Barack Obama photo

Remarks at a Campaign Rally for Governor Patrick J. Quinn III in Chicago, Illinois

October 19, 2014

The President. Hello, Chicago State! Good to be on the South Side! Oh, it's good to be home. Everybody, have a seat. Have a seat, relax a little bit. I know Pat got you all fired up. Are you fired up? [Applause] I am fired up.

It is so good to see so many friends here today. You've got the guy who, when I first went to Washington as a young Senator, took me under his wing and helped make sure that I didn't get into too much trouble. Could not be a better United States Senator—Dick Durbin is here. Two outstanding Congressmen, Bobby Rush and Danny Davis, are here. Cook County president, who was my alderwoman, and I would not have been elected to the United States Senate had it not been for her—Toni Preckwinkle.

We've got a team that didn't just make Chicago proud, but made America proud: the Jackie Robinson West All-Stars. Where are they at? Where are they at? There they are right there. I got to get an autograph from these guys before I go. [Laughter] How come—when are you all coming to the White House anyway? We've got that scheduled, don't we? Those are some sharp young men, right there.

So you know what? It is good to be home. I had a chance to see Emil Jones, who nobody has done more for Chicago State University than Emil Jones. Love him. Wayne Watson, we appreciate all the good work you're doing. And Wayne doesn't look like he's aged at all; he looks the same. He's like a Dorian Gray.

I just see friends everywhere. I just saw right over there Michael Jordan. Now, it's not the Michael Jordan you thought. [Laughter] You know what, I'm just going to take a second and embarrass Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan was my best volunteer when I was running for the United States Senate. He was a State Farm agent down south. This guy worked me so hard. We did seven Fourth of July parades in one day. [Laughter] We started at Highland Park, ended—where did we end up, Mike? Huh? And down in Park Forest. It was, like, 95 degrees the whole day. [Laughter] I had to burn the shirt when I was done. [Laughter] It was so—Michelle said, no, do not bring that shirt inside this house. [Laughter] But Michael Jordan was with me every step of the way. So—it's true.

Anyway, look, I'm not here to reminisce, I know. But it's just when you see your friends you got to acknowledge them. So look—[applause].

So listen, I got my start in public service as a community organizer down in Palmer Park at Holy Rosary Church, just a few—just a couple miles from here. I met Michelle—she grew up just a few miles from here. Raised our girls just a few miles from here. I care about what happens here. And that's why the first thing—I don't know about you, but the first thing I'm going to do tomorrow is cast my vote to reelect Dick Durbin and give my friend Pat Quinn 4 more years as Governor of the great State of Illinois. That's what I'm going to do.

So starting tomorrow, you can vote too. You've got to grab your friends. You've got to grab your coworkers. Don't just get the folks who you know are going to vote. You got to find cousin Pookie. [Laughter] He's sitting on the couch right now watching football—[laughter]—hasn't voted in the last five elections. You've got to grab him and tell him to go vote. If you don't know where your polling place is at, go to And then, tell them to vote for Pat Quinn. Find your polling place at and take them to vote for Pat Quinn.

And let me tell you why you need to vote for Pat Quinn. Pat Quinn first took office 9 days after I did. He walked into historic job losses, big budget shortfalls, the worst recession in decades. And Pat wanted that job. He took on the tough challenges. He made the tough calls. It has not been easy. It has not been without sacrifice. But he has delivered results. Nearly 40,000 new businesses since 2009. More than 250,000 new jobs since 2010. Unemployment rate, lowest in 6 years, come down faster in Illinois than any State in America over the last year.

When other Governors were putting education on the chopping block to try to balance their budgets, Pat invested in kids, invested in classrooms. Today, Illinois leads the country in the number of 3-year-olds in preschool. He fought for civil rights, fought for the right of every Illinoisan to marry who they love. And Pat suspended his own paycheck to help fix the pension crisis. Pat doesn't just talk the talk, he walks the walk. When you look at Pat you know—by the way, where's Pat's mom? Hey, Mom, happy birthday.

When you listen to Pat, when you talk to Pat, you can tell what his mom was teaching Pat. She wasn't teaching him about surface stuff, wasn't telling him, you got to make as much money as you can; wasn't telling him, you got to amass as much power as you can. She taught him to look out for other people. She taught him to be proud of hard work and helping others get ahead. You can see when you see Pat—you know he's not spending money on his wardrobe. [Laughter] Come on, let's be honest now. [Laughter] I mean, Pat—I was backstage with his staff, you know, and they were, like, trying to iron out like a little—he already had wrinkles on his—they said, we just had that dry-cleaned. [Laughter]

But the point is, Pat is real. He is who he is. He's not trying to front, he's not trying to pretend to be something he's not. He remembers where he came from. He's fighting for you every single day. And that's why you've got to have his back and go out there and vote for Pat Quinn.

You don't want somebody who is too slick. You want somebody who wears his heart on his sleeve. When you hear him talk, you can tell what he cares about. He cares about you. And he has a right to be proud of the progress that he has made, because he fought for you this whole time. And he's taken his lumps when he's had to because he knew it was ultimately the right thing to do. And there's progress in Illinois, and there's progress across the country.

You wouldn't know it—sometimes, you wouldn't know it from watching TV, but over the past 4½ years, our businesses have created more than 10 million new jobs. First time in 6 years, unemployment is below 6 percent. Housing market that was reeling is now rebounding. Auto industry that was wheezing is now roaring back. The manufacturing sector that was shedding jobs for more than a decade is now growing twice as fast as the rest of the economy. We're less dependent on foreign oil than we've been at any time in nearly three decades. Deficit has come down.

Six years ago, only two States allowed gay and lesbian Americans to marry. Today, it's more than 30. You've got—and it's the right thing to do. You've got 10 million Americans who've gained health care who didn't have it before. And by the way, the cost of health care, health care inflation, has actually gone down to its lowest level in 50 years at the same time.

So we've made progress: reading scores up, math scores up, graduations up, college enrollment up. Federal prison population down at the same time as crime is down. First time in 40 years that's happened. So we've made real progress. But look, we're here because we know we've got more work to do. As long as there's a worker out there who wants a job and can't find it, we've got more work to do. As long as there's some single mom out there struggling because she's not getting paid enough, we've got more work to do. As long as there's a child out there who's not sure whether they can afford to go to college and feels the doors of opportunity still closed to her, our fight goes on. Because the basic premise that got me into politics, that got Dick Durbin into politics, that got Pat Quinn into politics, is America only works when everybody gets a shot.

I wasn't born into wealth and fame. Dick Durbin wasn't born into wealth and fame. Pat Quinn—we benefited because we grew up in a society in which, despite its flaws, despite sometimes discrimination, despite women sometimes not getting the same rights as others, despite all that, America, more than any other country, was a country where if you were willing to work hard, it didn't matter what you look like, where you come from, what your last name is, who you love, you could make here. That's the essence of what we believe.

And we believe that we're all in this together and we can help each other, pull each other up; that there's no contradiction between wanting to do well myself and me wanting to make sure you do good; that if you do good, I'll do good too; that we don't have to be crabs in a barrel, we can lift each other up. And government can help. It can't do it for you, but it can help. It can help you maybe get some health insurance. It can help you maybe get to college. It can help that child get early childhood education. It can help just a little bit on that path towards the American Dream. That's what we believe.

We face a lot of challenges. This week, obviously, everybody has been paying a lot of attention and concerned about the spread of disease. But—we've been concerned about violent extremism and the spread of that in the Middle East. We should be concerned about climate change and how that's affecting the world we leave behind to our children. But one of the central challenges is making sure our economy works for every American.

So when you cast your vote, you've got a choice to make. And it's not just a choice about political parties. It's not just a choice about candidates. It's two different visions of America. And it comes down to a simple question: Who's going to fight for your future? Who's looking out for you?

Now, look, when I was in Illinois and I was down in the State legislature, I had a lot of Republican friends. And there are some good people here; some of them got in trouble because they said nice things about me. [Laughter] And I believe that Republicans are patriots. I believe they love their families. I believe they love their country just like we do.

Audience member. They've just got bad ideas.

The President. But they've just got bad ideas. [Laughter] That's all. That's all.

But it's more than that. It's not just that they have bad ideas. It's just they keep on recycling the same bad idea over and over again. You know what they stand for. I mean, it doesn't matter who the candidate is, it's the same thing every time. They offer a vision of the economy that over time seems to just keep on undermining the middle class, making it harder for folks to work hard to get into the middle class: fewer investments in education, looser rules on big banks, looser rules on credit card companies, looser rules on polluters, a thinner safety net for folks who have worked hard and need that safety net if they fall on hard times. And you know what, we tried their experiment. It's not like we didn't try it. And it didn't work. Pat and I have been cleaning up after them for a long time now. And it's not like they've changed their tune. They're still peddling the same thing.

Pat Quinn provided health coverage to nearly 700,000 people who didn't have it before. Governors around the country are blocking health care for more citizens. Every time leaders of Republicans in Washington take a stand on issues, it's no to the middle class, no to the minimum wage, no to fair pay with women. I don't know how you're against making sure we can enforce women getting paid the same as men for doing the same work.

They say no to helping folks refinance their student loans. Chicago State, you know something about that. They actually voted on a law to change the rules to make students pay more on their student loans.

Audience members. Boo!

The President. So the—so if you ask them, what is it you want to do, the only thing I can hear from them is, we want another massive tax cuts for millionaires. Now, I got to say, that's one thing we don't need. And it shows whose side they're on. They blocked a raise in the minimum wage, but they want to give tax cuts for folks at the very top. They say it's even more pressing than ever that we give them tax cuts. Now, that's a tough sell. It's the wrong vision for our country.

And Pat Quinn and I have a different vision that's rooted in the conviction that prosperity in America doesn't trickle down, it trickles up. It starts with a growing, rising middle class. It's ladders of opportunity for folks who are working hard.

I don't need a tax break. Wealthy Americans don't need another champion. You do. Big corporations don't need a champion. Corporate balance sheets are better than they have been at any time in postwar history. You need a tax—you need help. You need a tax break. You need help. You need a tax break. Opportunity for a few is not what America is about, opportunity for all is what America is about.

So instead of giving a tax break for somebody at the top, how about helping somebody with their college tuition? How about helping the single mom with childcare? Pat isn't running to cut his own taxes. He's running to provide the largest tax break in the history of working families in Illinois.

We believe in this country, higher education is the surest path to the middle class. Pat is not running to cut education, he wants to double the grants that help more Americans afford to go to college. Pat's "Birth to Five" initiative will make Illinois the national leader in early childhood education. Think about that. We should want to be a leader in Illinois.

Pat doesn't think if you work full time you should be raising a family in poverty. Pat is not running to cut the minimum wage, he wants to raise the minimum wage.

But unfortunately, Republicans running for office all across the country—and here—they're just following their leadership in Washington. They said raising the minimum wage was nothing but "an election year stunt." Think about that. Tell that to the over 1 million Illinois workers who would benefit from a raise to $10.10 an hour. Raising the minimum wage isn't a stunt, it's the right thing to do. Illinois is one of five States that has a minimum wage initiative on the ballot. So let's vote yes and send a message to Springfield and Washington, it's time to give Americans a raise. We believe America is stronger when women are full and equal participants in our economy. One of the candidates who are running right now on the Republican side said, "You could argue that money is more important for men." Think about that. I'm quoting. That's what one of the Republican candidates said. I don't know who he was talking to. He wasn't talking to Michelle. [Laughter] He wasn't talking to you, was he?

Audience members. No!

The President. If we're going to strengthen the middle class for the 21st century, we've got to have leaders from the 21st century, not the 1950s. Let's make sure women are paid fairly. Let's make sure women can take some time off to take care of a sick kid or a sick parent. Let's make sure every woman controls her own health care decisions, not some politician. We've got to do away with these politicians who belong in a "Mad Men" episode. [Laughter] Because when women succeed, America succeeds.

But let—look, here's the thing, all right? You all know all this. And you can tell I'm out of practice—I'm losing my voice. [Laughter] But what I want to really say to you here today is that the power to move our society, our government, it really is in your hands. I know it's a cliché, and I know that around the country Republicans have been trying to make it harder for folks to vote. But the truth of the matter is that so often we disempower ourselves.

When I was organizing just right around here, and I used to work with folks from churches, laypeople, ordinary folks, bus drivers and secretaries and wonderful people. And they taught me more than I ever taught them. But one of the things—the first things I always had to say to them is, you've got so much power and you give too much of it away. You just assume that things are the way they have to be. You just assume that some neighborhoods are going to get more than other neighborhoods. You just assume that the folks who are well connected, that their kids are going to get a better education. You just assume that there's not much you can do if Springfield or Washington aren't paying attention.

And each and every day, you're fed a message that what you think really doesn't matter and that your experience doesn't matter and that nothing you can do is going to make any difference and both parties are in the tank. And you're fed cynicism and told to be discouraged. And over time, you start believing it. Over time, you start really being convinced that, you know what, nothing is going to change.

Audience members. That's right.

The President. And then, it starts being cool to be cynical. And you start being skeptical of every politician. And you start believing that it's not worth voting. And I'm here to tell you that that kind of cynicism is a choice you're making. And hope is a better choice. You taught me hope is a better choice. I learned that right here. I learned that from talking to some single mom who was working three jobs and had five kids, and every single one of those kids ends up going to college. She taught me hope is a better choice.

I learned it from some pastor around here who somehow figured out a way to feed the hungry and help house the homeless, even though there wasn't that much coming in in the collection plate, but knew how to make it stretch. I learned it from some young person who somehow, out of the toughest of circumstances, ended up becoming a doctor and coming back to the old neighborhood and serving people and making them a little bit healthier.

They taught me that hope is a better choice. You taught me hope is a better choice. You're the reason that I had enough hope to run for the State senate; that I had enough hope to think I could run for the United States Senate, that I had the audacity to actually run for the Presidency of the United States. You taught me that.

So don't give up hope now, not after we've made this much progress. Cynicism didn't send a man to the Moon. Being bitter and skeptical never cured a disease or started a business or helped a child. It was hope that led to folks marching for civil rights. It was hope that helped workers get basic protections. It was hope that made sure women had the right to vote. It's hope that's pulled us out of this recession. It's hope that reopened auto plants that were on the verge of closing.

That's what Pat Quinn believes. That's what I believe. The most important thing is, that's what you believe.

So go make hope real. Go out there and vote! Go out and get your friends to vote. Go out and get your coworkers to vote. And remember that the power is in your hands, and if you do not give it away, then not only are we going to make sure Pat Quinn is Governor once again, not only are we going to reelect Dick Durbin, but we are going to make sure that the America we pass down to the next generation is as filled with promise and potential as it has ever been.

Thank you, Chicago. God bless you. God bless America.

NOTE: The President spoke at 7:23 p.m. at the Emil and Patricia A. Jones Convocation Center at Chicago State University. In his remarks, he referred to Emil Jones, Jr., former president, Illinois State Senate; Wayne D. Watson, president, Chicago State University; Michael J. Jordan, former board member, Obama for America; Eileen Quinn, mother of Gov. Quinn; and State Sen. Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin.

Barack Obama, Remarks at a Campaign Rally for Governor Patrick J. Quinn III in Chicago, Illinois Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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