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Remarks at a Dinner for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Representative Ron Klein in Miami

October 11, 2010

Hello, everybody. Please have a seat, have a seat. It is good to be back, Miami. This is quite a view, Alonzo. [Laughter]

To the entire Mourning family, Tracy and Alonzo, Trey, Myka, Alijah, thank you so much for your hospitality and this spectacular setting. We are grateful to you.

To Representative Chris Van Hollen, who is here, the chairman of the DCCC, everybody give him a big round of applause. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is here. Representative Ron Klein is here. And we're going to get him back in Congress. Representative Kathy Castor--is Kathy here? Give her a round of applause anyway, even if she's not here. And I know Representative Ted Deutch is here, and his beautiful family.

In addition, I want to say that Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, I wish you the best of luck when you're not playing the Bulls. [Laughter] I just want to be clear about that. I like you. [Laughter] But when you're playing the Bulls, I'm rooting against you. [Laughter]

I am stunned that Alonzo let a Laker in here. [Laughter] But he said that Magic transcends party lines--and so we're glad to have Magic in the house.

Now, I want to just say a little bit about Ron, because so much of the reason we're here is to make sure that he continues to do the outstanding work that he's doing on behalf of south Florida. They have lived here for 25 years. This is where they raised their family. This is where Ron helped run a small business. That's who he's been fighting for since he got to Washington--families and small-business owners--because he's part of them, he understands them. He's fought to bring skyrocketing costs of homeowner's insurance down. He's fighting to protect and strengthen Medicare and Social Security. He was one of the leaders in helping to make sure that we impose sanctions on Iran, to provide more security for us, but also to provide more security for our ally, Israel.

He knows the people of south Florida, has been listening to them, has been working with them, is fighting for them. And he's an example of the kinds of unbelievable public servants that we've got all across the country, who have been doing heroic work under the most difficult circumstances.

So I just want to spend a little bit of time talking about what those circumstances are and why this election is so important. When people think about elections, they tend to think back to 2008, and they remember the Inauguration Day, and Beyonce was singing, and everybody was looking nice, or they think about election day, and everybody with the signs, and--"Yes We Can." They don't remember when we were walking around in the snow in Iowa, knocking on doors and nobody knew who we were. And it was tough.

And what I said to people at that time was that the reason I was running for President was because I felt that the country had gone off-track, that it wasn't working on behalf of the ordinary families where so many of us started--families in Lansing or families in Chicago or families in south Florida--families that didn't have a lot, but they had a lot of love, they had a work ethic, they wanted to make sure their kids got ahead. And they figured if they lived up to their responsibilities, then they would be able to get a good job that pays a living wage. They could buy a house. They could send their kids to school so they could aspire to things they never hoped for themselves.

They believed that they shouldn't get bankrupt if they get sick. They should be able to retire with some dignity and some respect. They believed in the American Dream. It didn't matter what color you were, what race you were, what religion you were, there was a notion that we could all make it if we did the right thing by ourselves, our families, our communities. And people had lost that belief, and that's why I decided to run.

But I also said that the problems we were experiencing had been going on for a decade. The years between 2001 and 2009 had seen the slowest job growth since World War II. The years between 2001 and 2009, middle class families, on average, lost 5 percent of their wages. Their incomes actually went down during those years. And so what I said was the election will not be the end of the journey; that will be the beginning, because then we're going to have to work hard to try to make sure that we rebuild this economy on a solid foundation.

Now, what we didn't know when I started running, and what we discovered only in the few months before I won was that we were about to enter into the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. We lost 4 million jobs in the 6 months before I took office; lost almost 800,000 jobs the month I was sworn in, 600,000 the month after that, 600,000 the month after that. Businesses couldn't get credit. The banking system locked up. And people were talking seriously that we were about to go into a second Great Depression.

And so my first job coming into office was to make sure that we stabilized the economy. And we have done that. An economy that was shrinking by 6 percent is now growing. An economy that was shredding jobs, we've had 9 months straight of private sector job growth. Businesses can now get loans again. Corporations are now profitable again. We have the opportunity to move the country forward.

But we are still digging ourselves out of a enormous hole. When you lose 8 million jobs, even if you've created 800,000 this year, and even if we save 3 million, we've still got a deep hole to climb out of. And so, understandably, people are frustrated and they are angry. And what the other side is trying to do is to ride that anger and that frustration all the way to the ballot box.

They're not counting on the need to offer good ideas. They're just counting on people being angry and figuring that is sufficient for them to get elected. And when I came in, and Ron and Chris and Debbie and others who work in Washington, when we came in, our hope was that in the midst of crisis we could bring everybody together to work on the challenges that confronted us, because we may be proud Democrats, but we're prouder Americans. And our attitude was we are happy to work across the aisle to solve problems.

That was not the attitude that we confronted. Basically, they said no to everything. If I said that the ocean was blue, they'd say no. If I said there were fish in the sea, they'd say no. Their attitude was, if Obama fails, then we win.

Now, I couldn't play that game because my responsibility was to make sure that even when the decisions were tough, we took the decisions that were required to get us on the right track. And we have now done that. But moving forward, I can only succeed if I've got help. Now, I know this is a little too obvious, but I've got to use the basketball metaphor for you. [Laughter]

There's a reason why Dwyane is really excited to have Chris Bosh and LeBron James, because he remembers the last time he won the championship, he had a guy named Shaq running around. Now Shaq is going to try to stop you this time. But he remembers what it was like to have teammates. As great as Magic was, he couldn't do it without Worthy and Jabbar and all those tremendous stars from "Showtime."

Well, the same is true in politics. I'm pretty good--[laughter]--I'm a pretty good point guard, but I can't do it on my own. If I don't have Ron there, if I don't have a Debbie there, doing the hard work each and every day to move this country's agenda forward, we are not going to succeed.

I mean, there are folks right now in Washington, some of the pundits who actually say, you know, Obama might be better off with what happened with Clinton; you lose the House, you lose the Senate, or you lose some seats, and then you can pivot because the Republicans finally have to take responsibility. That may be short-term political thinking in the minds of pundits; that's not how I think because I'm thinking about how do I move the country forward.

I've got to make sure that we have an energy policy where we're investing in clean energy here in the United States of America, so that we're building wind turbines and solar panels and electric cars right here in the United States. So I've got to have partners to do that with. I can't do it alone.

I've got to make sure that we've got the best education system in the world right here in the United States of America. And that requires continuing to make investments in our young people. And I can't do that by myself. If we're going to help small businesses succeed, then we've got to make sure that we are providing them the loans and the tax cuts that are going to help them, because those startups, that's what creates the vibrancy and the dynamism that helps this economy grow. I can't do that by myself.

On every important issue out there, I am going to need help. And the Members of Congress who are here today, they've shown the courage of their convictions. They're willing to take tough votes because they're the right thing to do.

If we're going to protect Medicare and Social Security at the same time as we're reducing our deficit, then we're going to have some very difficult budget choices. And we've got to make sure that the folks who are there have the kind of values that say, we're going to make sure that our seniors are always protected, and we're not going to go back to the days where the poverty rate was higher for people in their golden years. That's not acceptable. So we're going to need some help.

Now, I hope that we can get help from the other side. But I'm not optimistic right now. I've seen what they call the "Pledge to America." And it would have been one thing if after the disaster of their economic policies, they had gone off and gone to a think tank or gone into the desert to meditate and come back and said, you know what, we really screwed up; we've got a whole new set of answers here. But that's not what happened.

They have said they will do the exact same thing. The centerpiece of their economic agenda, their big plan for jobs is to borrow $700 billion that we don't have, to give an average $100,000 tax cut to millionaires and billionaires. Ninety-eight percent of the country would not get these tax breaks, and as a consequence, they wouldn't spend them. So it would do nothing to boost the economy in any significant way. And we'd be borrowing the money to do it.

And you know how they've proposed paying for it? They haven't--with the exception of a few suggestions like cutting education spending by 20 percent. Think about that. And think about the folks back in your old neighborhood, Magic, all those kids who are working hard, thinking, maybe I can go to go college if I can get a scholarship, if I can get a Pell grant. And we're going to cut support for them at a time when we know that the single most important thing to determine whether we are winners or losers in the global economy is how well our workforce is educated?

Imagine that. You think China is cutting back on their education investments? You think South Korea or Germany are saying let's invest less in our young people right now? Of course not. They're not playing for second. And the United States does not play for second either. We play for first place. That's what we're about, and that's what this election is about.

I should point out, by the way, that a whole lot of people in this room would get a tax cut under that plan. But the question is--and that includes me, by the way--is that really what's most important to us right now? Or is it more important that we get this country back on track so that it's there for future generations? Are we going to reach back and make sure that somebody else is getting a helping hand?

So as I've traveled the country I've been using this analogy: Essentially, the other side drove the car into the ditch. And me and Ron and the rest of the outstanding Democrats here, we all climbed down into that ditch. It was muddy down there and hot. We had to put on boots. There were bugs. But we started pushing, pushing that car out of the ditch. Every once in a while, we'd look up and the Republicans would be standing there fanning themselves, sipping on Slurpees, looking all comfortable. [Laughter]

We'd say, "Why don't you come down and help?" "No, that's all right, but you all aren't pushing fast enough. You're not pushing the right way."

And even though we did not get any help, we kept on pushing, until finally we got that car up on level ground. Now, it's a little banged up, needs some bodywork, needs a tuneup, but we are pointing in the right direction and we are ready to move forward again. And suddenly, we get this tap on our shoulders. We look back, and it's the Republicans. And they're saying, we want the keys back. You can't have the keys back. You don't know how to drive. [Laughter] Now, if you want to ride, you can ride in the backseat. But we're not going to give you--[laughter]--give you the wheel. [Laughter]

That's what this election is about. It is a fundamental choice about the direction of our future. We cannot do it alone. And in the same way that I need a team, Ron needs a team, members of the Democratic delegation here need a team. You are that team. And I need you guys to be as excited as you were in 2008.

You know, this is just the first quarter. And we've put up a lot of points, under very adverse circumstances. But we've got three more quarters to play. And if suddenly everybody is acting like, "well, that's it, I'm tired," we'll lose. And when I say "we," I mean the country will lose. One of the marks of a champion is not just talent, it's not just skill, it's heart. It's perseverance. Are you willing to stick with something until it's finished.

The project of bringing about change so that this country is more just and more prosperous and we are growing faster and we can compete in the global stage and our young people are prepared for the 21st century, that project is not done. And it is hard. But we need heart. We need character. And I believe that's what we've got. I believe in this team. I hope you believe in it too. If you do, then I promise you that not only are we going to win this election, we are going to restore the American Dream for every American.

Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 6:16 p.m. at the residence of Alonzo and Tracy Mourning. In his remarks, he referred to Alonzo "Trey," Myka, and Alijah Mourning, children of Mr. and Mrs. Mourning; Dwyane Wade, shooting guard, Chris Bosh, power forward, and LeBron James, small forward, National Basketball Association's Miami Heat; former NBA players Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Jr., James Worthy, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; musician Beyonce G. Knowles; and Shaquille O'Neal, center, Boston Celtics.

Barack Obama, Remarks at a Dinner for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Representative Ron Klein in Miami Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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