Michelle Obama photo

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

November 01, 2012

MRS. OBAMA: My goodness! (Applause.) Oh, you guys. Do you know how much I love you? (Applause.) I am thrilled to be back to see you all here. This is an amazing turnout. (Applause.)

The one thing before I get started, in light of what has happened on the East Coast over these past several days, I do want to take a moment to say of course that our thoughts and our prayers are with everyone affected by Hurricane Sandy.

We are heartbroken about the lives that have been lost and all the damage that has been done in so many of our communities. And as you all know, as you have seen, Barack has been working around the clock with governors and mayors -- (applause) -- absolutely -- and our extraordinary first responders to make sure that they have all of the support and resources that they need.

And I know that one of the things that we do in times of crisis is come together. Yes, we do. We will continue to come together as one American family to help our fellow citizens recover from this devastating storm. So I just wanted to say that, to make sure that even in the midst of all this, we're staying focused on what's important.

And with that, I also want to thank Karen for that very kind introduction and for everything she is doing on behalf of our campaign. We've got to give Karen a big round of applause. (Applause.)

And of course, oh, I have to thank -- and I missed him. I was doing an interview. (Laughter.) Oh, but if you don't -- if you know anything about me, you know that my favorite musician and one of my favorite people in the whole wide world is Stevie Wonder. (Applause.) I have loved him since I was -- the first album I bought -- well, I didn't buy it because -- my grandfather bought me Talking Book -- it was my first album. (Applause.) So I just want to thank him, as always, for continuing to grace us with his words and with his song. Let's give Stevie Wonder a round of applause. (Applause.)

But most of all, I want to continue to thank all of you. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you for just being right there. Thank you for being here today. Thank you for everything that you've done for us not just throughout this campaign, but for over the last four years.

And I know you all are fired up and ready to go. I know it. (Applause.) I know it. And let me tell you, sometimes when I get -- I went home, I got to see Malia and Sasha, check homework, all that stuff. I got up this morning, I was a little tired. But let me tell you, right now I am fired up and ready to go. (Applause.) Because in just five days -- five days -- (applause) -- we have the opportunity to re-elect such a decent, honest man -- (applause) -- honest man, 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.)

And I have to tell you that all that you see in this man, all that compassion and commitment -- that's why I fell in love with him all those years ago. (Applause.) It was his character. It was his commitment to helping others. I loved that Barack was also so devoted to his family. I watched for that, ladies. (Laughter.) That was important. Especially the women in his life. I saw the respect he had for his own mother. I saw how proud he was that she put herself through school while still working to support he and his sister as a single mom.

And I saw the tenderness that he felt for his grandmother. Yes, 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 bank. 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 every day, doing that same job without complaint or 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, 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 in being able to provide for his family, that same hope that his kids would one day have opportunities he never dreamed of.

See, and here's the thing we all know as Americans. Like so many families in this country, our families just 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 -- which is why they pushed us to be the best we could be. (Applause.) They simply believed in that fundamental American promise that even if you don't start out with much, if you work hard and 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.)

And they also believed that when you've worked hard and done well, and you finally walked through that doorway of opportunity, here's what you don't do -- you don't slam it shut behind you. No, you reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed. (Applause.)

And that is how Barack and I and I know so many of you -- that's how we were raised. And more than anything else, as we enter these last five days, that is what this election is all about. It's a choice. It's a choice about our values, our hopes and our aspirations. It's a choice about the America that we want to hand over to our kids and our grandkids.

So let's talk a little bit about that America. See, we believe in that America, every child has access to good schools, that inspire them and prepare them for jobs of the future. Every child. (Applause.) We believe in an America where no one goes broke or loses their home because someone gets sick or loses a job. (Applause.)

We believe in an America where we all understand that none of us gets where we are on our own, where we treat everyone with dignity and respect -- from the teachers who inspire us to the janitors who keep our schools clean. (Applause.) We believe that the truth matters. (Applause.) And you don't take shortcuts and game the system. And finally, we believe in keeping our priorities straight -- because we know good and well that cutting Sesame Street is no way to balance our budget. (Laughter and applause.) We know better than that.

Instead we need to cut wasteful spending, but also make smart investments in things like education and infrastructure, or an economy that's built to last. We know that. And that's what my husband stands for. That is the country he's been working to build for the last four years. (Applause.)

And let me tell you something. Since the day he took office, on issue after issue, crisis after crisis, that's what we've seen in our President. (Applause.)

Think back to when Barack first took office, and 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." See, the auto industry was in crisis. The economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month. You hear me -- 800,000 jobs a month. And a lot of folks wondered whether we were heading for another Great Depression.

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

And that's also why, while some folks, if you recall, were willing to let the auto industry go under -- you remember that?


MRS. OBAMA: You know who I'm talking about.


MRS. OBAMA: With a million jobs that would have been lost, your President had the backs of American workers. And that is why today, the American auto industry is back on its feet again. (Applause.) And, yes, while we still have a way to go to completely rebuild our economy, there are more and more signs every day that we are headed in the right direction. (Applause.) Exports have grown by 45 percent. Manufacturers have added 500,000 jobs. We've had 31 straight months of private sector job growth -- a majority of the President's term -- 5.2 million new jobs right here in the United States of America. (Applause.)

Now, when it comes to giving young people the education they deserve, see, Barack knows, like me, and like so many of you, we never could have afforded college without financial aid. Never. I tell young people, I would not be here if it weren't for financial aid. My parents didn't have money to pay for my college. (Applause.) So when it comes to student debt, see, Barack and I, we've been there. This is not a hypothetical situation for us.

And that is why Barack doubled funding for Pell grants and fought hard to keep student interest rates low. (Applause.) See, because we have a President who understands how important it is to invest in every young person -- every young person. (Applause.)

And finally, when it comes to understanding the lives of women -- (applause) -- see, we know that my husband will always have our backs. (Applause.) Always. Always. 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 was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, to make sure women get equal pay for equal work. (Applause.)

And let me tell you another thing. He will always, always fight to ensure that we as women can make our own decisions about our bodies and our health care. (Applause.) Yes, he will.

And let's not forget that because of health reform, the health reform he passed, insurance companies can no longer charge women more than men for the same coverage. (Applause.) Also because of this reform, this historic legislation, they won't be able to discriminate against us because we have preexisting conditions like diabetes, like asthma. (Applause.)

Our seniors on Medicare are paying hundreds less for their prescription drugs. (Applause.) And because of health reform, our young people can stay on their parents insurance until they're 26 years old. (Applause.)

See, and here's one that really gets me because a lot of people have been affected by this. If you get a life-threatening illness and you need expensive treatment, insurance companies can no longer 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.)

So I could go on, but when you're out there over these next five days, and you're talking to folks who are trying to decide who will keep America moving forward for four more years -- because I know you're going to be out there talking --


MRS. OBAMA: I want you to tell everyone you -- tell them what Barack has done for our economy, our health care, our education. But here's what I also want you to tell them. Tell them how Barack ended the war in Iraq. (Applause.) Tell them how we took out Osama bin Laden. (Applause.) Remind them how this President has been fighting for veterans and military families to make sure they get the benefits they have earned. (Applause.)

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

And when you're out there, make sure you send them to our website, BarackObama.com/plans -- where they can learn about all of the concrete things Barack has laid out for the next four years. Things like creating jobs, reducing our deficit, and so much more.

But here's what I really thing is important -- not just as a wife, not as a First Lady, but as a mother, as a citizen -- I want you to remind people that their President, Barack Obama, knows the American Dream because he's lived it. (Applause.) And he is fighting 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.)

So I want you to make sure that people are clear that while he is very proud of all that we've achieve together -- see, because he knows he couldn't have done any of this without all of us working together -- remind them that my husband knows all too well that there is more work to do. He is nowhere near satisfied. He knows there are people still hurting. And as President Clinton said, it is going to take a lot longer than four years to rebuild an economy from the brink of collapse. (Applause.)

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

So in these last days, we have got 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? Are we just going to sit back and watch everything that we worked for and fought for to just slip away? Or are we going to do our part, everything it takes, to keep moving this country forward? What are we going to do?

AUDIENCE: Forward!

MRS. OBAMA: What are we going to do?

AUDIENCE: Forward!

MRS. OBAMA: Forward! We've got to keep moving forward.

But in the end, the answers to these questions right now is on us. It is all on us. You hear? It's on us -- because all our hard work, all the progress, yes, it's all on the line, it's all at stake on Tuesday. You've got it. You know it.

And as Barack has said, the only guarantee is that this election will be closer than the last one, and it could all come down to what happens in just a few key battleground states like right here in Florida. Right here. (Applause.) Right here. You all have the power right here.

Now, in 2008, here in this state, Barack won by about 236,000 votes. And while that might sound like a lot -- and I point this out everywhere I go, because when I got these statistics I was blown away. But when you break that total down by precincts, that's just 36 votes per precinct. I'll say that again -- 36. Shoot, that could mean just one vote in your neighborhood, just a single vote in an apartment building, on a college campus.

So here's the thing -- and this isn't just for this election, it is for every election -- because if that's close for the presidential, it is even closer for anything else you vote for. So if there is anyone here who might be thinking that their vote doesn't matter, if you know anyone in your life who thinks, oh, my 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, 26 people, determined everything about this country.

And I want you to think about how with just a few more hours knocking on doors, you leave here -- just a little more work, a few more calls, with just a few hours getting folks to the polls on Election Day; just a few of you here -- you could swing an entire precinct for Barack Obama. And if we win enough precincts, we will win this state, and we will be on our way to four more years in the White House. (Applause.) You have the power right here in this room. Just think about it. Own that. That is the beauty of our democracy.

So before you leave today, sign up with one of our campaign staffers, and volunteer over these last few days, if you're not already doing it. But for the next five days here is what you can do: You can talk to everybody you know. Everybody you know -- the friends, the neighbors, the cousins. The folks you know may just not vote; might just skip it. and we all have those people in our lives. So we have to be responsible for those folks. And if you can, get them to vote early. All right? We're pushing early vote, and I voted early. (Applause.) I did. We got a lot of early voters here. Because you never know what's going to happen on Election Day. Life happens. And with 36 votes in the balance, we can't afford for any life to happen. So vote early.

We're going to win here in Florida! (Applause.) Here in Florida, we're going to make it happen. You can vote early all the way through Saturday, okay? There is still time. You can do at your county supervisor of elections office, many of the libraries, city halls. So whether you do it early on Election Day, November the 6th, you can easily go to Vote.BarackObama.com, and you can learn how and where to cast your vote and make your voices heard anywhere in this country. Just go to that website.

So that is the plan. That is our five-day plan. It's on you all. Right? And if you've already voted early, spend Election Day helping to get people to the polls. That's what we're going to be doing.

Now, we have got less than a week to go until Election Day. But make no mistake about it, what we do over these next five days will absolutely make the difference between us waking up the day after Election Day and asking ourselves, could we have done more, or feeling the promise of four more years.

So we have got to keep working and struggling and pushing. Don't get tired. Now is not the time -- because that -- what we have to remember, that struggle, that push, that focus, that is how change always happens in this country. (Applause.) We know from our history that change is hard; that change requires patience and tenacity. But we also know that if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting that good fight and doing in our hearts what we know is right, then eventually we get there. We always do. That is why we have every reason to be optimistic about what lies ahead for our future -- because we know that here in America, we always move forward. We always make progress. We always do it.

And in the end, that's what this is about. That's what elections are always about. Elections are always about hope. (Applause.) The hope that I saw on my father's face as I crossed the stage to get my college diploma -- the diploma that he took out loans to help me get. It's that kind of hope. The hope that Barack's grandmother felt as she cast her ballot for the grandson she loved and raised. That's the hope I'm talking about. (Applause.) 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 be here. (Applause.) The hope that so many of us feel when we look into the eyes of our own kids and grandkids. That's what's at stake.

That's why we're here. We're here for our kids -- because we want to give all of our children that solid foundation for their dreams. You know what I mean? We want to give all of our kids in this country -- all of them -- opportunities worthy of their promise. Because we know good and well, regardless of where we're from or what party we believe in, all of our kids are worthy. (Applause.)

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 something better out there if you're willing to work for it. (Applause.)

So here's what I tell myself every day: We cannot turn back now. We will not 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 ready for this? (Applause.) Are you fired up? Are you ready to go? (Applause.) Five days! Get to work! Talk to everybody you know. We are going to make this happen right here in Florida.

Thank you, guys. God bless. (Applause.)

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event in Jacksonville, Florida Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320472

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