Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event in La Jolla, California

October 26, 2012

MRS. OBAMA: Thank you all so much. (Applause.) Thank you. Rest yourselves. You all have been working very hard to put this event together, so I don't want you worn out. Eleven more days. I want everyone fresh. (Laughter.) But thank you so much.

I am so happy to be back in San Diego. It is just such a beautiful city. It's one of those we're kind of looking at when this is all over, don't you think? (Laughter and applause.)

But of course I want to thank Joan and Irwin, not only for that very kind introduction, but for allowing us to be in this beautiful home, and sharing your home, sharing your family, the entire Jacobs family. I've met many of them. (Laughter.) Most of them are what I call normal height, which is my height. (Laughter.) And to Sarah, also, and all of your team for helping to put this together.

The one thing that I know when people talk about the future and whether the next generation is ready to take it on, when I meet young people like Sarah, who have the kind of tenacity and focus and organization and maturity to work for us, to handle the stress, to do an event like this, I know I my heart that we are in good hands. So thank you, Sarah, and thank you to the Jacobs family for everything you're doing. (Applause.)

And of course I want to thank the entire host committee for pulling together an outstanding event. You all have done a magnificent job. We have so many supporters who have been with us from the very beginning, and it means the world to me and Barack, not just at this time when it's 11 days out, but over the past four years of having you all right by our sides. So thank you all.

And thank you all for taking the time to join us today. It's morning. I think somebody asked me that -- do I know what date it is. (Laughter.) I only know that it's 11 days before Election Day. It is Friday. It is somewhere in the morning time. And Halloween is Wednesday. (Laughter and applause.) I do know the important things. (Laughter.) I know where my children are right this second.

But I know you all are very fired up and ready to go, and I am so glad to see that, because I'm very fired up and ready to go, too. We are going to get this done.

One of the things I have enjoyed doing over the past several months in this campaign is that I get to talk about the man that I have loved and admired, and I am so proud of my husband -- (applause) -- these 23 years -- I get to tell you all about him. (Applause.)

Although this man, this love of my life, he is handsome and charming and incredibly smart, and patient and kind -- that's not why I married him. (Laughter.) No, no. Those are good things, but what truly made me fall in love with Barack is something that we've seen for four years -- and more: his character. We have seen it at work every day. We have seen his decency, his honesty, his compassion and conviction.

When I first met Barack, I loved the fact that this was a man that 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.

And I loved how devoted Barack was to his family, especially to the women in his life. That had meant something to me. I didn't know I was going to have two girls. But I loved watching him with his mother and his grandmother. I saw the respect he had for his mother -- how proud he was that she was able to put herself through school and still pay the bills and take care of him and his sister a single mom.

And that the tenderness that he saw -- felt for his grandmother. How grateful he was that long after she should have retired, she was still getting up every morning and catching that bus to her job at the community bank, doing everything she could to support their family.

And he also watched as she was passed over for promotion, again and again, simply because she was a woman. See, but what he took away from that is that he saw how this woman kept on getting up every day, doing that same job without complaint or regret.

And see, the truth is that, with Barack, I found a real connection because in his life story, I saw so much of my own. I watched my father, growing up on the South Side of Chicago, I watched him make that same uncomplaining journey every day to his job at the city water plant. And I saw how he carried himself with that same dignity, 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.

And see, here's the thing, like so many families in this country, our families just weren't asking for much. They didn't want much, and they didn't begrudge anyone else's success. In fact, they 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 that 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 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.

But they also believed that when you've worked hard, and done well, and you finally walked through that doorway of opportunity, you don't slam it shut behind you. No -- you reach back. (Applause.) Yes! And you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed. And that is how Barack and I, and I know how so many of you, were raised. Those are the values we were taught.

And, truly, more than anything else, that I believe is what this election is really about. It is a choice about our values, our hopes, and our aspirations. It's truly a choice about the America that we want to leave for our kids and our grandkids. And let's talk about that America. What does America look like?

We believe in an America where every child -- no matter where they're born, or how much money their parents make –- every child should have good schools, the kind of schools that push them and inspire them, and prepare them for college and jobs of the future -- every child.

We believe in an America where no one goes broke because someone gets sick; where no one loses their home because someone loses a job.

We believe in an America where we all understand that none of us gets where we are on our own; that all of has 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.

And in this America that we're building, when one of us stumbles -- because we all can stumble, right? -- when one of us falls on hard times, we don't turn our backs and tell them, "Tough luck, you're on your own." No -- instead, we extend that helping hand and we help them until they get back on their feet again. That's the America we're working on.

We believe that the truth matters, and you don't take shortcuts, you don't game the system. You don't play by your own set of rules.

And finally, we believe in keeping our priorities straight -- because each and every one of us know very well that cutting "Sesame Street" is no way to balance our budget. That is not the answer. (Applause.) We know better than that. Shortchanging our children is not how we tackle our deficit.

If we truly want to build opportunities for all Americans, then, yes, we need to cut wasteful spending, but we also need to make smart investments in things like education and infrastructure for an economy that's built to last.

And that's what my husband stands for. That's the country he has been working to build for these last few years. Those are the values that guide him.

And over the past four years as First Lady, I have seen up close and personal what being President looks like and just how critical those values are for leading this country. I have seen how the issues that come across a President's desk, let me tell you, 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 have 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.

And I have seen that when it comes time to make those tough decisions, and everyone around you is urging you to do what's easy, or what polls best, or what gets good headlines, as President, you have to be driven by the struggles, hopes, and dreams of all of the people you serve -- all of them. And that's how you make the right decision for this country. That's what it takes to be a leader.

And since the day he took office, on issue after issue, crisis after crisis, that is exactly what we have seen in my husband. Think back to when Barack first took office, and our economy was on the brink of collapse. Don't take my word for it -- newspapers were using words like "meltdown," "calamity," declaring "Wall Street Implodes," "Economy in Shock."

For years, folks had been lured into buying homes they couldn't afford, so their mortgages were underwater. 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 of the United States. He inherited an economy in rapid decline. But instead of pointing fingers, instead of placing blame, our President got to work. See, because he was thinking about folks like my dad and like his grandmother.

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

And that's also why, while some folks -- a few were willing to let the auto industry go under, with more than 1 million jobs that would have been lost, if we're talking about job creation, Barack had the backs of American workers. He fought hard to protect those jobs for thousands of American families. And that's why, today, the American auto industry is back on its feet again.

And while we still have a long way to go to completely rebuild this economy, there are more and more signs every day that we are headed in the right direction. The stock market has doubled. Exports have grown by 45 percent. Manufacturers have added 500,000 jobs. We have had 31 straight months -- the majority of this President's term -- with private sector job growth -- a total of 5.2 million jobs created under this administration, good jobs right here in the United States of America. (Applause.)

And in addition to focusing on creating jobs -- because, see here, the thing as President, you got to be able to do more than one thing at the same time -- (laughter) -- fortunately, Barack has also focused on improving access to health care for millions of Americans. (Applause.)

And this is another reason why I love my husband. See, because Barack didn't care whether health reform was the easy thing to do politically -- because that is not who he is. He cared that it was the right thing to do.

See, he was thinking about all the folks he had met across this country -- the woman diagnosed with breast cancer whose insurance company wouldn't cover her care; the seniors pinching pennies to save for the medicines they need; the parents who couldn't get life-saving treatments for their children because someone lost their job. That's who he was thinking about.

And thankfully, today, because of that health reform; today, because of that fight and that focus, our parents and grandparents on Medicare are saving [paying] hundreds less for their prescription drugs. Our kids can stay on our insurance until they're 26 years old. (Applause.)

Today, because of health care, insurance companies now have to cover basic preventative care, things like contraception and cancer screenings with no out-of-pocket cost. (Applause.)

Today, because of that reform your President fought for, they can't discriminate against us -- insurance companies -- because you have a preexisting condition like diabetes or asthma. And if you get a life-threatening illness, and you need expensive treatment, no longer can insurance companies 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 when it comes to giving our young people the education they deserve, see, Barack knows that like me and like so many young people in this country, we never could have attended college without financial aid. (Applause.) You are looking at two people who would not be where we are today if it weren't for financial aid. In fact, when Barack and I were first married, our combined monthly student loan bills were actually higher than our mortgage. Yeah. (Laughter.)

So when it comes to student debt, Barack and I, we have been there. This is not a hypothetical for us. And that is why Barack fought so hard to double funding for Pell grants and to keep interest rates down so that more of our young people can afford college and reach for opportunities.

And finally, when it comes to understanding the lives of women, when it comes to standing up for our rights and opportunities, here's one thing you know: My husband will always have our backs. Always. (Applause.) Barack knows from personal experience what it means for a family when women aren't treated fairly in the workplace.

And let me tell you, today, as a father of two beautiful daughters, he knows what it means to want those young women in this country to have the same rights and freedoms as our sons. And that is why the very first bill he signed into law, the very first thing he did as President of the United States, was to sign 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 about our health care. (Applause.) That is what your President stands for.

So now that we're at 11 days out -- and I know you're going to be out there, right? (Applause.) You're going to be taking to people. When people ask you what this President has done for our country, when you run into people who are still deciding which of these guys is going to be the best one to help keep America moving forward, a few things you can tell them. In addition to everything he has done for our economy, for health care, for education, for women, I want you to tell them how Barack ended the war in Iraq. Tell them how he took out Osama bin Laden. (Applause.) Remind them how he is fighting every day to get veterans and military families the benefits that they have earned. (Applause.)

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

And remind them of the concrete plans -- do you hear me? I emphasize "concrete" -- (laughter) -- real plans that Barack has laid out for the next four years.

Send them to our website. We've got one. (Laughter.) BarackObama.com/plans. And there, they can learn how he's going to create millions of new jobs, train the best workforce in the world, boost American-made energy, reduce our deficit, end the war in Afghaniskan so -- did I say Afghanistan? I do know how to say the word -- (laughter) -- so that we can do some nation building here at home.

And tell them, please -- this is the most important thing that I want you to tell them about their President. I want you to tell them that Barack Obama knows the American Dream because he's lived it. He has lived it. And he is fighting every day so that every single 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 let's be very clear. While he is proud of all that we have achieved together -- and we have done this together -- my husband is nowhere near satisfied. Of all the people on this planet, Barack knows that too many people are still hurting. He knows very well that there is plenty of work left to be done. 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 that I know for sure: Thankfully, in this President, Barack Obama, we have a leader with a deep and unyielding faith in the American people; a leader who understands that this country was built by men and women who wake up every day and work hard for their families without complaint or regret.

And as President, that's what my husband has been fighting for. As President, he has been fighting for us. And that is why, when the stakes are so high, we can always trust that this man, this wonderful man that I have the pleasure to be married to, that he will always have our backs.

And over the last four years, know this -- together, we have slowly, but surely been pulling ourselves out of that hole that we started in. We are steadily moving this country forward and making real, meaningful change.

So this is what we have to ask ourselves: Are we going to turn around and go back to the same policies that got us into that hole in the first place?


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


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

But in the end, the answer to these questions is now up to us. It is now on us -- because, yes, all of our hard work, all the progress that we've made, it is so clearly all on the line. Looking at these two candidates, understand that it is all at stake this November. Let us not even hazard to wonder what that's going to be like.

But here's the thing I want you to know in all sincerity, that your support, everything that you all have been doing -- the checks that you have written, the prayers you have sent, the work that you have done -– that has made all the difference every step of the way. And you all always thank us, but we stand here, stand up straight, breathing in and out every day because of your support.

Because of you, we have got hundreds of field offices throughout the -- thousands of staff and amazing volunteers. Sarah, you've seen it. It's pretty awesome. They're everywhere in those key battleground states.

We are on the airwaves because of your support. We have got phone banks across this country because of your support. We are reaching millions of voters every single day because of what you all have done. You all have made that possible, and I cannot begin to tell you how grateful we are.

But as my husband has said, you know very well, if you're watching TV too much -- and I urge you to take a break from the TV. (Laughter.) There are a few people, I know. Stop watching the TV. (Laughter.) This is the time to let it go. But as Barack has said from the very beginning, this election will be even closer than the last one. That is the only guarantee, and that's all you need to know, it's going to be close.

And in 2008, that last one was close. It felt the same way. For those of you who were with us, the 11 days out felt just the same. Trust me, I remember. (Laughter.)

But here are some statistics. When you look back to 2008 -- and I quote these statistics everywhere I go because they are pretty profound for me -- we won the state of North Carolina by just 14,000 votes. All right? And if you break that down across precincts throughout this entire state, that's just five votes per precinct. That was the margin of difference. In Nevada, we won by about 121,000 votes. Break that across precincts, that's just 69 votes per precinct.

So those numbers are pretty sobering. But that's how close these elections are. So make no mistake about it, what we all do for the next 11 days will absolutely make the difference between waking up the day after Election Day and asking ourselves that horrible question, "Could we have done more?" Or feeling the promise of four more years. That is the difference.

So we are going to need your support more than ever before. Treat these 11 days like the last five minutes of a horrible workout. (Laughter and applause.) You can get through anything. Just bear down. Don't look at the clock too much. (Laughter.) It will be over before you know. (Laughter.) But we need you to keep doing what you're doing. Keep writing those checks. If you have not maxed, max out. (Laughter.) I know you're hearing that, so max out. Do it. Make it -- find the friends, make them max out. Get all of them together and shake them. (Laughter.)

That is one of the most important things that you all can do to keep our grassroots operation running strong across this country. Because let me just say this -- in a tight race, it is the ground game that makes the difference. It's who can get their supporters out that makes the difference. Who's running those phone banks; who has a plan. All right? So these efforts make a difference.

And for those of you who want to get out there and roll up your sleeves, there's room for that. You can sign up at California.BarackObama.com, and you can go there to find out how you can get to Nevada and go do some door-knocking.

These last few days before the election are so critical, especially next weekend and Election Day. So if you can give just one or two days, we need you to head to Nevada and help us to get out the vote there. And that's another way to ease yourself of the anxiety. (Laughter.) Get out. Get out.

And it is true, when I go home, I do not turn on the TV, because the difference between what you hear on the TV and what you feel on the ground is night and day. So either turn off the TV or get out and knock on some doors. (Laughter.) This is just friendly advice. (Laughter and applause.)

But if you're not able to leave home, you can also sign up to make calls from one of our phone banks here in California, or even, you can do it from the comfort of your own home. You can go to dashboard.barackobama.com.

And, young people, you help your parents and your grandparents do this. (Laughter.) Because we've got a lot of young people who gather up friends, they get their cell phones, they sign up, and they're making phone calls -- because they understand technology. (Laughter.) I don't know how that happens. I'm one of those people without the iPhone. I can't get any of that right. But this is where, young people, help your parents and grandparents.

And we've got one of our staffers here today, Peggy Moore -- Peggy? Peggy where are you? Is Peggy -- there is Peggy in the back. (Applause.) And she is here to answer questions and help you get started. So if you want to figure out how to do any of this, Peggy is here. Find her. Drive her crazy. (Laughter.) She will be here as long as it takes. All right? That's our plan. That is our secret plan. All right? It seems pretty doable, right? But we're going to need you all to be focused and fired up.

And again, I will be honest with you, this journey, it is going to be hard. These next 11 days -- oh, they're going to feel like they go so slow and there are going to be ups and downs. I mean, you've seen the last few weeks -- ups and downs. And this is the political life you want to live? You sure about this? (Laughter.)

But remember this -- no matter what, from now until November, we all need to keep on working and struggling and pushing forward, because that's how change always happens in this country.

We know from history that change is hard. Real change is always hard, and it requires patience and tenacity. But if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight, if we keep doing what we know in our hearts is right, then eventually we get there, we always do.

So we cannot let anyone talk down our dreams and aspirations. We cannot let anyone talk down our country or this country's future.

We have every reason to be optimistic about what lies ahead, because here in America, we always move forward. (Applause.) That is what makes us great. We have never gone back.

And 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.

What kind of hope? The hope that I saw on my father's beaming face as I crossed that stage to get my college diploma, the diploma he took out loans to help me get. 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. 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 have something more. The hope that so many of us feel when we look into the eyes of our own kids and our grandkids. That's the hope we're fighting for.

That's why all of us are here today. We can never forget that -- because we are here for our children. We are here because we want to give all of our children a solid foundation for their dreams -- all of them. We want to give all of our children in this country, opportunities worthy of their promise. Because all of children are worthy -- we know that. I don't care what party we are. We know that our children are worthy.

We want to give our kids that sense of limitless possibility -- that belief that here in America, the greatest country on Earth, there is always something better out there if you're willing to work for it.

So as I feel tired or sluggish or anything, I remind myself that's why I'm here. If you detect any passion in my voice -- (laughter) -- it is because I know in my heart that we will not turn back now. Not now. We cannot do that to our children. We have come so far, but we also know we have so much more work to do.

So here's my last question: Are we ready for this? Are you ready to roll up your sleeves? (Applause.) Do what it takes, max out, get on the phone, learn how to use the computer. (Applause.) Go to Nevada. (Applause.) Do whatever it takes. Are we ready for this? We are going to need you every step of the way -- 11 more days -- we can make this happen.

Thank you all so much. God bless you. (Applause.)

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event in La Jolla, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320471

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