Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event in Daytona Beach, Florida

November 01, 2012

MRS. OBAMA: Yeah! (Applause.) It is so great to be here to see all of you! I am thrilled -- beyond thrilled! (Applause.) Oh, my goodness, this is good stuff. (Applause.)

Before I begin, because as we've seen the last few days unfold, it's important to take a moment to make sure we send our thoughts and prayers out to everyone affected by Hurricane Sandy. I know, like you, all of you, the President and I, we are heartbroken about the lives that have been lost and the damage that has been done in so many of our communities. And as you know, your President has been working around the clock with governors and mayors and our extraordinary first responders to make sure that they have all the support and resources they need.

And here's the thing. When we face tragedy in this country, we come together. That is the beauty of America. And I know we will continue to come together as one American family to help our fellow citizens recover from this devastating storm. So we cannot do this until we acknowledge what is going on in this country, so I just want to thank you all -- and keep sending your prayers and your support. (Applause.)

I also want to start by thanking Wendy for that very kind introduction and for everything she's doing for this campaign. Let's give Wendy a round of applause. (Applause.) And I'm going to thank one of my dear friends who I miss seeing since I've visited Florida -- Grace Nelson, who is here. Grace, I love you. Thank you -- thank you for your outstanding job in the Senate, for your husband's job, and thank you for your friendship and your kind words. We love you so much. (Applause.)

And of course, I understand you got to hear from Marc Anthony, right? (Applause.) He gave some wonderful remarks and we are thrilled he could be with us today, and we are grateful for his support. He's just been just focused and fired up and ready to go -- just like all of you. And I'm glad you all are here joining us. (Applause.)

Are we fired up and ready to go? (Applause.) I love it! Because I have to tell you I'm feeling pretty fired up and ready to go. Because in just five days -- can you believe, five days -- (applause) -- we have the opportunity to re-elect such a decent, honest man -- (applause) -- a man whose courage and integrity we have seen every day for the last four years, the man I have known and loved for 23 years -- my husband, our President, Barack Obama. (Applause.) That's why we're here.

And I have to tell you that's really what made me fall in love with my husband. It's his character. It's his compassion, his conviction, his commitment to helping others. And that has been the man I have known all of our time together. I love that Barack was also so devoted to his family. I watched for that, ladies. (Laughter.) That was important. When we first met I looked for that in a man -- in this man. (Applause.) Especially his devotion to the women in his life. (Applause.) I saw the respect that he had for his own mother. I saw how proud he was that she was able to put herself through school and still support him and his sister as a single mom.

And I definitely saw the tenderness 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. And he also watched as she was passed over for promotions year after year simply because she was a woman. But here's something he learned from her -- he saw how she kept on getting up every day, year after year, without complaint or regret.

See, here's the thing -- with Barack, I found a real connection, because in his life story I saw so much of my own. Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, I watched my father make that same uncomplaining journey every day to his job at the city water plant. And I saw how he carried himself with that dignity, with that same pride that comes from being able to provide for your family, that same hope that his kids would one day have opportunities he never dreamed of.

And here's the thing about this country -- see, like so many families in this country, our families weren't asking for much. They didn't want much. And they didn't begrudge anyone else's success; in fact, the admired it. They didn't mind if others had much more than they did. That's why they pushed us to be the very best we could be.

But they simply believed in that fundamental American promise that even if you don't start out with much, if you work hard, if you do what you're supposed to do, then you should be able to build a decent life for yourself and an even better life for your kids and grandkids. (Applause.)

See, and they also believed in something really important as well, that when you've worked hard -- young people, your hear me? When you've worked, when you've done well, when you finally have walked through that doorway of opportunity, here's what you don't do: You 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 I know so many of you -- that's how we were raised. And more than anything else, that is what this election is all about. It's a choice. It's a choice about our values, about our hopes, our aspirations. It's a choice about the America we want to leave for our kids and our grandkids.

What does that America look like? What do we believe in? We believe in an America where every child has access to good schools -- schools that push them and inspire them, and prepare them for good jobs of the future. We believe in an America where no one goes broke or loses a home because someone gets sick or lost their job. (Applause.)

We believe in an America where we all understand that none of us gets where we are on our own, and where we treat everyone with dignity and respect -- from the teachers who inspire us to the janitors who keep our schools clean. (Applause.) In this America that we are working to build, we believe that the truth matters. And you don't take shortcuts or game the system.

And finally, we believe in keeping our priorities straight. We all know good and well that cutting Sesame Street is no way to balance our budget. (Applause.) We know better than that. Instead, we need to cut wasteful spending, yes -- but we have to make smart investments in things like education and infrastructure for an economy built to last. And that is what my husband stands for. (Applause.) That's the country he's been working to build for four years. (Applause.)

See, and since the day he took office, on issue after issue, crisis after crisis, that is exactly what we have seen in our President.

So think back to when Barack first took office -- our economy was on the brink of collapse. You don't have to take my word for it. Newspapers were using words like "meltdown," "calamity;" declaring "Wall Street implodes," "Economy in Shock." Do you remember that? See, because the auto industry was in crisis. This economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month. And a lot of folks wondered whether we were headed for another Great Depression.

And this is what Barack faced on day one as President. See, but instead of pointing fingers and placing blame, your President got to work, because he was thinking about folks like my dad and like his grandmother. And that's why he cut taxes for small businesses and for working families -- because he understands that teachers and firefighters should not pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires. (Applause.) Not in America. That's not right. We know that's not right.

And that's why, while some folks were willing to let the auto industry go under -- you remember that? You know who I'm talking about? With more than a million jobs -- you hear me --a million jobs that would have been lost, Barack had the backs of the American workers. And that's why today, the auto industry in America is back on its feet again. (Applause.)

And while we still have a way to go to completely rebuild this economy, let me tell you, there are more and more signs every day that we're headed in the right direction. Exports have grown by 45 percent. Manufacturers have added 500,000 jobs. We have had 31 straight months -- the majority of this presidency -- of private sector job growth -- a total of 5.2 million new jobs that have been created right here in the United States of America under this President. (Applause.)

Now, when it comes to giving our young people the education they deserve, see, Barack knows that like me, and like so many of you, we never could have attended college without financial aid -- never. (Applause.) We would not be standing here if not for financial aid. So when it comes to student debt, trust me, Barack and I, we've been there. This is not a hypothetical for us.

And that's why Barack doubled funding for Pell grants, fought hard to keep interest rates down on student loans. (Applause.) Because you have a President that understands that ever young person in this country deserves access to college in an affordable way. (Applause.)

And then finally, when it comes to understanding the lives of women -- (applause) -- my husband you know will always have our backs. Because Barack knows from personal experience what it means for a family when women aren't treated fairly in the workplace. And that's why the very first bill he signed into law as President was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, to help women get equal pay for equal work. (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. (Applause.)

And as Wendy mentioned in her introduction, we cannot forget about the health reform that he passed. Because of that reform insurance companies can no longer charge women more than men for the same coverage. (Applause.) Also because of this reform, they won't be able to discriminate against you because you have a preexisting condition like diabetes or asthma. (Applause.)

Our seniors on Medicare are saving [paying] hundreds less for their prescription drugs. (Applause.) And as Wendy said, our young folks can stay on their parent's insurance until they're 26 years old. (Applause.)

And here's the other thing about Obamacare. If you get a life-threatening illness and you need real expensive care, insurance companies can no longer tell you, sorry, you've hit your lifetime limit and we're not paying a penny more. That is now illegal because of health reform. (Applause.)

So here we are, five days out. And when you're out there talking to folks -- and I know you're going to be out there, right?


MRS. OBAMA: When you're out there talking to folks who are trying to decide who will keep America moving forward for four more years, I want you to tell them a few specific things about Barack Obama.

Tell them what he has done for our economy, our health care and our education. But also remind them that this was the President that ended the war in Iraq, took out Osama bin Laden. (Applause.) This was the President that is fighting every day so that veterans and military families to get the benefits that they have earned. (Applause.)

Remind them about all the young immigrants in this country who will no longer live in fear of being deported from the only country they've ever called home. (Applause.) Tell them about our brave servicemembers who will never again have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love. (Applause.)

If they need to know more, send them to BarackObama.com/plans -- our website. They can learn about all the concrete plans that Barack has for the next four years to create more jobs, to reduce our deficit, and so much more.

But here's what I really want you to tell them about this man. You tell them that Barack Obama knows the American Dream because he's lived it. (Applause.) And he has been fighting every day -- do you hear me, every day -- so that everyone 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. (Applause.)

But let's be clear. While is so proud of all that we have achieved together, my husband is nowhere near satisfied. Of all the people on the planet, Barack knows all too well that too many folks are still hurting. And as President Clinton said, it is going to take a lot longer than four years to finish rebuilding an economy from the brink of collapse. (Applause.)

But here's what I know I have seen for the past four years. Know this: Together, slowly but surely, we have been pulling ourselves out of that hole we started in. We have been moving forward, and making real, meaningful change. (Applause.)

So over the next five days, we have got to ask ourselves a simple question. Are we going to turn around and go back to the same policies that got us into this hole in the first place? Are we just going to sit back and watch everything we 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.) I want to go forward! What are we going to do?

AUDIENCE: Forward!

MRS. OBAMA: We've got to go forward. (Applause.)

But here's the thing. In the end, the answer to these questions is on us now. It's all on us. Because, believe me, all of our hard work, all of the progress we've made -- know this -- it is all on the line. It's no joke. It's all at stake this Tuesday.

And as my husband has said, the only thing guaranteed is that this election will be even closer than the last one. And it is all going to come down to what happens in just a few key battleground states like right here in Florida. (Applause.) And let me help put it in perspective. I do this everywhere I go. Let's take you back to 2008 to understand the power that you have.

Here in Florida, we won by about 236,000 votes. It might sound like a lot, but when you break that number down across precincts, that is just 36 votes per precinct. You hear me? Thirty six! Look around this room. Right, this room alone could make the difference. See, because that could mean just one vote in your neighborhood -- one! Just one more vote in your apartment building or on your college campus. Just one. (Applause.)

So if there is anyone out there -- if there is anyone you know out there who might be thinking that their vote doesn't matter, that their vote and involvement doesn't count, that in this complex political process that ordinary folks can't possibly make a difference, see, I want you to think about those 36 votes. See, because you know 36 people. Everybody knows 36 people. And you know 36 people who didn't vote in 2008. So I want you to think about how with just a few more hours knocking on some doors, or making some phone calls, with just a few more hours getting folks to the polls on Election Day, just a few of you here -- shoot, look at this room; this room here alone could swing an entire precinct for Barack Obama. (Applause.) And when we win enough precincts, we will win this state, and we'll be well on our way to putting Barack back in the White House for four more years. (Applause.)

So we've got a plan, and it involves you. You are at the core of this plan. Before you leave today, sign up to volunteer -- just a couple more days. Weekend -- just give your weekend, just hand it over. (Laughter.) But for the next five days, we need every single one of you to talk to everyone you know. Don't leave any stone unturned -- not a friend, not a neighbor, not a cousin. We don't care if you haven't spoken to him in a year, call him. (Laughter.) Get them out to vote.

And if you can, get them to vote early. I voted early. (Applause.) We've got a lot of early voters. See, because I want to spend Election Day getting other people out to the polls, motivating other people, reminding people. We're going to be on the phone, on the TV, on the radio just reminding people. And I hope you all do the same.

See, because the other thing about early voting is that life happens. Election Day is one day. And when you're talking about a difference of 36 votes, we can't afford anybody to wake up and their car is broken down, they don't feel well, the babysitter is late, the boss made you work overtime -- anything can happen. So vote early.

And here in Florida, you can vote early through Saturday at your county supervisor of elections' office and many of the libraries and the city hall. So, as Wendy said, you can leave here after we're done and go vote. (Applause.)

But whether you vote early or whether you vote on the 6th, you can also go to vote.barackobama.com to learn how and where to vote. You can go on that website and find out anything, anywhere in the country. So use that as a resource to make your voices heard.

Now, that's our plan. You do understand that you are critical to the plan, right? (Applause.) And with less than a week to go until Election Day, make no mistake about it: What we all do for these next five days will absolutely make the difference between us waking up on Election Day and asking ourselves, could I have done more, or feeling the promise of four more years. See, and I only want to feel that promise. I don't know about you.

So from now until November the 6th, we need you to keep working and struggling and pushing forward. See, because here's the thing. That is how change always happens in this country. And I'm really talking to our young people. (Applause.) Because we know from our history that change is hard, and it requires patience and tenacity -- shoot, life is hard. But if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight and doing what we know in our hearts is right, then eventually we get there. You have to know this. We always do.

That is why we have every reason to be optimistic about what lies ahead, because we know that here in America we always move forward. We never go back. We always make progress. (Applause.) And in the end, that's what this is about. That's what elections are always about. Don't let anybody fool you. Don't let anybody tell you differently. Elections are always about hope.

What kind of hope am I talking about? The hope that I saw on my father's face as I crossed the stage to get my college diploma -- the diploma he took out loans to help me get. (Applause.) The hope Barack's grandmother felt as she cast her ballot for the grandson she loved and raised. That kind of hope. The hope of all those men and women in our lives who worked that extra shift for us, who saved and sacrificed and prayed so that we could stand here. We are here because of them. That kind of hope. (Applause.) The hope that so many of us see when we look into the eyes of our kids and our grandkids.

That is why we are here today. See, because we want all our kids to have that solid foundation for their dreams. We're here for our kids. We want to give all of our children opportunities worthy of their promise, because we all know -- I don't care who you vote for, you all know in this country that all of our children are worthy. They're all worthy. We want to give them that sense of limitless possibility, that belief that here in America, the greatest country on the planet, there is always something better out there if you're willing to work for it. (Applause.)

So here's what I tell myself every day as First Lady: We cannot turn back now. We will not turn back now. (Applause.) We have come so far, but we have so much more work to do.

So here's my last question. Florida, are you in this? (Applause.) Are you fired up? (Applause.) Are you ready to go? (Applause.) You get out there and vote like you've never voter before. (Applause.) Work hard. Five days for four more years! That's what we need from you. Get it done. We're going to be working hard.

We love you, guys. God bless.

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event in Daytona Beach, Florida Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320473

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