Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event in New York City

March 19, 2012

MRS. OBAMA: Wow! (Applause.) This looks like it was so much fun. (Applause.) How many people did some bowling? (Applause.) They asked me if I wanted to throw a ball. I told them, bowling is like a potato chip -- you can't just do one. So -- (laughter.)

I have to tell you, it is such a pleasure to be here with all of you. I mean, this is my kind of event. It's family. It's kids. It's community.

I want to start by thanking Victor and Adewale, first of all, for being special guests here. (Applause.) We're so glad to have them with us today. And we are going to have them working so hard. We're going to suck them in, and we're going to be doing a lot of great stuff. But they have just been amazing.

I'd also like to thank Chelsea Piers for hosting us here today. Yay -- (applause) -- to the team here.

But most of all, I want to thank all of you for your support and for taking the time to join us today.

And I particularly want to recognize all of our young people who are with us today. (Applause.) We're so proud of you all. Because, you know what? The truth is, you all are the reason that we're here today. Truly, you are the reason. You see, we're here today because we know that in November, we're going to make a choice that will affect not just our lives, but your lives, and the world we leave for you long after we're gone. And that's really what's at stake in all of this. That's why all of this is going on.

And that's what I see when I travel across the country and I meet folks from different backgrounds and walks of life. Everywhere I go, I hear about what's going on in people's lives. I hear about their worries, their hopes, and their dreams. And I hear about how people are struggling to pay their bills. I hear about the businesses that people are trying to keep afloat. I hear about the home that they love, but some people can no longer afford.

But no matter what is going on in people's lives, no matter what the challenges are they face, they keep working, they keep sacrificing, because they desperately want something better for their kids. They believe in that fundamental vision for our country that we all share -- the idea that, as my husband says, everyone should get a fair shot, they should do their fair share, and they should play by the same rules. (Applause.) And those are the values that we all live by. I know your parents tell you that, right?


MRS. OBAMA: Keep it fair, right?

But these are basic American values that so many of us were raised with, including myself. I don't know if you all knew this, but my father was a blue-collar city worker; he worked at the city water plant. My parents didn't make a lot of money. We lived in a little-bitty apartment on the South Side of Chicago. And neither of my parents had the opportunity to go to college, but let me tell you what they did do -- they worked hard, and they saved every last cent, and they sacrificed everything, because they wanted something more for me and my brother.

And more than anything else, that's what's at stake -- that fundamental promise that no matter how you started out, that if you work hard, you can build a decent life for yourself, but more importantly, an even better life for your kids.

And really, folks, on just about every issue that we face, that's the choice in this election. For example, think about how my husband fought for those tax cuts for middle-class families, and that unemployment insurance for folks out of work. (Applause.) And think about how, back when he first became President, right, when he first came into office, this economy was losing an average of 750,000 jobs a month. A month. That's what he inherited. But for the past 24 months, we've actually been gaining private sector jobs; gaining a total of more than 3.9 million jobs in just two years that this President has been in office. (Applause.)

So while we still have a very long way to go to rebuild our economy, today millions of folks are collecting a paycheck again. Millions of folks can provide for their kids again. And that's important. That's what's at stake.

And how about the very first bill my husband signed into law? When he was President, the very first thing he did -- he signed something called the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to help women get equal pay for equal work. (Applause.) Because what he understood was that closing that pay gap for women can mean the difference between women losing $50 or $100 or $500 from each paycheck, or having that money in their pocket to buy gas and groceries and doctors' bills and put clothes on the backs of their kids. And he signed this bill not just as a President, but as a father who wants his daughters -- and all of our sons and daughters -- to be paid fairly for their work. And really, that's what's at stake. That's what we're fighting for.

And let's talk for just a minute about health care. I mean, let's talk about what it means for all those beautiful young people who are here today with us. What does this bill mean? Two years ago, we made history together by finally passing health reform. And because we passed this law, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny our children coverage because they have a preexisting condition like cancer or diabetes or asthma. And kids can now stay on their parent's insurance until they're 26 years old. (Applause.) And this is important, because when they graduate from college, they won't have to go without health care right when they're just starting out, looking for work, trying to build their careers and their families. And that's how 2.5 million young people are getting their health care coverage today.

So we have to ask ourselves, are we going to take that coverage away from our children? Will we allow insurance companies to refuse coverage to kids who need it most? Or will we say that in America, no child, no young person should ever have to go without the health care they need? But that's the choice that we face. (Applause.) Those are the stakes.

And I want you all to think for a moment about all that we've been doing to give our kids a good education; what your President has been doing. I mean, think about the investments we've made to raise standards, and reform our public schools, and help millions of young people afford to go to college. And think about how my husband took billions of dollars in taxpayer money that used to go to the banks and the middleman lenders, and he sent that money where it belongs -- to help millions of our young people pay their tuition. (Applause.)

And these investments won't just determine our children's success; they'll determine nothing less than the success of our entire economy. They'll determine whether we're prepared to make the discoveries and to build the industries that will let us compete with any country anywhere in the world. That's what we're fighting for. That's what's at stake.

And let's not forget what it meant when my husband appointed those two brilliant Supreme Court justices, and for the first time in history, our daughters and our sons watched three women take their seats on our nation's highest court. (Applause.) But more importantly, let's not forget the impact their decisions will have on our children's lives for decades to come -- on their privacy and security; on whether they can speak freely, worship openly, and love whomever they choose. But that is what's at stake. That's the choice that we're -- that's what we're working for. (Applause.)

And finally, think about all this administration has done to keep our families safe and to restore America's standing in the world. I mean, thanks to our brave men and women in uniform, we finally brought to justice the man behind the 9/11 attacks and so many other horrific acts of terror. (Applause.) My husband kept his promise and ended the war in Iraq and brought our troops home for the holidays. (Applause.) And we are working hard to give our troops and veterans and their families the benefits that they've earned.

And finally, because my husband ended "don't ask, don't tell," our troops will never again have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love. (Applause.) But that's what's at stake.

So I don't want anyone to make any mistake about it, whether it's health care or the economy, whether it's education or foreign policy, the choice we make will determine nothing less than what kind of world we'll be leaving for our children. In the end, it really boils down to one simple question: Will we continue all the change we've begun and the progress we've made? Or will we allow everything we've fought for to just slip away? But that is the choice we face.

And what you all need to know is that your President, Barack, understands this all too well. He knows these issues because he's lived them. He was raised by a single mom who struggled to put herself through school and pay the bills. And she watched -- he watched her struggle. And when she needed help, who stepped up but his grandmother. She would wake up every morning before dawn to take a bus to a job at a bank.

And his grandmother worked very hard, and she was good at what she did. But like so many women, she hit a glass ceiling and she watched men no more qualified than she was be promoted up the ladder ahead of her. So Barack knows what it means when a family struggles. He knows what it means when someone doesn't have a chance to fulfill their potential.

And those are the experiences that have made him the man -- and more importantly, the President -- he is today. And we are so lucky to have him. We are so lucky to have that kind of man as President. (Applause.)

And that's what I see in him in those quiet moments at home late at night, after Malia and Sasha have gone to bed, and he's up late at night, poring over the thousands of letters that people send him every week. The letter from the woman dying of cancer whose insurance company won't cover her care. Or the letter from the father struggling to pay his family's bills. The letters from far too many young people with so much promise, but so few opportunities. And I hear the passion and determination in his voice. He says, "Michelle, it's not right. We have got to fix this. We have so much more work to do."

Well, that's what he carries with him every single day -- it is our collection of struggles and hopes and dreams. And that's why, even in the hardest moments, when it seems like all is lost, Barack Obama never loses sight of the end goal. He never gets caught up in the chatter and the noise. He just keeps moving forward. He just keeps fighting for our children and for our future.

But I have said this before and I will say it again -- he cannot do this alone. President Obama needs your help. And I'm not just talking to the adults here today, truly. I'm talking to all the young people as well. I mean, you all might not be old enough to vote, but you should understand that you can still play a very important role in this election. That's what happened last election: The young people who stepped up and learned about the issues and talked about them with their friends and with their families -- I mean, I can't tell you how many grandparents changed their mind about who they would vote for because their grandson or daughter convinced them that a vote for Barack Obama meant more to their future. (Applause.)

So you guys can get out there. You can get out there with your parents and knock on doors and make phone calls and register voters. There's a lot that you all can do, and you can learn something in the process. You can learn something about being a community leader yourselves, right. You can learn something about our country. It is important for all of our young people here to know how their government works, right; to know how decisions are made. Because every decision that is made today is going to affect you all. Everything that we do today is going to affect the world that we leave for you.

My husband needs everyone out there doing everything they can. And he needs all of you to take those "I'm In" cards -- you find them? -- they're these "I'm In" cards. We need you to sign up. Sign up your friends. Sign up your neighbors. Sign up your colleagues. And we need you to convince them to join in just giving a little part of their lives each week to this campaign. Because we all know that this isn't just about one extraordinary man, although I think my husband is pretty awesome. (Applause.) But all of this that we're doing, it's really about us. It's about all of us -- all of us coming together for the values we believe in and the country we love.

I am also not going to kid you, this journey is going to be long and it's going to be hard. But the truth is that's how change always happens in this country. It's hard and it takes time. But if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight, then we eventually get there. We always do -- maybe not in our lifetimes, maybe in our children's lifetimes, right, maybe in our grandchildren's lifetimes.

Because we have to remember that, in the end, that's what this is all about. In the end, we are not fighting these battles for ourselves. Like so many who came before us, who fought for us, we are fighting these battles for our young people here today. We are fighting for the world that we want to leave for them. That is about them. It is not about us. And that is what's at stake.

So I have one last question, because I know kids get a little antsy, right. (Laughter.) But I need you all to listen to this. My question for you is, are you ready to work?


MRS. OBAMA: Wait, are you in?


MRS. OBAMA: Wait, I can't hear you. Are you ready to get this done?


MRS. OBAMA: Are you fired up?


MRS. OBAMA: Are you ready to go?


MRS. OBAMA: Because I know I am. I'm going to work hard for each and every one of you. We care about your future and we want you to have the best that this country has to offer. So we're going to work hard, right?


MRS. OBAMA: We're going to roll up our sleeves and we're going to get it done, right?


MRS. OBAMA: All right, you all. God bless you all. I'll come down and say hello. I'll be right down. (Applause.)

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event in New York City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320388

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