Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event in Chicago, Illinois

September 27, 2012

MRS. OBAMA: Oh, my goodness. Thank you all. (Applause.) Four more years!

AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

MRS. OBAMA: Four more years! Thank you all so much. Oh, my goodness, I am just beyond thrilled to be here. This is the second time that I have been in this home. Fred has been just so wonderful.

But let me start by thanking Megan and Priscilla for that beautiful introduction, and for all of their hard work and sacrifice on behalf of this campaign. They have just been amazing, and it's that kind of passion that is going to absolutely make the difference in this election. Absolutely. (Applause.)

There are a couple of more people that I want to recognize. Congressman Quigley as well as Congresswoman Schakowsky, Jan -- both Mike and Jan, you guys are here. Thank you for your leadership, everything you do every day on behalf of this state and this nation. And of course, again, I want to thank Fred for hosting us all here, hosting me again. (Applause.) Yay.

And our event hosts -- Laura, Wally, Bob -- you guys, amazing. Woo! They're in the back whooping it up. They're amazing. Amazing. (Applause.)

But most of all, I really want to thank all of you. Thank you for taking the time to be here this evening. Thank you for being so supportive, so enthusiastic, for just making everything that Barack and I do possible. Truly, truly, there is so much more work to be done, but we are standing up straight because of you all.

And I know you all are fired up. You have to be because -- (applause) -- and I know that you all are ready to go. (Applause.) And just in case you were wondering, I'm feeling pretty fired up and ready to go myself. (Applause.)

Because one of the beauties of being here isn't just spending time with a lot of good friends and a lot of wonderful supporters, but I also get to do one of the things I love to do, and that is talk with you about the man I have loved and admired since I first met him 23 years ago -- my husband. (Applause.)

Everybody talks about the convention speech and how good it was, but I always say, I had good material to work with. (Laughter.) It was very easy. Now, what I've been sharing with people is that back when I first met Barack, let me tell you, he did have everything going for him. He was handsome -- can I get a witness? (Applause.) Still is -- yes, he is. He was charming, talented and oh-so very, very smart.

AUDIENCE: So are you!

MRS. OBAMA: But as I -- me, too. It's true. (Applause.) And I'm sure if he were here, he'd say the same thing. (Laughter.) But that is not why I married him. What truly made me fall in love with my husband was -- it was really his character. And that's what I talked about in Charlotte. It was his decency, his honesty, his compassion, his conviction.

I loved that Barack was so committed to serving others that he turned down high-paying jobs and instead started his career fighting to get folks back to work in struggling communities. I love that about him.

I love that he was devoted to his family, especially the women in his life. I watched for that respect that he had for his own mother. I saw how proud he was that she put herself through school and still managed to support him and his sister as a single mom. I saw the tenderness that he felt for his grandmother. I saw how grateful he was that long after she should have retired, she was still waking up every morning, catching that bus to her job at the community bank to help support his family.

And he watched as she, like so many women, was passed over for promotion simply because she was a woman. But he also saw how she kept on going, kept doing that same job year after year, without complaint or regret.

And the thing about Barack for me was that I found that real connection with him because in his life story, I saw so much of my own, truly. Growing up as a girl on the South Side of Chicago, I watched -- (applause) -- I know we've got some South Siders here. (Applause.) So we know a little bit about what it means to grow up on the South Side.

So I watched my father make that same uncomplaining journey to his job at the city water plant just up by the lake every day. I saw how he carried himself with that same dignity, that same pride that we've all seen in people that we love when they can provide for their families -- that same hope that one day his kids would have opportunities he could only dream of.

And like so many people in this country, so many families, our families simply weren't asking for much. They didn't begrudge anyone else's success. They didn't even mind if others had much more than they did. In fact, they admired it. That's why they pushed us. That's why they worked so hard for us. They simply believed in that fundamental American promise that even if you don't start out with much, in this country, if you work hard, if you do what you're supposed to do, then you should be able to provide a decent living for yourself and an even better one for your kids and your grandkids.

And they also believe that when you've worked hard, when you've done well, when you finally walk through that doorway of opportunity, you just don't slam it shut behind you. You reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed. (Applause.) That's how Barack and I and so many of you were raised. I know you -- you live in Chicago; you're Midwesterners. (Applause.)

Those are the values we were taught. We learned that how hard you work matters more than how much you make. We learned that the truth matters -- so you don't take short cuts, you don't game the system, you don't play by your own set of rules. We learned that no one in this life gets where they are on their own, that each of us, in some way, has a community of people lifting us up -- from the teachers who inspire us to the janitors who keep our schools clean. See, and the one thing we were taught is that you value everyone's contribution. You treat everyone with respect. (Applause.)

We also learned a little bit about citizenship and service -- that we're all part of something bigger than ourselves; that with our freedoms come obligations, and with our blessings come a duty to give back to others who have less.

And these are the values that make my husband -- (applause) -- such an extraordinary husband to me. Oh, and believe me, that's what makes him such a phenomenal father to our girls. But I shared those values about Barack, I shared that not just because it matters to me as a wife and as a mother, but I shared them because, as a First Lady, I've seen up close and personal what being President looks like and just how critical those values are for leading this country.

Over the past three years, I've seen how the issues that come across a President's desk, let me tell you, they are always the hard ones -- the decisions that aren't just about the bottom line, but they're about laying a foundation for the next generation. And I've seen how important it is to have a President who doesn't just tell us what we want to hear, but who tell us the truth -- even when it's hard; especially when it's hard. (Applause.)

And I've also seen that when it comes time to make those tough decisions, to make those calls, and everyone is urging you to do what's easy, everyone is urging you to do what's best in the polls, what gets good headlines -- and as President, you have to be driven by the struggles, hopes and dreams of all the people you serve. As President, you have to have that strong inner compass, that core commitment to your fellow citizens, and that's how you make the right decisions. That's what it takes to be a leader.

And what I have shared with people and reminded them is that since the day he took office, on issue after issue, crisis after crisis, that's exactly what my husband has been doing. That is what we have seen in him. We have seen his values at work. We have seen his vision unfold. We have seen the depths of his character, courage and conviction.

I mean, let's think back to when Barack first took office and our economy was on the brink of collapse. Newspapers were using words like "meltdown," "calamity;" they were declaring "Wall Street Implodes," "Economy in Shock." Because for years, folks had been lured into buying homes they couldn't afford. Mortgages were underwater. Banks weren't lending, companies weren't hiring. The auto industry was in crisis. This economy was losing 800,000 jobs ever single month. And there were a lot of folks who were wondering whether we were headed for a Great Depression. That's where we were. That's what Barack Obama faced on day one as President. That's what welcomed him after the inauguration.

But instead of pointing fingers, instead of placing blame, Barack got to work because he was thinking about folks like my dad. (Applause.) He was thinking about folks like his grandmother.

See, and that's why he cracked down on lending abuses, so that today when you apply for a mortgage or a credit card, folks know exactly what they're getting into. That's why he cut taxes for small businesses and working families -- because he believe that in America, teachers and firefighters shouldn't pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires. Not in America. (Applause.)

He got the auto industry back on its feet again, and today new cars are rolling off the line at proud American companies like GM. And yes, while we still have a long way to go to rebuild our economy, we have had 30 straight months of private sector job growth -- a total of 5.1 million new jobs. Do you hear me -- 5.1 million new jobs under this administration; good jobs right here in the United States of America. (Applause.)

Now, when it comes to the health of our families, see, Barack didn't care whether health reform was the easy thing to do politically, because that's not who he is -- thankfully. He cared that it was the right thing to do. And today, as a result of his fight for health reform, our parents and grandparents on Medicare are paying hundreds less for their prescription drugs. Our kids can stay on our insurance until they're 26 years old.

Insurance companies now have to cover basic preventative care -- things like contraception, cancer screenings, without any out-of-pocket cost. (Applause.) They won't be able to discriminate us -- against us because of preexisting conditions that they -- like diabetes or asthma. No longer. (Applause.)

And if you get a serious illness -- let's say breast cancer -- and you need expensive treatment, no longer can they tell you, sorry, you hit your lifetime limit and we're not paying a penny more. That is now illegal because of health reform. (Applause.)

And then when it comes to giving our kids the education they deserve, look, Barack knows that like me and like so many people in this country, he never, never could have attended college without financial aid. Never. In fact, as I shared at the convention, when we were first married, our combined monthly student loan bills were higher than our mortgage.

So trust me, when it comes to student debt, Barack and I, we've been there. This is not a hypothetical. (Laughter.) And that's why Barack doubled funding for Pell Grants and fought to keep interest rates down for our students. (Applause.) Because we have a President who wants all of our young people to have the skills they need for the jobs of the future -- jobs they can raise a family on, jobs that will drive an economy for decades to come.

And finally, when it comes to understanding the lives of women, when it comes to standing up for our rights and our opportunities, trust me, my husband Barack has always, always had our backs. (Applause.) Because Barack knows from personal experience what it means for a family when women aren't treated fairly in the workplace. He knows what it means when women struggle to meet the demands of their jobs and the needs of their families.

And today, as a father, believe me, he knows what it means to want our daughters to have the same freedoms and opportunities as our sons. And that's why the very first bill he signed into law was to get women equal pay for equal work -- the first thing he did as President. (Applause.) And that is why he will always, always fight to ensure that we, as women, can make our own decisions about our bodies and our health care. That's what my husband stands for. (Applause)

So when people ask you what this President has done for our country -- (laughter) -- when you run into people who are trying to decide which of these candidates will keep this country moving forward for four more years, here's a few things you can tell them -- just a few, because we don't have all night. (Laughter.)

Tell them about the millions of jobs Barack has created. Tell them about health reform that he passed. Tell them about all those kids who can finally afford college.

Tell them how Barack ended the war in Iraq. (Applause.) Remind them how, together, we took out Osama bin Laden. (Applause.) Tell them how Barack fought to get our veterans and military families the benefits they've earned. (Applause.)

Tell them about young immigrants brought to America through no fault of their own, and how they will no longer be deported from the only country they've ever called home. Tell them that. (Applause.)

Tell them how more people can be at their loved one's hospital bedside when they need them the most. (Applause.) Tell them how our brave men and women in uniform will never again have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love. (Applause.) Tell them about our President and all that he's done -- speaking out for the right of all Americans to be able to do what Barack and I did and marry the love of their life. (Applause.)

And tell them that Barack Obama, more importantly, knows the American Dream because he's lived it. He has lived it. And he is fighting every day so that each and every one of us in this country can have that same opportunity no matter who we are, or where we're from, or what we look like, or who we love.

But, please, we have to be clear: While Barack is proud -- very proud of everything that we have all achieved together, my husband is nowhere near satisfied. Nowhere near satisfied. (Applause.) Barack knows that too many people are still hurting and struggling; too much work left to be done. And it's going to take a lot longer than four years to rebuild an economy from the brink of collapse -- exactly what President Clinton said.

But here is one thing for sure that I can tell you: Since the day he took office, Barack has been fighting for us. He has been struggling with us. And together, slowly but surely, we have been pulling ourselves out of the hole that we started in. For three and a half years, we have been moving forward, we have been making good progress, and we are beginning to see that change that we all can believe in.

So we have to ask ourselves, are we just going to turn around and go back to the same policies that got us into this hole in the first place?


MRS. OBAMA: Are we going to just sit back and watch everything that we have worked for and fought for to just slip away?


MRS. OBAMA: Or are we going to keep moving this country forward? What are we going to do? (Applause.)

But in the end, the answer to these questions, it's on us. No matter -- it's up to us. Because know this for sure: All of our hard work, all of the progress that we have made, it is all at stake. It is all on the line this November. It can all be gone.

And as my husband has said, look, this -- the only guarantee you have in this election is that it is going to be closer than the last one. And it could all come down to what happens in just a few key battleground states -- places like Iowa or Wisconsin.

So I just want you to put it in perspective. Going back to what happened in 2008 -- just think back -- we won Iowa by about 147,000 votes. Now, that might sound like a lot, but when you break that number down across the entire state, that's just 87 votes per precinct. Take North Carolina -- we won that state by only 14,000 votes. That's just five votes per precinct. Five. That was the margin of victory -- five votes.

Now, that could mean just a couple of votes in a neighborhood, right? Just a single vote in an apartment building. So I just want to caution us all that if there is anybody here who is feeling really confident, if there is anybody here who is thinking that their vote doesn't matter, if anybody is thinking that their involvement doesn't count, that in this complex political process that ordinary folks can't possibly make a difference -- because there are a lot of people out there who don't get involved -- I just want you to think and I want you to remind them -- remind them about those five votes. Remind them about those 87 votes.

And I just want you to look at this room and think about how that with just a few evenings on a phone bank -- look around, look at this room. And I'm saying this in every room, whether it's 10,000 or whether it's 400. With every few hours that you spend knocking on doors in a battleground state, a few of you could swing an entire precinct for Barack Obama. And if we win enough precincts, we will win these battleground states; and when we win enough of those states, we'll be well on our way to putting Barack Obama back in the White House for four more years. (Applause.)

So from now until November -- focus with me -- (laughter) -- we need every single one of you to work like you've never worked before. Truly, we can't take anything for granted -- like you've never worked before. We need you to go to dashboard.barackobama.com. If you go there, you can make phone calls from your home into battleground states, okay? You don't have to leave the comfort of your own home. (Laughter.) But, for those of you who are willing, we need you to get in your car, pack your bag -- (laughter) -- head over to Iowa, go to Wisconsin for a few days or a few weekends to help get out the vote in those key states.

But more importantly, we need you to never let up. Never, ever let up. Never let up! (Applause.) We need you to talk to everyone you know -- your friends, your neighbors, that knucklehead nephew that you know that might not be registered to vote, the high school classmate you haven't spoken to -- you're dodging their text. (Laughter.) Pick it up for us. Talk to them. Tell them what's at stake.

Remind them of all the things this President has accomplished, and make sure that they're registered to vote -- especially if they've moved, especially if you have a student in your life who is away at college. You know those students. They're not thinking it through. They're fired up and ready to go, but they're not registered, or they've changed addresses. Or many of them, if you know people in your lives who have never voted before, they've got to register.

And then once folks are registered in your life, we need you to make sure they then get to the polls and cast their ballot on Election Day. You've got to follow it through. There has been no vote cast yet in this election, so we have no need to feel like anything is changing until that happens.

And if the people in your lives don't know where to go, you can send them to any one of our websites -- gottaregister.com, gottavote.com. And let me tell you, young people, anybody who is computer-savvy, those websites are awesome. You get on there, they tell you exactly what you need to do to vote, to register, where to go in your town, anywhere in this country to make their voices heard on November the 6th.

So did you get the message?

AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA: We can't take anything for granted?


MRS. OBAMA: We can't let up?


MRS. OBAMA: We can't pretend like everything is good, like we can count on any change lasting unless we're fighting hard for it each and every day -- not just this election, but in elections to come.

And I will be honest with you, this journey is going to be hard. These last days, they are going to feel long, right? They are long. How many? Forty-one [forty] days -- that is a lifetime in politics. (Laughter.)

But when you start to get tired -- and you will; when you start to think about taking a day off -- and you will, just remember, don't do it. (Laughter.) Remember that what we do together for the next 40 days will absolutely make the difference between us waking up the day after Election Day and wondering, "Oh, my God, what happened? Could I have done more?", or feeling the promise of four more years. Just think -- four more years. All that we can do with four more years. (Applause.)

So from now until the November the 6th, we need you to keep on working and struggling and pushing forward, because that's how change always happens in this country. (Applause.) But if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight, then eventually we get there. See, this is what I want our kids to know. In America, we always get there. In this country, we always move forward. Maybe not in our lifetimes -- and this is what's important -- maybe in our children's lifetimes, maybe in our grandchildren's lifetimes.

Because in the end, that's what this is about. That's what elections are always about. Don't let anybody tell you differently. Elections are always about hope.

The hope I saw in my father's face as I crossed that stage to get my college diploma. The hope that Barack's grandmother felt as she cast her ballot for the grandson she loved and raised. The hope of all those men and women in our lives who worked that extra shift, who saved and sacrificed and prayed so that we could have something more. The hope that so many of us feel when we look into the eyes of our kids and our grandkids and our nieces and our nephews.

That's why we are here today -- because we want to give all of our kids that foundation for their dreams. We want all of our kids to have opportunities worthy of their promise, because we know that all of our kids are worthy. They are all worthy. We want to give our kids that sense of limitless possibility -- that belief that here in America, the greatest country on the planet, there is always, always something better out there if you're willing to work for it.

So here's what keeps me going: I tell myself, we cannot turn back now. Not now. No, not now. We have come so far, but we have so much more work to do.

So are you all ready for this? (Applause.) Are you fired up? (Applause.) Are you ready to go? (Applause.) Are you ready to roll up your sleeves and make some calls, go to a battleground state, get it done? Don't take anything for granted! We're going to get this done.

We love you guys. God bless you. (Applause.)

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event in Chicago, Illinois Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320447

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