Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event in Centennial, Colorado

June 20, 2012

MRS. OBAMA: Wow! (Applause.) You know, this feels like four more years, right? (Applause.) Thank you so much. I can't tell you how proud and thrilled I am to be here today.

Before I get started, on behalf of myself and my husband, I just want to say that our hearts and our prayers are with all of the families affected by the fires here in this state and in other states out west. (Applause.)


MRS. OBAMA: And I also want to say a special thank-you to the brave firefighters and first responders -- (applause) -- those men and women who are putting themselves in harm's way every day to put flames out to protect our communities. We are so grateful for their heroic service. Let's give them a round of applause. (Applause.)

And it's also wonderful to see how communities here are coming together to support each other as you continue to respond and begin the work of recovery. It's a wonderful example, and I want you all to know that America stands behind you every step of the way. So I just wanted to say that. (Applause.)

I also have to thank Stacy -- and Max -- for that wonderful introduction and for sharing that story. We are so glad that kids like Max can get the care that they need, because that's what we want for all of our kids. And there are a lot of beautiful little faces out here. We're doing this for you, yes. (Laughter and applause.)

And I also got a chance to see Susan Daggett, Maggie Fox -- hey, you guys! Thank you so much for being here, for having our backs, for joining us here today.

And I have to recognize -- although I haven't seen her yet -- your former First Lady and my dear friend, Jennie Ritter, who is here, somewhere out there. (Applause.) And your Deputy Mayor, Cary Kennedy, who is here as well. (Applause.) And I understand that Dana did some firing up out here. I want to thank here and Reverend Riley-Duval for her good words and her prayers. (Applause.) And to Suzy, who also got us fired up and ready to go, right? Did she do good? (Applause.)

But finally, I want to thank all of you, our extraordinary volunteers and organizers. You guys are doing it all, you're out here standing in the heat -- I love that. (Laughter.) Thank you for everything that you do, day in and day out. I cannot say this enough: The work that you do makes this campaign possible. All the work that you're doing -- knocking on those doors, making those phone calls, registering those voters -- I just want you to know that doing what you're doing, giving folks the information they need, as Stacy says, about the issues we care about is critical. And this kind of grassroots work that you all are doing to get people focused and fired up -– that work is the core of this campaign. It means absolutely everything. And that's how we won not just this state but this presidency four years ago, and that's how we're going to do it again today. So, thank you. Thank you. (Applause.)

But one thing that I do know is that the work that you're doing is not easy. And I know that you're putting in a lot of long hours. I've seen you in action before. I know that you all have your own busy lives to lead -- you've got your families to raise; you've got school coursework -- I hope many of you are focused; you've got jobs and careers you're trying to build. But I also know that there's a reason why all of us are in this school right now, today.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Michelle, we love you!

MRS. OBAMA: I love you, too! (Applause.)

And we would not be standing here without you. We are here not just because we all support an extraordinary President -– because our President is awesome. (Applause.) And we're not just here because we want to win an election, which we do, and we will. (Applause.) We're all here because of the values we believe in. Truly, we're doing this because of the vision for this country that we all share.

We're doing this because we want all of our children -- all of them -- to have good schools -- the kind of schools that push them; the kind of schools that inspire them and prepare them for good jobs and wonderful opportunities. (Applause.)

We want our parents and our grandparents to be able to retire with dignity -– (applause) -- because we believe that in America, after a lifetime of hard work, they should be able to enjoy their golden years. (Applause.)

We want to restore that basic middle-class security for our families, because we believe that in America folks shouldn't go bankrupt because someone gets sick. (Applause.) We believe that folks shouldn't lose their home because someone loses a job. (Applause.) We also believe that responsibility should be rewarded, and hard work should pay off. We believe that everyone should do their fair share, but play by the same rules. (Applause.)

And the thing that I tell people everywhere I go -- we have to remember, these are basic American values. (Applause.) This isn't new. They're the values that so many of us were raised with, including myself, which is why I share my story. You all know -- my father was a blue-collar city worker; he worked for the city water plant, and my family lived in a little-bitty apartment on the South Side of Chicago. South Side! (Applause.) And like so many people, my parents never had the kinds of educational opportunities that my brother and I had. But one thing they had -- and I know this is going on in homes all across this country -- they did everything for us growing up. I saw how they saved, how they sacrificed, how they poured everything they had into me and my brother because they wanted us to have the kind of education and opportunities they could only dream of.

And while pretty much most of my college tuition came from student loans and grants -- yes, I know, a few people can feel that, right? -- (applause) -- my dad still paid a small portion of that tuition himself. And every semester, my dad was determined to pay that bill and to pay it on time. He was proud to be able to send his kids to college, and he couldn't bear the thought of me or my brother missing a registration deadline because his check was late. Like so many people in this country, my father took great pride in being able to earn a living that allowed him to handle his responsibilities; to take care of his family and to pay all of his bills and to pay them on time.

And more than anything else, that's what's at stake in this election. That's what we're working for. That's what we're fighting for. It's that fundamental promise that no matter who you are or how you started out, if you work hard, you can build a decent life for yourself and an even better life for your kids. (Applause.) And what gives us all hope -- it is that promise that binds us together as Americans. That is what makes us who we are. That's what makes this country great.

But from now until November, Barack is going to need all of you to get out there. As Stacy said, get out there and tell everybody you know about what this is about. Tell them about our values. Tell them about this vision that we all share, and about everything that's at stake in this election. That's what we need you to do.

And you can start by telling them how Barack fought for tax cuts for working families and small businesses. (Applause.) And he did this because he knows that an economy built to last starts with middle-class folks, and companies who are creating jobs that are putting people back to work.

But remind them how, back when Barack first took office, people -- a lot of people forget this economy was losing an average of 750,000 jobs a month. A month! That's what he inherited. That's what he walked in -- that's what welcomed him into the Oval Office. (Laughter.) But also let them know that for the past 27 straight months, we have actually been gaining private sector jobs -– a total of more than 4 million jobs in just two years. (Applause.)

So while we absolutely have a long way to go to rebuild this economy, it's important for people to understand that today, millions of people are collecting a paycheck again; millions of people like my dad are able to handle their business and pay their bills again. (Applause.)

And Stacy talked about health reform, but also because we passed health reform -- health insurance -- people need to understand that insurance companies will have to cover preventative care, things like contraception and cancer screenings -- (applause) -- things like prenatal care, and they have to do it at no extra cost. (Applause.)

Because of this reform, people have to understand that millions of our senior citizens have saved more -- on average more than $600 a year on their prescription drugs thanks to this reform. (Applause.)

And for all of you who have kids graduating from college, because I know you're out there -- parents -- for all those parents, those kids can now stay on their parents' insurance until they're 26 years old. (Applause.) And that is how 3.1 million of our young people are getting the health care they need today. (Applause.)

But we can also talk about education, too. Let people know that Barack is working hard to raise standards in our public schools and make college more affordable for millions of young people. (Applause.) This President's vision is that by the end of this decade, more Americans will hold a college degree than any other country in the world. That's your President's vision for our children.

You can also tell people about how Barack has been fighting for the DREAM Act. And understand this -- (applause) -- because he believes that it is time to stop denying responsible young people opportunities in this country just because they're the children of undocumented immigrants. (Applause.) And just last week, this administration announced new measures to lift the shadow of deportation from many of these young people, who came here as children and were raised as Americans. (Applause.)

But while this is an important step, it is not a permanent solution. So Barack is going to keep fighting to get Congress to give these young people a real pathway to citizen [sic]. That's what we're working for. (Applause.)

But you can also remind folks that your President kept his promise -- he brought our troops home from Iraq. (Applause.) And remind them how our brave men and women in uniform finally brought to justice the man behind the 9/11 attacks. (Applause.)

And it's also important to know that because of this President, our troops will no longer have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love -– (applause) -- because Barack ended "don't ask, don't tell." (Applause.)

And for all of our women out there -- (applause) -- it is so important to remind women in this country that it is now easier for us to get equal pay for equal work because of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. (Applause.) That was the very first bill Barack signed into law, the very first thing he did for us as President of the United States. (Applause.) But I want people to know why Barack signed this bill, why it was so important. Because he knows that closing that pay gap can mean the difference between women in this country losing $50, $100, $500 from each paycheck, or having that money in their pockets to buy gas and groceries, and put clothes on the backs of their children. (Applause.) Barack did this because he understands that 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.)

And please, we cannot forget about those two brilliant Supreme Court Justices that Barack appointed -- (applause) -- and how, for the first time in history, our sons and daughters watched three women take their seat on our nation's highest court. (Applause.)

I could go on and on and on.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Please do! (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA: See, but I don't anybody passing out. (Laughter.) But what we all have to understand and we cannot take for granted -- all of this, all of this and so much more is at stake in November. It's all on the line. And in the end, it all boils down to one simple question: Will we continue the change we've begun and the progress we've made? Or are we going to let everything we've worked so hard for just slip away?


MRS. OBAMA: No. We know we cannot do that. We can't turn back now. We need to keep moving forward. (Applause.) We need to keep moving forward. And more than anything else, that's why we're here. That's what we're working for -- truly, the chance to finish what we started. The chance to keep fighting for those values we believe in, that vision that we all share. I don't care who we are; the things I just talked about, every American in this country wants the same things.

But let me tell you, that is what my President and my husband has been doing every single day. (Applause.) Every single day he's been fighting for us. (Applause.) I have watched him fight for us. And let me tell you, over the past three and a half years, as First Lady I have had the chance to see up close and personal what being President looks like. And let me just share something with you: I've seen how the issues that come across a President's desk, they're always the hard ones. Always. They're the problems with no easy solution, because when there is one somebody else comes up with it. (Laughter.) The judgment calls where the stakes are so high, and there's no margin for error.

And as President, you're going to get all kinds of advice and opinions from all sorts of people. But at the end of the day, when it comes time to make that decision, as President, all you have to guide you are your life experiences, are your values, is your vision for the country. That's all you have. It matters. (Applause.)

In the end, it all boils down to who you are and what you stand for. And let me tell you, we all know who my husband is. We all know what he stands for, don't we? (Applause.)

See, your President, Barack Obama, he's the son of a single mother who struggled to put herself through school and pay the bills. (Applause.) Barack Obama is the grandson of a woman who woke up before dawn every day to catch a bus to her job at the bank. And even though Barack's grandmother was -- worked hard to support his family and she was good at her work, like so many women, she hit that glass ceiling and men no more qualified than she was were promoted up the ladder ahead of her.

So what you have to understand about your President is that he knows what it means when a family struggles. (Applause.) He knows what it means when someone doesn't have a chance to fulfill their potential. And today, as a father, he knows what it means to want something better for your kids. Those are the experiences that have made him the man, and, yes, the outstanding President he is today. (Applause.)

And that is why I'm working so hard for him. Because when it comes time to stand up for American workers and American families, you know what Barack Obama is going to do. When there's a choice about protecting our rights and our freedoms, you know where Barack is going to stand -- he's going to stand with us. (Applause.) And when we need a leader to make the hard decisions to keep this country moving forward, you know you can count on my husband, because that is what he's been doing every single day as President of the United States. (Applause.)

But I have said this before, and I will say it again, and again, and again: He cannot do this alone. That is not how a democracy works. Barack needs your help.

He needs you to keep doing what you're doing. Keep making those calls -- it matters. Keep knocking on those doors -- it matters. Keep registering those voters -- it absolutely matters. And when you look around this room, I want you to think about multiplying yourselves. Multiply yourselves.

Reach out to your friends and your family and your neighbors. Tell them how to get involved. Tell them how to go to barackobama.com to find out how they can get started. Because it's easy, right? We want them to just give a little part of themselves each week to this campaign, and we need you to make that happen.

Because as Barack has said, this election will be even closer than the last one. And if you have any doubt about the difference that you will make, understand this: This is all going to come down to those last few thousand people we register to vote. It will. It's going to come down to those last few thousand people we get to the polls in November. (Applause.)

And just think for a minute, as you think about multiplying yourselves and you think about this work -- when you look at those kinds of numbers and they're spread across an entire state, it might mean registering just one more person. Just think -- just one more. It might mean just helping one more person in your community vote on Election Day.

So every call, I want you to think one more person. With every door you knock on, think this could be the one. With every conversation you have, this could be the one that makes the difference. That's how important you all are. Understand that. (Applause.) That is the kind of impact that each of you will have on this election.

And I'm not going to kid you, this journey is going to be long. It is going to be hard -- you ready for hard?


MRS. OBAMA: And there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way. But we have to remember that that's how change always happens in this country. That's how real change happens.

But if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight and doing what we know is right -- because we know -- then eventually we'll get there. We always do. Maybe not in our lifetimes, but maybe in our children's lifetimes. Maybe in our grandchildren's lifetimes.

Because what I tell myself is that in the end, that is what this is all about. It is not about us, it is about them. (Applause.) And that is what I think about every night when I tuck my girls in. I think about the world I want to leave for them, and for all of our sons and daughters. I think about how I want to do for them what my Dad did for me. (Applause.)

I want to give them a real foundation for their dreams. I want to give them opportunities worthy of their promise. Because all of our kids are worthy -- all of them. (Applause.) I want to give them that sense of limitless possibility, right? That belief that here in America, there's always something better out there if you're willing to work for it. (Applause.)

So if you want to know why I'm passionate, it's because of them. So we cannot turn back now. No. We have come too far, but there is so much more work to do. There just is.

So let me ask you one question, one last question: Are you in?

AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA: Come on, are you in?

AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA: Are you ready to roll up your sleeves?

AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA: Are you ready? Are you ready to work for our future? To work for that vision for our children? Because I am so fired up. Can you tell?


MRS. OBAMA: I am so ready to go. Can you tell? We're going to need you every step of the way.

Thank you all. God bless.

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event in Centennial, Colorado Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320401

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