Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event in Albuquerque, New Mexico

May 01, 2012

MRS. OBAMA: Oh my goodness! (Applause.) Thank you all so much. This is truly breathtaking. I would just like to stay here and hang out. (Laughter.) But I can't, but it is a pleasure to be here with all of you.

Let me start by thanking Lisa for that very kind introduction and for all the support that she and Paul, who wasn't able to be here today, they have shown to us. I know they both worked very hard to make this event wonderful, as well as all of the other co-hosts. So please, let's join in in giving them all a round of applause. Thank you all so much. (Applause.)

I'd also like to just take a moment to acknowledge your terrific State Party Chair, Javier Gonzalez. I want to thank Javier for joining us here, as well as for all of his work.

And finally, I really just want to thank all of you for your support and for taking the time to be here. And I know that there's a reason why you all are here. You're here because you know that this November, as Lisa said, we're going to make a choice that will impact our lives for decades to come. And you're here because you know that choice, it won't just affect all of us, but it's going to affect our children and our grandchildren, and the world we leave behind for them long after we're gone.

And that's really why I'm here, and that's why I'm going to be here working so very hard. Because as First Lady I have had the privilege of traveling all across this great country, and I get to meet with folks from all different backgrounds, and I hear what's going on in their daily lives. And let me tell you, every day, people are working hard, struggling to keep it all together. I hear about the bills they're trying to pay, the businesses they're trying to keep afloat, the home they love but are struggling to afford.

But one thing I also know -- no matter what people are going through, no matter what challenges they face, they just keep on working and sacrificing, because they want to give something to their kids -- desperately, they want something better for their kids. They believe in that fundamental vision for our country that we all share -- the idea, as my husband says, that hard work should pay off; that responsibility should be rewarded; and that everyone should get a fair shot, they should do their fair share, but they should play by the same rules.

And those values are the foundation for an economy built to last. They are basic American values, the values that so many of us were raised with, including myself.

I have told my story before. My father was a blue-collar city worker, worked at the city water plant his entire life. My family lived in a little-bitty apartment on the South Side of Chicago. My mother still occupies that home in Chicago when she goes back; my bedroom is the same -- bed sheets, pictures on the wall. But neither of my parents had the chance to go to college.

But let me tell you what they did do, which was probably just as valuable -- they saved and they sacrificed everything/ They poured everything they had into us, because they wanted something more for me and my brother. And more than anything else, that's what at stake. That's why we're here. That's what we're working toward -- that fundamental promise that no matter who you are or how you started out, if you work hard you can build a better life, a decent life for yourself and an even better life for you kids. And on just about every issue, that's the choice we face.

And let's just start with all those tax cuts that my husband passed for middle-class families. Let me tell you what that's about, why he did that. Because that's about whether people can heat their homes; it's about whether folks can send their kids to college, retire with dignity and a little security; it's about putting more money into people's pockets, which means more money in our economy, which in turn means more jobs. And it's about making sure that everyone pays their fair share.

That's why Barack introduced what he calls the Buffett Rule, to close tax loopholes so that millionaires and billionaires aren't paying lower tax rates that firefighters and teachers. Seems so obvious. (Applause.) But that's what's at stake.

And how about everything my husband has done to create jobs in this country? I mean, think back to when all those folks in Washington were telling Barack to let the auto industry go under. Remember that? And more than a million jobs on the line.

But Barack had the backs of American workers. He put his faith in the American people, and as a result -- thank goodness -- today, the auto industry is back on its feet, and, more importantly, people are back to work, providing for their families again. (Applause.)

And also think back to when Barack first took office. In this economy, we were losing an average of 750,000 jobs every single month -- that's what he inherited. But for the past 25 straight months, we've actually been gaining private sector jobs -- a total of more than 4 million jobs in two years. So while we still have a long way to go -- (applause) -- absolutely -- to rebuild our economy, we have much more work to do. Today, millions of folks are collecting a paycheck again. But that's what's at stake. That's the choice we face.

And what about all that has been done for our small businesses? I mean, these are the companies that create two-thirds of all new jobs each year -- two-thirds. I'm talking about the mom who opens up that dry cleaning store to help provide for her kids -- these are the people we're talking about. The family that's run the neighborhood diner for generations.

See, for these folks, the small business tax cuts this administration has passed, for them, it means the difference between hiring new employees or handing out pink slips; the difference between keeping their doors open or closing shop for good. But that's the choice we face.

And how about the very first bill my husband signed into law to make sure women get equal pay for equal work -- the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. (Applause.) And what I remind people of is that Barack did this because he knows what it means when women aren't treated fairly in our workplaces because he watched his own grandmother -- a woman with a high school education who worked her way up to become a vice president at a small community bank. And she worked hard. She had to. She was good at what she did, but like so many women she hit that glass ceiling, and watched men no more qualified than she was -- men she had actually trained -- be promoted up the ladder ahead of her.

So let me tell you something. For Barack, this issue is not abstract. This is not a hypothetical. He signed this bill because he knows that closing that pay gap, that can mean the difference between women losing $50, $100, $500 from each paycheck or having that money in their pockets to buy gas, groceries, to put clothes on the backs of their children. And he did it because when so many women are now breadwinners for our families, women's success in this economy is the key to families' success in this economy. (Applause.) But that is what's at stake. That's what we're working for.

And we have to talk a minute about health care. Two years ago, we made history together by finally passing health reform -- (applause) -- something no other president was able to do. And because that law was passed, insurance companies will now have to cover basic preventative care at no extra cost -- things like prenatal care, mammograms, contraception. (Applause.) And they can no longer deny our children coverage because they have a pre-existing condition like asthma, diabetes. (Applause.)

Our young people can now stay on their parents insurance until they're 26 years old. I mean, you know what this means -- so when they graduate from college and they're just starting out, they don't have to go without health care while they're trying to build their careers and their families. And today, that's how 2.5 million young people in this country are getting their coverage today. (Applause.) And also, since we passed this law, millions of our senior citizens have saved an average of more than $600 a year on prescription drugs.

So we have to ask ourselves -- are we going to take those savings away? Are we going to allow insurance companies to refuse to cover our children? Or will we say that here in America, no one should ever have to choose between going bankrupt or watching their child suffer because they can't afford a doctor. But that's the choice we face.

And let's think for a moment about all that we've been doing to give our kids a good education. Think about the investments we've made to raise standards and reform our public schools. Think about how my husband has been fighting so hard for the DREAM Act, so that responsible young immigrants who came here as children -- (applause) -- and were raised as Americans can earn their pathway to citizenship by going to college, serving in our military.

And think about how my husband took billions of dollars in taxpayer money that used to go middleman banks and lenders and he sent that money where it belongs -- to help millions of our young people go to college. And those investments, all that we're putting into our children, that won't just determine our children's success -- that will determine nothing less than the success of our entire economy. That will determine whether we're prepared to make the discoveries and to build the industry that will allow us to compete with any country anywhere in the world. (Applause.)

And let's not forget about how my husband appointed those two brilliant Supreme Court justices -- (applause) -- yes, indeed -- and for the first time in history, our daughters and our sons watched three women take their seats on our nation's highest courts. (Applause.) And we cannot forget the impact the Court's decisions will have on our lives for decades to come -- on our privacy and security; on whether we speak freely, worship openly, and, yes, love whomever we choose. (Applause.) That's what's at stake. Those are the choices we face.

And we cannot forget all this administration had done to keep our country safe and restore our standing in the world. Yes, thanks to our brave men and women in uniform, we finally brought to justice the man behind the 9/11 attacks and so many other horrific acts of terror. (Applause.) My husband kept his promise -- he ended the war in Iraq, brought our troops home. And we are working hard every single day to give them and their families and our veterans the benefits they've earned. (Applause.)

And finally, because my husband ended "don't ask, don't tell," our troops will never again have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love. (Applause.)

So make no mistake about it -- whether it is health care or the economy, whether it's education or foreign policy, the choice we make in this election will determine nothing less than who we are as a country. But, more important, it will determine who we want to be.

Who do we want to be?

Will we be a country where opportunity is just limited to the few at the top? Or will we be a place where if you work hard you can get ahead no matter who you are or how you started out? Who do we want to be?

Will we tell folks who have done everything right but are struggling just a little bit, are we going to look them in the eye and tell them, tough luck, you're on your own? Is that who we are? Or will we honor that fundamental American belief that we are in this together, and this country is strongest when we're all better off. Who are we?

Will we continue all the change we've begun, all the progress that we've made? Or will we just allow everything we've fought for to just slip away? Who do we want to be?

But let me tell you -- those are the choices. That's why I'm here. And we know what we need to do. In our hearts, we know that we can't turn back now. We can't. We need to keep moving forward. Absolutely.

And what I want everyone to understand in this country -- no one knows this better than your President. He understands these issues because he's lived them. He was raised by a single mother who struggled to put herself through school and pay the bills. And when she needed help, who stepped up? His grandmother, waking up every morning before dawn to take a bus to her job at the bank. And even though she was passed over again and again for all those promotions, she never complained. Like so many people in our lives, she never complained. She just kept showing up, just kept doing her best.

So believe me, Barack knows what it means when a family struggles. He knows what it means when someone doesn't have a chance to fulfill their potential. Those are the experiences that have made him the man, and, more importantly, the President he is today. And we are blessed to have him. (Applause.)

And that's what I hear in his voice when he returns home after a long day of traveling around the country and he tells me about the people he's met. That's what I see in those quiet moments late at night after the girls have gone to bed and he's up poring over the letters people have sent him -- the letter from the woman dying of cancer whose insurance company won't cover her care, the letter from the father still struggling to pay his family's bill, the letter from far too many young people with so much promise but so few opportunities.

And I hear the passion and the determination in his voice. He says, "you won't believe what folks are going through." That's what he tells me. He says, "Michelle, it's not right. We've got to fix this. We have so much more work to do."

So what I want people to know about my husband is that when it comes to the people he meets, he has a memory like a steel trap. He might not remember your name but if he has had a few moments and a decent conversation, he will never forget your story. It becomes imprinted on his heart. And that is what he carries with him every single day. It is our collection of struggles, and our hopes and our dreams.

That is where your President gets his passion. That is where he gets his toughness and his fight. And that's why, even in the hardest moments -- and we've had some -- when it seems like all is lost, Barack Obama never loses sight of the end goal -- never. He never lets himself get distracted by the chatter and the noise. Like his grandmother he just keeps moving forward. Just keeps moving forward.

But I've said this before and I will say it again, and again, and again: He cannot do it alone. That was never the promise. Now, more than ever before, he needs your help. And he needs you to make those calls, and register those voters -- that real work. He needs you to take those "I'm in" cards and use them to sign up your friends and your neighbors and your colleagues -- no, really. Let's apply yourselves. Convince the people in your lives to join in in giving just a little part of themselves each week to this campaign.

And if you have any doubt about the difference that you will definitely make, I just want you to remember that in the end, this election could come down to those last few thousand votes. It's happened before. It could come down to those last few people we register. It could all come down to those last few people that we help get to the polls on November the 6.

And I want you to think about -- just for a minute about what these kind of numbers mean when they're spread out over an entire state. It might mean registering just one more person in your town. That's how crucial this is. One more person might mean helping just one more person in your community get out and vote on Election Day.

So know that with every door you knock on -- truly -- with every call you make, with every conversation you have, you have to remember that this could be the one that makes the difference -- truly, every interaction. You could be the one who inspires that person to make their voice heard this November.

And that's the kind of impact that each of you have. That's why we spend so much time and energy on our grassroots folks. That's what's going to make the difference.

And I will say what I said before -- this journey will continue to be long, and it will continue to be hard. That is guaranteed. And there will be twists and turns along the way, things that will make you shudder. (Laughter.) But the truth is -- please, remember this -- that is how change always happens in this country -- always.

The reality is that real change is slow, and it never happens all at once. But if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight, doing what we know is right, then eventually we'll get there. We always have and we always will. Maybe not in our lifetimes, but maybe in our children's lifetimes, maybe in our grandchildren's lifetimes. Because in the end, that is what this is all about. In the end, we are not fighting these battles for ourselves, we are fighting them for our sons and our daughters; we are fighting them for our grandsons and our granddaughters. We're fighting for the world that we want to leave for them.

But all of that is at stake. All of that is on the line in November.

So it is time for us to get moving, right? Don't you agree? (Applause.) It is time for us to get to work. It's time for us to roll up our sleeves and multiply ourselves, and understand the difference that we can make.

So I have one final question for you all. I need to know from you today, are you in? Are you ready for this? (Applause.) Are you fired up about this? (Applause.) Have I have helped to convince just one more person to get a little more fired up, to do just a little more work and work just a little bit harder?

Because I am convinced that we will do, this time, what we did the last time because of all of you. That is the difference. That's what we have on our side. We have you.

So I look forward to seeing all of you on the campaign trail in the weeks and months to come. We are going to work so hard and I am so fired up.

Thank you all so much. God bless.

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event in Albuquerque, New Mexico Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320341

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