Michelle Obama photo

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

October 10, 2012

MRS. OBAMA: Oh, wow! (Applause.) Yeah, we're fired up! Thank you all so much. Oh! (Applause.) Very cool. Very, very cool. You know, to say that I'm thrilled to be here is an understatement.

This -- first of all, this is a beautiful part of the state. (Applause.) I don't know if I want to leave. And I am just so thrilled to be here at Fort Lewis College with our Skyhawks! (Applause.) Thank you for giving me such a warm welcome.

I want to start by thanking Byron. (Applause.) Yes. Not just for his kind introduction, but for what he represents -- the kind of young people that we know live in this country and are -- they are going to inherit and be the next leaders. We are so proud of all of you. We are truly proud of you, and we're proud of Byron for everything he's done for the campaign. (Applause.)

And of course, I want to thank all of you for taking the time, for joining us here today. Thanks so much. (Applause.) And I know people have driven from all over the state, so I really appreciate the time that you all are taking. And it really helps that you all are pretty fired up and ready to go. That's a good thing. (Applause.) Yes. Because I'm feeling pretty fired up and ready to go myself.

One of the many things I love about campaigning is that I get to talk about the man I've loved and admired since the day I met him 23 years ago -- my husband, our President. (Applause.) One of my favorite topics -- now, although my husband is handsome, charming and incredibly smart -- (applause) -- that is not why I married him. (Laughter.) What truly made me fall in love with Barack Obama, it was his character. It was his heart. It was his decency and honesty -- what we see in him every day -- his compassion and 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. (Applause.) I loved that my husband was and is devoted to his family -- especially the women in his life. (Applause.)

See, I saw the respect he had for his mother. I saw how proud he was that she put herself through school while supporting him and his sister as a single mom. I saw the tenderness he felt for his grandmother. I saw how grateful he was that long after she should have retired, she was still getting up every morning, catching that bus to her job at the community bank, doing everything she could to support their family.

And he watched as she was passed over for promotions simply because she was a woman. But he also saw how she kept on getting up, kept doing that same job year after year without complaint, without regret. See, 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 -- (applause) -- we always have some South Siders, everywhere in the country. But I watched my father make that same uncomplaining journey every day to his job at the city water plant. I saw how my father carried him with that same dignity, that same pride and determination in providing for his family when -- every way he could, always saving and sacrificing so that my brother and I could have opportunities that he never dreamed of.

And like so many families in this country, see, the thing is, our families weren't asking for much. They didn't want much. They didn't begrudge anyone else's success. They didn't mind if others had much more than they did -- in fact, they admired it. That's why they pushed us. 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 better life for your kids and grandkids. (Applause.)

And they also believed that when you've worked hard and you've done well, and you've finally walked through that doorway of opportunity, 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 is how Barack and I and so many of you were raised. Those are the values we were taught.

And more than anything else, I truly believe that this is what this election is all about. It is about a choice. It's a choice about our values, our hopes, and our aspirations. It's a choice about the America we want to leave for our kids and grandkids. (Applause.)

And what does that America look like? Well, we believe in an America where every child –- no matter where they're born, or how much money their parents have –- every child should have good schools, the kind that push them and inspire them, and prepare them for college and jobs in the future. (Applause.) We believe in an America where no one goes broke because someone gets sick -- (applause) -- where no one loses their home because someone lost a job.

We believe in an America where we all understand that none of us gets where we are on our own -- none of us -- that there is always a community of people lifting us up; where we treat everyone with dignity and respect, from the teachers who inspire us to the janitors who keep our schools clean. (Applause.) And in this America, when one of us stumbles, when one of us falls on hard times, we don't tell them, "tough luck, you're on your own." No. Instead, we extend that helping hand while they get back on their feet again.

We believe that the truth matters, that you don't take shortcuts -- (applause) -- you don't game the system, you don't play by your own set of rules. Instead, we reward hard work and success that's earned fair and square.

And finally, we believe in keeping our priorities straight. Because we all know good and well that cutting Sesame Street is no way to balance our budget. (Applause.) We know this. (Applause.) We know that shortchanging our kids is not how to tackle our deficit. And if we truly want to build opportunities for all Americans, we know we have to have a balanced fiscal strategy -- one that cuts wasteful spending but also makes smart investments in our future, in things like in education and infrastructure for an economy that's build to last. That we know.

And that is what my husband stands for. (Applause.) That is the country he has been working to build. Those are his values. And let me tell you something, over the past three and a half years as First Lady, I have seen up close and personal what being President really looks like -- let me tell you -- and I have seen just how critical those values are for leading this country.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I love you, Michelle!

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

But I've seen how the issues that come across a President's desk, they're 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 tells us the truth even when it's hard -- especially when it's hard. (Applause.)

And I've seen that when it comes time to make those tough calls, and everyone is urging you to do what's easy, to do what polls best, what gets good headlines, as President, those are the times you must be driven by the struggles, hopes, and dreams of all the people you serve. You need to be committed to lifting up every single American. And that's how you make the right decisions for this country. That's what it takes to be a leader. (Applause.) I have seen it.

And since the day he took office, on issue after issue -- I've been there -- crisis after crisis, that's exactly what we've seen in my husband. We have seen his values at work. We've seen his vision unfold. We've seen the depths of his character, courage, and conviction.

Let's think back to when Barack first took office. Where were we? Our economy was on the brink of collapse. That's just not me talking -- newspaper headlines were using words like "meltdown," "calamity;" declaring "Wall Street Implodes," "Economy in Shock."

See, for years, folks had been lured into buying homes they couldn't afford, so their mortgages were underwater. Banks weren't lending, companies weren't hiring. The auto industry was in crisis. The economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month, and a lot of folks wondered whether we were headed for another Great Depression. Do you hear me?

See, that is what Barack faced on day one as President. He inherited an economy in rapid decline. But see, instead of pointing fingers, instead of placing blame, your President got to work. Because he was thinking about folks like my Dad. (Applause.) He was thinking about folks like his grandmother.

And that's why he cut taxes for small businesses and working families -- because our President believes that teachers and firefighters should not pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires -- not in America. Not in America. (Applause.)

And that's why, while some folks were willing to let the auto industry go under with more than a million jobs that would have been lost, see, Barack had the backs of American workers. He ignored the naysayers, and fought hard to protect jobs for so many families in this country. And that is why, today, the auto industry is back and new cars are rolling off the line at proud American companies like GM. Today. (Applause.)

And yes, while we still have a long way to go to completely rebuild our economy, there are so many signs that we are headed in the right direction. The stock market has doubled. Housing prices are rising. The unemployment rate is the lowest it's been since my husband took office. (Applause.) We have had 31 straight months of private sector job growth, 5.2 million new jobs have been created under this administration -- good jobs right here in the United States of America. (Applause.)

Now, in addition to focusing on job creation, your President can do many other things. So he also worked on improving access to health care for millions of Americans. (Applause.) And know this -- Barack did not care whether health reform was the easy thing to do politically, because that's not who he is. He cared that it was the right thing to do.

And today, because of health reform, so many things have changed. Our parents and grandparents on Medicare are paying hundreds less for their prescription drugs -- today. Today, young people like so many of you can stay on your parent's insurance until you're 26 years old. Today. (Applause.)

Today, because of health reform, insurance companies now have to cover basic preventative care -- things like contraception, cancer screenings -- at no out-of-pocket cost. (Applause.) They won't be able to discriminate against you because you have a preexisting condition like diabetes or asthma. (Applause.)

And if you get really sick -- this is the one that gets me -- let's say you get breast cancer and you need expensive treatment, no longer can they 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.) Real change.

Now, when it comes to our young people and giving you all the education you deserve, see, let me tell you, Barack knows that like me and I know like so many of you, we never could have attended college -- never -- without financial aid. We wouldn't be here without financial aid. (Applause.) In fact, when we were first married, our combined monthly student loan bills were actually higher than our mortgage. So when it comes to student debt, Barack and I have been there. This is not a hypothetical for us.

And that is why Barack doubled funding for Pell grants and worked hard to keep interest rates down -- because fortunately we have a President that wants all of our young people to have the skills they need for the jobs of the future -- jobs that are going to drive this economy for decades to come. (Applause.)

And finally, when it comes to understanding the lives of women, when it comes to standing up for our rights and opportunities -- (applause) -- we know that my husband will always have our backs -- always. (Applause.) That, we know. We know this because Barack knows from personal experience what it means for a family when women aren't treated fairly in the workplace.

And today, believe me, as a father, he knows what it means to want our daughters to have the same freedoms and opportunities as our sons. And that is why one of the first bills he signed as President was to help women get equal pay for equal work. (Applause.) Absolutely. Absolutely. And that's 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 is what my husband stands for. (Applause.)

So over these next 27 days, when you're out there and people ask you what this President has done for our country, when folks are trying to figure out which is the best person to help keep this country moving forward, here's a few things -- just a few things you can tell them. Tell them about the millions of jobs that Barack has created. Tell them about all the kids in this country who can finally afford college. Tell them about the millions of lives that will be changed because of health reform.

Tell them how Barack ended the war in Iraq. (Applause.) Tell them how, together, we took out Osama bin Laden. (Applause.) Tell them how hard Barack is fighting to get veterans and military families the benefits they have earned. (Applause.)

Tell them about all those young immigrants who will no longer have to 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.)

Believe me, I could go on and on and on. But here's one really important thing I want you to tell them. Tell them that Barack Obama knows the American Dream because he's lived it. (Applause.) And he is fighting every day so that everyone 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 here's the thing. Let's be clear: While my husband is very proud of what we have all achieved together, he is nowhere near satisfied. Barack, of all people, knows that there are still too many people hurting in this country. He knows that there's plenty of work left to be done, plenty of families that need to be touched. And as President Clinton said, it's going to take a lot longer than four years to finish rebuilding an economy from the brink of collapse.

But here's the thing -- together, slowly but surely, we have been pulling ourselves out of that hole we started in. We are steadily moving this country forward and making real change.

So here's the thing we have to ask ourselves: Are we 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've worked for and fought for to just slip away?


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

But in the end, the answers to these questions, it's on us now. Because all our hard work, all the progress we've made, it's all on the line. It's all at stake this November. And as my husband has said over and over again, this election will be even closer than the last one. That is the only guarantee. And it could all come down to what happens in just a few key battleground states like right here in Colorado. (Applause.)

So I want to give you some perspective, especially because we've got a lot of young people here. I want to take you back to what happened in 2008. Back then, Barack won Colorado by about 215,000 votes. And while that might sound like a lot, when you break that number down across precincts, across an entire state, that's just 73 votes per precinct. That's what I thought. I thought, really? (Laughter.) It feels like so much more -- 73. All right. So that could mean just a couple of votes in one neighborhood, just a single vote in a dorm room.

And some of you -- if there is anyone here or that you know who might be thinking that their vote doesn't matter, if there is anyone thinking that their involvement doesn't count, that in this complex political process that ordinary folks can't possibly make a difference, I really want you to just have in your mind that 73 -- 73 votes. Look at this room. This room could decide the election. (Applause.) Truly. Truly.

And so many of you have already done such a great job getting folks registered to vote here in Colorado. You all have been amazing. And I want you to think about how with just a few more evenings on a phone bank, how with just a few more weekends knocking on doors, going around your school, you all in this room could swing an entire precinct for Barack Obama. (Applause.)

And if we win enough precincts, we will win this state. And if we win Colorado, we'll be well on our way to putting Barack Obama back in the White House for four more years. (Applause.)

So here's what I want you to do. Here's what I want you -- is everybody listening? (Laughter.) For the next 27 days -- it's 27 days; fire it up -- we're going to need you all to work like you've never worked before. Twenty-seven days -- sign up with one of our volunteers here today. Sign up to make phone calls, knock on doors, get out every last vote here in this state.

But more importantly, talk to everyone you know -- your friends, your roommates, that cousin you haven't seen in a while. (Laughter.) You know he doesn't always vote. (Laughter.) That high school classmate you haven't talked to, you've been avoiding them -- (laughter) -- connect, and tell them what's at stake. Especially for young people -- I can't tell you how many young people in the last election told me, because I talked to my grandparents and told them how much this election means for my future, I changed their minds. They voted for Barack. And really, for the young people, this is about the country you will inherit. This is about your country. (Applause.)

So get on the phone. Make sure you talk. And send folks to vote.barackobama.com for all the information they need to cast their votes. And as Byron said, vote by mail. Those ballots start going out this Monday. So it's happening. Voting in Colorado is starting. So make sure folks fill out those forms and mail them back as soon as possible. And then there's early voting in person that starts on Monday, October the 22nd. So make sure that you get as many people as possible to vote early.

I'm going to be voting early. And what I'm encouraging people to do is vote early, and then spend Election Day helping other people get to the polls. (Applause.)

And let me just say this -- this is true no matter who you're going to vote for, okay? As Byron said, voting is the way we make change in this democracy. And I want our young people to get into the habit of making voting a regular part of your lives -- not just every four years, but in every election, wherever you live. Be that voice. Own your future. And get to the polls on Election Day, November the 6th. (Applause.) Do that. Do that.

And I'm going to be honest with you, this journey is going to be hard, you know? And there will be plenty of ups and downs over this next 27 days. That's just how it goes.

But here's the thing -- when you get tired –- and you will -- when you start thinking about taking a day off -– and you will; you may need one -- I want you to remember that what we do for the next 27 days will absolutely make the difference between waking up the day after Election Day and asking ourselves "Could we have done more?", or feeling the promise of four more years. (Applause.)

So from now until November the 6th, we need you to keep working, and struggling, and pushing forward. Because here's another thing I want young people to know -- that kind of struggle, that is how change always happens in this country. Real change requires patience and tenacity in anything you all do in life. Never let anybody talk you out of your dream. You keep pushing. This is just another example of that.

And just know that if we keep showing up every day, if we keep fighting the good fight and doing what we know in our hearts is the right thing to do, then eventually we get there -- we always do. I want our young people to understand that in America, we always move forward. There is every reason to be hopeful about the futures you all will hold. I am hopeful because of that. I'm so proud of you.

But here's the thing -- maybe change won't happen in our lifetimes; 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. (Applause.)

It's about the hope that I saw on my father's beaming face when he watched me cross the stage to get my college diploma. The hope on Barack's grandmother's face, what she felt in her heart when she cast her ballot for the grandson she loved and raised. (Applause.) The hope of all of those men and women in our lives who worked that extra shift so we could be here, who saved and sacrificed and prayed so that we could have something more -- they pushed us to be better. The hope that so many of us feel when we look into the eyes of our kids and grandkids. It's that kind of hope that I'm talking about. That's why we're here today. That is why we're here today.

Because we believe in an America where all of our children have that foundation for their dreams, you know? We want all of our children to have opportunities worthy of their promise, because all of our kids in this country -- every single one of them -- are worthy. (Applause.) We want them to fulfill every last bit of their God-given potential. We want to give them a sense of limitless possibility -- that belief that here in America, yes, the greatest country on the planet, there is always something better out there, folks, if you're willing to work for it -- you hear me, young folks? If you're willing to work for it. (Applause.)

So here is what I tell myself -- this is what I tell myself -- we cannot turn back now. Not now. We cannot turn back now. We have come so far, but we've got so much more work to do, right?

So here's my last question: Are you ready for this? (Applause.) Are you in? Are you in? You ready to roll up your sleeves? We're going to work like never before.

Love you so much. Thank you guys. God bless.

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event in Durango, Colorado Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320450

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