Barack Obama photo

Remarks at a Campaign Rally in Bristow, Virginia

November 03, 2012

The President. Hello, Virginia! Are you fired up?

Audience members. Yes!

The President. Are you ready to go?

Audience members. Yes!

The President. You've got to be fired up after Bill Clinton. He has been traveling all across the country for this campaign. He's been laying out the stakes so well that our team basically calls him the secretary of explaining stuff. [Laughter]

The only Clinton working harder than him is our Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. And I am so grateful to both of them. The only problem is, I was in the back, I was enjoying listening to President Clinton so much, I had to run up to get my cue. [Laughter] I was sitting there, just soaking it all in. [Laughter] He was a great President; he has been a great friend. So I want everybody to give President Bill Clinton a big round of applause.

Speaking of outstanding public servants, your next Senator, your former Governor, Tim Kaine, is in the house. Your outstanding Congressman, Gerry Connolly, is here. And I want everybody to please thank Dave Matthews for the outstanding performance. Now——

Audience member. We love you!

The President. I love you back. And I'm glad to see all of you.

For the past several days, obviously, all of us have been focused on the devastation that's been taking place all along the East Coast. Virginia got hit, but was spared some of the worst brunt of the storm. But I've been to New Jersey; we've been on the phone every day with folks from Connecticut and New York. And as a nation, we mourn those who have been lost. Our hearts and prayers go out to the families who are going through just some unbearable pain. So many folks have been impacted.

It's going to be a long, hard road to recovery. But every time I've spoken to folks in the region, what I've told them is that America will be with them every step of the way. America will be there on this hard road ahead. We will help them rebuild together, because that's what we do as Americans.

Which is why, during the course of tragedy, we've also been inspired over these last few days by heroes: firefighters and National Guardsmen and women, and EMS folks and police officers running into buildings, wading through water; neighbors helping neighbors cope with tragedy; leaders of different political parties working together to fix what's broken, not worrying about who's getting credit, not worrying about the politics of it; a spirit that says no matter how bad a storm is, we bounce back. No matter how tough times are, we're all in this together. We rise or fall as one Nation and as one people.

And that spirit—that spirit has guided this country along its improbable journey for more than two centuries. It's what's carried us through the trials and tribulations of the last 4 years.

Remember in 2008, we were in the middle of two wars and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Today, our businesses have created nearly 5 1/2 million new jobs. The American auto industry is back on top. Home values are on the rise. Housing construction is coming back. We're less dependent on foreign oil than any time in the last 20 years. Because of the service and sacrifice of our brave men and women in uniform, the war in Iraq is over. The war in Afghanistan is coming to a close. Al Qaida has been decimated. Usama bin Laden is dead. We are safer than we were 4 years ago.

So we've made real progress, Virginia. We've made real progress. But, Virginia, we're here tonight not only to listen to Dave Matthews—[Laughter]—we—not only to hear the master, Bill Clinton, break things down for us, but we're also here because we've got more work to do.

As long as there's a single American who wants a job and can't find one, our work is not yet done. As long as there are families working harder but still falling behind, our work is not yet done. As long as there's a child anywhere in Virginia, anywhere in this country, who is still languishing in poverty and barred from opportunity, our work is not yet done. We've got more work to do.

Our fight goes on, Virginia, because we know this Nation can't succeed without a growing, thriving middle class. Our fight goes on because America has always done best when everybody has a fair shot and everybody's doing their fair share and everybody's playing by the same rules. That's what we believe. That's why you elected Bill Clinton in '92. That's why you elected me in '08. That's why I'm running for a second term as President of the United States. Now——

Audience members. Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

The President. Now, Virginia, in 3 days, you've got a choice to make. And even if you've made the choice, you've got to go talk to some folks who haven't. And you've got to tell them it's not just a choice between two candidates or two parties. It's a choice between two different visions of America. It's a choice between top-down economics that crashed our economy, or bottom-up, middle-out economics that create a strong and growing middle class.

As Americans, we honor the strivers and the dreamers, the entrepreneurs, the small-businesspeople, the risk takers who are the driving force behind our free enterprise system. And we believe the free enterprise system is the greatest engine of growth and prosperity the world has ever known. But we also know, in this country, the market works best, the free enterprise system works best, more businesses are created, more jobs are created, when everybody has a chance to succeed, when everybody has the chance to get a good education and learn new skills, when we support research into medical breakthroughs or new technologies, because we know that we can't do that on our own. We've got to pool our resources to discover the future.

We know that America is stronger when everybody can count on affordable health insurance, when everybody can count on Medicare and Social Security to give them a dignified retirement. We know the market works better when there are rules of the road to protect kids from toxic dumping, to protect consumers from being taken advantage of by unscrupulous credit card companies or mortgage lenders.

We believe that there's a role for rules and regulations that are smart, and then we also believe there are some things we should leave to the people. For example, we don't think politicians in Washington are very smart about controlling health care choices that women are perfectly capable of making themselves.

Now, for 8 years, we had a President who shared these beliefs. You just heard him. President Clinton's economic plan asked the wealthiest Americans to pay a little bit more so we could reduce our deficit and invest in the skills and ideas of our people. And the interesting thing is, at the time, the Republicans in Congress—and a certain Senate candidate by the name of Mitt Romney——

Audience members. Boo!

The President. Don't boo——

Audience members. Vote!

The President. You got to vote. Don't boo.

But this Senate candidate named Mitt Romney said that Bill Clinton's plan would hurt the economy and would kill jobs. Sound familiar?

Audience members. Yes!

The President. It turns out his math was just as bad back then as it is today. [Laughter] Because by the end of President Clinton's second term, America had created 23 million new jobs. Incomes were up. Poverty was down. Our deficit became the biggest surplus in history.

So, Virginia, we know our ideas work. What about their ideas? We tried those too. After Bill Clinton left office, for 8 years we tried giving big tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. We tried to strip away regulations so that Wall Street and insurance companies and oil companies were free to do whatever they pleased. And what did we get? Falling incomes, record deficits, the slowest job growth in half a century, and an economic crisis that we've been cleaning up after ever since.

So we tried one way; it worked. We tried another way; it didn't work—which presents a dilemma for Governor Romney, since he wants to go back to the same policies that didn't work.

Now, Governor Romney is a very talented salesman. So in this campaign, he has tried as hard as he can to repackage these same ideas, and he's got—I think President Clinton called it—"the brass" to call it change. [Laughter]

Now, let me tell you, we know what change looks like. We know what change looks like, and what Governor Romney's selling ain't it. Giving more power to the biggest banks isn't change. Another $5 trillion tax cut for the wealthy, that's not change. Refusing to answer questions about the details of your policies until after the election, that's definitely not change. Ruling out compromise by pledging to rubberstamp the Tea Party folks in Congress, that's not change.

Audience members. Boo!

The President. Changing the facts when they're inconvenient to your campaign—not change. I mean, that's old. That's the attitude in Washington that needs to change.

Now, Virginia, after 4 years as President, you know me. You know me. So when you're trying to sort through this argument about change, part of what you have to ask yourself is, who do you trust?

Audience members. You!

The President. When you're talking about the economy and policy that's so critical to our future, you've got to ask yourself, who do you trust?

Audience members. You!

The President. You may not agree with every decision I've made—Michelle doesn't agree with every decision I've made. [Laughter] There may be times when you're frustrated at the pace of change. I'm frustrated sometimes with the pace of change. But you know I mean what I say and I say what I mean. You know what I believe. You know where I stand.

When I said we'd end the war in Iraq, we ended it. When I said we'd pass health care reform, we passed it. When I said we'd repeal "don't ask, don't tell," we repealed it. You know I tell the truth. And most importantly, you know I will fight for you and your families every single day as hard as I know how.

So let me tell you, I know what real change looks like because I've fought for it. I've got the scars to prove it. And you have too. And after all we've been through together, we can't give up on it now. We've got to keep pushing forward. That's why I'm running for a second term. That's why I need your vote.

Audience members. Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

The President. Now, Virginia, let me describe very briefly—I know folks are cold—but let me describe—[Laughter]—what am I talking about when I'm talking about forward? What do you I mean by real change?

Change is a country where every American has a shot at a great education. Now, government alone can't do that. Parents, you got to parent; students, you got to study. But don't tell me that hiring more teachers won't help our economy grow. Don't tell me that students who can't afford college should just borrow money from their parents. That wasn't an option for me; it wasn't an option for Bill Clinton. I'll bet it's not an option for a lot of you.

That's why I want to cut the growth of tuition in half over the next 10 years. That's why I want to recruit 100,000 math and science teachers so we don't fall behind the rest of the world. That's why I want to train 2 million Americans at our community colleges to get the skills businesses are hiring for right now.

That's real change. That's what we're fighting for in this election. That's what's at stake.

I want us to live up to this country's legacy of innovation. I'm proud I bet on American workers and the American auto industry. But I'm even prouder we're not just building cars again, we're building better cars, cars that by the middle of the next decade will go twice as far on a gallon of gas. That kind of innovation, that kind of forward thinking, we don't have to restrict it just to the auto industry. I want to bring manufacturing back on all kinds of things.

We've got thousands of workers building long-lasting batteries, building wind turbines all across the country. So instead of subsidizing oil companies' profits when they're making money hand over fist, I want to support energy jobs of tomorrow, which will cut our oil imports in half, which will help our environment, help our national security. I don't want a Tax Code that rewards companies for creating those jobs overseas, I want to reward companies that are creating those jobs in Virginia. That's the future I see for this country.

Change is turning the page on a decade of war so we can focus on nation-building here at home. As long as I'm Commander in Chief, we'll pursue our enemies with the strongest military the world's ever known. And Virginia carries more than its load when it comes to defending this country, and we are grateful to this State. But we also understand, to be strong it's time to use some of the savings from winding down two wars to pay down our debt and rebuild America, fixing roads, putting folks back to work rebuilding our bridges, making sure our schools are state of the art.

And that's especially important for our veterans. We want to put them to work, because if they have fought for our country and defended our freedom, they shouldn't have to fight for a job when they come home. That's my commitment to them. That's what's at stake in this election.

And President Clinton talked about it; we've got to reduce our deficit. That's real change. But we've got to do it in a balanced, responsible way. I've cut a trillion dollars' worth of spending. We can do more. But if we're serious about deficit reduction, if we're not just using it in TV ads and then once you get into office—like Dick Cheney, he said, doesn't matter—then we also have to ask the wealthiest Americans to go back to the tax rates that they paid when President Clinton was in office.

And the reason is because budgets are about choices, about priorities. What are we going to invest in? As long as I'm President, I'm not going to turn Medicare into a voucher just to pay for another millionaire's tax cut.

So, Virginia, we know what change is. We know what the future requires. We know also that it won't be easy. Back in 2008, I talked about this. I warned some of you—maybe you weren't believing me—I said, change, real change, isn't just about changing Presidents or changing parties, it's about changing our politics.

I ran because the voices of the American people—your voices—had been shut out of our democracy for too long by lobbyists and special interests and politicians who were willing to say anything and do anything just to keep things the way they are, the protectors, the guardians of the status quo. And that status quo in Washington has fought us every step of the way over the last 4 years.

They spent millions of dollars trying to prevent us from reforming health care, millions of dollars trying to prevent us from reforming Wall Street. They engineered a strategy of gridlock in Congress, refusing to compromise on ideas that in the past both Democrats and Republicans had supported.

And what they're counting on now is that you're going to be so worn down by all the squabbling, so tired of the dysfunction, so weary of what goes on, on Capitol Hill, that you're just going to give up and walk away——

Audience members. No!

The President. —and just put them back in power or let them stay there. In other words, their bet is on cynicism.

But, Virginia, my bet's on you. My bet's on you and the decency and the good sense of the American people. And it's not a partisan bet I'm making. When the other party has been willing to work with me to help the middle class, I'm right there with them. I'm happy about it. I would have less gray hair if they're ready to go. Come on. [Laughter]

When we cut taxes for middle class families and small businesses, we had some Republican support. That was great. We had some courageous Republican Senators work with us to repeal "don't ask, don't tell." We celebrated them. We embraced them.

I'll work with anybody of any party to move this country forward. And if—Virginia, if you want to break the gridlock in Congress, you'll vote for leaders like Tim Kaine who feel the same way, whether they're Democrats, Republicans, or Independents, leaders who will put people first and put the election aside for a moment.

But we're still going to have some fights because there are some values that are at stake. There are some principles we've got to fight for. If the price of peace in Washington is cutting deals that will kick students off financial aid or get rid of funding for Planned Parenthood or let insurance companies discriminate against people with preexisting conditions or eliminate health care for millions on Medicaid who are poor or elderly or disabled or kick kids off of Head Start, I'm not buying that. That's not a price I'm willing to pay. That's not bipartisanship. That's not change. That's surrender to the same status quo that has hurt middle class families and everybody who is striving to get into the middle class for way too long.

And, Virginia, I'm here and I'm running for a second term because I'm not ready to give up on that fight. I'm not ready to give up on that fight, and I hope you aren't either.

Audience members. No!

The President. I hope you aren't either.

Audience members. No!

The President. The folks at the very top in this country don't need another champion in Washington. They will always have a seat at the table. They'll always have access and influence. Regardless of who is President, they'll find a way to have their voices heard. They've got money they can spend. There are lobbyists they can hire.

The people who need a champion are the Americans whose letters I read late at night after a long day in the office, the men and women I meet on the campaign trail every day.

The laid-off furniture worker who's having to retrain at the age of 55 for a new career in a new industry, she needs a champion. The restaurant owner who has got great food but needs a loan to expand and the bank turned him down, he needs a champion. The cooks and the wait staff and the cleaning staff working overtime in some Vegas hotel, trying to save enough to buy a first home or send their kids to college, they need a champion.

The autoworker who got laid off and thought the plant would never reopen and now he's back on the job, filled with pride and dignity, not just because he's building a great car, but he knows he's building America, he needs a champion.

That teacher who is in an overcrowded classroom, digging into her own pocket for school supplies, not always getting the support she needs, but knowing every day, maybe she's touching that one child and something is going to break through, she needs a champion.

All those kids in inner cities and small farm towns, in the valleys of Ohio, in these rolling Virginia hills, kids dreaming of becoming scientists or doctors or engineers or entrepreneurs or diplomats or businessmen or even a President, they need a champion in Washington because they don't have lobbyists. The future never has lobbyists, but it's the dreams of those children that will be our saving grace.

And that's why I need you, Virginia, to make sure their voices are heard, to make sure your voices are heard. We have come too far to turn back now. We've come too far to let our hearts grow faint. Now is the time to keep pushing forward, educate all our kids, train all our workers, create new jobs, rebuild our infrastructure, discover new sources of energy, broaden opportunity, grow our middle class, restore our democracy, and make sure that no matter who you are, no matter where you come from, no matter what you look like, no matter what your last name is, no matter who you love, you can make it in America if you try.

And, Virginia, that's why I'm asking for your vote.

I was backstage with David Plouffe. Some of you guys know he's sort of a mastermind of campaign organization. And we were talking about how, as the campaign goes on, we become less relevant. I'm sort of a prop in the campaign. [Laughter] He's just bothering a bunch of folks calling, asking what's going on. But the power is not with us anymore. The planning, everything we do, it doesn't matter because now it's all up to you.

It's up to the volunteers. It's up to somebody knocking on a door. It's up to somebody making a phone call. It's up to somebody talking to their mom or their dad, or their wife or their husband, or grandma or grandpa. And that's how democracy is supposed to be. It's up to you. You've got the power.

And that's why I need you, Virginia. Don't get tired. Don't get weary. If you're willing to knock on some doors with me and make some phone calls for me, grab some friends for me, turn out to vote for me, we'll win Virginia. We'll win this election. We'll finish what we started. We'll move forward. Together we'll renew the bonds and reaffirm the spirit that makes the United States of America the greatest nation on Earth.

God bless you. God bless the United States of America.

Note: The President spoke at 10:25 p.m. at Jiffy Lube Live. In his remarks, he referred to Republican Presidential nominee W. Mitt Romney. The transcript released by the Office of the Press Secretary also included the remarks of former President William J. Clinton. The transcript was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on November 4.

Barack Obama, Remarks at a Campaign Rally in Bristow, Virginia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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