Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady at a Hillary for America Campaign Event at La Salle University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

September 28, 2016

MRS. OBAMA: Wow! (Applause.) Hey! (Applause.) Oh, my goodness. There is some excitement up in here, huh? (Applause.) I'm excited too! Oh, my goodness. Well, let's get started, because we're going to talk about some things. (Laughter.)

But first of all, I am thrilled to be here today to support the next President and Vice President of the United States, Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine! (Applause.) Yes! But I'm going to start with a few thank-yous.

First of all, I want to than Ludmille. I mean, are all you students like her? She is amazing, and I know you all are too. Let's give her a round of applause. Yes! (Applause.)

I also want to recognize your U.S. State -- U.S. Senate candidate, Katie McGinty. Katie is here. (Applause.) Your U.S. House of Representatives candidate, Dwight Evans. (Applause.) Your candidate for Attorney General, Josh Shapiro. (Applause.) Your State Senator, Art Haywood. (Applause.) And City Councilwoman, Cindy Bass. (Applause.) I know you all heard from them earlier today, so let's thank them for being here and let's wish them luck on the future. We're going to get a lot of things done.

But most of all, I want to thank all of you here at LaSalle University. (Applause.) Yeah! (Applause.) Well, I have heard some great things about this school and about the students and staff, so I am so proud and honored to be here.

Now, it's hard to believe -- (applause) -- hey! (Applause.) I see you all over there. I love you all too. But we've got work to do here today. Because it is almost one month to Election Day, and I cannot believe it. And it's about time for my family to end our time in the White House.


MRS. OBAMA: It's all right. It's all right. Two terms -- it's a reason. It's a good thing, it's a good thing. But I have to tell you, even though we've had a great -- this is a bittersweet time for me. I mean, because we're engaged in a time of great transition -- for me, for Barack, for Malia and Sasha, even Bo and Sunny. (Laughter.) I mean, what are they going to do when we leave? My husband has got to find a new job. I have to find a new job. (Laughter.) We've got to move to a new home, we're going to need to pack. We've got to pack up the old house, get it cleaned up so we can get our security deposit back. (Laughter.)

But of course, this isn't just a time of transition for my family, but for our entire country, as we decide who our next President will be. And transitions like these can be difficult. They can involve a lot of uncertainty. We saw that back in 2008 when Barack was first elected.

I don't know if you all remember, especially that little one there -- you weren't even born -- (laughter) -- but back then, people had all kinds of questions about what kind of President Barack would be. Things like: Does he really understand us? Will he protect us?

And then, of course, there are those who questioned –- and continued to question for the past eight years –- whether my husband was even born in this country -- and let me say, hurtful, deceitful questions deliberately designed to undermine his presidency. Questions that cannot be blamed on others or swept under the rug by an insincere sentence uttered at a press conference.

Let me take a moment. (Laughter.)

But during his time in office, I think Barack has answered these questions with the example he's set and the dignity he's shown –- by going high when they go low. (Applause.) And he's answered those questions with the progress we've achieved together. Progress like health reform, passing health care. Creating millions of jobs. Slashing the unemployment rate. Lifting millions of people out of poverty. Expanding LGBT rights so marriage equality is now the law of the land. (Applause.) I could go on.

But even after all this progress, it's understandable that folks are feeling a little uncertain as we face this next transition. So the question is: How do we sort through all the negativity, all the name-calling in this election and choose the right person to lead our country forward?

Well, as someone who has seen the presidency up close and personal, let me share with you what I've learned about this job -- lessons that seem even more relevant, even more critically important after watching Monday's debate.

First and foremost, this job is hard. It is the highest-stakes, most 24/7 job you can possibly imagine. The issues that cross a President's desk are never easy. And solutions to persistent, systemic challenges are never black and white. I mean, just think about the crises this President has faced these last eight years.

In his first term alone, Barack had to rescue our economy from the worst crisis since the Great Depression. (Applause.) He had to make the call to take out Osama bin Laden. (Applause.) Respond to devastating natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy. (Applause.) And so much more. So, when it comes to the qualifications we should demand in a President, to start with, we need someone who will take the job seriously, someone who will study and prepare so that they understand the issues better than anyone else on their team.

And we need someone with superb judgment in their own right. Because a President can hire the best advisors on Earth, but I guarantee you that five advisors will give five different opinions, and it is the President -- and the President alone -- who always has to make the final call. We also need someone who is steady and measured. Because when making life-or-death, war-or-peace decisions, a President just can't pop off or lash out irrationally. (Applause.) No, we need an adult in the White House, I guarantee you.

And finally, we need someone who is compassionate. Someone who will be a role model for our kids. Someone who's not just in this for themselves but for the good of this entire country -- all of us. (Applause.) See, at the end of the day, as I've said before, the presidency doesn't change who you are, it reveals who you are. (Applause.) And the same is true of a presidential campaign.

U.S. presidential campaigns are very long -- nearly two and a half years, or half of one presidential term. Just think about that. So if a candidate is erratic and threatening; if a candidate traffics in prejudice, fears and lies on the campaign trail; if a candidate thinks that not paying taxes makes you smart, or that it's good business when people lose their homes; if a candidate regularly and flippantly makes cruel and insulting comments about women, about how we look, how we act -- well, sadly, that's who that candidate really is. That is the kind of President they will be.

And trust me, a candidate is not going to suddenly change once they're in office -- just the opposite, in fact. Because the minute that individual takes that oath, they are under the hottest, harshest light there is, and there's no way to hide who they really are. But see, at that point, it's too late. They are the leader of the world's largest economy, Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful military force on Earth. With every word they utter, they can start wars, crash markets, fundamentally change the course of this planet.

So who in this election is truly ready for that job? Who do we pick? Well, for me -- and I hope there are some who are still deciding here -- but for me, it's very clear that there is only one person in this race who we can trust with those responsibilities, only one person with the qualifications and temperament for this job, and that person is our friend, Hillary Clinton. (Applause.)

So let me tell you why. We know that Hillary's the right person because we have seen her character and commitment not just during this campaign but over the course of her entire life. We've seen her dedication to public service -– how after law school, she became an advocate for kids with disabilities. She fought for children's health care as First Lady and for quality childcare as a Senator. And when she didn't become President in 2008, Hillary didn't throw in the towel. No, she once again answered the call to serve and earned sky-high approval ratings for the outstanding job she did for us as our Secretary of State. (Applause.)

And for those who question her stamina to be President, Hillary's resilience is more than proven. As she said on Monday night, she's the only candidate in this race who has traveled to 112 countries; who has negotiated a cease fire, a peace agreement, a release of dissidents; who's spent 11 hours testifying before a congressional committee. Hillary is tough. (Applause.) And when she gets knocked down, she doesn't complain. She doesn't cry foul. No, she gets back up. She comes back stronger for the people who need her most.

And here is what's also true: Hillary is one of the few people on this entire planet -– and clearly the only person in this race –- who actually has any idea what this job entails, who's seen it from every angle -- the staggering stakes, the brutal hours, the overwhelming stresses. And here's the thing --she still wants to do this job. (Laughter.) Because she believes that she has an obligation to use her talents. What do we teach you all? To use your talents to help as many people as possible. That's why Hillary Clinton is running.

See, now that's dedication. That's what love of country looks like. So when I hear folks saying that they don't feel inspired in this election, I have to disagree. See, because for eight years, I have seen what it takes to actually do this job. And here's what I know for sure: Right now, we have an opportunity to elect one of the most qualified people who has ever endeavored to become President. (Applause.) Hillary has been a lawyer, a law professor, First Lady of Arkansas, First Lady of the United States, a U.S. Senator, Secretary of State. That's why I'm inspired by Hillary. (Applause.)

I'm inspired by her persistence, her consistency; by her heart and by her guts. And I'm inspired by her lifelong record of public service. No one in our lifetime has ever had as much experience and exposure to the presidency -- not Barack, not Bill, nobody -- and, yes, she happens to be a woman. (Applause.)

So, trust me, Pennsylvania, experience matters. Preparation matters. Temperament matters. And Hillary Clinton has it all. She's the real deal. I have come to know her very well over the years, and I know that she is more than ready, more than able to be an outstanding President for all of us.

So we cannot afford to squander this opportunity, particularly given the alternative. Because we know that being President isn't anything like reality TV. It is not an apprenticeship. (Applause.) And it is not just about fiery speeches or insulting tweets. It's about whether someone can handle the awesome responsibility of leading this country.

So as you prepare to make this decision, I urge you to ignore the chatter and the noise and ask yourselves which candidate really has the experience, the maturity, the temperament to handle this job. Which candidate's words and actions speak to the values we share –- values like inclusion, opportunity, sacrifice for others. Because your answers to these questions on Election Day will determine who sits in the Oval Office after Barack Obama.

And let's be clear: Elections aren't just about who votes, but who doesn't vote. (Applause.) And that is especially true for young people like all of you. In fact, in 2012, voters under the age of 30 -- yay for you all -- (applause) -- that is not me -- (laughter) -- you provided the margin of victory for Barack in four key battleground states: Florida, Ohio, Virginia, and right here in Pennsylvania. You all did it. (Applause.) But hear this: Without those votes, Barack would have lost those states. He would have lost that election, period, end of story.

And for any of you who might be thinking that your one vote doesn't really matter, or that one person can't really make a difference, consider this: Back in 2012, Barack won Pennsylvania by about 300,000 votes -- which sounds like a lot. But see, when you break that number down, the difference between winning and losing this state was only 17 votes per precinct. Take that in. Seventeen votes. That's how presidential elections are won and lost -- on five votes, 17 votes per precinct.

So the fact is that each of you here in this auditorium, in this special place -- we're in a gym, right? (Laughter.) Got confused. (Laughter.) But each of you could swing an entire precinct and win this election for Hillary just by getting yourselves, your family, your classmates out to vote. That's all you have to do. (Applause.) That's it. You can do it. You have the power. (Applause.)

But you could also help swing an entire precinct for Hillary's opponent with a protest vote or by staying home out of frustration. Because here's the truth: Either Hillary Clinton or her opponent will be elected President this year. And if you vote for someone other than Hillary, or if you don't vote at all, then you are helping to elect Hillary's opponent. And the stakes are far too high to take that chance, too high. (Applause.) Remember, it's not about voting for the perfect candidate -- there is no such person. In this election, it's about making a choice between two very different candidates with very different visions for our nation.

So the question is: Do you want Hillary Clinton to be your President, or do you want her opponent to be your President? That is the choice in this election. And if you choose Hillary, like I am and have and will, then we have to get to work. And it is not enough to come to a rally and post some selfies -- and that's all cute and all that. (Laughter.) My kids do that all the time. It's not enough to get angry and just speak out about the need for change. We all must take action to elect folks who will stand with us to make that change. That's your job.

So you need to get yourself and everyone you know registered to vote today. (Applause.) And we have volunteers here who will help. When this is all over, if you're feeling fired up -- and even if you're not -- go find them and get registered before you leave.

And then we need you to roll up your sleeves. Because voting is just part of it. We need you to make calls, knock on doors, get folks out to vote on Election Day. (Applause.) Again, you can sign up with one of the Hillary campaign folks who are here today. I want to see the numbers here go up when I leave. And as you start working your hearts out for Hillary, if you start to feel tired or discouraged by all the negativity in this election, if you just want to hide under the bed and come out when it's all over, I just want you to remember what's at stake, particularly for our young people. Because the choice you make on November 8th will determine whether you can afford your college tuition. It will determine whether you can keep your health care when you graduate.

On November 8th, you all will decide whether we have a President who believes in science and will combat climate change or not. (Applause.) A President who will honor our proud history as a nation of immigrants or not. (Applause.) A President who thinks that women deserve the right to make our own choices about our heath or not. (Applause.) That's just a taste of what's at stake.

So we can't afford to be tired or turned off. Not now. Because while this might feel like a time of uncertainty and division, let me tell you, I have never felt more hopeful about the future of this great nation. And it's because I know you all, our young people. I feel that way because for the past eight years, I've had the great honor of traveling from one end of this country to the other. I've met people from every conceivable background and walk of life. And time and again, I have seen proof of what Barack and I have always believed in our hearts -- that we as Americans are fundamentally decent, good people, and we all truly want the same things.

Time and again, Barack and I have met people who disagree with just about everything we have ever said -- (laughter) -- but who welcome us into their communities –- folks who are open-hearted and willing to listen respectfully. And while we might not change each other's minds, we always walk away reminded that we're not all that different.

See, millions of folks in this country are working long hours to send their kids to college just like my mom and dad did for me. They're helping to raise their grandkids just like Barack's grandparents did for him. They're teaching their kids the exact same values that Barack and I are trying to teach our girls -- that you work hard for what you want in life and you don't take shortcuts. That you treat people with respect, even if they don't look or think like you. That when someone is struggling, you don't turn away from them, you certainly don't take advantage of them -- no, you imagine walking a mile in their shoes and you do what you can to help. That's what we're trying to teach our kids.

Because that's what we do in America -- a country where a girl like me from the South Side of Chicago, whose great-great grandfather was a slave, can graduate from some of the finest universities on Earth. (Applause.) We live in a country where a biracial kid from Hawaii who was the son of a single mother can become President. (Applause.) We live in a country that has always been a beacon for people who have come to our shores and poured their hopes, and their prayers, and their backbreaking hard work into making us who we are today.

So let me tell you, especially our young people, don't let anyone ever take away your hope. Don't let them do it. That's what makes America great. (Applause.) And we deserve a President who can see those truths in us. A President who believes that each of us is part of the American story and we're always stronger together. A President who can bring out the best in us -- our kindness, our decency, our courage, our determination, so that we can keep perfecting our union and passing those blessings of liberty down to our children.

Hillary Clinton will be that President. (Applause.) And from now until November, I am going to work as hard as I can to get her and Tim Kaine elected. We need you to do the same thing. We need you to do everything you can to close the door on this election and make it happen so we can keep moving this country forward.

So my question to you is: Are you with me? (Applause.) I can't hear you. Are we going to do this? (Applause.) We're going to need your help. We're going to need you fired up. This is on you. You all can make the difference. Can we make it happen? (Applause.)

Thank you all. God bless. (Applause.)

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady at a Hillary for America Campaign Event at La Salle University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320877

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