a lot of important changes over these past four years, we still have so much more to do.
Although our economy is improving, too many middle-class families are still struggling. And that fundamental American promise that so many of us grew up with -- that no matter where you start out, with hard work, you can build a decent life for yourself and an even better life for your kids -- that promise unfortunately is no longer within reach for too many families in our country.
In fact, it probably wouldn’t be in reach for the family I grew up in if we were trying to make it again today. My family, as many of you know, neither of my parents had a college degree. But my father’s job at the city water plant, it paid him a decent wage; paid him enough to keep food on our table, and with the help of student loans, my father was able to send both me and my brother to good schools -- Princeton. I know we’ve got a few Tigers in the crowd. (Applause.) That job that my father had, it also gave him health insurance, gave him a pension that my mom still lives on today.
Now, we weren’t rich by any stretch of the imagination, but we had stability and we had peace of mind. See, because when I was growing up, a family of four living on a single blue-collar salary could build a solid life without debt and without relying on any form of public assistance. That was possible when I was young. But today, for so many families, that’s no longer possible. Folks are working harder than ever before and doing everything right, and it’s still not enough. And while there’s so much noise and talk and back-and-forth going on in Washington, hardly any of it seems to be about the struggles that these families are facing.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I love you, Michelle!
MRS. OBAMA: So it is easy -- (applause) -- to get frustrated. (Applause.) Well, you know what? We love you. And people like me and Barack and Terry and Dorothy, we want to do everything we can to get it right for you.
So it is easy, in light of all this, to get frustrated and cynical. And now that the excitement that comes with a presidential campaign has faded, it’s so tempting to just turn off the TV and wait another four years to re-engage.
But here’s the thing, make no mistake about it, while we’re tuning out, others are tuning in. Others are doing everything they can to make their voices heard. And we’re seeing the effects of that kind of imbalance every single day in Washington.
Just a couple months ago, we saw the failure of common-sense legislation to protect our kids from gun violence -- legislation, by the way, that 90 percent of the American people supported. We are seeing a budget stalemate and sequester, resulting in tens of thousands of our children being turned away from Head Start, and seniors across this country losing their Meals on Wheels. And now there’s even talk about cutting food stamps, which could mean hundreds of thousands of kids going to bed hungry each night -- here in the wealthiest nation on Earth.
And that’s not who we are. That’s not what this country is about. We are so much better than that. We are so much more compassionate and fair, so much more decent than that. And we know this because we see it every day in communities across this country, where folks are working hard at their jobs and sacrificing for their kids and doing everything they can to help their neighbors.
We especially see it in times of tragedy and crisis -- in teachers who rushed children to safety in Newtown, teachers who risked their lives to save students in Oklahoma. (Applause.) We saw it in all those folks in Boston who ran toward the explosions and spent hours tending to perfect strangers. We saw that decency. (Applause.)
And let me tell you, none of these folks asked the people they were helping whether they were Democrats or Republicans. They didn’t ask whether they were Christians or Muslims or Jews. They didn’t care whether they were gay or straight. It was simply enough that they were fellow Americans who were suffering and needed aid. And shouldn’t that be enough for all of us? Yes. (Applause.)
And that was the question that I was asking myself during a recent visit to my hometown of Chicago -- South Side -- (applause) -- when I had the privilege of spending an afternoon with a wonderful group of students at a school called Harper High in Englewood. And by the way, those kids spent the entire day at the White House yesterday. Now, Harper is located in one of the toughest neighborhoods in the city -- a community that has been torn apart by poverty and hopelessness, by gangs, drugs and guns.
And that afternoon, during my visit, I sat down with these 25 students, and these kids were the best and brightest at the school -- the valedictorian, the football star, kids in ROTC. But what they shared with me was that every day, these kids were facing impossible odds -- jobless parents addicted to drugs, friends and loved ones shot dead before their very eyes.
In fact, when the school counselor asked these young men and women whether they knew someone who had been shot, every single one of those kids raised their hands. She then asked them a simple question. She said, “What do you think when the weather forecast says ‘85 and sunny’?” Now, you’d assume that nice weather like that would be a good thing. But not for these kids. They replied that a weather report like that puts fear in their hearts because in their neighborhood, when the weather is nice, that’s when the gangs come out and the shootings start.
So just think about it. For these kids, instead of reveling in the joys of their youth -- simple pleasures like applying to college, getting ready for prom, getting that driver’s license -- these young people are consumed with staying alive. And see, there are so many kids in this country just like these kids at Harper -- kids with so much promise, but so few opportunities; good kids who are doing everything they can to break the cycle and beat the odds.
And they are the reason we’re here today. And today, we need to be better for them. We need to be better for all of our children in this country. (Applause.) Because our children are counting on us. They are counting on us to give them the chances they need for the futures they all deserve. So we can’t wait for the next presidential election to get fired up and ready to go. We can’t wait four years. Right now, today, in this election, we have an obligation to stand up for those kids.
So we must recapture that same passion, that same energy and urgency that we felt in 2008 and 2012. We must keep on working together to build a country worthy of all of our children’s promise.
So let’s start by ensuring that every child has access to quality pre-K, to excellent schools, affordable college. (Applause.) Because we want all our kids to fulfill their boundless potential. And when our kids grow up, let’s make sure they have jobs that pay a decent wage, because we know that it’s wrong for anyone in this country to work 40, 50 hours a week and still be stuck in poverty. It is wrong. (Applause.) And let’s make sure they have health care, because no one in this country should get their primary care in an emergency room. We know better than that.
When it comes to women’s health, let’s keep fighting for our most fundamental, personal rights, because we as women know that we’re more than capable of making our own choices about our bodies. (Applause.)
There is so much to do, and I know we can do this. I know we can. We are doing so much of it already. But make no mistake about it -- and this is the key point I want to make here today -- Barack Obama cannot do it alone. He absolutely needs folks like Terry McAuliffe here in Virginia to make it happen. (Applause.)
So we need all of you -- all of you -- to do everything you can between now and November to get Terry elected. (Applause.) And I can do this. I can be here. But the truth is, it’s all on you, Virginia. No one else can make this particular truth happen. So we need you to keep writing those checks. (Laughter.) And if you haven’t maxed out yet, max out! (Laughter.) Get your friends to max out, too. Find them! (Laughter.)
And as many of you know, while raising money is important, it is not nearly enough. We also need you out there every single day between now and November the 5th, knocking on doors and making calls and getting everyone you know out to the polls. (Applause.) And if you’re not already engaged, I need you to go to terrymcauliffe.com to find out more about how you can help.
We need you to summon the same passion and energy that got my husband elected. Because whether it’s creating jobs or rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure or building world-class schools our kids deserve, Barack needs leaders like Terry to keep on making that change we all believe in.
So I want you to remember all those times that I have asked you to have my husband’s back. Remember that? (Applause.) Well, this is one of those back-having times. (Applause.) This is it. It’s one of those times. (Applause.)
And like any election, I know it won’t be easy. I know that plenty of special interests are pouring all kinds of resources into elections like this one. But remember that as we saw last year, that person who spends $1 million or even $10 million, that person still just has one vote just like the rest of us. So you need to get everyone you know to cast their votes and make their voices heard on November the 5th. We all have a big voice in the voting booth. (Applause.)
And if anyone tells you that they’re too busy, if anyone tells you it’s too much of a hassle or that this election just doesn’t matter, here’s what I want you to do. I want you to share a story with them that Barack shares often.
Tell them about a woman named Desiline Victor, who Barack talked about in his State of the Union Address. Desiline lives down in Florida, and she waited for hours in line to cast her vote last November. Now, you might think that’s not so unusual given that a lot of people had to wait in long lines this past election. But here’s the thing: Desiline is 102 years old. Yes. (Applause.) Desiline Victor was born before women had the right to vote, and she’s been a citizen of this country for less than 10 years. And even though she must have been tired -- even though I’m sure her feet were aching -- she was determined to cast her vote and make her voice heard in the country that she loves.
So here’s what I tell myself, and I hope you tell yourself -- that if Desiline Victor can summon that kind of passion and energy, then we don’t have any excuse, right? If she can summon that kind of patriotism and determination, then so can we. (Applause.) And if you all do that, you summon that passion and energy and patriotism here in Virginia, then I know that we will elect Terry McAuliffe as governor of this state of Virginia. We’re going to do it! (Applause.) And I know that we can continue our work to build a future worthy of all of our children.
Thank you all. God bless. Work hard. (Applause.)
5:52 P.M. EDT