Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

April 17, 2012

MRS. OBAMA: Well, thank you. (Applause.) Thanks so much. I can't tell what a pleasure it is to be here. Pittsburgh, I love this city, I really do. And that's true -- there are no cameras here. I mean, I always talk about the fact that this is such a surprising diamond, and the people here are always so warm. And today, oh, gosh, this is a -- what did someone say? -- it's a Chamber of Commerce day, made to order. (Laughter.) But it is beautiful here, and I'm just so pleased to spend this intimate time with all of you.

And I want to start by thanking Cindy for that very kind introduction. And I want to thank both Cindy and David, and their family, for hosting us here in this beautiful, magnificent setting. I will be moving in. (Laughter.) I think I saw a room down there. I can hang out with the dog. (Laughter.) It's pretty good, pretty good. So we should give them a round of applause. (Applause.)

And I also want to recognize Rich Fitzgerald and Mayor Ravenstahl, who have been just magnificent since I've been here. Thank you all so much for your leadership and your service and your support. (Applause.) Thank you guys so much.

And I want to thank just everyone who has been involved in making this event such a success -- to all the members of the Host Committee, you all, well done. This visit here to this city has just been an absolute success, and I want to thank you all for what you've done to make it possible. Thank you so much.

And to all my friends, all our supporters -- most of all, thank you. Thank you for what you have done to make it possible for us to serve this country, and thank you for being here.

And I know we're here for a reason. We like to see one another. I've got friends I've known forever. It's always good to hang out for our 30 seconds on the rope line, really catch up. (Laughter.) But we're here because we know that next November we have to make a choice, and it's a choice that's going to impact our lives for decades to come. And you also know that this choice won't just affect all of us, but it's going to affect our children and our grandchildren, and it's going to impact the world we leave for them long after we're gone. I say this again and again: It is about them. That's why I'm here. That's why I do what I do. I am just so inspired. You see me -- when I see a couple of kids -- I can talk to you guys forever. (Laughter.) You're amazing. And your dog stories were just phenomenal. (Laughter.) But we're doing it for them.

And one of the things I get to do as First Lady that is a true privilege is that I get to travel all across the country, meeting folks from different backgrounds and hearing about what's going on in their daily lives. And every day, I hear about how people are struggling to keep it together -- the bills they're trying to pay; the businesses they're trying to keep afloat; the home that they love but they're struggling to afford.

But no matter what they're going through, no matter what challenges they face, they just keep on working and sacrificing because they want something better for their kids. That's what keeps America going. They believe in that fundamental vision for our economy that we all share -- the idea that, as Barack says, hard work should pay off, and responsibility should be rewarded -- things we teach our children -- that everyone should get a fair shot, and do their fair share, and play by the same rules. Right?


MRS. OBAMA: It's what we teach you all, right? (Applause.) Those are the values, the foundation for building an economy that's built to last. But more importantly, they're basic American values. They're the values that so many of us were raised with, including myself.

And by now, many of you know my story. My father was a city worker, blue-collar city worker; worked all his life at the water filtration plant. My family lived in a little-bitty apartment on the South Side of Chicago. My mother still occupies that home. And as I've told people, my room looks exactly the same as I -- (laughter) -- same bed sheet, same pictures on the wall. But neither of my parents had the opportunity to attend college. But what they did for us, what so many parents do for their kids, they saved and they sacrificed everything. They poured everything they had into us, so that me and my brother could have something more than they could have ever imagined.

And more than anything else, the reason why I'm so passionate on the campaign trail is, that's what's at stake. That's what we're fighting for -- that fundamental promise that 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 believe me, on just about every issue, that's the choice we face in this election.

Since today is tax day, let's talk a little bit about that. (Laughter.) Let's start with all those tax cuts that my husband has passed for working-class families. And truly, he's done that because that's really about whether people can heat their homes. Those differences matter -- whether they can send their kids to college; whether they can retire with security and dignity. It's about putting more money in the people's pockets, which means more money in our economy, which in turn will mean more jobs. And it's about whether we're making sure that everyone pays their fair share. And that's why my husband proposed the Buffett Rule -- to close tax loopholes for millionaires and billionaires so that they're not paying lower tax rates than firefighters and teachers. It just seems fair. But that's what's at stake.

And how about everything that Barack has been doing to create jobs? I mean, here are the facts: Think back to when all those folks in Washington were telling Barack to let the auto industry go under -- remember that? -- and just let those millions of jobs just disappear. That was what was on the line. But what did Barack do? He had the backs of American workers. He put his faith in the American people. And as a result of those actions, today, the auto industry is back on its feet. Today, the auto industry is back, and more importantly, people are back to work and they're able to put food on their tables and provide for their families.

And think back to when Barack first took office. What did he inherit? We were losing an average of 750,000 jobs every month. Those are the facts. But for the past 25 straight months, we've actually been gaining private sector jobs -- a total of more than 4 million jobs in just two years. Those are the facts.

So while we still have a very long way to go, we do have more to do to rebuild our economy, today, millions of folks are collecting a paycheck again -- and that's good news. But that's what's at stake. Those are the choices that we face.

And what about what this administration has done for small businesses? I mean, these are the companies that create two-thirds of all jobs in this economy -- two-thirds of all jobs. And I'm talking about the mom who opens up the dry cleaning store and uses that money to support her family. We're talking about these two characters right here -- making the best pancakes in the world -- (laughter and applause) -- running that neighborhood restaurant that's been in the community for generations. For these folks, the small business tax cuts that this administration has passed, it means the difference between hiring new employees or handing out pink slips -- am I right? It's the difference between keeping your doors open or closing up shop for good. But that's the choice we face.

And how about the very first bill my husband signed into law -- the very first thing he did as President of the United States, he passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to make sure that women get equal pay for equal work. (Applause.) And what I explain to people is that he did this because he knows what women -- what it means when women aren't treated fairly in the workplace. He watched his own grandmother –- a woman with a high school education -– worked her way up to become the vice president of a small community bank. So you know she was smart. And you know she was good at what she did. You know she worked hard. But like so many women, she hit that glass ceiling and watched men no more qualified than she was -– men she had actually trained -– get promoted up the ladder ahead of her.

So what I try to tell people is that, for Barack, these issues are not abstract. These are not hypothetical situations for him. He signed this bill because he knows that closing that pay gap can mean the difference between women losing $50, $100, $500 from each paycheck, or having that money in their pockets to buy gas and groceries and put clothes on the backs of their kids. He did it because when so many women are now breadwinners for their families, women's success in this economy is the key to families' success in this economy. And he did it because -- as he believes that here in America there are no second-class citizens in our workplace. But that's really what's at stake.

And let's talk just for a minute about health care. Two years ago, we worked together to make history by finally passing health reform. And because we passed this law -- something that no other President has been able to do -- insurance companies now have to cover basic preventative care, things like mammograms and prenatal care, at no extra cost. And insurance companies can no longer deny our children coverage for preexisting conditions, things like asthma, diabetes.

Our kids can now stay on their parent's insurance until they're 26 years old. And moms and dads with kids going to college, we know what that means. So now, as a result, our kids don't have to go without health care while they're figuring out their lives and looking for a job. And that's how 2.5 million of our young people in this country today are getting their health care coverage.

And since we passed that law, millions of senior citizens have saved an average of $600 a month [sic] on their prescription drugs. So we have to ask ourselves, are we going to now take those savings away from our parents and grandparents? Are we going to let insurance companies refuse to cover our children? Or will we say that here in America, we should never make it so that someone has to choose between going bankrupt or making sure that their child can see a doctor. But that is the choice we face.

And just think, for a moment, about all this President has done for education. I mean, think about the investments that he's made to raise standards and reform our public schools. Think about how my husband has been fighting for the DREAM Act -- the DREAMT Act; this is about talented, hardworking young people who were brought to this country by no fault of their own. These are young people who want to work in this economy. They want to fight for this country. These are responsible young people; they want to do everything in their power to defend this country and do what's right. So now we believe it's time for us to give them a chance. But that's what's at stake.

And think about how my husband took billions of dollars in taxpayer money that was going to middleman banks and lenders, and he sent it where it belongs -- into the pockets of millions of young people to help them go to college. And believe me, these investments won't just determine the success of our children; it will determine nothing less than the success of our economy -- whether we're able to make the discoveries and build the industries that will allow us to compete with any country, anywhere in the world. But that's what we're facing right now. Those are the stakes.

And of course, we cannot forget about what it meant when my husband appointed those two brilliant Supreme Court justices, and for the first time in history -- (applause) -- our daughters and our sons watched three women take their seats on our nation's highest court. And we cannot forget what their decisions will mean; the impact it will have on our lives for decades to come –- on our privacy and security, on whether we can speak freely, worship openly, and yes, love whomever we choose. But that's what's at stake. Those are the choices that we're facing.

And finally, we can't forget about all this administration has done to keep our country safe and restore our standing in the world. And that is real. I have seen that firsthand. 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.)

And like so many things, my husband kept his promise and brought our troops home from Iraq -- he ended that war, brought them home before the holidays. (Applause.) And we are all working very hard to make sure that we give our troops, our 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. But those are the stakes. Those are the choices. And I could go on, but you all are standing up and you're probably hungry -- (laughter) -- and you look like you're about to fall right over, but you're doing great. Proud of you all. Yes, yes, your brother. (Laughter.)

But 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 who we are as a country. But the point that I make is that it will also determine who we want to be. Who do we want to be?

Who do we want to be for them? Will we be the country where opportunity is limited to the few at the top? Is that who we are? Or will we be a place where if you work hard, you can get ahead, no matter who you are or where you come from? Who are we? That's fundamentally what we have to ask ourselves as we work toward this goal. Will we tell folks who have done everything right -- our neighbors, our family members -- but they're falling on hard times, are we going to looking them in the face and tell them, "tough luck, you're on your own"? I mean, who are we?

Or will we honor that fundamental belief that we're all better off when we work together. This country is strongest when we're all better off. Are we going to continue all the change that we've begun, the progress we've made? Or are we just going to let -- just watch it all slip away? Really, who are we? Those are the choices we face. Those are the stakes.

And I want you to know that your President, my husband, Barack, he understands this all too well. He understands these issues because he's lived them. He was raised by a single mother that he watched struggle to pay the bills, to get her education. And when she couldn't handle it, who stepped in? His grandmother, taking that bus before dawn to go to that job at the bank. And even though she was passed over for all those promotions, she never complained. Like so many people in our lives, right? How many people do we know that just keep moving forward, showing up, doing her best?

So Barack knows what it means when a family struggles. He knows how much it hurts when someone doesn't have the chance to fulfill their potential. Those are the experiences that have made him the man, but more importantly, the President he is today. And as I tell people, we are blessed to have someone like that leading our country. We absolutely are. (Applause.)

And that's what I hear from him when he comes home after a long day traveling, and he tells me about the people he's met. Because Barack has a memory like a steel trap. He will remember your story, and that is what he carries around with him. It's our collection of struggles and hopes and dreams. It becomes imprinted in his heart. But that's where he gets his passion. That's where he gets his toughness and his fight. And that's why, when times are hard -- and we have seen some tough times -- that's why Barack never loses sight of the end goal, never gets distracted by the chatter and the noise. That calm you see -- that's real. Because like his grandmother, he just keeps moving forward. Just keeps showing up. Just keeps doing what he has to do.

But I'm not going to kid you, this journey is going to be long and we are going to need you. There will be twists and turns along the way, but he cannot do this alone. He cannot do this without you. He needs you every step of the way -- not just writing checks, but making those calls and registering voters, and convincing people to invest just a little bit of their time for this campaign. That's what we need from you. That's what we needed from you before, that's what we need from you today.

And make no mistake about it, this is going to be a fight, but it is a fight worthy of our time and it is worthy of our energy. And it is going to be long. And there will be twists and turns along the way. But the thing that I remind people of every day is that in this country, change can be slow. Real change takes time. It doesn't happen all at once.

But if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight, then we always get there, we always do. Never has there been a time when we've stepped so far back that we don't recognize who we are. We just keep moving forward.

Maybe not in our lifetimes, but maybe in our children's lifetimes, maybe in our grandchildren's lifetimes. Like so many people who fought for us to be here, standing here, like the millions of people who made sacrifices not because they would feel the benefit in their lifetime, but because they set the foundation for us to be here. We need to keep doing what we know is right -- fighting the good fight; fighting for the country we know we want to be.

So my last question, really to all of you is, is are you ready for this? Are you in?


MRS. OBAMA: Because we need you to be very in. (Applause.) Because I will tell you what, I am in. I am so far in. (Laughter.) And I'm in because of our kids. I tell you, I get to see kids all over the country and they are so bright and they're so open, and they deserve us fighting for that decent America that allows all of them to bloom and to grow in a way that we know that they can. That's why I'm in this.

But we are going to need you every step of the way in a very real sense. So we've got to roll up our sleeves, right? We've got to get moving. We've got to get a little fired up and ready to go, right?


MRS. OBAMA: Because if we do this, we can continue that change. We can have an impact. And we can continue that progress, and we can hand our children a country that they can be proud of. So I look forward to working with you all in the months and years ahead -- because it will be years.

I want to thank you all for everything you've done up until this point, and I expect you to work even harder. (Laughter.)

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

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320371

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