Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event in Los Angeles, California

August 12, 2012

MRS. OBAMA: Well, good afternoon! (Applause.) All right, this is among the coolest things I do. (Laughter.) I've gotten to hang out with the queen, a couple of queens and kings and princes and dukes and whatever, but this -- this is cool. (Laughter.) So obviously I'm thrilled to be here with all of you today.

And I want to thank Gwen, in particular, for being so kind and gracious and hosting us all here at her beautiful home. (Applause.) And even though Gavin couldn't be here, I also want to say a special thank-you to him as well, and also to Kingston and Zuma. I mean, they are letting all of us just enter their house, all the chaos, and they're being so good about it today. So thank you, guys, for letting us come -- indeed. (Applause.)

And I have to thank our cohosts, among them, along with Gwen -- happen to moonlight as No Doubt -- (applause) -- Tony, Adrian, Tom, Gabrial and Stephen. Thank you, guys, and your families as well. Thank you so much, and all the cohosts here for making this event so special. (Applause.)

And finally, I want to thank all of you for your support and for taking the time to be here today. And I particularly want to recognize all of the young people who are here with us. (Applause.) Because the truth is that you all are the reason we're here today. And you are the reason why I do what I do every single day.

You see, we're not just here because we want to win an election. We're here because of the values and the vision that we all share for all of you guys. We're here because we know that on November, we are going to make a choice that's not just going to affect us grownups, but it's going to affect all of our children and the world we leave for them long after we're gone. And let me tell you, I think about that every single day.

We're here because we believe that everyone in this country should have a fait shot, and that means, for example, that all of our kids -- every child in America -- should have wonderful opportunities to grow and thrive. All of our kids in this country deserve the best schools we can give them -- schools that challenge them to learn, and read, and do math, and sing, and paint, and play an instrument, and perform whatever it may be; schools that help them find their passions and help them expand their imaginations. All of our kids deserve that.

And we believe that when our kids grow up, if you guys work hard, you should have every opportunity to follow your dreams and get the kind of jobs and opportunities that allow you to provide for your families when you grow up, and help you build a full life before retiring with a little dignity and security. That's what we believe. (Applause.)

And what all the grownups here know is that these are basic American values, right, moms, dads, sisters, brothers? Right? These are basic values. There are the values that we are all trying to pass on to our kids -- values like hard work, fairness, altruism, empathy. Those are the values that so many of us grew up with, including myself. So let me tell you guys a little story about me when I was around your age. My mom and dad and my big brother and I, we all lived in a very little apartment on the South Side of Chicago. Our apartment was so little that for years, my brother and I shared a single bedroom. And that room was separated by a panel wall that didn't really reach the ceiling, because it allowed us to pretend like we each had our own rooms -- yes.

And even though my family didn't have a lot of money or a lot of material things, my brother and I thought we were the richest kids on the planet because our parents showered us with love and laughter and all the support they could give us. And even though my parents never had the chance to get a college degree, they placed very high expectations for us when it came to our education. And we saw our parents live their values every single day. We saw how they saved and sacrificed and poured everything they had into me and my brother so that we could get the kind of education they only dreamed of.

And when my brother and I grew up and finally went to college, pretty much all of our tuition came from student loans and grants. But my dad still had to pay a small portion of that tuition himself. And let me tell you, every semester my father was determined to pay his share of our tuition and to pay that bill right on time. See, because he was proud to be playing even a small part in being able to send his kids to college. And he made sure that he never missed a registration deadline so that we could get to class on time; his check was never late.

So by watching my mom and dad, and seeing how they lived their lives -- how they kept their promises; how they always treated everyone around them with dignity and respect -- I began to understand what this country is all about. That's how I learned that here in America, no matter who you are or how you started out, if you work hard you can build a decent life for yourself and an even better life for your kids.

And you know what? While I was learning all those good lessons in Chicago, there was this little boy in Hawaii -- (laughter) -- learning those same lessons as well, a little boy who would one day become my husband and President of the United States. (Applause.) You guys need to understand -- Barack, when he was little, his family didn't have a lot of money either. His mom was a single mom, and he saw how she struggled to put herself through school and still pay the bills. His grandparents helped to raise him, and he saw how his grandmother had to wake up before dawn every morning to catch a bus to her job at a bank. And while his grandmother was good at his job -- her job, like so many women, she watched men sometimes no more qualified than she was -- men sometimes she actually trained -- get promoted ahead of her. But Barack also saw how his grandmother never complained. She never complained. She just kept getting up, just kept giving her best every single day to help her kids live a better life.

So what I remind people is that your President, my husband, knows what it means to work hard because you want something better for your kids and your grandkids. Barack knows the American Dream that we're all working for because he's lived it. And really, more than anything else, moms and dads and everybody here, that's what's at stake in this election. Hopefully, that's why we're here. It's that dream that we're working for, that fundamental American promise of fairness and opportunity and equality for every single person in this country. (Applause.) And that's why, from now until November -- I think it's 88, 86 days; it's closing in -- we're going to need all of you to get out there and tell everybody you know about Barack's values. Tell them about our vision, and tell them about the choice that we face in this election, because this election is about choices.

For example, it's about the choice about our economy. It's about building a strong and growing middle class where people like my dad and Barack's family have a chance to succeed. So I want people to remind folks that Barack cut taxes for small businesses and working families, because he knows that the success of our economy depends on a thriving middle class.

And I want you to be sure to remind people how, when Barack first took office -- and kids can even understand this -- the economy -- we were losing hundreds of thousands of jobs every month. That was before Barack was President. But today, 4.5 million private sector jobs have been created in the last 29 months under this President. (Applause.) Our kids can do the math on that one, right?

So while we still have a long way to go to rebuild our economy, today millions of people are working and collecting a check; millions of people can provide for their kids again.

This election is also a choice about the health of our families. It's about a choice about the health of all of these young people who are here today. And that's why my husband worked so hard to pass historic health reform -- something no other President has been able to do in the last 100 years. (Applause.) The last 100 years; we couldn't get this done until Barack Obama. (Applause.)

And understand what health reform means for all of us. Because of this reform, insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to kids who have preexisting conditions -- things like diabetes or even asthma. And young people can now stay on their parents' insurance until they're 26 years old, moms and dads. (Applause.) So we can breathe a sigh of relief, so that when our young people graduate from college and they're out there trying to find a job and get started, they don't have to go without health care. And if a child in this country gets really sick and has a serious illness like cancer, and they need very expensive treatment, their insurance company con no longer tell their families, sorry, you've hit your lifetime limit and we're not paying a penny more. Thanks to health reform, that is now illegal, and that is huge. (Applause.)

So make no mistake about it, this November we get to decide: Will we take that coverage away from our kids? Or will we say that here in America, no child, no young person should ever have to go without the health care they need. That's the choice that we face.

This election is also a choice about the kinds of schools our kids will attend. Barack is working to make sure that whether you're in kindergarten or middle school or high school, you will have teachers and classes that challenge you to learn and explore and build the skills you need to get ahead. And he wants to make sure that once you get a little bit older, you can go to college without a mountain of debt. It's important to remember, there are millions of kids like me and Barack who had to borrow to go to college. And oftentimes, kids like us are paying those loans back for the rest of our lives, which means that a college education for the kids who can least afford it ends up costing us two or three or four times as much as kids who don't need loans or grants to get the same education. And that's why Barack doubled funding for Pell Grants. That's why he fought so hard to stop student loan interest rates from rising. (Applause.) Because he wants all of our young people to get the education you all need for the jobs you deserve, regardless of how much money your parents make.

He wants all of our kids to fulfill their promise, and that's why he's been fighting so hard for the DREAM Act. (Applause.) He's fighting for responsible young people who came to this country as children, through no fault of their own, and were raised as Americans -- they know no other country -- because he believes that these young people also deserve the chance to go to college, to contribute to this economy, to serve the country they know and love.

And we've got to remember that there are so many more choices that we face in this election, so many things this President has accomplished that allows us all to live out our values. Remind folks that Barack kept his promise to bring our troops home from Iraq.

I want you to tell them how our troops no longer have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love because Barack finally ended "don't ask, don't tell."

Ladies, remind them that it's now easier for women to get equal pay for equal work because of the very first bill he signed into law, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. (Applause.) Tell people that Barack is fighting to make sure that we, as women, are able to make our own choices about our health care. (Applause.) And of course, there are those two brilliant Supreme Court Justices my husband appointed -- Justice Elena Kagan; Justice Sonia Sotomayor -- and because of those appointments, for the first time in history, our kids watched three women take their seat on our nation's highest court. (Applause.)

But all of this and so much more, all of it is at stake this November. It's all on the line. So we've got to ask ourselves, are we going to continue the change we've begun and the progress we've made? Or are we going to just stand by and watch everything we've worked so hard for to just slip away?

But I think we know what we need to do, because we simply can't afford to turn back now. For our children's sake, we have to keep moving this country forward. Forward is what we have to do.

And I've said this before, and I'll say it again: Barack can't do it alone. He's not Spiderman. (Laughter.) He's not a superhero; he's a human. So he needs your help. And I'm not just talking to the adults here today. I am talking to the young people here as well! (Applause.) All of our young people, you might not be old enough to vote -- you'll vote at school, I know; I met several people who are going to be voting for my husband who are 10 and under. We accept those votes. (Laughter.) But you can play an important role in this election, too. I want you all to feel empowered and get used to being a part of the democratic process. It starts now. You can learn about the issues -- the issues like education and health care. Learn about them, what they mean to you and your family and all your friends. Talk to them, with your friends. You can get out there and volunteer with your parents.

My husband needs everyone out there doing whatever they can because, as he said, this election is going to be even closer than the last one. And that's one of the reasons why we launched this great new program that we're calling It Takes One. All right, kids, listen to this, because it's simple -- It Takes One. Every time anybody here takes an action to move this campaign forward, we're asking you to inspire just one more person to step up and do their part as well. And we all know one person, right? One person sitting at home, twiddling their thumbs, not really focused -- we all know that one. (Laughter.) So whenever you volunteer or donate, or even when you vote, take one new friend or neighbor along with you, because that momentum, it's what's going to carry us over the top. Make sure, for all the young people who are more internet-savvy than I am, go to barackobama.com/one. And that's an easy way for people to get involved as well. So we want all of you to figure out a way you can do just one more thing, get one more person involved.

And I'm not going to kid you, especially the grownups here, this journey is going to be long, and it is going to be hard, and there will be plenty of twists and turns, highs and lows, dramatic moments, nail-biting moments, periods where you want to throw the TV into the lake. (Laughter.) But what we have to remember is that's really how change always happens in this country. Real change requires patience and tenacity -- that's a vocabulary word, tenacious. (Laughter.) But if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting that good fight and doing what we know is right and living out our values, then eventually we get there. We always do. We always have in this country. We've never gone backwards. Maybe not in our lifetimes, grownups, but maybe in some of our kids' lifetimes, right?

Because, in the end, what keeps me going is that's what this is really all about. In the end, elections are always about hope. Don't ever let anybody tell you differently. They're about the hopes for all of you, our young people, and the world we want to leave behind for you. And that's what I think about every night when I put my girls to bed. Every single night, I think about how I want to do for them what my dad and mom did for me, what Barack's mom and grandmother did for him. I want to give my daughters, and all of our kids, a foundation for their dreams, one of those rock-solid foundations. Like all the parents in this country, we want to give you guys opportunities that are worthy of your promise, because all of our kids -- I don't care who you are -- all of our kids are worthy of the best we have to give them. We want you to have that limitless sense of possibility, that feeling that there's always something better here in the greatest country on Earth if you're willing to work for it, right, moms and dads? (Applause.)

So one thing I keep telling myself is that we can't afford to turn back now. Not now. We have come so far, right? We have made so much progress for our young girls, for our young men. We cannot turn back now. So I have one last question to ask you guys: Are you in?

AUDIENCE: Yes! (Applause.)

MRS. OBAMA: Do you think? Are you in? (Applause.) Are you ready to roll up your sleeves? (Applause.) Are you ready to talk to your neighbors, find that one person? Shake them up. Are you fired up? (Applause.) If you haven't noticed, I'm fired up. I'm very fired up. But I'm going to need you guys right out there, working every single day until Election Day. All right? (Applause.)

We love you guys. God bless. (Applause.)

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event in Los Angeles, California Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320427

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