Barack Obama photo

Remarks at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in New York City

October 18, 2012

The President. Thank you. Everyone, please take your seats; otherwise, Clint Eastwood will yell at them. [Laughter]

Thank you to Al and Nan; to Your Eminence; Governor, Mrs. Romney; Governor Cuomo; Mayor Bloomberg; Senator Schumer; all the distinguished guests who are here.

In less than 3 weeks, voters in States like Ohio, Virginia, and Florida will decide this incredibly important election, which begs the question, what are we doing here? [Laughter]

Of course, New Yorkers also have a big choice to make: You have to decide which one of us you want holding up traffic for the next 4 years. [Laughter]

Tonight I am here with a man whose father was a popular Governor and who knows what it's like to run a major northeastern State and who could very well be President someday, and I'm hoping it is Andrew Cuomo. [Laughter]

This is the third time that Governor Romney and I have met recently. As some of you may have noticed, I had a lot more energy at our second debate. [Laughter] I felt really well rested after the nice, long nap I had in the first debate. [Laughter] Although it turns out millions of Americans focused in on the second debate who didn't focus in on the first debate, and I happen to be one of them. [Laughter]

I particularly want to apologize to Chris Matthews. [Laughter] Four years ago, I gave him a thrill up his leg—[Laughter]—this time around I gave him a stroke. [Laughter]

Of course, there's a lot of things I learned from that experience. For example, I learned that there are worse things that can happen to you on your anniversary than forgetting to buy a gift. [Laughter] So take note, gentlemen.

Now, win or lose, this is my last political campaign. So I'm trying to drink it all in. Unfortunately, Mayor Bloomberg will only let me have 16 ounces of it. [Laughter] But that's okay. I'm still making the most of my time in the city. Earlier today I went shopping at some stores in Midtown. I understand Governor Romney went shopping for some stores in Midtown. [Laughter]

And it brought back some great memories because, some of you know, I went to school here in New York, had a wonderful experience here. I used to love walking through Central Park, loved to go to old Yankee Stadium, the house that Ruth built, although he really did not build that. [Laughter] I hope everybody is aware of that.

It's been 4 years since I was last at the Al Smith Dinner. And I have to admit some things have changed since then. I've heard some people say: "Barack, you're not as young as you used to be. Where's that golden smile? Where's that pep in your step?" And I say: "Settle down, Joe. I'm trying to run a Cabinet meeting here." [Laughter] He does smile when he says it though.

Tomorrow it's back to campaigning. I visit cities and towns across our great country, and I hear the same thing everywhere I go: Honestly, we were hoping to see Michelle. [Laughter] And I have to admit it can be a grind. Sometimes it feels like this race has dragged on forever. But Paul Ryan assured me that we've only been running for 2 hours and 50-something minutes. [Laughter]

Of course, the economy is on everybody's minds. The unemployment rate is at its lowest level since I took office. I don't have a joke here. I just thought it would be useful to remind everybody that the unemployment rate is at the lowest it's been since I took office. [Laughter]

And we're getting to that time when folks are making up their minds. Just the other day, Honey Boo Boo endorsed me. [Laughter] So that's a big relief.

Ultimately, though, tonight is not about the disagreements Governor Romney and I may have. It's what we have in common, beginning with our unusual names. Actually, Mitt is his middle name. I wish I could use my middle name. [Laughter]

And even though we're enjoying ourselves tonight, we're both thinking ahead of our final debate on Monday. I'm hoping that Governor Romney and I will have a chance to answer the question that is on the minds of millions of Americans watching at home: Is this happening again? [Laughter] Why aren't they putting on "The Voice"? [Laughter]

Now, Monday's debate is a little bit different because the topic is foreign policy. Spoiler alert: We got bin Laden. [Applause] Of course, world affairs are a challenge for every candidate. After—some of you guys remember, after my foreign trip in 2008, I was attacked as a celebrity because I was so popular with our allies overseas. And I have to say, I'm impressed with how well Governor Romney has avoided that problem. [Laughter]

Now, just so everyone knows, in our third debate, we won't spend a whole lot of time interrupting each other. We will also interrupt the moderator, just to mix things up.

And finally, let me say that I've been doing some thinking, and I've decided that for our final debate, I'm going to go back to the strategy I used to prepare for the first debate. [Laughter] I'm just kidding; I'm trying to make Axelrod sweat a little bit. [Laughter] Get him a little nervous. [Laughter]

In all seriousness, I couldn't be more honored to be here this evening. I'm honored to be with leaders of both the private and public sectors, and particularly, the extraordinary work that is done by the Catholic Church.

It's written in Scripture that tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, and character, hope. This country has fought through some very tough years together, and while we still have a lot of work ahead, we've come as far as we have mainly because of the perseverance and character of ordinary Americans. And it says something about who we are as a people that in the middle of a contentious election season, opposing candidates can share the same stage, people from both parties can come together to support a worthy cause.

And I particularly want to thank Governor Romney for joining me because I admire him very much as a family man and a loving father, and those are two titles that will always matter more than any political ones.

So we may have different political perspectives, but I think—in fact, I'm certain—that we share the hope that the next 4 years will reflect the same decency and the same willingness to come together for a higher purpose that are on display this evening. May we all, in the words of Al Smith, do our full duty as citizens.

God bless you. God bless your families. And may God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 9:23 p.m. at the Waldorf Astoria New York hotel. In his remarks, he referred to actor Clint Eastwood; Alfred E. Smith IV, great-grandson of former Gov. Alfred E. Smith of New York, and his wife Nan; Archbishop of New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, president, Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation; Republican Presidential nominee W. Mitt Romney and his wife Ann; Chris Matthews, host, MSNBC's "Hardball With Chris Matthews" program; Vice President Joe Biden; Republican Vice Presidential nominee Paul D. Ryan; 6-year-old beauty pageant participant Alana Thompson, in her role on TLC's "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo!" program; and David M. Axelrod, communications director, Obama 2012 reelection campaign.

Barack Obama, Remarks at the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in New York City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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