Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event in Oxford, Ohio

November 03, 2012

MRS. OBAMA: Wow! (Applause.) Oh, you guys are so awesome. (Applause.) Thank you so much. Wow. Three more days! (Applause.) All right.

If you haven't noticed, I'm thrilled to be here. (Applause.) But before we get started, something that I just have to do, given what's going on on the east coast in terms of the weather, we need to take a moment just to always say how focused we are, how heartbroken Barack and I are about those who have suffered because of the hurricane, Sandy.

And as you all know, Barack has been working tirelessly with our governors and our mayors and our extraordinary first responders to make sure that those communities get all the support that they need. And even in these times of great excitement, we've got to stay focused on the fact that when people suffer in this country, we all come together. And we have to keep our thoughts and prayers going out to everyone there and make sure we stand behind them. Okay? (Applause.)

So let me get started by first thanking Alex for that very kind introduction and for everything he is doing for our campaign. (Applause.) I also want to thank your provost as well as his wonderful wife who have joined us today -- thank you so much for hosting us here at Miami University. Yes, it's good to be on campus. (Applause.) You all have a really beautiful campus. (Applause.) You realize how lucky you are, don't you? It's really nice.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Good football team!

MRS. OBAMA: Good football team! (Applause.)

But I also want to recognize Justice Yvette McGee Brown for her service, and she's here today as well. (Applause.) And of course, we have a surprise guest, one of our dear friends who has been working his tail off -- and we love him. He's worked since the day Barack started running, he's keeping young people focused, he is one of the smartest young artists that we know out there. He is talented, he is very cool, and he is our dear friend -- will.i.am is here. (Applause.) There he is. So will has been working; he's been in Cincinnati, he's been all over the state and other states to make sure that folks -- particularly young people -- get out to vote.

But most of all, I want to thank all of you. Thank you for taking the time to be here. And I can tell you all are pretty fired up and ready to go, aren't you? (Applause.) Yes!

And I'm feeling pretty fired up and ready to go myself, because in just three days, we have the opportunity to reelect an honest, decent man -- (applause) -- a man whose courage and integrity that -- we have seen at work every single day for the last four years, the man that I have known and loved for 23 years -- my husband, our President, Barack Obama. (Applause.)

And I have to tell you, all that stuff about him -- he's smart, talented, all that -- but what really made me fall in love with Barack all those years ago was his character. It was truly his compassion and conviction, and the fact that he has always been committed to helping others.

And I also loved that he was so devoted to his own family, especially the women in his life. (Applause.) I saw -- and it was important for me to see the respect he had for his mother, how proud he was that she put herself through school while still supporting him and his sister as a single mom.

And I saw the tenderness he felt for his grandmother. I saw how grateful he was that long after she should have retired, she was still getting up every day, catching her bus to the job at the community bank, doing whatever it took to support their family. And he also watched as she was passed over for promotions simply because she was a woman, but he also saw how she kept getting up, kept doing that same job year after year without complaint and without regret.

See, the thing is, 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 -- (applause) -- we've got some South Siders here, some Chicagoans -- but 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 same dignity -- you all may have seen that in your lives -- 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 like so many families in this country, see, our families just weren't asking for much. They didn't want much, and 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. That's why they pushed us to be the best 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. And they also believed that when you've worked hard, and done well, and you've finally walked through that doorway of opportunity, you don't slam it shut behind you. 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 were raised. And more than anything else, that is what this election is all about. It's a choice. It's a choice about our values, and our hopes, and our aspirations. It's a choice about the America we want to leave for our kids and our grandkids.

And what does that America look like? What do we believe? We believe in an America where every child in this country has access to good schools -- the kind of schools that push them -- (applause) -- and inspire them, and prepare them for jobs of the future. 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, and we treat everyone -- do you hear me -- everyone with dignity and respect, from the teachers who inspire us to the janitors who keep our schools clean. (Applause.) And in this America that we are working to build together, we believe that the truth matters; that you don't take shortcuts or game the system.

And finally, we believe in keeping our priorities straight. Because everyone here knows good and well that cutting Sesame Street is no way to balance our budget. (Applause.) Instead, we know that we need to cut wasteful spending, but we also have to make smart investments in things like education and infrastructure for an economy built to last. And that is what my husband stands for. That's the country he's been working to build for four years.

And let me tell you, since the day he took office, on issue after issue, crisis after crisis -- because I've been right there with him -- that is what we've seen in our President.

Let's think back to when Barack first took office. This economy was on the brink of collapse. And you don't have to take my word for it. Newspapers were using words like "meltdown," "calamity;" declaring "Wall Street implodes," "Economy in Shock." As many of you know, the auto industry was in crisis. The economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month, and a lot of folks wondered whether we were headed for another Great Depression. And that is absolutely what Barack faced on day one as President.

But instead of pointing fingers, instead of placing blame, your President got to work. (Applause.) See, he was thinking about folks like my Dad, folks like his grandmother. And that's why he cut taxes for small businesses and working families -- because he believes that here in America, teachers and firefighters shouldn't be paying higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires. That's not right. We know that. (Applause.)

And that's why, while some folks were willing to let the auto industry go under -- you remember that? Do you know who I'm talking about? (Laughter.) With more than a million jobs that would have been lost, Barack had the backs of American workers. He put his faith in the American people, and that's why, today, the American auto industry is back on its feet again. (Applause.)

And, yes, while we have more work to do to completely rebuild our economy, there are more and more clear signs every day that we are on the road to recovery: Exports have grown in this country by 45 percent. Companies have hired more workers in October than at any time in the last eight months. We have now had 32 straight months -- the majority of my husband's presidency -- of private sector job growth, nearly five and a half million new jobs created under this President right here in the United States of America. (Applause.)

And then, when it comes to giving our young people the education they deserve, just let me explain one thing -- Barack knows that like me and like so many of you, we never could have attended college without financial aid -- never. (Applause.) We wouldn't be here if it weren't for financial aid. Our parents didn't have the money to give us to go to college.

So when it comes to student debt, Barack and I, we've been there. And that's why Barack fought to double funding for Pell grants and keep interest rates down. (Applause.) Because we have a President who understands how important it is for all of our young people, regardless of how much money their parents make, all of them have a chance to attend college without a mountain of debt. (Applause.)

And finally, when it comes to understanding the lives of women, we know that my husband will always have our backs, because Barack is a man who knows from personal experience what it means for a family when women aren't treated fairly in the workplace. (Applause.) And that is why the very first bill he signed into law as President of the United States was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to make sure women get equal pay for equal work. (Applause.) And let me tell you this -- that is why Barack will always, always fight to ensure that we as women can make our own decisions about our bodies and about our health care. (Applause.)

And let us not forget about health reform. Because of health reform he passed -- the historic reform he passed -- insurance companies can no longer charge women more than men for the same treatment. (Applause.) Also, because of this reform, they can't discriminate against any of us because we have a preexisting condition like diabetes or asthma. (Applause.) And as you all know, young people can stay on your parent's insurance until you're 26 years old. (Applause.)

And this is the one that always gets me, because it affects so many people -- if you get a life-threatening illness and you need really expensive treatment, insurance companies 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.)

So three more days for four more years. (Applause.) And I am here because I know that all of you are going to be out there for the next three days talking to folks. You're going to be out there. And when you're out there talking to folks who are trying to decide who is going to keep America moving forward for four more years, here's some of the stuff you can tell them.

I want you to tell them in addition to all that Barack has done for our economy, for health care and education, tell them that this is the President who ended the war in Iraq. (Applause.) Remind them that Barack Obama, along with all of us, we took out Osama bin Laden. You remind them about that. (Applause.) Tell them how their President has been fighting every day to make sure our veterans and military families get the benefits they have earned. (Applause.)

Please tell them about all of 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. (Applause.) Tell them about our brave servicemembers, men and women fighting for this country who will never again have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love. (Applause.)

And if they want to know more, we've got a website -- send them to barackobama.com/plans. They can learn about everything this man is going to do for the next four years to create more jobs, reduce our deficit in a balanced way, and so much more.

But here's what I really want you to tell them, what I think is at the core of this election. I want you to tell them that Barack Obama knows the American Dream because he's lived it. (Applause.) And he has been fighting every day so that every 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 I also want folks to be very clear that while he is so proud of all that we've achieved together -- because understand no President does anything alone -- my husband is nowhere near satisfied. Barack of all people in this country knows that there are still too many people hurting. But 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. Everybody knows that. (Applause.)

But here's what I know for sure -- over these past four years together, slowly but surely, we have been pulling ourselves out of that hole that we started in. We have been making really meaningful change and moving forward.

So here's what we have to ask ourselves over these next few days, before anyone casts a ballot: 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 to sit back and watch everything that we've worked for and fought for to just slip away.


MRS. OBAMA: Or are we going to keep moving this country forward? (Applause.) What are we going to do? What are we going to do? I think we need to be going forward! Forward! Forward!

AUDIENCE: Forward! Forward! Forward!

MRS. OBAMA: But in the end, here's the thing -- the answer to these questions is now on all of us. Because, truly, all of this hard work, all of the progress that we've made, understand it is all at stake. It's all at stake. The choices couldn't be more clear.

And as my husband has always said, this election is going to be even closer than the last one. That is the only guarantee, so brace for it. And it will all come down to what happens in a few key battleground states -- especially this state, right here in Ohio. Right here. (Applause.)

So especially for our young people, just to put it in perspective -- because these numbers shock me -- just to understand that back in 2008, Barack won Ohio by about 262,000 votes. And while that might sound like a lot, when you break that number down across precincts throughout an entire state, that's just 24 votes per precinct, all right? Twenty four. That's how these races work. And just for the record, if it's that close for a presidential race, keep that in mind when it's time to vote for governors and mayors and city councils. (Applause.)

So if you think about that, that really could mean -- just one vote in a neighborhood could make a difference. Just a single vote in an apartment building could make the decision. Just one more vote in a dorm room could change the direction of a nation.

So if there is anyone here, or anyone that you know in your life that might be thinking that their vote doesn't matter, that their involvement doesn't count, that in this complex political process that regular folks can't possibly make a difference -- if you know anyone out there feeling or ever thinking that, I just want you to have them think about those 24 votes.

I mean, look around you. We all know 24 people who maybe didn't vote last time, maybe not sure, don't know whether they're going to make it if it rains a little bit, maybe they won't go. But I want you to think about how with just a few more hours -- because there are hours left -- a few more hours knocking on doors or making phone calls, with just a few more hours helping to get people to the polls on Tuesday, just a few of you here -- shoot, look at all of us here -- all of us here today can swing an entire precinct for Barack Obama.

And when we win enough precincts, we will win this state. And when we win this state, we'll be well on our way to putting Barack in the White House for four more years. (Applause.) Four more years. Twenty-four votes -- think about that.

So before you leave today, here's the plan -- and we've got a plan. (Laughter.) You find someone with a clipboard; sign up to volunteer for the campaign over these next few days. It's weekend time, students. (Laughter.) You've got a weekend, right? Anything you were going to do -- there's a party or you're going to take somebody out on a date -- (laughter) -- postpone it, or bring your date. Do that date-vote thing. (Laughter and applause.) A great way to impress a date is to take them to help people vote. That's a good thing. (Laughter.)

But for the next three days, really, we want you to talk to everyone you know. Talk to your friends, your neighbors, the cousin you haven't texted in a while; send them to vote.barackobama.com for all the information they need to cast their votes. And if you can, get them to vote early. I voted early because I want to spend Election Day getting out the vote, and I hope that all of you do the same. You can even vote tomorrow, Sunday afternoon, from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., and on Monday you can vote until 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon, all right?

So there is no excuse. So make sure everyone you know votes early or gets to the polls on Tuesday. That's the plan. It's a secret plan, top secret. (Laughter.) I might have disclosed something, because there are a few people with cameras and mics back there, but I think we'll be okay. (Laughter.) All right, we got it? (Applause.) We got this? (Applause.)

And make no mistake about it -- just know this -- four more years!

AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

MRS. OBAMA: We got this -- with your help. Because as you can see, make no -- what we do for the next three days could absolutely make the difference between waking up the day after Election Day and looking at ourselves and thinking, "Could I have done more?", or feeling the promise of four more years.

So from now until Tuesday, we need you to work like you've never worked before. Keep pushing and struggling and moving forward. Because, truly, that is how change always happens in this country. That is the real secret for all our young people right?

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I love you, Michelle!

MRS. OBAMA: Some of us who have been around for a little bit -- we love you -- I love you more! (Applause.) I love you more! No, I'm serious. I am so serious. You know, you all are our future. And we want you to start off with the best possible opportunities possible.

Because we know from our history in this country that change is hard, right? Shoot, life is hard. And all of you, as you're starting out, you're going to hit so many bumps and barriers along the way. And life just requires a ton of patience and persistence and tenacity. You've seen this President. You've seen him face issue after issue. You've seen him stay calm and focused. That's what we want you all to do in life.

And understand that if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting that good fight and doing what we know in our hearts is the right thing to do, see, then here's the truth -- eventually we get there. We always do. That is why we -- all of you, especially our young people, you have every reason to be optimistic about what lies ahead. Your futures are bright. Because we know that here in America, we always move forward. We never go backwards. We always make progress.

And in the end, that's what this is about. Hopefully, that's why we're here. Because that's what elections are always about. Don't let anybody tell you differently. Elections are always about hope. (Applause.)

What kind of hope am I talking about? The hope that I saw on my father's face as I crossed that stage to get my college diploma -- the diploma that 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 be here and be something more. The hope that so many of us feel when we look into the eyes of our kids and our grandkids -- that's the kind of hope I'm talking about.

Because in the end, the only reason we are doing this is for our kids. That is why we're here -- because we want to give all of our kids a solid foundation for their dreams. We want to give all of our kids opportunities worthy of their promise, because I don't care where you're from, what party you believe in, we know good and well that every child in this country is worthy. We want to give them that sense of limitless possibility; that belief that here in America, the greatest country on the planet -- understand there is always something better out there if you're willing to work for it.

So what me and the President and hopefully all of you tell yourselves every day is that we cannot turn back now. Absolutely not. We will not turn back now. Because 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.) Can we do this? (Applause.) Are you all fired up? Are you ready to go? Three more days, four more years. Let's get it done.

Thank you. God bless.

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event in Oxford, Ohio Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320470

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