9:34 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. Thank you. (Applause.) You don't need to stand up again. No, you already did that, come on, come on. (Applause.) Thank you, everybody. Thank you so much. (Applause.)
Let me, first of all, thank Doug and Judy and George and Lizbeth. What a spectacular evening. You guys could not be more gracious. And if this is the first time you've done this -- you're actually quite good at this. (Laughter.) So just want to let you know that you're doing fine. (Laughter.) Really.
A couple other people who are here -- as was mentioned, Rob Barber has been an extraordinary friend for many, many years. And so we thank him for all of his support. (Applause.) We've also got somebody who I met when I was still running for the U.S. Senate and has been a wonderful friend all these years -- your Treasurer, Steve Grossman, is here. (Applause.) Where is Steve? There he is.
And finally, let me just say that somebody who I genuinely consider a brother -- I don't mean that in the vernacular. (Laughter.) I mean somebody who -- when I think about people who I admire, I care about, who I just think is good people and who articulates a vision of what this country should be as well as anybody in this country -- it's your Governor, Deval Patrick. (Applause.) I love the guy. Thank you. (Applause.) Deval Patrick. (Applause.)
So some of you were at Symphony Hall, and I had a chance to give a long speech. And what I'd like to do tonight -- take advantage of the fact that we have an intimate setting -- I'm not going to give a long speech at the front end. What I'd rather do is have a conversation, answer your questions, take some comments.
But let me just say at the top that many of you were involved in the election in 2008, and in some ways when I talk to my political team about -- and reminisce about 2008, it was like lightening in a bottle. It captured a spirit and an energy and an electricity that was spectacular. And I couldn't be prouder of the campaign we ran in 2008.
But in some ways, this election is more important than 2008. In some ways, the stakes are higher. Because back in 2008, there was some overlap between Democrats and Republicans on some important issues. The nominee from the other party believed in climate change, believed in campaign finance reform, believed in immigration reform. And what we’ve seen in the face of probably the worst financial crisis and economic crisis of our lifetimes is that the Republican Party has moved in a fundamentally different direction, so that on every issue we have fundamental choices that are at stake that will determine not just how we do tomorrow or the next day, but for the next 10 years or the next 20 years.
And I’ve said this before and I believe it -- this is a make-or-break moment for who we are as a country and the values that we live by. And I think it's a make-or-break moment for the middle class in this country, or everybody who is aspiring to get into the middle class.
Obviously we're still recovering from the financial crisis and the economic crisis, and there are a lot of people who are still out of work, and a lot of homes that are still underwater, and a lot of businesses that are still struggling. But for a decade before that crisis, what we had seen was that the basic bargain that built this country, that allowed so many of us to be successful -- the notion that if you work hard, no matter who you are, where you come from, what you look like, who you love, you can make it; that if you're responsible and you look after your family and you apply yourself, you can support a family and have a home and send your kids to college so they can do better than you ever imagined -- that basic compact had been eroding -- so that job growth had been more sluggish in the previous decade than any time in the previous 50 years, and a few people were doing extraordinarily well, but for more and more people it was a struggle just to keep up.
And it was papered over for a while through debt and home equity loans and credit cards, but that was a house of cards that all came tumbling down. And so, even as we work on the immediate task of putting people back to work and getting the economy growing faster, we've got this underlying challenge that we have to meet. And that is, how do we get back to an economy that is built to last, and where everybody has got a fair shot and everybody is doing their fair share and everybody is playing by the same set of rules?
And in answering that question, we've got two fundamentally different visions -- one vision that essentially can be summed up as get rid of all regulations and cut taxes for another $5 trillion, a top-down approach to economic growth.
And I've got a different vision that says we are entrepreneurs and rugged individualists, and we don't expect to help people who don't want to help themselves, but we also believe in a common good. And we believe in things like a public education system and colleges and universities that give everybody a chance to succeed. And we believe in investing in science and technology, so that these extraordinary discoveries can then be used to create entire industries and provide opportunity for more and more people.
And we believe in creating a great infrastructure, so businesses can move people and products and services seamlessly throughout our global economy. And we believe in a tax code that is fair and balanced, in which success is rewarded, but in which we also are paying for those investments that allow us to pass on a great country to the next generation.
And we believe in an energy program that taps into American energy, but also makes sure that we're taking care of our environment and we're not subject to the whims of what happens in some country in the Middle East at any given moment.
And we believe in American manufacturing -- not because manufacturing is going to be as central to today's economy as it was back in the 1950s, but when we make things and produce things and sell things around the world, there is a basic strength to our economy that ripples everywhere, and gives more and more the chance to get ahead, just as the auto industry did for two or three generations, which is exactly why we had to intercede to make sure that they succeeded.
So on each of these issues about the economy, there are profound, fundamental differences. And we had a stalemate in Washington now for three years. And you, the American voter, is going to have to break that stalemate.
Now, that's before we start getting into foreign policy, where my opponent thinks that it is tragic that I ended the war in Iraq the way I did, or that resists setting a timeline for getting out of Afghanistan; that doesn't capture the differences we have on things like women's health, where my opponent wants to end funding for Planned Parenthood or restrict access to birth control.
It doesn’t capture the differences we have on something like "don't ask, don't tell." I think if you love this country, it shouldn't matter who you love, you should be able to serve. (Applause.)
The Supreme Court, immigration reform, environmental protection -- you name it, there's a fundamental choice involved.
So this is going to be a close election -- not because people are particularly persuaded by the argument the other side is making -- it's the same, old argument they've been making for the last 30, 40 years. It's going to be close because people are scared and frustrated, and there are a lot of folks who are still out of work and the economy is still tough. And the other side is spending more money than we've ever seen before, trying to tap into those anxieties. They're betting they don't have to offer much; they just say things aren't good and it's Obama's fault.
The good news is that as I've traveled around the country over the last several years, what I've realized is that core decency and strength and common sense of the American people, it wins out in the end. When folks are mobilized and activated, and when we're out there speaking truth, over time it breaks through. It wins out.
But it doesn't happen automatically. It happens because of effort. It happens because of determination. And although it is true that I'm a little grayer now than I was when I met some of you the first time -- (laughter) -- my determination is undiminished. I am as fired up as I ever was. And I hope you're ready to go. (Applause.)
Thanks. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. (Applause.)
9:45 P.M. EDT