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Remarks by the First Lady at a Campaign Event -- Las Vegas, Nevada
Orr Middle School
Las Vegas, Nevada
2:19 P.M. PDT
MRS. OBAMA: Wow! (Applause.) Yes! (Applause.) We’re going to do this! Thank you all so much. I am so excited to be here. (Applause.) Of course, I want to wish you all a happy Nevada Day. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Happy belated birthday!
MRS. OBAMA: For who? No, it’s not my birthday. (Laughter.) Belated? My birthday is in January. It’s coming. It’s coming. (Laughter.) You haven’t missed it yet, but thank you, though. (Laughter.)
But let me start -- I want to start by thanking Shelby, not just for that kind introduction, but for everything she’s doing on behalf of our kids and the work she’s doing on behalf of this campaign. Let’s give her a round of applause. (Applause.)
And I also want to thank Landra Reid. I know she was here earlier. I want to thank her for taking the time. She and Senator Reid have been tremendous friends and supporters. They are awesome champions for this state and this country. (Applause.) We are so proud to have them on our side.
I also want to acknowledge and thank for Dina Titus, Steven Horsford. (Applause.) Steven Horsford, John Oceguera, all of whom are going to make wonderful representatives in Congress as well. So let’s give them a round of applause. (Applause.)
And of course, I want to recognize Congresswoman Berkley, who will make a tremendous Senator right here in this state. (Applause.) But most of all --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We need Shelley!
MRS. OBAMA: We need her. We need her.
But most of all, I want to thank all of you. (Applause.) Thank you for being here today. Thank you for working so hard. I’m so glad you all are fired up and ready to go! I love it. (Applause.) Love it. Because if you haven’t noticed, I’m feeling pretty fired up and ready to go myself. (Applause.)
All right, so here’s the secret. One of the reason I really love campaigning -- and I don’t share this with my husband often -- (laughter) -- but it’s because I get to do one of my favorite things. I get to talk about the man that I have loved and admired since the day I met him 23 years ago. (Applause.) This is a very good excuse. And to all the men out there, you know we wives, we don’t like to talk about you nicely to your face. (Laughter.) We do all this nice talk behind your back. So hopefully he’s not listening. (Laughter.)
But although my husband is handsome and charming -- (applause) -- and incredibly smart, that is not why I married him. (Laughter.) No, no. All right, listen up. To all the fellas out there, if you’re wondering how do you get a good woman -- because I know we’ve got a lot of them out here, so listen up. (Applause.) What truly made me fall in love with Barack Obama was his character. It is that thing I see in this man every day. For four years we’ve seen it -- his decency, his honesty, his compassion and conviction. (Applause.)
This is the man I have known my entire life with him. I love that Barack, when I first met him, that he was so committed to serving others that he turned down high-paying jobs, and instead, started his career fighting to get folks back to work in struggling communities. I loved that about him. (Applause.)
I loved that Barack was so devoted to his family, especially the women in his life. (Applause.) Yes, indeed. I saw the respect he had for his mother -- how proud he was that she was able to put herself through school and still do everything it took to support he and his sister as a single mom.
I saw the tenderness he felt for his grandmother. How grateful he was that long after she should have retired, she was still waking up every morning to catch that bus to her job at the community bank, doing everything she could to help support his family.
And he watched as she was passed over for again and again for promotions, simply because she was a woman. But he also saw how she kept getting up -- you hear me? She kept getting up every day, year after year, to that same job without complaint or regret.
See, with Barack, I found a real connection because in his life story, I saw so much of my own. Growing up on the South Side of Chicago -- (applause) -- Chicago! I watched him my own father make that same uncomplaining journey every day to his job at the city water plant. And I saw my father get up every day and carry himself with that same dignity, that same pride that folks get when they can provide for their family, that same hope that his kids would one day have opportunities he could never imagine for himself.
See, this is the thing, like so many families in this country, our families just weren’t asking for much. They didn’t want much. They didn’t begrudge anyone else’s success. They didn’t mind if others had much more. In fact, they admired it. That’s why they pushed us to be the very best we could be. (Applause.)
But here’s what they did believe. They believed in that fundamental American promise that even if you don’t start out with much, in America, if you do what you’re supposed to do, if you work hard, then you should be able to build a decent life for yourself and an even better life for your kids and your grandkids. (Applause.)
And they also believed that when you’ve worked hard, and you’ve done well, and you finally walked through that doorway of opportunity, you don’t slam it shut behind you. No -- you reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed. (Applause.) And that is how Barack and I, and I know so many of you were raised. Those were the values we were taught.
And more than anything else, that’s what this election is about. It’s a choice about our hopes, and our values, and our aspirations. And more importantly, it’s a choice about the America we want to leave for our kids and our grandkids. (Applause.) And what does that America look like? Let’s talk about that for a little bit.
See, we believe in an America where every child -- do you hear me? Every child -- no matter where they’re born, or how much money their parents make –- every child in this country deserves good schools -- (applause) -- the kind that push them and inspires them, and prepares them for jobs and college.
We believe in an America where no one goes broke because someone gets sick; where no one loses their home because someone loses a job.
We believe in an America where we all understand that none of us gets where we are on our own; that there is always a community of people lifting us up, where we treat everyone with dignity and respect -- from the teachers who inspire us to the janitors who keep our schools clean. (Applause.)
See, and in this America that we’re trying to build, in that America, when one of us stumbles -- see, because we all have the potential to stumble -- when one of us falls on hard times, we don’t turn our backs and tell them, “Tough luck, you’re on your own.” Not in this America. No -- instead, we extend that helping hand while they get back on their feet again. (Applause.)
We believe that the truth matters, that you don’t take shortcuts, you don’t game the system. You don’t play by your own set of rules.
And finally, we believe in keeping our priorities straight -- what am I saying? We know good and well that cutting “Sesame Street” is no way to balance our budget. We know better than that. (Applause.) We know that short changing our kids is not how we tackle this deficit.
See, if we truly want to build opportunities for all Americans, then we know we need to cut wasteful spending, but we also have to make smart investments in things like education and infrastructure for an economy that’s built to last.
And that is what my husband stands for. (Applause.) That is the country he’s been working to build. Those are his values.
And let me tell you, over the past four years as First Lady, I have seen up close and personal just how critical those values are for leading this country. Let me share with you. I have seen how the issues that come across a President’s desk are always the hard ones –- the decisions that aren’t just about the bottom line, but they’re about laying a foundation for the next generation.
And I have seen how important it is to have a President who doesn’t just tell us what we want to hear, but who tells us the truth, even when it’s hard -- especially when it’s hard. (Applause.)
And I’ve seen that when it comes time to make those tough calls, and everyone around you is urging you to do what’s easy, what polls best, what gets good headlines. See, as President, you have to be guided by the struggles, hopes, and dreams of all of the people you serve. (Applause.) That is how you make the right decisions for this country. That’s what it takes to be a leader.
And let me tell you, since the day he took office, on issue after issue, crisis after crisis -- I’ve been there right by his side -- that is what we have seen in my husband. And think back to when Barack first took office -- where was this country? We were on the brink of collapse as an economy. Newspapers were using words like “meltdown,” “calamity,” declaring “Wall Street Implodes.” You remember that? “Economy in Shock.”
See, and how did we get there? We all remember. For years, folks had been lured into buying homes they couldn’t afford, so their mortgages were underwater. If you recall, the auto industry was in crisis. This economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month. And a lot of folks were wondering whether we were headed for another Great Depression. Do you hear me? (Applause.)
That is what Barack faced on day one as President of the United States. He inherited an economy in rapid decline. (Applause.) But instead of pointing fingers, instead of placing blame, your 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 we have a President who understands that teachers and firefighters should not pay higher tax rates than millionaires and billionaires. (Applause.) Not in America.
And that is why, while some folks, if you recall, were willing to let the auto industry go under -- with more than 1 million jobs that would have been lost -- Barack had the backs of the American workers. He fought hard to protect jobs for American families. And thankfully, because of his hard work, today, the auto industry is back on its feet again. (Applause.)
And, yes, while we still have more work to do to completely rebuild this economy, there are more and more signs every day that we’re headed in the right direction. The stock market has doubled. Exports have grown by 45 percent. Manufacturers have added 500,000 jobs. We have had 31 straight months -- that’s the majority of my husband’s presidency -- with private sector job growth -- a total of 5.2 million new jobs under this President. (Applause.)
Now, in addition to focusing on job creation -- because, as President, you got to be able to do more than one thing at a time -- our President was also focused on improving access to health care for millions of Americans. (Applause.)
So let me spend a little time on health care. See, because Barack didn’t care whether health reform was the easy thing to do politically -- because that’s not who he is. He cared that it was the right thing to do.
See, because he was thinking about all those folks he meets every day across the country -- the woman diagnosed with cancer whose insurance company wouldn’t cover her care; the seniors pinching pennies to save up for the medicines they need; the parents who couldn’t get life-saving treatment for their children because one of them lost a job. Those stories happened every day across this country before health care.
But today, because of health reform, our parents and grandparents on Medicare are paying hundreds less for their prescription drugs. (Applause.) Our children -- our sons and daughters -- and grandchildren can stay on our insurance until they’re 26 years old because of health reform. (Applause.)
Today, because of health reform that your President fought for, insurance companies now have to cover basic preventative care -- no out-of-pocket cost -- things like contraception, breast cancer screenings. (Applause.)
They won’t be able to discriminate against you because you have a preexisting condition, let’s say, diabetes or even asthma. (Applause.) And if you get a life-threatening illness, and you need real expensive treatment, no longer can they 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.)
Now, when it comes to giving young people the education they deserve, let me just share something. Your President knows that like me and like so many of your, we never could have gone to college without financial aid. Never. Look at me -- I would not be here if it were not for financial aid. In fact, when we were first married, our combined monthly student loan bills were higher than our mortgage. And I know a lot of people can relate to that.
So understand, when it comes to student debt, Barack and I, we’ve been there. This is not a hypothetical for us. And that’s why Barack fought so hard to double funding for Pell grants and keep interest rates low. (Applause.) Because we have a President who knows how important it is for all of our young people to have a chance to go to college.
And finally, when it comes to understanding the lives of women, when it comes to standing up for our rights and our opportunities, we know that my husband will always have our backs. (Applause.) See, because Barack knows from personal experience what it means for a family when women aren’t treated fairly in a workplace. And believe me, as the father of two beautiful daughters, he knows what it means to want your daughters to have the same opportunities as our sons. And that’s why the first bill he signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to make sure women get equal pay for equal work. (Applause.)
And that is why he will always, always fight to ensure that we as women can make our own decisions about our bodies and about our health care. (Applause.) That is what my husband stands for.
So here, we’ve got 11 days, right? And I know you all are going to be out there, right? (Applause.) So while you’re out there and you’re running to somebody who asks you, well, what has this President done for our country, when you run into those folks who are deciding which of these two candidates is really going to keep this country moving forward --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Obama! (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Our President!
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: That’s right. Four more years!
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: Here are a few things I want you to tell them.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you, Michelle!
MRS. OBAMA: Love you, babe. We’re going to get this done. (Applause.)
In addition to everything your President has done for this economy, for our health care, for education --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: For women!
MRS. OBAMA: For women! (Applause.) I also want you to remind them that your President ended the war in Iraq. (Applause.) This is the President who took out Osama bin Laden. (Applause.) Tell them how Barack is fighting every day to make sure our veterans and military families get the benefits that they have earned. (Applause.)
Tell them about the young immigrants in this country who will never again have to live in fear of being deported from the only country they have ever called home. (Applause.) Tell them how our brave servicemembers will never again have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love. (Applause.)
I want you all to remind them of the concrete plans this President has laid out for the next four years. We’ve got a website. Send them to BarackObama.com/plans -- we got plans -- where they can learn about how he’s going to create millions of new jobs, train the best workforce in the world, boost American-made energy, reduce our deficit, end the war in Afghanistan. (Applause.)
But here’s what I really want you to tell them. You tell them that Barack Obama knows the American Dream because he’s lived it. (Applause.) And he is fighting every day so that every one of us in this country 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 let’s be clear. While he is very proud of what we have all achieved together -- see, because no President does anything alone. He has done this with you. But my husband is nowhere near satisfied. Barack, of all people, knows that too many people are still hurting. He knows that there’s plenty of work left to be done. And as President Clinton said, it is going to take a lot longer than four years to finish rebuilding an economy from the brink of collapse. (Applause.)
But here’s the thing, what can tell you for sure is that thankfully, in Barack, we have a leader with a deep and unyielding faith in the American people; a leader who understands that this country was built by men and women who wake up every day and work hard for their families, and do it without complaint and regret.
And as President, that is what my husband has been fighting for. He has been fighting for us. And that’s why, when the stakes are so high, let me tell you, you can always trust Barack to have our backs. (Applause.) That, you can trust.
AUDIENCE: Yes, we can!
MRS. OBAMA: Yes, we can! (Laughter.) Yes, we will! (Applause.)
And what we have to understand is, over these past four years, together, slowly but surely, we have been pulling ourselves out of that hole we started in. And we are steadily moving this country forward and making real and meaningful change.
So here’s what folks have to ask themselves: Are we going to turn around and go back to the same policies that got us in that hole in the first place?
MRS. OBAMA: Are we going to just 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 this country forward? (Applause.) What are we doing to do? Keep moving forward! (Applause.) We’ve got to go forward.
But here’s the thing, the answer to these questions, it’s on us now. Those answers are on us. We do understand now -- it’s on us. Because, believe me, all the hard work, all the progress that we have made, it is all on the line. The choices are so clear, and it is all at stake this November. And as my husband has said over and over again, this election will be even closer than the last one, and it can all come down to what happens in just a few key battleground states like right here in Nevada. (Applause.)
So let’s understand the work that we can do. Think back to what happened in this state in 2008. Barack won this state by 121,000 votes. Now, that might sound like a lot. But if you take that number and break it across all the precincts in this state, that’s just 69 votes per precinct. That was the margin of difference in 2008.
So that could mean just one or two votes in your neighborhood. That’s the difference of just a single vote in your apartment building or in a dorm room. So if there is anyone here, or anyone that 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 just want you to remind them of those 69 votes. See, because that’s real, right? I mean, that’s within the realm of our knowledge. We know enough people to take this over the top right here in this room. (Applause.)
So just think, with just a few more evenings on a phone bank, just a few more hours knocking on door -- we only got 11 days -- (applause) -- the folks in this room alone could swing an entire precinct for Barack Obama. (Applause.) And when we win enough precincts, we will win this state. And when we win this state, we will be well on our way of putting Barack Obama back in the White House for four more years. (Applause.) Four more years! You all can do it.
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years!
MRS. OBAMA: Right here! So here’s the plan -- we’ve got a plan -- it’s a secret plan -- so come in close, because we’ve got cameras. (Laughter.) Here’s what we need you to do for the next 11 days -- we need you to work like you’ve never worked before. This is focus stuff, right? Sign up to be one of our volunteers.
CHILD: Love you!
MRS. OBAMA: Hi, sweetie. I see you. (Laughter.)
Sign up to make phone calls, to knock on doors. But more importantly, talk to everyone you know -- everyone you know -- your friends, your neighbors, that cousin you haven’t seen in a long time, that classmate you don’t know too much. Now is the time to pull them into the fold and tell them what’s at stake -- especially for the young people who are here. See, because I don’t want young people to ever underestimate the power of what they can do. (Applause.) I can’t tell you how many young people I run into who told me that in 2008, they said, “My parents and grandparents weren’t going to vote for Barack Obama, when I talk to them about what this election meant for my future, I convinced them to vote for the President.” (Applause.) So that’s the power of what you can do.
And you all can tell people that they don’t have to wait until November the 6th to cast their ballots. Last week, I voted early by mail -- and yes, I voted for Barack Obama. (Applause.) I want the record to show. But I did it because I want to spend Election Day helping to get out the vote out. And I hope that so many of you will do the same.
And here in Nevada, voting has already begun. In fact, right after this event, as Shelby mentioned and others, we’ve got a big group that’s going to walk over to Boulevard Mall to cast their votes. (Applause.) We want you to go.
So after I’m done, don’t leave yet -- now I’m not going to go. (Laughter.) I’m going to get back to Malia and Sasha because I can get home tonight if I leave. (Applause.) I know, I’m now able to see them. And then I’m back on the road. So I’m not going to go vote, but I need you all to go vote. I want you all to meet at the flag pole in front of the building and then follow our Orr Middle School performers. (Applause.) They’re ready. Yeah. You’re going to have a little music. [Music plays.] That’s right. (Laughter.) So follow the band and make sure that your voices are heard.
And then after you vote, I want you to tell everyone you know that from now until November the 2nd, they can vote early in person right in their neighborhood.
And send anyone you know to Vote.BarackObama.com to find their nearest voting location. And if they don’t vote today or vote early, then make sure they get to the polls on Election Day -- because you all will have voted, right? (Applause.) So make sure you’re responsible for finding five, six, seven, ten people that you’re going to be responsible for getting to the polls. We got it? That’s our plan! (Applause.)
Now it’s out there for the world to see, so now we’ve got to execute. Execute. And I’m going to be honest with you, just understand this journey is going to be hard, and there will be plenty of ups and downs over the next 11 days. You’ve seen what has happened over the next few weeks. This thing goes like that. But when you start to get tired -– and I hope you don’t; when you start thinking about taking a day off –- and I hope you -- November 7th, that’s the day -- just understand that what you do for the next 11 days will absolutely make the difference between waking up the day after Election Day and asking ourselves “Could we have done more?” Or feeling the promise of four more years.
So from now until November 6th, we need you to keep working, and pushing and struggling -- because that’s how change always happens in this country. (Applause.) That’s how it always happens. And I want the young people to listen, because this is important for you all to know. We know from our history that change is hard. That we know -- the folks who have been around -- change is hard, and it requires patience and tenacity. But so does everything else in life. You’re going to hit those bumps in life, our young people. You’re going to have people telling you what you can’t do, who you can’t be. But know that if we keep 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.
That’s why I’m standing here. (Applause.) So I don’t want anyone to ever talk down your dreams and aspirations. Don’t let anyone talk down our country and our country’s future. (Applause.) You have every reason in the world to be optimistic about what lies ahead, because here in America we always move forward, we always make progress. We never go back.
And in the end, that’s what this is about. That’s why we’re here. That’s what elections are always about. Elections are always about hope. You know what kind of hope I’m talking about. The kind of hope that I saw on my father’s beaming face as he watched me walk across the stage to get my college diploma -- (applause) -- the diploma he took out loans to help me get. The hope Barack’s grandmother felt as she cast her ballot for the grandson she loved and raised. That’s the hope I’m talking about. (Applause.)
It’s the hope of all those men and women in our lives who saved and sacrificed and worked that extra shift for us; who prayed for us; who did everything they could so we could be here. The hope that so many of us feel when we look into the eyes of our own kids and grandkids. We know that hope.
That’s why we’re here today -– because we want to give all of our children that foundation for their dreams. We want to give all of our kids opportunities worthy of their promise. Because I don’t care who you support, all of our children are worthy. They’re all worthy. (Applause.)
We want to give our kids that sense of limitless possibility –- 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. (Applause.) So if you’ve got any idea that I’m passionate, if you want to know why I feel the way I do, it’s because know that we cannot turn back now. Our children deserve better. We will not turn back now. We have come so far, but we have so much more work to do.
So for these 11 days, my last question is: Are we ready for this? (Applause.) Are you ready to roll up your sleeves? Make it happen! Get out there. We are doing this for our kids. Let’s stay fired up and ready to go. We’ll get this done.