Barack Obama photo

Remarks at a Democratic National Committee Reception in San Jose, California

May 08, 2014

The President. Hello, everybody! Hello, California!

Audience member. We love you!

The President. I love you back! It is good to be back in San Jose. I think one of the times I came here, I started singing the Dionne Warwick song. Did I do that? [Laughter] It was pretty good.

Audience member. Do it again!

The President. No, I'm not going to do it tonight. [Laughter] Maybe after the midterms. Maybe I'll sing it to you separately. [Laughter]

A couple of people I want to thank: First of all, our outstanding cohosts, Sam and Marissa. Please give them a big round of applause. We've got your own State assemblywoman, Nora Campos, here. Way to go, Nora! There she is. And we have our outstanding DNC finance chair, Henry Muñoz, here. And all of you are here. Yay!

I am thrilled to see all of you. Some of you are old friends who have been working with me since I was a U.S. Senator and nobody could pronounce my name. Some of you have been knowing me since I was a State senator. [Applause] Exactly. See, you've got an Illinois guy here.

Audience member. North Side.

The President. We've got a Chicago guy. All right, I can't name all the places you guys are from. [Laughter] A lot of you worked on the campaign and on OFA, and I couldn't be more grateful for that. And I want to give you a little update about where we are.

We came into office at a time when America was in dire straits, and we have made enormous progress over the last 5-something years. We've created 9.2 million jobs. Auto industry has come roaring back. We have reduced our oil imports. We are producing more clean energy than ever before. We have seen college attendance go up; we've seen high school dropouts go down. And there are millions of Americans all across the country, including right here in California, who finally have the financial and emotional security of affordable health care. That has all happened over the last 5½ years.

But for all that we've done—for the war in Iraq that we've ended and the war in Afghanistan that we're bringing to an honorable close, for all the work we're doing on climate change and making sure that we bequeath to our children and our grandchildren the kind of planet that allows them to thrive and prosper—for all those efforts, we know that we've got more work to do.

We know that despite economic growth and close to record corporate profits, despite the fact that folks at the very top are doing better than ever, that there are too many families all across the country who are still struggling to get by, who work hard every day, but have trouble making ends meet at the end of the month. We know that people still feel insecure about their future, about the possibilities of retirement. We know that there are folks who work hard every day and are still in poverty. We know that there are folks who work hard every day, but are still living in the shadows because of a broken immigration system.

We know that the investments that we need to make sure that every child in America—not just my kid or your kid, but every child in America—has an opportunity to get a world-class education, that those investments have not yet been fully forthcoming. We know that.

And that's why November is so important. The Republicans who run the House of Representatives right now and want to take over the Senate——

Audience members. Boo!

The President. Don't boo——

Audience member. Vote!

The President. Vote! Work!

They—but they have said no to every proposal that we know could make a difference in the lives of hard-working Americans. They've said no to proposals that would rebuild our infrastructure. They've said no to proposals that would increase basic research that drives the innovation that has made this region the envy of the world. They have said no to equal pay for equal work. In fact, they've denied that there's even a problem. [Laughter]

Audience member. Really?

The President. I'm just saying. [Laughter]

They said no to increasing the minimum wage. They've said no to helping kids afford college. They even shut down the Government and almost created another global financial catastrophe because they wanted to get their way.

Now, to be fair, they did say yes to their own budget, except when you look at the budget, what they're saying yes to are cuts in Medicaid, cuts in education, cuts in basic research. But what they do preserve are tax breaks for folks who don't need them, that aren't going to grow the economy.

And look, Republicans are patriots. They love their country. They love their families. They want America to thrive. But they are operating on a theory that time and again has proven to be wrong. It's a theory that says you're on your own. It's a theory that says if we just reward folks at the very top, then everybody else is going to do just fine. It's a theory that discounts the possibility of common action in order to make sure that opportunity is real for every American and not just some. They have a different theory about how America moves forward. And so they just keep on offering again and again the same failed theories that have been punishing the middle class and failing America for decades now.

And so when I think about what's at stake in this election, it's not just a matter of a seat here or a seat there. It's about competing visions of how America moves forward. And I believe that America moves forward when we recognize that we're all in it together. I believe in an America where we rise together, where the economy is built from the bottom up and the middle out.

I believe in an America where we are investing in innovation and where, although the private sector is driving our growth, it is based on an acknowledgment that when we've got skilled people and we've got outstanding teachers and we are honoring our researchers and our universities, that's the dynamism that has always put us at the forefront. That's what's at stake. That's what I believe.

And so the question is, what are we going to do about it in this midterm? The choices couldn't be clearer. The choices could not be clearer. As Democrats, I believe that we should be fighting for equal pay for equal work; they do not. That's a choice. As a Democrat, I believe that opportunity for all means that if you work full time, you should not be in poverty. We should increase the minimum wage. It's the right thing to do.

As a Democrat, I believe in investing in early childhood education. We know it works. We want to give every child the best chance possible to succeed. They have a different view. As a Democrat, I believe that we should make college affordable for every young person who's got the energy and drive to succeed—every child, not just some. They've got a different view.

So I know what we stand for. And sometimes, I've got to say that when you look at reporting of what's happening in Washington—and let's face it, Washington is not working the way it's supposed to—then sometimes, you'd get the impression that, yes, both parties just are bickering and arguing and that's why things don't work.

Now, let's—I've got a confession to make: The Democratic Party is not perfect. [Laughter] I know that's crazy to say at a DNC event. [Laughter] But there are times where folks make mistakes. There are some elected officials who don't show the courage of their convictions. There are times where I get frustrated. And we have to be self-critical and make sure that we're constantly asking ourselves, are we serving the folks who sent us here as well as we should? But on the big issues, on our core convictions, we're on the right side of the issues.

On immigration, we believe in comprehensive immigration reform that gives people a chance and that would improve our economy. On climate change, we believe in science, and we think it's important for us to take action, and that if we invest in clean energy, we can create jobs and opportunity here in the United States at the same time as we're making sure that we've got an environment that is what we want for our children and our grandchildren. We're on the right side of that. The other side isn't. That's just the bottom line.

When it comes to education, when it comes to the minimum wage, when it comes to equal pay, when it comes to making investments in infrastructure, when it comes to basic research, when it comes to the things that would help drive this economy right now, we're on the right side of the issues. And the reason that we've got gridlock right now is, you've got another party that has been captured by folks who are on the wrong side of the issue.

Now, that's on inevitable. I mean, I come from Illinois—[laughter]—and that's the "Land of Lincoln," a great Republican President. Those of you who care about the environment, our—probably our greatest environmental President: Teddy Roosevelt, Republican. So it's not inevitable; this does not have to be how it is. But it is how it is right now. And if we are serious about solving the problems that matter for future generations, if we are serious about making sure that there are good jobs out there that pay a living wage, if we're serious about fixing a broken immigration system, if we are serious about investing in our schools, if we are serious about making college affordable, if we are serious about making sure that our veterans are properly cared for, if we are serious about a clean energy economy, if we're serious about innovation, then we've got to fix Congress.

And the way we're going to fix Congress is not just to get cynical and sit back and complain and grouse and say, a plague on both your houses. The way to fix Congress is, take a look at who stands for the things you care about and who doesn't and get the folks who don't out of the way so we can make progress in America. And that's what this midterm election is all about.

I mean, what exactly are the plans of the other side right now?

Audience member. Nothing!

The President. No, that's not true. They've got one plan. They've taken 50 votes to repeal Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, and I guess they're going to try to take 50 more, because that's all they talk about. And let me tell you something. You've got 8 million people who signed up on these exchanges; you've got millions more who are benefiting from expanded Medicaid. You've got 3 million young people who are able to stay on their parent's plan. Millions of people across the country——

Audience member. Need it.

The President.——are better off. I meet them every day. And I can't explain to you why it is that they are so obsessed with making sure those folks don't have health insurance. But we're on the right side of history on that issue. And if that's all they've got—if that's all they've got—then they shouldn't be running either Chamber. They shouldn't be running the House, and they should—sure should not be running the Senate. And they sure shouldn't be making appointments to the Supreme Court.

Audience members. No!

The President. And they shouldn't be blocking mine.

Now, I know I'm preaching to the choir. [Laughter] But we're just kind of getting started here on this campaign season, and I want to kind of get us warmed up, have got to get the vocal chords working. [Laughter]

There's one problem we've got. Our problem is not that the public doesn't agree with us. If you look on the issues that we're fighting for, the majority of the American public is on our side. The majority believes in raising the minimum wage. The majority of Americans believe in equal pay for equal work. The majority of Americans want to see us invest in education and job training and apprenticeships. The majority of Americans think we should be putting people back to work rebuilding our infrastructure. A majority of Americans think that it's the right thing to do to develop a clean energy economy. A majority of Americans want immigration reform. So what's the problem?

Audience member. Not voting.

The President. Say that again.

Audience member. They're not voting!

The President. They're not voting. And in particular, Democrats have a congenital defect when it comes to our politics, and that is, we like voting during Presidential years, and during the midterms, we don't vote. And so you already have lower voting totals during the midterms, and it's our folks that stay home.

And maybe in normal times that's okay, although I don't think it's ever okay for us not to vote. But in this midterm, with the stakes as high as they are, with the progress that needs to be made, with families out there who are desperate to see a Washington that is on their side, we're going to have to make sure that we are coming out with the same urgency and the same enthusiasm that we typically show during Presidential years. That's what we're going to need. And that's where all of you come in. It's not enough that you're going to vote. You're going to have to grab your mom, dad, cousins, uncles, coworkers, friends, family, and you are going to have to explain to them the stakes involved in this election.

And that's what the DNC is about. The contributions you make today are to ensure that we've got the infrastructure, the architecture, so that an army of young people and not-so-young people, but young at heart, young in spirit, are out there working in precincts and in neighborhoods, delivering a message about what the stakes are in this election and making sure that people know they need to come out and vote.

Now, I know that we live at a time where cynicism too often passes off as wisdom. And this country has been through a lot over these last 5 years. But I want to close by just letting you know this. I travel around the world a lot. I study global trends. I speak to world leaders and prominent businesses who operate in every corner of the Earth. And I will tell you that the assessment outside of the United States is that we've got all the best cards. We still have the most innovative, dynamic economy in the world. We still have the best universities in the world. We still have the most productive workers in the world.

We have this incredible opportunity to develop a clean energy economy, even as traditional sources of energy, we've got more than most advanced countries. We have this incredible vibrancy that is on display right here in this community, people from all around the world coming here, hungry, striving, ready to innovate. There's no other country that looks like us. It's a huge gift. The problem is that we'll waste that gift if we don't make the right choices.

So what I want everybody to know is, is that for all the challenges we have and for all the legitimate reasons why people get discouraged, our future is bright if we make the right choices. Our future is bright if people shake off whatever is holding them back and they go to the polls. Our future is bright if people understand the stakes involved. Our future is bright if you and I, we're all out there working together to make sure that folks know that the decisions we make right now are going to matter to that young man and that young lady and our kids and our grandkids. And we don't have time to wait.

So I don't have patience for cynicism right now. I think it's too easy. I think it's an excuse. The future is there for us to seize, but we've got to seize it.

Audience member. Mr. Obama!

The President. And if we do, then I guarantee you——

Audience member. Ethiopia needs freedom! Freedom for Ethiopia, Mr. Obama!

The President. Hold on. I agree with you, although, why don't I talk about it later because I'm just about to finish. [Laughter] You and me, we'll talk about it. All right. I'm going to be coming around.

Audience member. [Inaudible]

The President. There you go.

Audience member. [Inaudible]

The President. I agree with you.

Audience member. [Inaudible]

The President. I want to hear from you. Audience member. We love you!

The President. I love you back. You kind of screwed up my ending, but that's okay. [Laughter] The—that's okay. And we've got free speech in this country, which is great too.

So bottom line is this, bottom line is this: This is not the end, this is just the beginning. I'm going to need every one of you to sign up to make sure that you are going to continue to work with the DNC. I am going to be, I guarantee you, back in California sometime before November. And when I come back, I expect everybody here to report back to me that you have been out there working to make sure that we are having a Democratic Senate and a Democratic House.

Are you with me?

Audience members. Yeah!

The President. Are you fired up?

Audience members. Yeah!

The President. You ready to go?

Audience members. Yeah!

Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. God bless America. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 7:50 p.m. at the Fairmont San Jose Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Sam Altman, partner, Y Combinator; and Marissa Mayer, chief executive officer, Yahoo!

Barack Obama, Remarks at a Democratic National Committee Reception in San Jose, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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