Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady at a DSCC Women Senators Event in New York City

November 18, 2013

MRS. OBAMA: Well, good afternoon. (Applause.) Are you all fired up? Just how fired up are you? (Applause.) This is the time to be very fired up.

Thank you so much. It is a pleasure to be here today with so many fabulous women -- and I see a few brave men in there, too. (Laughter.) And speaking of fabulous women, I want to start by thanking Senator Tammy Baldwin for that very kind introduction. She is amazing. She is doing such a phenomenal job. (Applause.)

And I also want to recognize Senator Bennet for his terrific leadership as our DSCC Chair. (Applause.) So proud of you. Keep it up. I also want to thank all of the other senators and senate candidates who have taken the time to be here today. Truly, we are so grateful for your leadership, for your service.

And of course, most of all, I want to thank all of you for taking the time to be here today. I want to thank you for everything that you have done for my husband, and for so many other leaders who share our values. Thank you for being there for them year after year, election after election.

And, look, I know it hasn't always been easy. I know that there have been plenty of ups and downs over these years. But if you have ever wondered whether your support makes a difference, if you've ever doubted that it matters who we elect to serve in Congress, well, I think recent events should put any of those doubts to rest.

What happened last month reminded us that the folks that we send to Washington make decisions about some very important issues –- issues that affect our lives every single day. Will we be able to see a doctor when we're sick? Will our businesses have what they need to create good jobs? Will our kids have what they need to learn and grow –- things like decent nutrition, safe streets, good schools?

And make no mistake about it, these questions –- questions that are debated every day in Congress –- these questions speak to our most fundamental values and aspirations as a nation. See, we believe, here in America, no matter how you start out, if you're willing to work for it, if you're willing to sacrifice for it, you should be able to build a decent life for yourself and an even better life for your kids. That's the American Dream that we all believe in. We can never forget that.

No, we don't believe in handouts. We don't think anyone should get a free ride. But we also understand one simple principle -- that "there but for the grace of God go I;" that in the blink of an eye, any of us -- any of us -- could be faced with a terrible diagnosis. Any of us could be injured in a horrible accident. Any of us could lose the job we count on to support our family -- any of us.

And when that happens, it shouldn't mean falling off a cliff. It shouldn't mean having to go without food, or medicine, or a roof over our heads –- not here in the United States of America. Not in the greatest country on the planet. That is not who we are.

Here in America, while we expect everyone to do their fair share, we also believe that we should give everyone a fair shot. We believe that everyone should have the basic security they need to provide for their families, give their kids a decent chance in life. And that's the kind of security that I and I know so many of you grew up with.

You know my story by now. My family wasn't rich -– far from it. You know that my father had MS, which is a serious chronic condition. So we lived with the reality that at any given moment, my father could have had a flare-up, needed medication, even been hospitalized. That's how we lived our lives. But we were lucky -- my father's job at the city water plant provided health insurance, so my dad was able to stay healthy enough to get up every day and to go work.

So for families like mine, health insurance meant everything -- it meant everything. It gave my dad the pride and dignity of being our provider, being able to pay our bills on time. He was even able to pay the tiny little bit of my college tuition that wasn't covered by student loans and grants. And, in turn, that allowed me to get my degree, build my career, and to support a family of my own.

And every family in this country deserves that kind of security. Every child deserves that kind of opportunity. And that's why Barack has worked so hard to lift up the middle class. That's why he fought so hard and risked so much to pass the Affordable Care Act. (Applause.) And that's why, time and again, he has stood strong for our most fundamental values -- whether that's getting equal pay for women, or ending "don't ask, don't tell," or supporting our right to marry the person we love. (Applause.)

And today, not even five years after Barack took office in the depths of a historic economic crisis, we're now seeing the results of those convictions and all that hard work. As Tammy said, our auto industry is back -- there's no doubt about that. Our housing market is rebounding. Our deficits are shrinking. And our businesses have created 7.5 million new jobs.

But please, let us be very clear, Barack hasn't done any of this alone, just sitting by himself in the Oval Office -- so sad. (Laughter.) Fortunately, he has not been alone.

Remember the Recovery Act that helped rescue our economy and create all those jobs? Well, we needed Congress to pass that bill. And, as Tammy said, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to help women get equal pay for equal work? Believe it or not, that bill was passed by Congress back in 2009 -- Congress was working then. And the Affordable Care Act? That's right, Obamacare was passed by Congress in 2010, signed by my husband, and upheld by the Supreme Court. (Applause.)

So at the end of the day, so many of our most important accomplishments, so much of what Barack has done to help working families, that all happened because of who we had in Congress. Let's not forget that some of our most frustrating defeats happened for the exact same reason.

The DREAM Act -- an act that gives immigrant kids a fair shot, kids brought here by their parents through no fault of their own -- this act failed, once by just five votes in the Senate, and once by just four. So the President had to sign an executive order to finally get these kids some relief. And let's not forget about that commonsense gun legislation that so many of us feel so strongly about. Sadly, as you know, that bill failed, and you want to know by how many votes? It failed by just six votes in the Senate -- six.

So make no mistake about it, the midterm elections matter. They matter. And if you want to bring some change to Congress, then we can't just sit around feeling angry or helpless or hopeless. Because there's something that we and all of you can do right now, today, to make a huge difference, and it's simple: You can write a big old fat check. (Laughter.) That's what we need you to do right now. Write a big check, big huge one. Write the biggest check you can possibly write. Take your frustration, your passion, your hope and turn that into real, meaningful support for leaders who will truly represent the people they serve.

Do not wait another minute, because the stakes are simply too high. They couldn't be higher. And so many people, people I meet every day, they are counting on all of us to make our voices heard. Families who are working harder than ever and deserve to make a decent wage, they're counting on us, because no one in this country should work 40 or 50 hours a week and still be stuck in poverty. That's not who we are.

Folks without insurance who've been living from emergency to emergency. Folks who've been ignoring their symptoms and just praying that nothing goes wrong -- that's been their health care -- because no one should go without health care in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. (Applause.) They're counting on us.

Our children and grandchildren all across this country, they deserve good schools, the chance to go to college. They deserve commonsense gun safety laws to keep them safe in their classrooms and in their neighborhoods. So those kids, they are counting on us. (Applause.)

And all the women and families who don't want anyone interfering with their most private health decisions –- women who are more than capable of making our own choices about our bodies -- those women are counting on us to stand up and fight for their rights and freedoms. They're counting on us. (Applause.) And that's why we need your support. That's why I'm here. That's why we're here.

And I know that some of you might occasionally feel a little bit annoyed that we're always hitting you up for some money. Somebody said that to me -- oh, it was you. (Laughter.) No, it wasn't. But that's okay. It's okay, you can admit it, it's annoying.

But the thing is -- it's the truth -- we do this because writing those checks is the single most impactful thing that you can do right now, because it's not enough for us to have the most dedicated, hard-working, public-minded candidates if they don't have the resources they need to win elections. It's not enough for us to have the best policies and ideas if no one hears about them and we never get a chance to implement them.

So we can't just sit back on our moral high ground feeling good about ourselves. We need to keep moving forward. And that's why your support is so vitally important, because when you dig deep, that translates into things like staff hired and offices opened. It translates into calls made, doors knocked on, and ads running where they need to run. That's what happens when you dig deep. These things don't happen by magic. You all know, you've been involved long enough -- they only happen because of folks like you.

And I also know that it feels like we just did this big push for the 2012 Presidential election, and I know it can be hard to get geared up again for the midterms. But when you find yourself starting to tune out or to get a little fatigued, I just want you to think about some cold, hard numbers that I think about every day.

The fact is that right now, we are just six seats away from losing the Senate -- just six. That's how close these midterm elections are. So it is critical that we elect Michelle Nunn, Alison Grimes, Natalie Tennant. It is critical that we get them to the Senate. And it is just as critical that we elect -- reelect Senators Mary Kay Hagan, Mary Landrieu, Jeanne Shaheen -- it is critical, because we all know that it's not enough to elect Barack Obama President if we don't give him a Congress that will help him keep moving this country forward. We know that now. We've seen it. We've experienced it. (Applause.)

So we need you all to max out. And just as important, once you've maxed out, we need you to get everyone you know to give whatever they can, as well. (Laughter.) Yes, there's more. And I know as women that there's nothing more uncomfortable than asking people for stuff. I hate doing this. I love you all, but I hate asking you guys for stuff -- and I've gotten pretty good at it. (Laughter and applause.)

We as women, we feel a little awkward asking for stuff. We feel a little embarrassed to ask people for money. Oh, my goodness. But this is what I think when I start feeling shy or embarrassed -- I just think -- I want you to think about all those folks, again, who are counting on us every day; all those kids, all those women, all those families who need someone on their side standing up for them.

So now is not the time for us to be hesitant, or doubtful, or fatigued. Now is the time for us to be energized. Ladies, now is the time for us to be inspired -- not in four years, not in two, now is the time. Now is the time to tap into the deep well of passion and compassion and strength that we all have as women. No one can do this better than us as women.

And here's the thing -- we have seen it time and time again -- when we do that, when we step up and dig deep and bring others along with us, then we keep making that change that we believe in. We keep moving this country forward. And together, we keep building a future worthy of our children.

So are you all ready for this? (Applause.) Ladies, are we ready for this? We've got these candidates, they are strong, they are smart, they are the best this country has to offer. And the only thing standing between them and victory is us. We can do this. We've got the right people. Now we just need to roll up our sleeves and do the work.

And I'm going to be there with you all and with these candidates every step of the way. So I'm going to be working hard and I'm going to be counting on each and every one of you to do the same.

So thank you so much, and God bless. (Applause.)

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady at a DSCC Women Senators Event in New York City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320183

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