Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event in Pocantico Hills, New York

July 15, 2012

MRS. OBAMA: Yes! (Applause.) Thanks so much. You all rest yourselves. Rest yourselves, because we want you working. (Laughter.) So we don't want you tired from clapping or anything like that.

I want to thank you so much. It is a true delight to be here in probably one of my favorite places, Stone Barns and Blue Hill. I want to thank Dan for that very kind introduction, but also for hosting us here at Blue Hill. And I want to also thank he and Laureen and his family who have given us such support over the years.

Before I thank other people I just want to just note, Dan always underplays the role that he's -- he had in all the work that I've been doing with the garden, with obesity. Because truly, he was probably one of the first people who has been in this movement who I connected with. Sam Kass, we mentioned, actually talks so -- spoke so highly of Dan that actually he flew out to our home in Chicago in the midst of the campaign and cooked a meal for us. He brought vegetables and pork and all that stuff he does out here, and he cooked for me and Barack. And I had never tasted vegetables that were so fresh and so delicious and so simply created.

And I knew then and there that if, as he put it, if more people understood what good food tastes like that they would demand it, and I knew that this could work because if places like Blue Hill and all the work that's going -- been going on around the country were known and shared by more people in this country, then we'd be in a better place.

So I want to thank Dan for being among the many who have laid the foundation, and have been doing the work long before anybody knew who Michelle Obama was. I want to thank all those folks for their hard work, for keeping this going. (Applause.)

And there are a few other people I want to thank today, the folks who worked so hard to cohost and pull together this event. Of course Vanessa Williams -- thank you so much, Vanessa. (Applause.) There you are over there. Bari Mattes, as well -- where is Bari. There you go. (Applause.) Thank you.

And probably two of my favorite people in the whole world -- Michael and James. They're characters. (Applause.) They have just been amazing -- not just here in New York in terms of raising money, but on all coasts. They have just been -- truly. I see them everywhere. (Laughter.) They're probably tired of me. I'm embarrassed to even do my stump speech because they know it by heart. So just don't mouth the words as I'm talking, would you please? (Laughter.) Can you just not do that?

And I also want to thank Margaret Russell, as well. (Applause.) There -- right next to -- Margaret. You all are amazing. This is -- not everybody has Sunday free to hang out with the First Lady, so I appreciate you all taking the time. (Laughter.)

I also want to give a big thank you and a hello to all the grassroots volunteers who are here today. The folks who do the work that is somewhat hard and sometimes thankless, but it's essential -- the folks who are making all those calls and knocking on doors, which is something that a lot of people do. That's a scary thing, knocking on a stranger's door, right? I see a lot of face shaking, head shaking -- and walking up and talking about Barack Obama. That's a scary proposition, but you all are doing that work. So I want to give you all a special round of applause, because we could do this without you. (Applause.)

And finally, I want to thank all of you for taking the time to join us today. And I know that so many of you are busy this summer, you've got busy lives to lead -- you've got jobs, careers, you're doing -- you've got classes to attend. I see young people who have got camp and babysitting camp and all that stuff going on. (Laughter.) We've got families -- yes for babysitting camp. (Laughter.)

And we all have our families to raise so I know time is precious, but I also know there's a reason why all of us are here today -- and it's not just because we support what I believe is an extraordinary President, which we do. (Applause.) I'm a little biased. And I know we're not just here because we want to win an election, which we do and we will. (Applause.)

We are all here and we're doing this work because of the values we believe in. And that's really what I'm talking about when I go out -- just getting people focused on the values we believe in. We're doing this because of the vision for this country that we all share. We're doing this because we want all our children to have good schools -- the kind of schools that push them, and inspire them, and prepare them for opportunities in the future. Yes indeed. (Laughter.) Especially you. Sign her up. She should travel with me. (Laughter.)

And we want our parents and our grandparents to be able to retire with dignity, because we believe that in America, after a lifetime of hard work they should be able to enjoy their golden years. We want to restore that basic middle-class security for our families in this country because we believe that in America, folks shouldn't go bankrupt because someone gets sick. We believe that people shouldn't lose their home because someone loses a job -- not in America. We believe that responsibility should be rewarded and hard work should pay off. And we believe that everyone should do their share -- fair share, but play by the same rules.

And what I remind people is these are basic American values. They're the values that so many of us were raised with, including myself. As people know -- they've come to know me by now as First Lady. They know my background. Folks know that my father was a blue collar city worker at the city water plant, and my family lived in a little-bitty apartment on the South Side of Chicago -- my mother still lives there. My parents never had the kinds of educational opportunities that we had, and growing up I watched them save and sacrifice. I watched how they poured everything they had into me and my brother. They held us to the same high standards of excellence because they wanted us both to have the kind of education they could only dream of.

My parents did everything in their power to support my college education, and while pretty much all of my tuitions came from loans and grants, my dad still had to pay a tiny portion of that tuition himself. And let me tell you, every semester he was determined to pay his portion and to pay it on time, because he was so proud to be able to send his kids to college. And he did all he could to lessen our financial burden by ensuring that neither me or my brother would ever have to miss a registration deadline because his check was late.

And like so many people in this country, my father took great pride in being able to earn a decent living that allowed him to handle his responsibilities to his family -- to pay all of his bills and to pay them on time. That's all he wanted.

And really, more than anything else, that is what's at stake in this election. That's why we're here. That's what we're fighting for. It's 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. It is that promise that binds us together as Americans. It's what makes us who we are. It's what makes this country special.

And truly, from now until November -- and the time is getting shorter -- Barack is going to need everyone to get out there and to remind people about our values. Remind them what's at stake, what we're fighting for. Tell them about this vision, and about everything that's at stake this election.

And I want you to start with the economy. You can start by telling people how Barack fought for tax cuts for working families and small businesses because he understands that an economy built to last truly starts with the middle class and with folks who are creating jobs and putting people back to work.

I want you to remind people how back when Barack first took office -- I say this everywhere I go -- remind people that this economy was losing an average of 750 jobs every single month. That's what he inherited. That's what welcomed him after that wonderful, cold inauguration day. But also let people know that for the past 28 straight months, we've actually been gaining private sector jobs -- more than 4 million jobs in just two years.

So while we still have a long way to go to rebuild our economy, today, millions of people are collecting a paycheck again. Millions of folks like my dad are able to take care of their bills again. Got to let them know.

And you can also remind people about how so many folks in Washington were telling Barack to let the auto industry go under -- I don't know if you remember that. (Laughter.) With more than a million jobs on the line, they said let it go. But fortunately, Barack had the backs of American workers. He put his faith in the American people, and as a result, the auto industry is back on its feet again, and, more importantly, people are back to work providing for their families again.

And when it comes to health care, you can tell people how insurance companies will now have to cover preventative care -- basic things like contraception, cancer screenings, prenatal care at no extra cost. (Applause.) Millions of our senior citizens have saved hundreds of dollars on their prescription drugs, and our young people now can stay on their parents' insurance until they're 26 years old. And let people know that's how 6.6 million young people in this country are getting the health care they need, and without it they have nothing.

And when it comes to education, you can tell folks that Barack knows what it's like to be drowning in student debt. I share with folks, back when he and I first started out, we had just gotten married and were trying to build our life together, our combined student loan bill was actually higher than our mortgage -- and that's the norm. And that's why Barack fought so hard to prevent student loan rates from increasing -- he had to fight for that. And that's why he's doubled Pell grants, helping four million more students in this country afford the education for the jobs of the future. It's not just about them, it's about this economy.

And when it comes to increasing opportunities for all of our young people in this country, I want you to tell people how Barack has been fighting for the DREAM Act. Understand this -- he's fighting for this because he believes that it's time to stop denying responsible young people opportunities in this country just because they're the children of undocumented immigrants. Remind them about that, he's been fighting for that.

When it comes to keeping our country safe, let them know Barack kept his promise to bring our troops home from Iraq. You can remind them about how our brave men and women in uniform finally brought to justice the man behind the 9/11 attacks, and you can tell them that our troops -- (applause) -- never again have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love, because Barack ended "don't ask, don't tell." (Applause.)

And when it comes to supporting women and families in this country, I want you to tell people how Barack fought to make it easier for women to get equal pay for equal work because of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the very first bill he signed into law. (Applause.) And Barack signed this bill because he knows that closing that pay gap for women can mean the difference from them losing $50, $100, $500 from each paycheck or having that money in their pockets to buy gas and groceries, and to put clothes on the backs of their kids. And he did it because when so many women in this country are now breadwinners, truly, women's success in this economy is the key to families' success in this economy. You've got to let them know.

And I always, finally want people to remember about our Supreme Court. Don't forget those two brilliant Supreme Court justices Barack appointed. (Applause.) You see how important those appointments are. And how for the first time, our sons and our daughters watched three women take their seat on our nation's highest court -- for the first time. (Applause.)

And I could go on and on and on. This is just three and a half years' worth of work. But people have to understand that all of it is at stake in November. It's all on the line. And really, it boils down to on simple question -- are we going to continue the change we've begun and the progress we've made, or are we going to allow everything we've fought for to just slip away? Because that's just what's going to happen.

And one of the things I know is that we can't allow that to happen. We can't turn back now. We need to keep moving forward. That's what this election is about. More than anything else, that's what we're working for -- the chance to finish all the wonderful work that we've started. The chance to keep fighting for the values we believe in, and the vision for this country that we all share. There's nothing that I've said that isn't something that anybody can grasp onto.

And let me tell you, that's what Barack has been doing every single day as President. He's been fighting for us. And let me tell you, for the past three and a half years as First Lady, I've had the chance to see up close and personal what it looks like to be President. (Laughter.)

And let me share something with you -- I've seen it. I have seen how the issues that come across and President's desk, they are always the hard ones. He doesn't get any easy questions -- none. Those all get solved before they come to him. The problems with no easy solution, the judgment calls where the stakes are so high and there's no margin for error.

And as President, you're going to get all kinds of advice from all kinds of people all the time. But in the end, when it comes time to make that decision, as President, truly, all you have to guide you are your life experiences. All you have to direct you are your values and your vision. In the end, it boils down to who you are and what you stand for. That's what being President is.

And what I want people to understand is that when it comes to Barack Obama, we know who he is. We know what he stands for.

He is the son of a single mother who struggled to pay the bills and put herself through school. He's the grandson of a woman who woke up before dawn every day to catch her bus to her job at a bank. And even though Barack's grandmother was good at what she did and worked hard to support her family, like so many women, she hit that glass ceiling and watched men no more qualified than she was -- men she had actually trained -- be promoted up the ladder ahead of her.

So what America has to know is their President understands what it means when a family struggles. This is not a hypothetical situation for him. He knows what it means when someone doesn't have a chance to fulfill their potential.

And truly, today, as a father, he knows what it means to want something better for your kids. Those are the experiences that have made him the man and the President he is today, and we are blessed to have him. We truly are.

So when there's a choice about our children's futures, about investing in their schools, about helping them attend college without a mountain of debt, you all know where Barack stands. When it comes time to stand up for our workers and our families so folks can make a decent wage and save for retirement, see a doctor when they're sick, you know what my husband's going to do. You know this already.

When we need a President to protect our most basic rights, no matter who we love or where we're from or what race or gender we are, you know you can count on Barack Obama because that is what he's been doing every single day as President of the United States -- every single day. That's what this is about.

But I have said this before and I will say it again and again -- I said it throughout the whole last campaign -- he can't do this alone. This isn't about us sitting back and watching one man deliver miracles. He needs our help.

This election will be closer than the last one. That is the only thing I can guarantee you. So he needs your help. And sitting on the sidelines is simply not an option if we want to keep moving this country forward. Barack needs you to be actively and passionately engaged in this election.

So you need to do some work, too. (Laughter.) Roll up some sleeves, make those phone calls. He needs you to organize more events, and share conversations and information. He needs you to join a neighborhood team, because we have thousands of those across the country. These are groups of people all over the state, all over the country who are giving just a little bit of their time and energy to make a difference in this campaign. Everything we do on the ground runs through these teams, and these teams are going to be the key to victory.

So today, we have got volunteers who are who can answer your questions and get you signed up and get one of our "I'm In" cards. And once you sign up, what I'm telling people is that we need you to multiply yourselves. If you think about -- like multiply yourselves. This room should be 100 rooms full. We need you to reach out to everyone you know; everyone you know who is either sitting on the sidelines or somehow unhappy with something. (Laughter.) We need you to touch them -- your friends, your family, your neighbors and tell them to go to barackobama.com to find out what they can do to learn, to help, to get engaged.

And if things look good where you are, if you're in one of these wonderful states where things are great, then pack a bag. (Laughter.) Pack a bag, spend some time in a battleground state like Pennsylvania. I could name a few that are very near, driveable. (Laughter.) And think about talking to some of the undecided voters -- that's what we did last year. It's that connection. Talking to undecided people who don't know any of this. They're just not paying attention, or they're confused about an issue. But let them know what's at stake.

And if you have any doubt about the difference that you can make, I just want you to remember that in the end, this election could come down to those last few thousand people that we register to vote. That could make the difference. It could all come down to those last few thousand people we help get to the poll on November the 6. When it's close, it's about turnout. When it's close, it's about who we're connected to.

So what I'm telling people everywhere I go to understand is that with every conversation you have, I want you to remember, think that this could be the one that makes the difference. Don't underestimate the value of one conversation. That is the impact that each of us can have in this election.

So if you've gotten some notion that I'm passionate -- (laughter) -- it's because I'm buying into this. I'm thinking somebody here is on the line, somebody here is not quite sure, somebody here is feeling a little sort of -- not really sure. I want to change your mind and have you be the one that makes the difference.

And I'm not going to kid you, this journey is going to be long. It is going to be hard. And there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way -- woo. (Laughter.) But what I want people to remember is that's how change -- real change -- always happens in this country.

Real change is slow. Real change takes time. Real change hurts a little bit. But if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight, then eventually we get there -- we always have. In this country, we've never gone backwards. Not for women, not for minorities. We have always kept moving forward.

But what we have to remember -- it may not happen in our lifetime, but maybe in our children's lifetimes, right? Maybe in our grandchildren's lifetimes. Because in the end, that's what this is about. It's not about us -- it's about them. It's about our children.

And let me tell you, that's what I think about every night when I tuck my girls in -- they're getting a little big for tucking, but I still force the tucking. (Laughter.) I think about the world I want to leave for them, and for all of our sons and daughters. I think about how I want to do for them what my mom and dad did for me.

I want all our children to have a foundation for their dreams -- every single one of them -- not just mine, but all of them. I want to give them opportunities worthy of their promise, because every single child in this country is worthy. I want all our children to have that sense of limitless possibility -- that belief that here in America, there is always something better out there if you're willing to work for it.

So we just can't turn back now. We cannot turn back now. We have come so far, but we have so much more work to do -- so much more work to do.

So I have one last question that I ask everybody -- are you ready for this? Are you all in? (Applause.) And I hope there's somebody that's undecided out there who is now in; someone who is ready to roll up their sleeves and reach out and share information, and remind people not just about what's happened over the last three years, but to let them know about the future. Because this election is still about the future. It is still about hope. It's still about the way we want this country to look for our children.

So I hope you all are fired up, because if you haven't noticed I certainly am. I am fired up, and I am ready to go. And I want you all out there every single moment that you have. I can't wait to see you out there, and I know that we can get this done.

Thank you all. God bless.

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event in Pocantico Hills, New York Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320397

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