Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event in Reno, Nevada

October 03, 2012

MRS. OBAMA: Whoa! (Applause.) Thank you so much. I love you guys. (Applause.) Oh, this is so good.

It's a perfect day on a beautiful campus with some amazing supporters. I am thrilled to be back here with all of you today. (Applause.) And I understand this is a very special period here on campus. It's Homecoming Week here? (Applause.) Yeah. Yeah. So do you guys dress up for homecoming? Or is that --


MRS. OBAMA: No. See, I've been way out of it. Way out of it.


MRS. OBAMA: Thank you. I want to send all my love out to the Wolf Pack! (Applause.) Yes. I hope you guys have a great Homecoming Week and stay out of trouble, okay? (Laughter.) All right. Just a little. You can have a little trouble, just a little.

Let me start by thanking Irene for that very kind introduction and for everything that she's doing for our campaign here in Nevada. Let's give her a round of applause. Go, Irene! (Applause.)

And I want to recognize a couple of people who I know are here and have been working hard -- Congresswoman Shelley Berkley, who is going to make a tremendous senator here in Nevada. (Applause.)

But most of all, wow, I want to thank all of you for being here on this beautiful day. Thank you for being here. (Applause.) I know you all are pretty fired up and ready to go, aren't you? (Applause.)

Well, that's good because let me to tell you, I'm feeling pretty fired up and ready to go myself. (Applause.) Because when I get to come out here and talk to you, I get to do one of my favorite things in the whole wide world, and that is to talk about the man that I have loved and admired since I first met him 23 years ago. (Applause.) And although I have not seen him --


MRS. OBAMA: Thank you. (Applause.) I have not seen my husband today because he's busy getting ready for tonight. I'm about to fly to see him. (Applause.) This is from me to you, honey: Happy 20th anniversary. (Applause.)

So let me tell you something about when we first met. Let me share a few things. See, back when I first met Barack, he definitely had everything going for him. Okay, ladies? (Laughter.) He was handsome, and still is. Twenty-three years later he's still gorgeous. He was -- what? I take care of him very well. Yes, I do. I do my best. I do my best. He was charming, talented and very smart. But that is not why I married him.

Now, this is where I want the fellas to pay attention. (Laughter.) What truly made me fall in love with Barack Obama, it was his character. All right, you hear this, fellas? His character. (Laughter.) Yes, I see you because you're taller than everybody else. Character. (Applause.) It was his decency. It was his honesty. It was his compassion and conviction.

See, I loved that Barack was so committed to serving others that he turned down high-paying jobs, and instead started his career fighting to get folks back to work in struggling communities. I loved that about him. (Applause.)

And I also loved that Barack was so devoted to his family, especially the women in his life. All right, ladies? You want to see that. I saw the respect he had for his own mother. I saw how proud he was that she put herself through school while supporting him and his sister as a single mom.

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

And with Barack, I found a real connection because, truly, 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 got a few South Siders here? (Applause.) That's good. You're a long way from home, but it's warmer. (Laughter.) But let me tell you, I watched my own father make that similar uncomplaining journey every day to his job at the city water plant.

And I saw how my father carried himself with that same dignity, that same pride he had in being able to provide for his family, that same hope that his kids would one day have opportunities he never dreamed of. And let me tell you, how many of us here have people just like that in their lives? (Applause.)

Like so many families in this country, see, our families weren't asking for much. They didn't want much. 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. That's why you're all here. (Applause.)

But they simply believed in that fundamental American promise that even if you don't start out with much, in America, if you work hard and if you do what you're supposed to do, then you should be able to provide 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, when you've 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.)

See, that's how Barack and I and so many of us were raised. Those are the values that we were taught. We learned that how hard you work matters more than how much you make. We learned that the truth matters -- so you don't take shortcuts, you don't game the system, you don't play by your own set of rules.

We learned that none of us gets where we are on our own -- none of us; that each of us has a community of people lifting us up, from the teachers who inspire us to the janitors who keep our schools clean. (Applause.) And we were taught that you value everyone's contribution, and you treat everyone with respect.

We also learned about citizenship and service -- that we're all a part of something bigger than ourselves; that with our freedoms come obligations, and with our blessings come a duty to give back to others who have less.

See, these are the values that make Barack such an extraordinary husband to me, and such a phenomenal father to our girls.

AUDIENCE: (Inaudible.)

MRS. OBAMA: Absolutely. (Applause.) But that's another reason that I talk about his values. They matter to me not just as a wife and a mother. They also matter because, as a First Lady, I have seen up close and personal what being President really looks like, and I have seen how those values are so critical for leading this country. (Applause.)

Over the past three and a half years, I've seen how the issues that come across a President's desk, they're always the hard ones -- the decisions that aren't just about the bottom line, but they're about laying a foundation for the next generation.

And I've seen how important it is to have a President who doesn't just tell us what we want to hear, but who tells us the truth -- even when it's hard; especially when it's hard. (Applause.)

And I've also seen that when it comes time to make those tough calls, and everyone around you is urging you to do what's easy, or what polls best, or what gets good headlines, but as President, you must be driven by the struggles, hopes and dreams of all of the people you serve. As President, you have to have a strong inner compass, a core commitment to your fellow citizens. And that's how you make the right decisions for this country. That's what it takes to be a leader.

And let me tell you, since the day he took office, on issue after issue, crisis after crisis, that is exactly what we have seen in my husband. We have seen his values at work. We've seen his vision unfold. We've seen the depths of his character, courage and his conviction.

Think back to when Barack first took office. Think back to where we were. Our economy was on the brink of collapse. You hear me? Newspapers were using words like "meltdown," "calamity;" declaring "Wall Street Implodes," "Economy in Shock."

See, for years, folks had been lured into buying homes they couldn't afford, so their mortgages were underwater. Banks weren't lending, companies weren't hiring. The auto industry was in crisis, and this economy was losing an average of 800,000 jobs a month. Do you hear me? Eight hundred thousand jobs, and a lot of folks were wondering whether we were headed for another Great Depression. See, now, this is what Barack faced on day one as President of the United States. This is what welcomed him into the office.

But instead of pointing fingers, instead of placing blame, your President got to work. (Applause.) See, because he was thinking about folks like my dad, folks like his grandmother. And that's why he cracked down on lending abuses, so that today, when you apply for a mortgage or credit card, you know exactly what you're getting into.

That's why he cut taxes for small businesses and working families, because fortunately we have a President who believes that here in America teachers and firefighters should not be paying higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires. Not in America. (Applause.)

He got the auto industry back on its feet, and today new cars are rolling off the line at proud American companies like GM. (Applause.) Yes, indeed.

And today, while we still have a long way to go to rebuild our economy, understand that we have had 30 straight months of private sector job growth under this President -- a total of 5.1 million new jobs, good jobs right here in the United States of America. That's where we are today. (Applause.)

Now, when it comes to the health of our families, Barack didn't care whether health reform was the easy thing to do politically, because that's not who he is. He cared that it was the right thing to do. And today, thankfully, because he fought so hard for health reform, today our parents and grandparents on Medicare are paying hundreds less for their prescription drugs. (Applause.)

Young people, like so many of you, can stay on your parent's insurance until you're 26 years old. (Applause.)

Insurance companies now have to cover basic preventative care -- things like contraception, cancer screenings, with no out-of-pocket cost. They won't be able to discriminate against you because you have a preexisting condition like diabetes or even asthma. (Applause.)

And if you get a serious illness -- let's say breast cancer -- and that's the time when you need expensive treatment, they 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.)

And of course, when it comes to giving all our young people the education they deserve, Barack knows that like me and like so many of you, he never, never could have attended college without financial aid. That would have never happened for him or for me. (Applause.) In fact, what I shared in Charlotte, at the convention: When we were fist married, our combined student loan bills were actually higher than our mortgage.

So believe me, when it comes to student debt, Barack and I, we've been there. This is not a hypothetical. (Laughter.) That is why Barack fought so hard to double funding for Pell Grants and keep interest rates down for our students. (Applause.) Because, thankfully, our President wants all of our young people to have the skills they need for the jobs of the future -- good jobs that you can raise a family on, jobs that will drive this economy for decades to come. (Applause.)

And finally, when it comes to understanding the lives of women, when it comes to standing up for our rights and opportunities -- (applause) -- we know that my husband will always have our backs. (Applause.) We know this because Barack knows from personal experience what it means when a family has a woman heading it who is not treated well or fairly in the workplace. He knows that firsthand. He knows what it means when women struggle to meet the demands of their jobs and the needs of their families.

And believe me, today, as a father, he knows what it means to want our daughters to have the same rights and freedoms as our sons. (Applause.) And that is why the very first bill he signed as President was to help women get equal pay for equal work. (Applause.) And that is why he will always, always fight to ensure that we, as women, can make our own decisions about our bodies and about our health care. That's what my husband stands for. (Applause.)

So when people ask you what this President has done for our country, when you're talking to folks who are deciding who is going to keep this country moving forward for four more years, here's what I want you to tell them -- just a few things, because we don't have all day. (Laughter.)

I want you to tell them about the millions of jobs Barack has created. I want you to tell them about the health reform he's passed. Tell them about all those kids who can now afford college.

Tell them how Barack ended the war in Iraq. (Applause.) Tell them how, together, we took out Osama bin Laden. (Applause.) Tell them how Barack fought to get veterans and military families the benefits that they have earned. (Applause.)

Tell them about young immigrants brought to America through no fault of their own, and how they will no longer be deported from the only country they've ever called home. (Applause.)

Tell them how our brave men and women in uniform will never, never again have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love. (Applause.)

I could go on and on and on. But here is what I really want you to tell them. Tell them that Barack Obama knows the American Dream because he's lived it. (Applause.) And he is going to fight every day -- every day so that every single 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. (Applause.)

But here's the other part. Let's be really clear that while he is very proud of all that we have achieved together, my husband is nowhere near satisfied. Barack, of all people, knows that too many people are still hurting. He, of all people, knows that there is so much more work left to be done. And as President Clinton said at the convention, it is going to take a lot longer than four years to rebuild an economy from the brink of collapse. (Applause.)

But here is what I know for sure. Your President has been fighting for us. He has been struggling with us every day. And slowly but surely, together, we have been pulling ourselves out of that hole that we started in. For three and a half years, we have been moving forward and making real progress, and we're beginning to see that change we believe in.

So here is what we have to ask ourselves. Are we going to turn around and go back to that same policy that got us in this hole in the first place?


MRS. OBAMA: Are we just going to sit back and watch everything that we worked for and fought for to just slip away?


MRS. OBAMA: Or are we going to keep moving this country forward? What are we going to do? (Applause.)

But in the end, the answer to these questions, it's on us. It's up to us.

AUDIENCE MEMER: Can I vote today? (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA: Just keep that energy. (Laughter.)

Because, understand this: All of the hard work, all of the progress that we have made, it is all on the line. It's all at stake this November. Understand that.

And as my husband has said, this election will be even closer than the last one. That is the only guarantee. And it could all come down to what happens in just a few key battleground states, like right here in Nevada. Right here. Right here! (Applause.)

So I want to give you some perspective, especially to our young people here. I want you to think back to what happened in 2008 here in this state. Back then, we won Nevada by about 121,000 votes, okay? Now, that may sound like a lot, but when you break that number down, that is just 69 votes per precinct. All right? Just think about that. (Laughter.) We all know 69 people! (Laughter.) You all have more than 69 people on your Facebook accounts, right? (Laughter.) So that could mean just a couple of votes in a neighborhood. That could mean a single vote in an apartment, in a dorm room.

So if there's anybody here, anybody that you know in your lives who might be thinking that their vote doesn't matter, that their involvement doesn't count, that somehow in this complex political process that ordinary folks can't possibly make a difference, see, I want you all to think about that number. Think about 69 votes.

And I want you to think about how, with just a few evenings on a phone bank, with just a few weekends knocking on doors, with just a few of you -- look at this campus; all of you here, if you activate that enthusiasm right here, you could swing an entire precinct for Barack Obama. (Applause.) And if we win enough precincts, we will win this state, and if we win Nevada, we will be well on our way to putting Barack Obama back in the White House for four more years. (Applause.) Four more years!

So here are your marching orders, directly from the First Lady. (Applause.) If you want to give me a nice anniversary present -- (laughter) -- here is something you can do: From now until November, we are going to need every single one of you to work like you've never worked before, truly. Thirty-four days -- that's how much time we have left, and that is not a long time in any campaign. It is time to get started. So we've got to turn all this energy into action. We've got to work till the very end. Take nothing for granted.

So we need you to sign up. And one of our volunteers here today -- you can find them; you can sign up to make phone calls, knock on doors, help get the vote out here on this campus and out in the community.

But more importantly, we need every single one of you to talk to everyone you know, just like Irene said -- your friends, your neighbors, that cousin you haven't seen in a while. You know the one that's not registered to vote. You know that one. That kid sitting next to you in your class -- you know he's not registered. (Laughter.) Talk to those people in your lives. Tell them what's at stake. Remind them of all the things that this President has accomplished, and make sure that you and they register to vote by October the 6th. That's right around -- that's in a couple of days. All right? We only have a limited amount of time. So all the students here, if you're fired up and you think you want to vote, you have got to be registered by October the 6th. All right? (Applause.)

So you should just do that today, all right? Just register to vote today. And then once you, folks in your lives are registered, then make sure everyone gets to the polls and casts their ballot on or before Election Day, because early voting starts on Saturday, October the 20th. (Applause.) So you don't have to wait until Election Day.

People are voting right now in states all over this country. Election day has started; people are voting. So we need as many of you as possible to vote early, because if you vote early, number one, you won't forget to vote on Election Day. And then you'll have a lot of time to figure out when you can really vote, when is easy -- you don't have to wake up, set your alarm. You just vote. (Laughter.)

And then once you vote early, you can spend Election Day like I'm going to spend Election Day -- working to get other people to the polls. Right? (Applause.)

So if anybody of you needs to know where to go or what to do, you just go to one of our websites. Go to vote.barackobama.com. Vote.barackobama.com, and there you can find out everything you need -- all the dates, where you need to go, what you need to do to make sure your voices are heard on Election Day. We got it? (Applause.) All right.

So here's the thing.


MRS. OBAMA: Yes, indeed!

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Vote the party!

MRS. OBAMA: Vote the party! And have his back.

But let me tell you something, I'm going to be honest with you, this election and this journey is going to be hard. Know that. Know that in your minds: It's going to be hard, and these next days are going to feel long. And there will be plenty of ups and downs all the way until the end, all right? Know that.

But when you get tired -- and you will -- and when you start to think about taking some time off -- and you will -- I just want you to remember that what we all do for the next 34 days will absolutely make the difference between waking up the day after Election Day and asking ourselves, "Could we have done more?", or feeling the promise of four more years.

So from now until November the 6th, we need you to keep working, all right? Keep struggling. Keep pushing forward. Because what I want you to understand is that -- again, especially for our young people -- that is how change always happens in this country. Real change takes time. It takes patience and tenacity.

But understand that if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight, then eventually we get there. In America, we always move forward. Always in this country, we move forward. (Applause.) But maybe not in our lifetimes. See, this is what we all have to understand -- maybe in our children's lifetimes, maybe in our grandchildren's lifetimes.

Because in the end, that's what this is about. That's what elections are always about. Don't let anybody tell you any differently. Elections are always about hope. (Applause.) The hope that I saw in my father's beaming face as I crossed that stage to get my college diploma. The hope that Barack's grandmother felt as she cast her ballot for the grandson she loved and raised. (Applause.) The hope that all of those men and women in our lives who worked that extra shift for us, who saved and sacrificed and prayed so that we could have something more -- the reason we're here. The hope that so many of us feel when we look into the eyes of our own kids and grandkids.

That is why we're here today, because we want all of our children in this country to have a real foundation for their dreams. You hear me? (Applause.) We want all of our children to have opportunities worthy of their promise. See, because all of our kids are worthy, and they need to know that. We want to give our children a sense of limitless possibility -- the belief that here in America, the greatest country on the planet, there is always something better out there if you're willing to work for it.

So, see, what I tell myself is that we cannot turn back now. Not now. We have come so far, but we have so much more work to do. So let me ask you this last question. Are you ready for this? (Applause.) Are you really ready for this? (Applause.) Are you ready to roll up your sleeves, vote, register, get other folks to vote and register? Can we do this? (Applause.) All right, well, then let's get it done.

Thank you all. Love you. God bless.

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event in Reno, Nevada Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320463

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