Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady at a Hillary for America Campaign Rally in Phoenix, Arizona

October 20, 2016

MRS. OBAMA: Wow! Whoa! Look at those guys! Hello, everyone! (Applause.) Wow. Look at you all, there are a lot of you all in here. (Applause.)

Thank you for waiting in line, all the mags, all the -- it's just such a hassle. Thank you, though. (Applause.)

You guys, I am so happy to be here in Phoenix with all of you! Thank you for coming out. (Applause.) But I want to start by thanking a few people, because there are a lot of folks who made this day possible and a lot of folks who are working to get Hillary elected. So let me start by thanking Carolyn, first of all, for that wonderful introduction. (Applause.)

I also want to recognize your members of Congress -- Representatives Raul Grijalva, Ann Kirkpatrick, to Ann -- Ruben Gallego, as well. Ruben. I want to thank the Navajo Nation Vice President, Jonathan Nez, and, of course, your Mayor, Greg Stanton, who is here. (Applause.)

But most of all, I want to thank you all for coming together to support the next President and Vice President of the United States -- Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine! (Applause.) Woohoo!

Now, you might have heard that last week in New Hampshire, I gave a speech. (Applause.) And let me just say that since then, my office has been flooded with thousands of letters and emails from folks all across the country. Women of all ages finding the courage to stand up and tell their stories, clearing the cloud of shame that existed for far too long. Parents declaring that our daughters -- and our sons -- deserve better. (Applause.) Speaking out for the values of decency and respect that we all hold dear. Men of all backgrounds and walks of life agreeing that decent men do not demean women -- (applause) -- and we shouldn't tolerate this behavior from any man, let alone a man who wants to be the President. (Applause.)

And let me just tell you, I have been so moved and so humbled by these responses -- by the powerful affirmation of our shared values. But what I have not been is surprised. Let me tell you, because this kind of courage and decency and compassion -- this is who we are. This is the America that I know. (Applause.)

And as I've read these letters and emails, I've been reminded of what my husband and I would always talk about when we were out on the campaign trail.


MRS. OBAMA: I love you, too. (Applause.)

But I have been reminded of the importance of hope. Because let me just say this, this is what hope looks like. (Applause.) It's that belief that we can be better, that we can do better for our kids; that even in our darkest hours, there's always a brighter day ahead -- (applause) -- and if we're willing to work for it and fight for it, we can make it happen. (Applause.)

Hope is what keeps our better angels alive. It's been the driving force behind everything we've achieved these last eight years, and it's been at the heart of my life and my husband's life since the day we were born.

And I think one of the reasons this election has been so difficult for so many of us is because that's what's being lost; in all the hateful, hurtful rhetoric we've been hearing, we're losing hope.

You see, in this race, we have a candidate whose vision for our country is completely and utterly lacking in hope. A candidate who tells us that our country is desperate and weak, that our communities are in chaos; that our fellow citizens are a threat. A candidate who calls on us to turn against each other, to build walls -- to be afraid.

Well, Barack and I -- and our friend, Hillary -- (applause) -- we have a very different perspective on this country, one that has everything to do with where we come from and how we were raised. You see, we all grew up in working families. As you know, Barack was raised by a single mother who struggled to pay the bills, and by grandparents who stepped up to help. My dad was a shift worker at the city water plant, and let me tell you, he and my mom scrimped and saved every penny to send me and my brother to college. (Applause.) Hillary's mother was an orphan, abandoned by her parents. Hillary's father -- small business owner -- stayed up nights, poring over his books, working hard to keep their family afloat.

See and when you grow up like us -- doing your best to keep it all together -- you come in contact with all kinds of people. And yes, you witness a lot of struggles and hardships. But let me tell you, you also see so many triumph, so much beauty so much joy. That's my life. (Applause.)

So you learn empathy. You learn compassion. You learn that folks may not look or think like you, but when it comes to what really matters in life -- our values and our dreams -- we're not all that different. (Applause.)

You learn that when folks are down on their luck, it's not because they deserve it. It's not because they're unworthy --because you've seen firsthand that sometimes bad things happen to good people and when times are tough, hope is all you have.

So the hope that sustains us isn't some naïve idea that if you sit around and do nothing, everything will be okay. No, no, our hope is grounded in hard work and hard-earned faith. It is grounded in belief that there is something greater than us that reminds us that we are all precious and worthy, no matter where we come from or what we've been through. (Applause.) That's what Barack and I believe. That's what Hillary believes too. (Applause.)

Now sadly, for some reason, Hillary's opponent comes from a different place. I don't know, perhaps living life high up in a tower, in a world of exclusive clubs, measuring success by wins and losses and the number of zeroes in your bank account -- perhaps you just develop a different set of values. Maybe with so little exposure to people who are different than you are -- becomes easy to take advantage of those who are down on their luck, folks who play by the rules -- pay what they owe -- because to you -- (applause) -- to you those folks just aren't very smart and seem somehow less deserving.

And if you think this way, then it's easy to see this country as "us" versus "them." And it's easy to dehumanize "them" -- to treat "them" with contempt -- because you don't know them. You can't even see them.

Maybe that's why this candidate thinks certain immigrants are criminals -- instead of folks who work their fingers to the bone to give their kids a better life -- (applause) -- to help build the greatest nation on Earth -- because he doesn't really know them.

Maybe that's why he thinks we should be afraid of our Muslim brothers and sisters -- because he has no idea who they are. (Applause.) He doesn't understand that they are "us." They are our friends, our family, our neighbors, our colleagues -- people of faith just like so many folks across this country. (Applause.)

Maybe that's why he sees veterans enduring the wounds of war as weak. And why he insults Gold Star families -- folks who have spent months praying not to get that knock at the door. Heroes who love this country so much they're willing to die for it. He just can't see them. (Applause.)

Maybe it's easy for him to mock people with disabilities because he is unable to see their strength and contributions. Maybe that's why he demeans and humiliates women, as if we're objects meant solely for pleasure and entertainment, rather than human beings worthy of love and respect. (Applause.) He just doesn't understand us.

Maybe that's why he calls communities like the one where I was raised "hell" -- because he can't see all of the decent, hardworking folks like my parents, who take those extra shifts, paid their bills on time. Folks who are raising amazing families, sending kids to college. (Applause.) Maybe he doesn't believe that people like us really exist. Because he does not see our shared humanity. And it is becoming increasingly clear that, to him, most of America is "them."

But here's the thing: look at us. (Applause.) Just look at us. We all know better. We all know better. Whether we're Democrats, Republicans, or independents -- it does not matter. We all understand that an attack on any one of us is an attack on all of us. (Applause.) And we know that that this is not who we are. No, who are we. We are a nation founded as a rebuke to tyranny. A nation of revolutionaries who refused sovereign reign from afar. Hear me -- we're a nation that says give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. A nation built on our differences, guided by the belief that we're all created equal. (Applause.) A nation that fully recognizes that we are always stronger together -- all of us. (Applause.) That's who we are. That's the country we want to raise our kids in.

And right now, we are at a crossroads, in this election and in this country, where we're being presented with two very, very different visions for how we move forward as a nation. One candidate is offering a vision that's grounded in hopelessness and despair -- a vision of a country riven by division and ruled by fear; a country where some folks get all the breaks, and the rest of us are left behind. That's one vision of America.

But, fortunately, there's another candidate in this race -- (applause) -- who's offering a very different vision for this country -- and that candidate is our friend, Hillary Clinton. (Applause.) Hillary knows that our country is powerful, and vibrant, and strong. Big enough to have a place for all of us, and that each of us is a precious part of the great American story.

Hillary believes in equality; inclusion; liberty and justice for all. That each of us should have the chance to fulfill our potential and build our shared future. That is Hillary's vision for America. And Hillary doesn't just have a powerful vision for this country -- she has the policies to actually make that vision a reality. (Applause.)

And isn't that what we've been looking for in this election? I can't tell you how many people have told me that they are desperate to cut through the negativity and the noise and hear what these candidates actually want to do. Well let me tell you, since the day Hillary launched her campaign, she has been laying out concrete, detailed policies that will actually make a difference in people's lives.

Let me tell you, if you're a young person worried about affording college, Hillary has a plan to make your education tuition-free and to help folks drowning in college debt. (Applause.)

Are you a parent who can't take a day off from work to care for a sick child or aging parent or give birth? Hillary has a plan for paid family leave that will help you. (Applause.) If you're working two, three jobs, and still struggling to get by, Hillary has a plan to raise the minimum wage. (Applause.)

She has a plan to improve our kids' schools, to cut taxes for working families, to fix our broken immigration system and provide a path of citizenship for millions of hardworking folks. (Applause.)

Look, I could go on and on. All these plans are on her website -- HillaryClinton.com. She has written an entire book about what she plans to do as President. And knowing Hillary like I do, I can pretty much guarantee you that she has been personally involved in every policy that she's issued. Because here's the thing about Hillary, she is a policy wonk -- and let me tell you, just for the record, when you are President that is a good thing. (Laughter and applause.) When you are President, being able to clearly articulate detailed plans to help the people of this country is a good thing. (Applause.) Knowing what you're doing is a good thing. (Applause.)

And let me tell you, Hillary Clinton absolutely knows what she's doing. 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. Do you hear me? (Applause.)

Over the course of her career, she has helped pass legislation to get health care for millions of our children, to support our 9/11 first responders and our National Guard and Reserves. (Applause.) She has fought for affordable child care, for equal pay for women, so much more. (Applause.)

And as Secretary of State, she traveled the globe, going toe-to-toe with world leaders, keeping our country safe. (Applause.) So Hillary Clinton has more experience, more exposure to the presidency than any candidate in our lifetime. More than Barack. More than Bill. And yes, she happens to be a woman. (Applause.)

Hillary has prepared her entire career to be President. Her opponent? Well, I'll just say this: Hillary has comprehensive policies to help people -- her opponent has tweets. You decide. (Applause.)

The bottom line is that Hillary has done everything she's supposed to do. She has done her job. Now it's time for us to do ours and get her elected President of the United States. (Applause.)

Because if Hillary does not win this election, that will be on us. It will be because we didn't stand with her. It will be because we didn't volunteer for her. I got you. You win. (Applause.) And it will because we did not vote for her.

And let me tell you this, that is exactly what her opponent is hoping will happen. That's the strategy -- to make this election so dirty and so ugly that we just turn off the TV and say, we just don't want any part of it.

So when you hear folks talking about a global conspiracy and saying this election is "rigged" -- understand that they are trying to get you to stay home. They are trying to convince you that your vote doesn't matter, that the outcome has already been determined, and you shouldn't even bother to make your voice heard. They are trying to take away your hope.

And for the record, our democracy is revered around the world. And free elections are the best way on Earth to choose our leaders. (Applause.) This is how we elected John F. Kennedy; Ronald Reagan; two George Bushes; Bill Clinton; and Barack Obama. (Applause.) It has worked for decades.

We are fortunate -- and I have traveled the world, we are fortunate to live in a country where the voters decide our elections, the voters decide who wins and loses. Period. End of story. And when a presidential candidate threatens to ignore our voices and reject the outcome of this election, he is threatening the very idea of America itself -- and we cannot stand for that. (Applause.)

You do not keep American democracy "in suspense." Because look, too many people have marched and protested and fought and died for this democracy. (Applause.) Please.

But here's the good news, right now folks are coming out in droves to vote early and stand up for our values. We are making our voices heard all across this country -- because when they go low --

AUDIENCE: We go high!

MRS. OBAMA: There you go. There you go. (Applause.)

And we cannot let anyone take away our hope. We cannot let anyone silence our voices. Because we know that every vote matters -- every single vote.

And if you have any doubt about that, I want you to consider back in 2012, Barack lost Arizona, this state, by 208,000 votes. That's okay. (Laughter.) But here's why I want you to think about that, because when you break that number down, the difference between winning and losing this state was only about 63 votes per precinct. Yeah. Just take that in. Sixty-three.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Arizona is going blue!

MRS. OBAMA: Going blue. (Applause.)

So as you're working and going to the polls, I want you to keep that number in your mind. If 63 people in each precinct had gone the other way, Barack would have won Arizona. And this year, we know it's much closer here in this state. (Applause.)

That's why I'm here. So if you just look around this room, each of you has the power to swing an entire precinct and win this election for Hillary just by getting yourselves, your family, and your friends to vote. If you just take responsibility for that -- look at this room, look at how many people are here. (Applause.) You have the power. Just remember that number.

But you could also help swing an entire precinct for Hillary's opponent with a protest vote or by not voting at all.

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 her opponent. So I want you all to think about that for a minute. Think about how you'll feel waking up on November the 9th if that happens.


MRS. OBAMA: Imagine how you'll feel if you stayed home, if you didn't do everything possible to get this done.

So here's what I'm asking. Don't just tweet about my speech last week. If you liked that speech, then go vote. (Applause.) If you want to stand up for yourself and your fellow Americans, then go vote. (Applause.) If you want to get Hillary elected, vote. Vote early. Vote right now. And here's the thing, I promise one of the volunteers. We need people to sign up to volunteer. This is critical. We need you all to find Hillary campaign folks who are here, sign up to make calls, knock on doors, get people to the polls on Election Day. Think about 63. If you get your 63, if you get your five, if everybody in here gets five people to the polls, that's easy. (Applause.) We can do this here! (Applause.)

So let me just say this, do not let yourself get tired, or frustrated, or disgusted by everything we've seen in this campaign. As you're out there working your hearts out, here's what I want you to be: Please be encouraged. Please be encouraged. If I leave you with one thing, be encouraged.

Because as I said, I have traveled the world. And I am telling you, we still live in the greatest country on Earth. (Applause.) I promise you that. And we have every reason to be hopeful. So be encouraged. And remember that in difficult times, we don't give up. We don't discard our highest ideals. No, we rise up to meet them. We rise up to perfect our union. We rise up to defend our blessings of liberty. We rise up to embody the unwavering hope that keeps us going -- day after day, generation after generation. That is the power of hope. (Applause.)

Don't forget that. Hope is what drives so many people in this country. Folks like Hillary's mother who said, I may not have grown up in a loving family, but I will build a loving family of my own. I will give my children what I never had. I will pour my heart into raising a strong, smart, loving daughter. That is hope.

Hope is what drives people like my dad, who struggled to get up every day, putting in long hours -- who said, I might not have gone to college myself, but if I keep working, maybe my son, maybe my daughter will go to college. Because in this country, anything is possible. (Applause.)

And hope is what drives Hillary Clinton. It is why she has spent her life fighting for kids who need a champion, families who need someone on their side. It's why she has persevered in the face of unthinkable challenges and obstacles. Because Hillary believes in the promise of our country. She believes in the talent and determination of the American people. And she shares our strong and unyielding hope -- our hope for our kids. Our hope for their future. Our hope for this country that we love so much.

Remember that is who we are. That is who we are. And don't let anybody tell you any differently. (Applause.)

So here's what we need to do. We need to work our hearts out, and we need to make sure that Hillary Clinton is the next President of the United States. (Applause.) We have 19 days, 19 days. So we need to do everything in our power to help her and Tim Kaine win this election.

So my final question, Phoenix: Are you with me? (Applause.) Are we going to get this done? I'm counting on you. We can make this happen.

Thank you all so much. God bless.

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady at a Hillary for America Campaign Rally in Phoenix, Arizona Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320889

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