Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event

Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event

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Kenyon College
Gambier, Ohio

6:36 P.M. EDT

MRS. OBAMA: Wow! (Applause.) Very cool. It is so good to be here. I am thrilled. You guys look so good. (Applause.) All right.

Before we launch into it, something that I just have to say -- I've been -- because we're excited, but in light of what's been going on on the east coast, we definitely have to stop and take a moment just to remind ourselves that there are people that have been affected by the hurricane, and of course our hearts go out. And you know that Barack has been working tirelessly with governors and mayors and our extraordinary first responders to make sure that those communities get the support that they need.

And I know that we all want to keep those folks in our hearts and prayers, because the thing about America, when a crisis hits, we all come together as one American family. (Applause.) So let's make sure we keep them in our hearts.

So with that, I want to thank Sarah for that very kind introduction and for all that she is doing for this campaign. (Applause.) I got a chance to meet your president, President Nugent, and I want to thank her and all of you for hosting us here at Kenyon. (Applause.) This is a beautiful campus, beautiful facility, and you all should be so proud.

And I also want to recognize your fabulous former First Lady, Frances Strickland, who is working probably harder than me -- I see her everywhere. She is phenomenal, so we want to thank her for being here today as well.

But most of all, I want to thank all of you. Thank you for all the work that you've been doing. I've been hearing about the organizing that you've been doing getting students to early vote and registering. It is just a joy for me to be with you all today. And you all seem pretty fired up and ready to go already, so that’s good. (Applause.)

And I am feeling fired up and ready to go because in just three days -- three days -- (laughter) -- we have the opportunity to reelect such a decent, honest man; a man whose courage and integrity that -- we have seen every day for the last four years. And of course, he's the man I have loved and admired for 23 years, my husband, your President, Barack Obama. (Applause.) I just love that guy! (Laughter.) I love him! Four more years! Four more years!

AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

MRS. OBAMA: With your help, and you all are doing an amazing job.

Now let me tell you about this man, this president guy that I'm married to. (Laughter.) What made me fall in love with him all those years ago, although he's charming and cute and all of that -- (laughter) -- it was truly his character. It was his compassion, his conviction, the fact that he was always so committed to helping others.

But I also loved that Barack was so devoted to his family, especially the women in his life -- he was surrounded by women, believe me. (Laughter.) I saw the respect he had for his mother, and how proud he was that she put herself through school and still managed to support him and his sister as a single mom.

I saw the tenderness he felt for his grandmother, and how grateful he was that long after she should have retired, she was still waking up every morning, catching a bus to her job at the community bank. And he also saw how she was passed over for promotions simply because she was a woman, but he also saw how she kept getting up, kept doing that same job year after year without complaint, without regret.

And the thing is, with Barack, I found a real connection because in his life story, I saw so much of my own. Because growing up on the South Side of Chicago, I watched my own father make that same uncomplaining journey every day to his job at the city water plant. And I saw how he carried himself with that same dignity, that same pride that you get when you can support your family; that same hope that his kids would one day have opportunities he never dreamed of.

And I know like so many families in this country -- see the thing is, our families weren’t asking for much. They just didn’t want much. They didn’t begrudge anyone else’s success. They didn’t mind if others had much more than they did -– in fact, they admired it. And that’s why they pushed us to be the best that we could be.

But here's the thing -- they simply believed in that fundamental American promise that even if you don’t start out with much, in America, if you work hard and do what you’re supposed to do, you should be able to build a decent life for yourself and an even better life for your kids and your grandkids. (Applause.)

But they also believed in something else. They believed that when you’ve worked hard, and done well, and you've finally walked through that doorway of opportunity, you don't slam it shut behind you. You reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed. (Applause.)

And that’s how Barack and I and I know so many of you were raised. And more than anything else, that's what this election is all about. It’s about choices -- a choice about our values, our hopes, and our aspirations. It’s a choice about the kind of America we want to hand over to our kids and our grandkids.

And what does that America look like? What do we believe? Well, we believe in an America where every child should have the opportunity to go to good schools -- schools that inspire and push them, and prepare them for jobs of the future. (Applause.) We believe in an America where no one goes broke or loses their home because someone gets sick or loses a job. (Applause.)

We believe in an America where we all understand that none of us gets where we are on our own; that each of us is lifted up by a community of people where we treat everyone with dignity and respect -- from the teachers who inspire us to the janitors who keep our schools clean. (Applause.) And in this America that we're building together, we believe that the truth matters; that you don’t take shortcuts or game the system.

And we also believe in keeping our priorities straight, because we all know good and well that cutting Sesame Street is no way to balance our budget. We know this. (Applause.) We know good and well -- instead, we understand that we have to cut wasteful spending, but we have to make smart investments in things like education and infrastructure for an economy that’s built to last. And that's what my husband stands for. That is the country he’s been working to build for the last four years.

And since the day he took office, on issue after issue, crisis after crisis, that's exactly what we’ve seen in our President.

Let's think back to when Barack first took office. Where were we? This economy was on the brink of collapse. You don’t have to take my word for it. Newspapers were using words like “meltdown," “calamity;” declaring “Wall Street implodes," “Economy in Shock.” Those were the words they were using. The auto industry was in crisis. The economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month, and a lot of folks wondered whether we were headed for another Great Depression.

(Baby cries.)

MRS. OBAMA: Absolutely. (Laughter.) It was horrifying! (Applause.) Yes! It was a shock. It was a mess, just a mess! Yes! (Laughter.) See, that’s why we're here. (Applause.)

But let me tell you, this is what Barack faced on day one as President. But instead of pointing fingers and placing blame, our President got to work because he was thinking about folks like my Dad and like his grandmother. And that’s why he cut taxes for small businesses and working families -- because he believes that here in America, teachers and firefighters should not pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires. That’s not right. We know that. (Applause.)

And that’s why, while some folks were willing to let the auto industry go under -- you know who I'm talking about -- (laughter) -- with more than a million jobs that would have been lost, Barack had the backs of American workers. And that’s why, today, the American auto industry is back on its feet again and folks are back at work. And while -- (applause) -- yes. Absolutely.

And, yes, we still have more work to do to completely rebuild our economy. Let me tell you, there are more and more clear signs every day that we're headed in the right direction, that we're moving towards a good recovery: Exports have grown by 45 percent. Companies hired more workers in October than at any time in the last eight months, and we have had 32 straight months of private sector job growth -- that’s been the majority of this presidency -- (applause) -- nearly five and a half million jobs created right here in the United States of America.

And of course, when it comes to making sure that our young people get the education they deserve, let me you something, Barack knows that like me and like so many of you, we never could have attended college without financial aid -- never. Never. (Applause.) Our parents couldn’t afford to write a tuition check for us.

So when it comes to student debt, Barack and I, we've been there. And that’s why he doubled funding for Pell grants, fought hard to keep student interest rates low. (Applause.) Because he knows how important it is to make sure that all of our young people can attend college without a mountain of debt.

And finally, as Sarah pointed out, when it comes to the lives of women and understanding us, we know that my husband will always have our backs -- always. (Applause.) Because Barack knows from personal experience what it means for a family when women aren’t treated fairly in the workplace. And that's why the very first bill he signed into law as President was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to make sure women get equal pay for equal work. (Applause.) And that is why we know that this President will always fight to ensure that we as women can make our own decisions about our bodies and about our health care. (Applause.) Those are our decisions.

And let’s not forget that because of the historic health reform that this President passed -- (applause) -- yes -- insurance companies can no longer charge women more than men for the same coverage. (Applause.) Also, because of this reform, they won't be able to discriminate against any of us because we have a preexisting condition like diabetes or asthma. (Applause.) And our young people can stay on their parent’s insurance until they're 26 years old. (Applause.) That’s a good thing. That is a good thing.

And here's one that gets me -- if you get a life-threatening illness and you need really expensive treatment, insurance companies can no longer tell you, "sorry, you’ve hit your lifetime limit and we’re not paying a penny more." That is now illegal because of health reform. (Applause.)

So when you're out there talking to folks who are trying to decide who will keep America moving forward for four more years, I want you to tell them what Barack has done for our economy, our health care --

(Baby laughs.)

MRS. OBAMA: -- and our education -- yes! (Laughter.) If only we could -- she could vote. (Laughter.) So close!

But I also want you to tell them how Barack ended the war in Iraq. (Applause.) I want you to remind them how we took out Osama bin Laden. (Applause.) Make sure they understand that Barack is the President that’s fighting to get veterans and military families the benefits they've earned. (Applause.)

Remind them about all of the young immigrants in this country who will no longer live in fear of being deported from the only country they have ever called home. (Applause.) Tell them about our brave servicemembers who are fighting for this country every day who will never again have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love. (Applause.)

I could go on, and on, and on. But you can also send them to our website: We have a website -- but people can go there to find out all the things that Barack is going to do for the next four years to keep creating jobs, to reduce our deficit in a balanced and responsible way, and so much more.

But here’s what I think is really important to remind people about this man -- you tell them that Barack Obama knows the American Dream because he’s lived it, and he has been fighting every day so that every one of us can have that same opportunity no matter who we are, or where we’re from, or what we look like, or who we love.

But it's also important to make sure that people understand that while he is very proud of all that we’ve accomplished together -- because no President gets anywhere without all of us working together -- my husband is nowhere near satisfied. Barack of all people knows that too many people are still hurting. But as President Clinton said, it’s going to take a lot longer than four years to finish rebuilding an economy that was on the brink of collapse. (Applause.)

Four more years.

AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

MRS. OBAMA: But here’s what I know for sure -- over these past four years, know this -- together, slowly but surely, we have been pulling ourselves out of that hole we started in. We have been moving forward and making real and meaningful change that’s impacting millions of lives.

So now, we have to ask ourselves: After all of this, are we going to turn around and go back to the same policies that got us into that hole in the first place?


MRS. OBAMA: Are we going to just to sit back and watch everything that we’ve worked for and fought for to just slip away?


MRS. OBAMA: Or are we going to keep moving forward? (Applause.) What are we going to do?

AUDIENCE: Forward!

MRS. OBAMA: Forward!

AUDIENCE: Forward!

MRS. OBAMA: Absolutely. We have to go forward.

But see, here's the thing -- at the end, the answer to these questions on us now. It's all up to us. Because, truly, all of our hard work and all of the progress that we’ve made, it's all at stake on Tuesday, because the choices in this election are very clear.

And as Barack has said, this election will be even closer than the last one. That is the only guarantee. And it will all come down to what happens in a few key battleground states like right here in Ohio -- especially right here. (Applause.) Right here! You all have so much -- you can have such an effect on the nation.

Understand how this works; let me put it in perspective, because in 2008, Barack won Ohio by about 262,000 votes. Now, while that sounds like a lot, when you take that number and break it down across precincts over the entire state, that’s just 24 votes per precinct. That was the margin of victory -- 24 people in every precinct.

Now, that could mean just one vote in a neighborhood, right? One vote in a single apartment building, or a couple of votes on a college campus, you know? We all know 24 people who might not vote, right? We can find those people.

So the thing I want folks to understand -- particularly young people who are just getting engaged in this stuff -- if there is anyone here, anyone you know who might be thinking that their vote doesn’t matter, that their involvement doesn’t count, that in this complex political process that ordinary folks can’t possibly make a difference, I want you to keep that number in your head -- 24. And that’s not just in Ohio -- North Carolina, the margin of difference was five votes per precinct. So I could take you through battleground state, and the numbers are that real, that close.

So I want you to think about how with just a few more hours knocking on doors -- we've got three more days. This is a weekend, Kenyon. (Laughter.) Weekend -- what are your weekend plans? All right. If you've got any dates planned, bring them to the campaign office. (Laughter.) Do something real clever like that. (Applause.) Anybody out there trying to impress someone, bring them over to the Obama office. (Laughter.) Show them a few things.

But with just a few hours getting folks to the polls on Election Day, just a few of you here -- shoot, just this campus, you all could swing an entire precinct for Barack Obama. And when we win enough precincts, we will win this state. And when we win Ohio, we will be well on our way to putting Barack back in the White House for four more years. (Applause.)

So here's the plan -- we've got a plan. You guys ready? (Laughter.) Before you leave here, find one of our folks with a clipboard; bring you, your date, your friends, whoever you're going to hang out with this weekend. Sign up to volunteer for the campaign.

But for the next three days, if you do nothing else, talk to everyone you know -- your friends, your neighbors, that classmate you're sitting next to that didn’t come to the rally -- might have slept in or something -- (laughter) -- shake them. (Laughter.) And send them to for all the information they need to cast their votes. And if you can -- and I know you all have been doing this on campus -- vote early. I voted early because I want to spend Election Day getting other folks to the polls, and I hope you do the same. (Applause.) And here in this state, you can even vote tomorrow. You can vote Sunday afternoon from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., and on Monday you can vote until 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon.

So make sure everyone you know votes early or gets to the polls on Tuesday. That's our secret plan, okay? (Laughter.) Don’t tell anyone. (Laughter.)

Now, we've got just three days left. But understand that what we do for the next three days will absolutely make the difference between waking up the day after Election Day and wondering, “Could we have done more?”, or feeling the promise of four more years.

So from now until Tuesday work like you've never worked before. Keep working and struggling and pushing. Because in the end, that is truly how change always happens in this country. I really want all of our college students to understand this, because you all are just starting to get out there. And life is going to throw you some curveballs, and you're going to hit bumps and bruises along the way -- you've seen it in our President. Nothing is easy, and you've got to be focused and patient and tenacious and persistent.

But also know this -- that if we keep showing up -- which is half of the battle, showing up -- if we keep fighting the good fight and doing in our hearts what we know is right, then eventually we get there. We always do.

And that’s why every single one of you has every reason to be optimistic about your future, about what lies ahead. Because we know that here in America, we always move forward -- always. We always make progress.

And in the end, that’s what this is about. That’s what elections are always about. Don’t let anybody tell you differently. Elections are always about hope.

What kind of hope am I talking about? The hope that I saw on my father’s beaming face as I walked across the stage to get my college diploma -- the diploma that he took out loans to help me get. The hope that Barack’s grandmother felt as she cast her ballot for the grandson she loved and raised. The hope of all those men and women in our lives who worked that extra shift for us, who saved and sacrificed and prayed so that we could have something more. So many of us are here because of people like that who worked for us. The hope that so many of us feel when we look into the eyes of our kids and our grandkids. That’s the kind of hope I’m talking about.

Because that is why we're all here -- because of all these beautiful little kids -- all of them. Because we want to give all of our children a solid foundation for their dreams. We want to give all of our kids opportunities worthy of their promise, because I don’t care where you're from, what political party you belong to, we know good and well that all of our kids are worthy. We want to give our kids that sense of limitless possibility -- do you know what I mean? That belief that here in America, the greatest country on the planet, there is always something better out there if you’re willing to work for it.

So what I tell myself, what the President tells himself, what we say to ourselves every day is that we cannot turn back now. Not now. We will not turn back now, because we've come so far, but we have so much more to do.

So here's my last question: Are you ready for this? (Applause.) Are you ready for this? (Applause.) Are you fired up, ready to go? Ready to roll up your sleeves? Three more days for four more years? Can we do this? (Applause.)

Thank you all. God bless. Let's get it done.

7:02 P.M. EDT

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