Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady at a Bruce Braley for Senate Rally in Des Moines, Iowa

October 10, 2014

MRS. OBAMA: Thank you guys so much! I am beyond thrilled to be here today to support your next Senator from Iowa, our friend, Bruce Bailey. Man, I'm so honored to be here.

Now, you know, I always get a little emotional when I come back to Iowa, because this state holds a very special place in my heart. Because back in 2007, before anyone had ever heard of Barack Obama -- it was still a funny name -- (laughter) -- it was all of you who welcomed me and Barack and Malia and Sasha into your homes and into your lives in a way that I will never forget. Because you all treated us like family, and you didn't even know us.

You hosted us at house parties all across this state, and I can almost remember every house I was in. One of the first ones -- we were in a backyard and I had on high heels, and I felt so comfortable that I just kicked my shoes off and walked around barefoot in the grass. (Laughter.) You introduced our family to the magic of those bumper cars at the state fairs. (Laughter.) And some of the pictures up in the White House are of Barack and Sasha in one of those cars, in our home. That's one of the memories that we took with us to the White House. And, yes, you even carved my husband's face in butter. (Laughter.) I don't think I have a picture of that, but I don't need one -- I will remember that forever. (Laughter.)

But most of all, here in Iowa, you taught me and my family what politics can be like at its very best -- when you all come together and you really talk about issues in ways that you just don't see anywhere else in this country. You all ask hard questions. You come with open hearts, not closed minds. You really get to know your candidates for who they really are and what they stand for, because you have that special opportunity to really dig in deep.

And that's why I'm proud to be here today for Bruce -- because we know what Bruce stands for. He stands for you. He stands for your families. And that's who Bruce is going to be fighting for when you send him to Washington.

Bruce understands better than anyone else in this race what folks here in Iowa are going through. As the son of a schoolteacher -- and I love his mom, too -- as a Marine Corps veteran, Bruce worked his way through college, waiting tables, working at a grain elevator, building bridges with a county roads department.

And that's why Bruce has fought so hard to raise the minimum wage -- because he knows what it means to have to stretch your paycheck each month. Absolutely. (Applause.) We need people like that fighting for you all. And that's why he's fought to preserve and strengthen Social Security and Medicare -- because he believes that after a lifetime of hard work, folks deserve to retire with dignity and security. Absolutely. (Applause.)

And Bruce, he knows from his own life how important education is. You guys here at Drake know it. I'm so proud there are so many students here, so many young people. But Bruce knows that education can open doors of opportunity like nothing else. And that's why he fought to expand Pell grants, so that more of our young people can go to college. (Applause.) He fought to keep interest rates low for student loans, which is critical; to help graduates refinance their loans at lower rates -- gosh, I wish I had that when I was your age. (Laughter.)

And when it comes to women's health, Bruce fought hard to make sure that insurance companies cover the cost of birth control. He believes that politicians shouldn't be butting into the private health decisions that women make with their doctors. (Applause.)

So I'm proud to be here for Bruce. And, Iowa, if you want a leader who shares your values and will stand up for your families out in Washington, then you need to elect Bruce Bailey to the U.S. Senate. You've got to do it. We need you to do it. We've got to get this done, and I know you all can do it here in Iowa. (Applause.)

Now, I also want to recognize some of the outstanding Iowa leaders who are joining us today, some of whom are here, some of whom were here -- your candidate for Governor, Jack Hatch; your candidate for Secretary of State, Brad Anderson; your candidate for Congress from the Third District, Stacy Appel. (Applause.) And we've got two of my favorite people in the world, and I was so happy to see them backstage, your outstanding Attorney General, Tom Miller, and your outstanding State Treasurer, Mike Fitzgerald. I'm so thrilled to see them today, because those were two people who were with us from the very beginning. (Applause.)

And while they couldn't join us for this event, I have to give a special recognition to your Senator, the one and only Tom Harkin. (Applause.) And remember, that's whose seat this is. So when we think about who is going to fill this seat, we want somebody with Tom's passion and devotion to service. And I wouldn't be a wife if I didn't recognize Ruth for her work, too -- to Tom's wife for everything she's done for this country. So we are very proud of them both, and we've got to make sure that seat is filled by somebody who reflects their values.

But most of all, I want to thank you guys. Thank you for being here. Thank you for having our backs. I see a lot of old friends, folks who have been with us from the very beginning, back when we were holding those caucus training sessions and marching to the Harkin Steak Fry, going to the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner; back when we were knocking on doors in the freezing cold talking about hope and change, and getting fired up and ready to go. (Applause.)

And a lot of you were there when Barack first took office, that first inauguration, that very cold day. And we walked into that new house of ours, and Barack walked into the Oval Office and got a good look at the mess he'd been handed, and wondered what on Earth he had gotten himself into. (Laughter.)

But I just want to remind people how bad things were back then, because it's easy to forget where we've come from. But when Barack first took office, in this country, we were in full-blown crisis mode. And some of you young people, you were too young to even know how bad things were. Our economy was literally on the brink of collapse, if you can imagine that. Wall Street banks were folding. Businesses were losing 800,000 jobs every single month, if you can imagine that. Folks on TV were panicking about whether we were headed for another Great Depression -– and that wasn't just talk or exaggeration, that was a real possibility.

This is what Barack was given on day one as President. And I could go on, because things were bad. But now, let's come forward a bit and see how things look today, less than six years later.

By almost every economic measure, we are better off today than when Barack took office. (Applause.) And let me give you some facts, because I know our young people, you guys aren't into all this excitement. You want some facts, subjective facts. I'm going to give you some.

Our businesses have created more than 10 million new jobs since 2010 -- that's including the 236,000 jobs just last month alone. And this is the longest uninterrupted run of private sector job growth in our nation's history. (Applause.) The unemployment rate has dropped from a peak of 10 percent back in 2009 to 5.9 percent today. (Applause.) And right now, there are more job openings than at any time since 2001.

Last year, the number of children living in poverty decreased by 1.4 million, the largest drop since 1966. (Applause.) Today, our high school graduation rate is at a record high. More of our young people are graduating from college than ever before. And of course, because of the Affordable Care Act, health care costs are growing at the slowest rate in nearly 50 years, and millions more Americans finally have health insurance. (Applause.)

And just think about how different our country looks to our children growing up today. Think about how our kids take for granted that a black person, a woman, or anyone can be President of the United States of America. (Applause.) They take for granted that their President will end hurtful policies like "don't ask, don't tell," and speak out for equality for all Americans. (Applause.)

So I could go on, but I know there's still plenty of work to do. Yes, indeed. There are a lot of folks who still need to be lifted up. But despite that, we have truly made some of that change we were talking about.

But I want everybody here to remember that Barack didn't do all of that just sitting alone by himself in the Oval Office. No, he did it because of folks like you who elected leaders in Congress and in states across this country who put families first –- leaders like Bruce Bailey. That's how we passed legislation to save our economy and rescue our auto industry from collapse and so much more -- because of Congress.

And frankly, if we don't elect leaders like Bruce to the Senate, it's going to be a whole lot harder to finish what we've started. And we've been doing good. Because if we don't bring leaders like Bruce in, things will get even worse out in Washington. We'll just see more conflict and obstruction, more lawsuits and talk about impeachment, more votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act or even shut down the government -- behavior that just wastes time and it definitely wastes taxpayers' money.

In fact, it's gotten so bad, they've even tried to block the work I do on childhood obesity. And that's really saying something. Because, I mean, for most folks in this country, making sure our kids get decent nutrition isn't all that controversial, you wouldn't think. Because as parents, there is nothing we wouldn't do for our children -- nothing. We always put our kids' interests first, right? (Applause.) We wake up every morning and we go to bed every night thinking and worrying about your health, your happiness, and your futures. And, yes, this is a lecture I give to my kids. (Laughter.)

So we need to elect leaders like Bruce Bailey who will do the same. Yes, we do! We need people like Bruce. (Applause.)

Now I know that winning this election won't be easy. We know that there is too much money in politics. We know that special interests have way too much influence. But please remember that they had plenty of money and influence back in 2008 and 2012, and we still won those elections. (Applause.) Yes, we still won those elections. You want to know why, why we won? Because we showed up and we voted. (Applause.) And at the end of the day, the folks running those special interest groups and the folks who poured millions of dollars into those elections, they each have just one vote. And so do we.

And ultimately, the only thing that counts are those votes. That's what decides elections in this country. And that's why Barack Obama is President right now. He's President because a whole bunch of folks who never voted before showed up and voted in 2008 and 2012.

And I don't know if you all remember, but a lot of people were shocked when Barack won because they were counting on folks like us to stay home. But we proved them wrong. Barack won because record numbers of women and minorities and young people showed up to vote.

See, but then, when the midterms came along, too many of our people just tuned out. And that's what folks on the other side are counting on this year. They're counting on that. Because when we stay home, they win. So they're assuming that we won't care. They're hoping that we're not organized and energized. And only we can prove them wrong.

Make no mistake about it, this race is going to be tight -- it already is. We know that races like this can be won or lost by just a few thousand or even a few hundred votes. And that's why I make this point, because I know there are a lot of people -- particularly young people -- who think, oh, why should I vote, what does it matter? They stay home, they roll over -- "it's raining, I'm sick, I'm tired." But I want you to think about what happened in the 2012 presidential election here in Iowa.

The outcome of that race was decided by about 46,000 votes, okay? And that may sound like a lot, but when you break it down, that's just 27 votes per precinct. Do you understand that? The presidential election in this state was decided by about 27 people. You imagine. What about those people who decided not to vote, who thought it wouldn't make a difference.

So this is the thing -- if we really get to work, just think about how many precincts all of us just in this room right now could swing for Bruce Bailey if we really rolled up our sleeves and got serious about these issues? (Applause.)

So I want everybody to be clear: This election is on us. It always is. It's on us. We can't wait around for anyone else to do this. It's on us to get people organized and energized and out to vote. And you all can start right now, today, by voting early, which is so key. More Iowans are voting early every year because it's the easiest way to make your voice heard.

And you can request a ballot by mail right here at this event, or you can go to Vote.BruceBailey.com -- that's Vote.BruceBailey.com. Or, even better, you can --


MRS. OBAMA: Braley. What did I say? (Laughter.) I'm losing it. I'm getting old. (Laughter.) I've been traveling too much. Vote.BruceBraley.com. (Applause.) I know where I am. I know what I'm doing. That's why we need you young people. You've got to help us out. (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I love you, Michelle!

MRS. OBAMA: We love you. I love you. You guys, we're going to get this done. (Applause.) But voting early is the key, especially for our young people. Because who knows what's going to happen on the 4th, right? Don't take a chance. Get it done now, because from now until November 4th, every day is Election Day. (Applause.)

And if you haven't registered yet, don't worry –- you can register to vote and vote early at the same time here in this state. It couldn't be easier. And for all of you who live on or near the Drake campus, you can head over to the Olmstead Center right now and vote. You realize that? Right now.

So once this event is over, just go and get it done. Check it off your list before -- it's Friday, right? Do it now before the evening rolls around. (Laughter.) If I know anything about you all -- don't wait until tomorrow. Just get that done now, okay? Because we know you'll be studying hard in the library all weekend, so we wouldn't want to interfere with that. (Laughter.)

And that's really my key message to all of you today -- to vote as soon as you can and get everyone you know to vote with you -- everyone. Your friends, your family, the folks in your church. Don't leave anyone behind. Because you think of 27 -- you know 27 people who didn't vote. You can find your 27 people.

And volunteer. Be sure to volunteer for Bruce, because if everyone here today signs up to knock on doors or make calls for just three hours, then I'm confident that we will win this election. I'm confident. (Applause.) So for just three hours of your time, you will get six years of an outstanding Senator who will carry on Tom Harkin's legacy. So don't wait another minute. (Applause.) Yes! We've got organizers here. I want you to look for organizers with "Commit to Volunteer" cards.

Because the stakes this year simply could not be greater. The stakes are big. Because if we don't get folks to show up at the polls this November, if we don't elect leaders like Bruce, then we know exactly what will happen. We're going to see more folks interfering in women's private decisions about our health care. We'll see more opposition to immigration reform and to raising the minimum wage for hard-working folks.

So I want to be clear: If you think that people who work 40 or 50 hours a week shouldn't have to live in poverty in the wealthiest nation on the planet, if you don't want women's bosses making decisions about their birth control, if you think women should get equal pay for equal work, if you want our kids to have quality preschool and the college education they need, then you need to get everyone you know out to vote for Bruce. (Applause.) That's what's at stake in this elections –- the kind of country we want to leave for you all, our kids and our grandkids.

And our kids are counting on us to stand up for them in this election. And I travel around the country and I meet so many kids who keep me inspired and keep me focused on why, even when times are tough, why we get up and we work. And one of those kids I met is a kid named Lawrence Lawson. I met him earlier this year.

Now, Lawrence's father died when he was just eight years old. And then, at the age of nine, Lawrence suffered a major seizure, and he had to learn to read and walk and speak again. Then when he was 12, this kid -- his mom died, and Lawrence was passed from his aunt to a sister in Baltimore.

But here's the thing -- no matter where he was, Lawrence did his best in school. He joined the marching band. He interned at Johns Hopkins hospital. And he graduated as the valedictorian of his high school class. (Applause.)

And when I travel around this country, I meet so many kids like Lawrence. I know there are kids like Lawrence here today -- kids who wake up early, who take the long route to school to avoid the gangs. Kids who juggle afterschool jobs to support their family and then stay up late into the night to finish their homework. Kids whose parents don't speak a word of English, but who are fighting every day to realize their dream of a better life. (Applause.)

These kids have every reason to give up. They have every reason to give up, but they don't, because they're so hungry to succeed. They are so desperate to lift themselves up. And that's why we're here today. That's why I'm here today. That's why I work. That's why the President works every day -- because those kids never give up, and neither can we.

So between now and November, we need to be organized for them. We need to be inspired for them. We need to pour everything we have into this election so that they can have the opportunities they need to build the futures they deserve. And, Iowa, we know how to do this. We've done it before. We know how to do this. (Applause.)

So if we keep stepping up and bringing others along with us, then I know that we can keep making that change we believe in. I know we can elect Bruce Braley as the next Senator from Iowa. (Applause.) And I know that we can build the future that our kids deserve.

Thank you all so much. God bless. (Applause.)

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady at a Bruce Braley for Senate Rally in Des Moines, Iowa Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/321917

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