Michelle Obama photo

Remarks by the First Lady to the Human Rights Campaign Luncheon in Charlotte, North Carolina

September 05, 2012

MRS. OBAMA: Thank you all so much. (Applause.) Oh, my goodness! You all, rest yourselves if you're anything like me. I'm a little tired after last night. (Laughter.)

But I am beyond thrilled and proud to be with all of you today. Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.


MRS. OBAMA: Oh, my gosh. (Applause.)

I'm not going to talk long because I think you might be a little sick of me. (Laughter.)


MRS. OBAMA: Thank you so much.

I want to start by thanking Chad for that very kind introduction and for his terrific leadership. I love him dearly. I think he's a terrific individual and he is doing a great job here at the HRC. So let's give him another round of applause. (Applause.)

And I also want to thank Mayor Villaraigosa for joining us today and for his outstanding service. He is doing a phenomenal job as Chairman of this convention, but he's also been a terrific advocate with me as we stand together to fight the issue of childhood obesity. So he's been a terrific leader there as well.

And I also want to recognize a Congresswoman who has been a great leader in the House of Representatives, and who I know will make an outstanding senator for the state of Wisconsin -- Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin. Tammy, where are you? (Applause.) Yes, Tammy! That's my girl. We got to hang out at one of our rallies in Wisconsin. People were fired up. Fired up. (Laughter.) It's good to see you, Tammy.

So how about that opening night last night? Yes. (Applause.) The energy and the enthusiasm that we saw last night made it clear that folks are pretty fired up, right? (Applause.) I didn't see any enthusiasm gap, right? Everybody was pretty excited. But more importantly, last night truly set the stage for what's at stake in this election and it set the stage for what we need to guide us forward for these next four years, because we have so much more work to do.

The evening reflected Barack's broad and inclusive vision for this country as a place where every single one of us has something unique and special to contribute. That's the beauty of this party and last night. And we should all have a chance to make a place in this country, to have a stake in this if we're willing to work hard.

And today, I want to thank all of you, truly, for playing a critical role in making that vision a reality. We wouldn't be here if it weren't for the hard work of the people in this room and around the country. I want to thank you for doing everything that you do every single day to lift up our communities and move this country forward, and ensure that all Americans are treated fairly no matter who they are or who they love.


MRS. OBAMA: Yes, I do, too. (Applause.) We have something in common. (Laughter.)

But whether it's passing hate crimes legislation or refusing to defend DOMA; whether it's ending "don't ask, don't tell" or ensuring that -- yes, yes -- (applause) -- or ensuring that people can be at their loved one's hospital bedside -- (applause) -- or speaking out for the rights of all Americans to be able to do what Barack and I did and marry the love of our lives -- (applause) -- as President, my husband has stood strong for the basic values of freedom, justice and equality that make this country great. And he always will.

And that's why all of you are here today, because you know that all of that and so much more is at stake in this election. We can't take anything for granted because it's all still on the line. And I know you're here today because you believe, like I believe, that our President, my husband, he's done an extraordinary job. Truly, I am so proud of him. (Applause.) And as I said last night, he has done it with vision, with character, with wisdom, with grace, with the experience that we need to keep moving this country forward for four more years.

But the one thing I want to point out here today is that we don't want to make any mistake about it -- this election is about even more than the issues that are at stake right now. It's about even more than the candidates that are on the ballot this year. This election, more than any other in history, is about how we want our democracy to function for decades to come. (Applause.) It's about the lessons that we want to teach our kids and our grandkids as they watch these campaigns and they see those results on election night.

And we have to ask ourselves, do we want to give a few individuals in this country a far bigger say in our democracy than anybody else?


MRS. OBAMA: Do we want our elections to be about who buys the most ads on TV?


MRS. OBAMA: Do we want our kids and grandkids to walk away from this election feeling like regular folks can no longer be heard?


MRS. OBAMA: Or are we going to show them that here in America, we all have an equal voice in the voting booth, and we all have a say in our country's future, and a bottom-up, grassroots movement of people who love this country can always come together to move this country forward? (Applause.)

And what I want you all to focus on, because we can be fired up, which we are -- (laughter) -- and we can be ready to go, but you know it's the work on the ground that makes the difference. So with every call that you make -- and I hope you are out there making calls; with every door you knock on -- this is an active campaign; with every voter you register -- because there are so many young people who are not registered, that are not focused, that are not paying attention, you all are providing the answers to those questions. You all are making a powerful statement about how we want our democracy to work. And by taking part in the democratic process that, for more than two centuries, has made this country one of the greatest countries on Earth, you all are helping to preserve that legacy for generations to come.

So what I want to say here today is that we don't have a single minute to waste. We really don't. Time is of the essence. And we need you all to be fired up, but we need you to work like never before. I mean, truly work like never before. We need you out there every single day between now and November the 6th. You see my face? I'm serious. (Laughter and applause.) It's my serious-First-Lady face. (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Your mom face.

MRS. OBAMA: My mom face, that's right. (Laughter.) That's it. You heard me, Sasha. (Laughter.) Yes, that's how it works. (Laughter and applause.)

But I've been out there, and I've been traveling. I will be out there. I'm going to be working as hard as I can and going every place I can go. (Applause.) And let me tell you what I have seen out there: We have a first-rate campaign. I am so proud of the campaign that we are building, because it is a truly grassroots foundation. We've got thousands of offices all across this country. People who have been out there, you know our offices, our volunteers, our team leaders -- we have millions of people who are taking time out of their lives, who don't have time or money to spare, but they're going into these campaign offices, they're making calls, they're knocking on doors -- millions of people.

And we also have millions of ways for people to get involved and volunteer. That is never the excuse. People can go to barackobama.com today and find out how they can sign up to get involved. So we have the resources to really handle all of this energy in this room and beyond.

So here's what I want you to think about: If you do not live in a battleground state, get to one. (Laughter.) Get your suitcase, pack it up, get a car, do something, find that neighbor -- get to a battleground state. If you can afford it, write a check -– and if you haven't maxed out, max out. Max out. (Laughter and applause.)

But the more powerful thing that you can do is that you can make sure that every single person that you know -- truly, leave no stone unturned; those friends, those neighbors, that nephew or niece who is kind of wayward and maybe you haven't seen them since Christmas -- (laughter) -- that college roommate you haven't spoken to in a while -- yes, see, you're looking. You know that guy, don't you? (Laughter.) Call him. Make sure that every single one of them gets to the poll and casts their votes.

Because, as Barack has said, this election is going to be even closer than the last one. And quite frankly, all of these elections are close. Since I have been an adult paying attention to this stuff, they're always close. But in the end, this election, like many, could come down to that last few thousand votes in a single battleground state. And what I've been doing is just sort of trying to put that in perspective, because when I see the numbers it's pretty telling about how much power individuals have.

But if you think back to what happened in 2008, Barack then -- back then we won Florida by about 236,000 votes, okay? (Applause.) And while that might sound like a lot, when we break that down, that's just 36 votes per precinct. Think about that -- just 36 votes in a precinct. So where you live, that means -- if where you live, you are pulling out 36, 40, 50 new people, you might be the person that carries the day in the state of Florida. And if you think that's close, don't forget that we won North Carolina by just 14,000 votes, which means just five votes per precinct. Five votes per precinct! That's what makes the difference.

So no one here can sit back and say, "I can't possibly have an impact in this election," because that is absolutely not true. Everyone here can really, truly make a difference. So starting the minute that you get up out of these chairs -- whenever that's going to be, because you still have food -- (laughter) -- you may finish lunch -- (laughter and applause) -- but after that, I want you all to get out there and think about who your 36 votes are going to be. Get out there. Find out who are your five votes. Then when you get that 36 or you get that five, then get five more, and then get five more, and again and again, and don't stop until the polls close on November the 6th.

Because what we all do every day for the next 62 days, that is going to be the difference between us waking up on November the 7th and looking at each other wondering, "Could I have done more?", or feeling the promise of four more years and all that can be accomplished in four more years. (Applause.)

So that's a direct action item, right? That's clear, it's consistent, it's something that everybody can do. Everybody has somebody in their lives that they can influence, whether it's just getting them to register to vote, really challenging them on the issues if they're on the fence, pulling somebody in who is not engaged, finding that person who hasn't written a check yet "just because." We all know those people. So we need you to be fired up and ready to go and ready to really roll up your sleeves and make this happen. Because, as Barack and I say time and time again, we have come so far, but we have so much more to do. And we can't afford to turn back now. Not now. All our kids are watching this. They are counting on us to step up and, as I said last night, to do what was hard, like our parents and grandparents did for us.

So let's make this happen. Let's make this happen. We need your help.

Thank you all so much. God bless you. Love you all. (Applause.)

Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady to the Human Rights Campaign Luncheon in Charlotte, North Carolina Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320287

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