Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event in Jackson Hole, Wyoming

August 11, 2012

MRS. OBAMA: Wow! All the little ones are here, too. (Applause.) Oh, my goodness. (Applause.) Well, thank you so much. Wow, I didn't know there were this many people here. (Laughter.) This is so, so cool. Thank you. I am beyond thrilled to be here. I mean, this is a beautiful state. And just being here just reminds us just how blessed we are to live in this country. (Applause.)

And I guarantee you, we will be back. I mean, this is a place that I want my mother to see, I want my girls to see. (Applause.) So you can guarantee we will be back. We're just going to handle a few things over the next -- (laughter) -- couple of months, and we will be back. But I want to thank you all.

And I want to start by thanking Leslie not just for that very gracious, kind, warm introduction, but thank -- I want to thank her for all the work that she has been doing in this state and for this nation. So let's give her a round of applause. (Applause.)

And I also want to recognize our magnificent host committee for all of their hard work to make this event such a success, as well as Chuck Herz, he and his family -- (applause) -- your State Party Chair, I want to thank him for working so hard.

And finally, I want to thank all of you, truly, for taking the time to be here today.


MRS. OBAMA: Oh, gosh, thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) And it always amazes me -- it's Saturday, right? (Laughter.) It's Saturday afternoon; I have trouble keeping up sometimes. But it always amazes me when people are willing to take time out of their busy lives. And I know you all are busy, and I know you've got lots of things to do -- businesses to run; jobs to make happen; young people, eventually you'll be going back to school, there will be classes you'll have to attend; we've got our families to raise.

So our plates are very full. So when you come here, it means something. When you take those precious moments out of your lives, it means something.

But I also know that there is a reason why we're all here today, and it's not just because we all support what I believe is a cute, smart, phenomenal President, who happens to be my husband. (Applause.) And yes, yes, four more years! Four more years. (Applause.) And I'm a little biased. I'm just a little biased, but maybe we all are a little biased here, right? (Applause.) And we're not just here because we want to win an election -- which we do, and we absolutely will. (Applause.) Yes, we will.

We're here and we're doing this work because of our values. That's what I remind people everywhere we go. (Applause.) We're here because of our values. We're doing this because of the vision for this country that we all share. We're doing this because we believe that everyone in this country should have a fair shot. And that means, for example, that all of our kids should have good schools, right? (Applause.) All of our kids should be able to go to college without a mountain of debt. (Applause.)

We believe that everyone in this country should do their fair share. That means teachers and firefighters shouldn't pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires. Not in America. (Applause.) We believe that if you work hard, you shouldn't go bankrupt because someone gets sick. (Applause.) You shouldn't lose your home because someone loses a job. And after a lifetime of hard work, you should be able to retire with dignity and security. (Applause.)

And what we have to remember is that these are basic American values. This is the foundation of this country. This isn't anything new, right? They're the values that so many of us were raised with, including myself. As Leslie mentioned, I come from a modest background. My father was a pump operator at the city water plant in Chicago. That was the only job he had his entire life. And neither of my parents had a college degree.

But what I tell folks, especially young people, is that what my parents did have, what they did do for us is that they saved for us, and they sacrificed everything for us. They poured every bit of love and energy and attention into me and my brother so that we could get the kind of education they could only dream of.

And for us, in our family, education was everything. It was everything. Education was our ticket to the middle class. It was our pathway to the American Dream. (Applause.) And when my brother and I finally made it to college, pretty much all of our tuition came from student loans and grants, like many young people. But my dad still worked to pay a small portion of that tuition himself. And let me tell you, every semester my dad was determined to get his check in to those schools on time. He was so proud to be playing a role in sending his kids to college. And he was going to be sure that we never missed a registration deadline because his check was late.

Like so many people in this country, so many people in our lives, my father took great pride in being able to earn a simple living, a living that allowed him to meet his responsibilities to his family. That's all he wanted -- to be able to pay his bills, and pay them on time. That's all he ever wanted.

And my father's life is a testament to that basic American promise that no matter who you are in this country, no matter how you started out, if you work hard you can build a decent life for yourself, and more importantly, an even better life for your kids. (Applause.) And what I want people to understand is that my husband, and your President, he understands that promise because that's his story as well. (Applause.) That's one of the reasons why I love him so much, because of his story.

He's the son of a single mother who struggled to put herself through school and pay the bills. He's the grandson of a woman who woke up before dawn to catch a bus to her job at the bank. And even though Barack's grandmother worked hard to help support his family, and she was good at her job, Barack watched as she, like so many women, hit that glass ceiling and saw men no more qualified than she was be promoted up that ladder ahead of her. But what he also saw in his grandmother was a woman who never complained. How many people do we have like that in our lives? Never complained; just keep getting up, just keep giving her very best every single day to support her family.

So what I want this country to remember is that Barack knows what it means when a family struggles. He knows what it means to work hard because you want something better for your kids, for your grandkids. And like me, and like so many of you, Barack knows the American Dream because he's lived it. And he believes that when you've worked hard and you've done well in this country, and you've had the opportunity to walk through that doorway of promise, you do not slam it shut behind you. Not in America. (Applause.) You reach back and you give other folks the chance to succeed as well. That's what we do in America -- we reach back.

And more than anything else, that's what's at stake in this election. Hopefully, that's why we're here. It's that dream, that fundamental American promise. And let me just say this, from now until November, we're going to need everyone -- everyone in this country -- to get out there and to tell everyone you know -- tell them about your President's values. Tell them about his vision, our vision, and remind them about the choice we face in this election -- because this election is about choices.

This election is about a choice about our economy. It's about building a strong and growing middle class. So I want you to remind people that Barack has cut taxes for working families by $3,600. He has cut taxes for small businesses 18 times -- 18 times in his presidency. (Applause.) Because he knows that building our economy, it starts with the restaurants, the stores, the startups that create two-thirds of all new jobs in this economy.

And I also want you to remind people that, back when Barack first took office, right after he took that oath in the freezing cold -- (laughter) -- what welcomed him was an economy that was losing an average of 750,000 jobs every single month. That's where we started. But I also want you to remind people that for the past 29 straight months, we've actually been gaining private sector jobs every month -- more than 4.5 million new jobs under this administration. (Applause.)

So yes, we have more work to do; we do have a long way to go to rebuild our 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 pay their bills again.

But this election is also a choice about the health of our families. I mean, the fact is that over the past century -- okay, 100 years; let's just think about it -- last 100 years, so many of our Presidents have tried and failed to meet the challenge of health care reform. But your President was determined. (Applause.) Fortunately for all of us, he was driven by the stories of the people he'd met. We know these people -- the grandparents who couldn't afford their medicine; the families going broke because a child got sick; the woman dying of cancer whose insurance company wouldn't cover her care. And let me tell you, those were the stories that kept him going day after day. That's why he has fought so hard for this historic reform.

And today, because of that reform, our parents and our grandparents are paying hundreds less for their prescription drugs. Our kids can stay on our insurance until they're 26 years old, right? (Applause.) And I know so many mothers breathing a sigh of relief that our children won't have to go without health care when they're first starting out -- graduating, trying to figure out their lives and find jobs. Because of this reform, insurance companies have to cover basic preventative care, like contraception, cancer screenings, at no extra cost. No extra cost. (Applause.) Insurance companies can't discriminate against us because we have an illness that they call a preexisting condition. (Applause.) And this is the one that really gets me: That if you get a serious illness -- let's say breast cancer -- and you need really expensive treatment, your insurance company 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.)

And make no mistake about it, this November we get to decide: Do we want these reforms to be repealed?


MRS. OBAMA: Or do we want the people we love to have the care we need?


MRS. OBAMA: We get to decide. That is the choice in this election.

This election is also a choice about whether our kids can go to college without a mountain of debt. And believe me, Barack and I, we understand this a bit. (Laughter.) See, because when we started out our lives together, right -- so young, so in love, so broke -- (laughter) -- our combined student loan bill each month was actually higher than our mortgage. So when it comes to student debt, my husband and I, we've been there. And that's why Barack fought so hard to double funding for Pell Grants and to stop student loan interest rates from rising -- (applause) -- because he understands that we have to ensure that all of our young people get the education they need for the jobs they deserve. Barack wants all of our kids to be able to fulfill their promise.

And that's one of the reasons why he's been fighting so hard for the DREAM Act. (Applause.) I mean, understand this: He has been fighting for responsible young people who came to this country as children, through no fault of their own, and were raised as Americans -- the only country they know -- because your President believes that, yes, these young people also deserve a chance to go to college and contribute to our economy and serve the country they know and love -- all of our kids. (Applause.)

This election is a choice about keeping our country safe. So it's important to remind people that after 10 long years of war, 10 long years after so many of our heroic men and women have served and sacrificed, and so many of them have given their lives, thankfully, Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat to this country. (Applause.)

You can also remind people that Barack kept his promise to bring our troops home from Iraq. And he is working hard to make sure they get the benefits and the support they've earned. (Applause.)

And today, our troops no longer have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love, because Barack ended "don't ask, don't tell."

This election, it's a choice about supporting women and families in this country. So be sure to remind the people in your lives that Barack believes that women should be able to make our own choices about our health care. (Applause.) It is now easier for women to get equal pay for equal work because of the first bill he signed into law, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

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

So when you're out there talking to folks and getting them revved, and somebody asks you, well, what has this President done for our country? Here's what you tell them. Tell them how many jobs he has created. Tell them how much money he has put back in the pockets of Americans in this country. You can tell them that more of our kids can afford college; more of our seniors can afford their medicine. Remind folks how Barack ended the war in Iraq, passed historic health reform and stood up for our most fundamental rights again and again and again. That's what you tell them. (Applause.)

But I also want you to remind everyone that all of that and so much more, all of it's at stake. All of it's on the line. And that's the choice we face. Are we going to continue the change we've begun and the progress we've made? Or are we just going to sit back and allow everything we've worked so hard for to just slip away?

What are we going to do? No, we can't go back now. We need to keep moving forward. Forward! In this country, we keep moving forward. And more than anything else, that's what we're working for -- truly, the chance to finish what we've started, the chance to keep fighting for the values we believe in and the vision for this country that we all share. This is our vision. And that's what my husband has been doing every single day as President of the United States.

And just let me share something with you, because 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 really looks like. (Laughter.) And I've seen some things. I've seen how the issues that come across a President's desk are always the hard ones. Running for President is the easy part. The problems with no easy solutions, the judgment calls where the stakes are so high and there's no margin for error. And as President, I've watched -- because the President is going to get all kinds of advice and opinions from all kinds of folks. But at the end of the day, truly what I have come to understand, when it comes time to make that decision, as President all you have truly to guide you on those tough issues are your life experiences. All you have to lead you through the tough times are your values. It is your vision for this country -- that's all you have to consistently keep you on course. In the end, it all boils down to who you are and what you stand for. (Applause.)

And I know that we all know who my husband is and we all know what he stands for. And we have seen again and again just how hard he is willing to fight for us. I mean, remember when folks in Washington -- remember when they were telling Barack to let the auto industry go under? You remember that? That was the advice he was getting with more than a million jobs on the line -- let it go. But fortunately, your President had the backs of American workers. He put his faith in the American people. (Applause.) And as a result, today the auto industry is back on its feet again. And more importantly, people are back at work earning a paycheck, supporting their families.

Remember how folks were telling Barack not to take on health care? Because I remember that one. (Laughter.) They said, leave it for another day, another President. Keep kicking that can down the road. That's what they told him. But fortunately for us, Barack had the backs of American families. And as a result, today millions of people in this country can finally see a doctor when they're sick. They finally can get the care they need to stay well.

So what I want you all to ask yourselves and encourage others to ask, when it comes time to stand up for the middle class so that our kids can go to college and our families can make a decent living and save for retirement, you know what your President is going to do, don't you? When we need a President to protect our most basic rights, no matter who we are or where we're from or what we look like or who we love, you know you can count on my husband, because that's what he has been doing every single day as President of the United States. (Applause.)

Now, I've said this before and I'm going to keep saying it. He cannot do it alone -- cannot. Barack has said this election will be even closer than the last one. And in the end, it could come down to those last few thousand votes. We've experienced that, right? And let's just think about a few thousand votes when you spread that out across an entire state, across thousands of counties and precincts. Just think about that.

So when you spread out those numbers, you think -- just think about that one new voter that you register in your precinct, that one neighbor that you get to the polls on November the 6th. Think about it. That could be the one that makes the difference. Never underestimate the power of your individual voice, that one conversation you have, that one new volunteer you recruit. (Applause.) That could be the one that puts this election over the top. That could be the difference between waking up on November the 7th and thinking, "Could I have done more?", or feeling the promise of four more years. That's the difference.

And that's why we launched a new initiative that we're calling It Takes One. Because it's a simple concept -- every time you take action to move this campaign forward, bring somebody with you. Inspire one more person to step up and do their part.

So if you're making phone calls or knocking on doors, bring one more person with you. You know that person. We all have those people in our lives that can just do a little something, right. If you're coming to an event, bring a neighbor who has never been involved in an election before. When you're voting early or on Election Day, bring one new voter who has never voted. They might need a little help. Find that one friend, that one colleague, that one person in your family. They don't even have to leave their house. Send them to barackobama.com/one -- we made it real easy. And they can find ways that they can get involved in the campaign.

It's like Barack has always said: It just takes one voice to change a room. And if one voice can change a room, it can certainly change a city. And if it can change a city, it can change a state. And if it can change a state, it can change a nation.

We can never forget the power of one person stepping up to move this country forward. That's how we've always done it -- person to person. And that's what we need from each of you.

And I'm not going to kid you -- this journey is going to be long, although it's getting shorter by the day. And it's going to be hard. And there are going to be plenty of twists and turns along the way. But the one thing I remind everyone is that that's how change always happens in this country.

Real change takes time. It requires patience and tenacity. But if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight, then eventually we get there, because we always do. We always do. We never go backwards in this country. Maybe not in our lifetimes -- here's the trick -- maybe in our children's lifetimes; maybe in our grandchildren's lifetimes. Because in the end, that should be why we're here; that's what this is all about. (Applause.)

In the end, that's what elections are always about. They're always about hope. They're about our hopes for our children. They're about the world that we want to leave for them, the next generation.

And let me tell you, that's what I think about every time I come out here and get ready to roll up my sleeves -- because I think about putting my kids to bed. And I think about how I want to do for them what my parents did for me, what Barack's grandmother did for him. And I want to give my daughters and all of our sons and daughters, every last one of them, a foundation for their dreams. I want to give them opportunities worthy of their promise, because all of these kids are worthy. (Applause.) We've got to give our kids 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.

So we just cannot turn back now. Not now. We have come so far, but we have so much more work to do. So here's my last question: Are you in? (Applause.) Are you ready to roll up your sleeves? We need you to be fired up. Wherever you are, find that one person. We need you to be ready to go. Have you noticed I am very fired up? I'm going to be out there working hard. And I'm going to need each and every one of you out there every single day from now until November. We are going to get this done.

Thank you all. God bless.

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event in Jackson Hole, Wyoming Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320437

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