5/1/2012 8:00:00 AM Remarks by the first lady at a campaign event The Springs Preserve, Las Vegas, Nevada
9:29 A.M. PDT
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, wow, thank you so much. (Applause.) Thank you all. And it smells so good in here. (Laughter.) You all, please, rest yourselves. It is truly a pleasure and an honor to be here with all of you. I want to start by thanking Jenna for that very kind introduction and all of her hard work today. She has been just a true-blue friend and supporter from the very beginning, before anybody knew who Barack or Michelle Obama was. I remember our first meeting, and she was as fired up as she is today, and I am so grateful to her. So let's give her a big round of applause. (Applause.)
And I also want to thank The Springs Reserve [sic] and the Culinary Academy for hosting us here today. This is a beautiful site. As often as I have been here, I didn't know this was here. This is a true treasure, and it's my hope that I can come back with a little more quiet - (applause) - with the girls and really get to experience this place. And, you all, the food is amazing. Thank you for investing your time and your talent. It means the world to all of us, right - good food. (Laughter and applause.)
I also want to recognize Representative Shelly Berkeley and former Representative Dina Titus. They are here. Thank you all so much. Thanks for joining us. Thank you for your support and your leadership. (Applause.) It's great to see you all this morning.
And I also want to give a hello and a thank you to our co-chairs - Senator Steven Horsford and Sonya, as well as Julie Murray. You guys - yay! (Applause.) Way to go. Thank you for doing everything to make today so special and such a great success.
And finally, I have to thank all of you. Thank you for your support. Truly, thank you for taking the time out of your busy days to be here this morning. And I know that there's a reason that you all are here. And it's not just for a little good food and to see me - which is okay, too. (Laughter.) But I know that you're here because this November, we are going to make a choice that will impact our lives for decades to come. And I know you're here because you know that choice is not just going to affect all of us, but it will affect our children and our grandchildren, and it's going to affect the world we leave behind for them long after we're gone. And that is truly why I'm here as well.
You see, as First Lady, I have had the privilege of traveling all across this country, and I've had the opportunity to meet with folks from all different backgrounds and hear what's going on in their daily lives. And every day, I hear about how people are trying to keep it together - the bills they're trying to pay, the businesses they're trying to keep afloat, the home they love but are struggling to afford.
But let me tell you something, no matter what they're going through, no matter what the challenges are they face, they keep working, they keep sacrificing because they desperately want something better for their kids. That's what we all do. We all believe in the fundamental vision for our economy that we all share -- the idea, as Barack says, that hard work should pay off, that responsibility should be rewarded, and that everyone should get a fair shot, but also do their fair share, and play by the same rules.
And truly, these are values that are at the foundation of an economy that's built to last. It's really our values. They are basic American values - the values that so many of us were raised with, including myself. I have told my story time and time again: My father was a blue-collar city worker who worked for the city water plant his entire life, and my family lived in a little-bitty apartment on the South Side of Chicago. And neither of my parents had the chance to go to college, but like so many parents in their position, what they were able to do was probably even more important - they saved; they sacrificed; they put everything they had into me and my brother so that we could get the kind of education they only dreamed of.
And truly, more than anything else, that is what's at stake. That's what we're working for - that fundamental promise that no matter who you are or how you started out, if you work hard, you can achieve a decent life for yourself and an even better life for your kids. And on just about every issue, that is the choice we face.
And we can start with just looking at those tax cuts that my husband passed for middle-class families. And let me tell you what that's about, why that's so important. Because that's about whether people can heat their homes; that's about whether they can send their kids to college; it's about whether these folks can retire with a little security and dignity. It's about putting more money in people's pockets so that we can put more money into our economy, which means more jobs. And it's also about making sure that everyone pays their fair share.
I mean, that's why Barack proposed what he calls the Buffett Rule - to close tax loopholes for millionaires and billionaires so that they aren't paying lower tax rates than firefighters and teachers. That's what that's about. (Applause.) But that's what's at stake.
And how about everything my husband has done to create jobs in this economy? Think back to earlier when all those folks in Washington were telling Barack to let the auto industry go under, with more than a million jobs on the line. Remember that? But what did Barack do? Barack had the backs of American workers. He put his faith in the American people. And as a result, today, the auto industry is back on its feet again, and more importantly, people are back to work providing for their families again. (Applause.)
And also think back when Barack first took office - this economy was losing an average of 750,000 jobs a month. That's what he inherited. That's what he walked into. But for the past 25 straight months, we have actually been gaining private sector jobs -- a total of more than 4 million jobs in two years. (Applause.)
So while we still have a long way to go to rebuild our economy, today millions of folks are collecting a paycheck again. But all that is at stake. And that's the choice we face.
And what about all that this administration has done for small businesses? These are the companies that create two-thirds of all jobs in this economy - two-thirds of all jobs. I'm talking about - this is the mom who opens up the drycleaners down the street to help provide for her kids. I mean, this is that family that's been running that neighborhood diner for generations. See, but for these folks, that small business tax cut that this administration passed, that means the difference between these people hiring new employees or handing out pink slips; this is the difference between them keeping their doors open or closing up shop for good. But that's the choice we face.
And how about the very first bill my husband signed into law to help women get equal pay for equal work - the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act? He did this because he knows what it means when women aren't treated fairly in the workplace. He watched his own grandmother -- a woman with a high school education -- she worked her way up to become the vice president of a small community bank. And his grandmother worked hard, and she was good at her job. But like so many women, she hit a glass ceiling, and watched men no more qualified than she was -- men she had actually trained -- be promoted up the corporate ladder ahead of her.
So what I want you to know is that for Barack, these issues aren't abstract. These aren't hypotheticals. He signed this bill because he knows that closing that pay gap will mean the difference between women losing $50, $100, $500 for each paycheck, or having that money in their pockets to buy gas and groceries and put clothes on the backs of their kids. He did it because when so many women are now breadwinners for their families, women's success in this economy is the key to families' success in this economy. But that's what's at stake. (Applause.) All of that we're working for.
And let's talk, just for a minute, about health care. Two years ago, we made history together by finally passing health reform. Because this law was passed, insurance companies will have to cover basic preventative care at no extra cost - things like mammograms, contraception, prenatal care. And they can no longer deny our children coverage because they have preexisting conditions - things like diabetes and asthma. (Applause.) Our children can now stay on their parents' insurance until they're 26 years old, so that when they graduate from college, they won't have to go out without insurance while they're just starting out in life, trying to build their careers. And that's how 2.5 million of our young people in this country are getting their health care coverage today.
And since we passed that law, millions of our seniors have saved an average of $600 a year on their prescription drugs. So we have to ask ourselves, are we going to take all those savings away? Is that what we're going to do? Or are we going to allow insurance companies to refuse to cover our children? Or will we say that in this country, in America, no one should have to choose between going bankrupt or watching their child suffer because they can't afford a doctor? But that's really the choice we face. That's why we're here.
And just think, for a moment, about all that we're doing to give our kids a good education. Think about the investments to raise standards and to reform our public schools. Think about how my husband has been working so hard for the DREAM Act. See, this about responsible young immigrants who came here as children and were raised as Americans. It's a way for them to earn a path to citizenship by going to college and serving in our military.
And think about how my husband has taken billions of dollars in taxpayer money that used to go to middleman banks and lenders, and he sent it where it belongs -- into the hands of millions of our young people so that they can go to college. And these kind of investments won't just determine our children's success; they will determine nothing less than the future and success of our entire economy. They will determine whether we're prepared to make the discoveries and build the industries that will allow us compete with any country, anywhere in the world. That's what this is about. That's what's at stake.
And let us not forget about my husband appointing those two brilliant Supreme Court justices. (Applause.) And for the first time in history, our daughters and our sons watched three women take their seat on our nation's highest courts. And we cannot forget the impact those Court decisions will have on our lives for decades to come -- on our privacy and security, on whether we speak freely, worship openly, and yes, love whomever we choose. But that's what's at stake. That is the choice we're facing. (Applause.)
And then there's all this administration has done to keep this country safe and restore our standing in the world. Thanks to our brave men and women in uniform, we finally brought to justice the man behind the 9/11 attacks and so many other horrific acts of violence.
My husband kept his promise. He ended the war in Iraq. He brought our troops home. And we are working every day to make sure that they and their families get the benefits and the respect and the love and admiration that they have earned.
And finally, because my husband ended "don't ask, don't tell," our troops will never again have to lie about who they are to serve the country they love. (Applause.)
But all of that's at stake this November. So make no mistake about it, whether it's health care or our economy, whether it's education or foreign policy, the choice we make this November will determine nothing less than who we are as a country. But more importantly, it will determine who we want to be. Who are we?
Will we be that country that - where opportunity is limited to just a few at the top? Is that who we are? Or will we be a place where if you work hard, you can get ahead, no matter who you are or how you started out? We have to ask ourselves, who are we? Will we tell folks who have been doing everything right but are struggling just a little bit, are we going to look them in the eye and tell them, "tough luck, you're on your own"? Is that who we are?
Or will we honor that fundamental American belief that we're all in this together, and this country we are strongest when we're all better off? Who are we? Will we continue all this wonderful change we've begun, the progress we've made? Or will we just let it all slip away?
Well, we know who we are. We know who we are. We know that we cannot turn back now. We cannot turn back now. We need to keep moving forward. (Applause.)
And what I tell everybody everywhere I go, you have to understand, your President understands this. He knows this more than you can imagine. He understands these issues because he's lived them. He was raised by a single mother who struggled to pay the family's bills. And when she couldn't keep it together, who stepped up? His grandmother, getting up every morning before dawn to catch that bus to her job at the bank. And even though she was passed over again and again for all those promotions, she never complained. How many people do we know like that in our lives? She never complained. She just kept showing up, kept doing her best.
So believe me, Barack knows what it means when a family struggles. He knows what it means when someone doesn't have a chance to fulfill their potential, how that hurts. Those experiences have made him the man, but more importantly, the President he is today. And we are blessed to have him. We are. (Applause.)
And that's what I hear in his voice every day when he returns home from a full day of traveling around the country, and he tells me about the people he's met. That's what I see in those quiet moments late at night, after the girls have gone to bed, and he's poring over the letters from people who have sent him - the letter from the woman dying of cancer whose insurance company won't cover her care; the letter from the father struggling to pay his bills; the letter from far too many young people with so much promise, but so few opportunities.
And I hear the passion and determination in his voice. He says, "You won't believe what people are going through." He says, "Michelle, this is not right. We've got so much more work to do. We've got to fix this."
See, what you have to know about your President is that when it comes to the people he meets, he has a memory like a steel trap. He may not remember your name, but if he's had a few moments and a decent conversation, he will never forget your story. It becomes imprinted on his heart. And that is what he is carrying with him every single day -- it is our collections of challenges and our hopes and our dreams.
That is where Barack Obama gets his passion. That is where he gets his toughness and his fight. And that's why, even in the hardest moments, when it seems like all is lost, Barack Obama never loses sight of the end goal - never. Never gets distracted by the chatter and the noise. Just like his grandmother, he just gets up and he keeps moving forward - keeps moving forward.
But I have said this before; I said it here in Las Vegas, I will say it again: He cannot do this alone. That was never the promise. He needs all of you. He needs your help. He needs you to make those calls, to register those voters. He needs you to take those "I'm In" cards - I know you've seen them; if you haven't, find them, take them. Sign up. Sign up your friends. Sign up your neighbors. Sign up your colleagues. Convince them about why it's so important just to give a little bit of themselves, a little bit of investment each week to this campaign.
And if you have any doubt about the difference that you can make, I just want you to remember that in the end, this election could come down to just a few thousand people that we register. It could all come down to those last few thousand folks we help get to the poll on November - right? And I want you to just think for a minute about those numbers and what that means when they're spread out over an entire state.
It means that registering maybe just one more person in your town; it might mean helping just one more person in your community get out and vote on Election Day - one more. So with every door you knock on, with every call you make, with every conversation that you have with people in your lives, just remember that this could be the one that makes the difference. That's how you have to think about it.
I know that's how - every speech I give, this could be the room where the one is there who can make the difference. You could be the one who inspires someone to make their voice heard in November. That's the impact that each of you can have. And don't ever underestimate that.
And I'm not going to kid you, this journey is going to be long. And it is going to be hard. That is guaranteed. And there will be plenty of twists and turns along the way. But what we have to remember is that the truth is, that's how change always happens in this country. It always does. The reality is that real change is slow, and it never happens all at once. But if we keep showing up, if we keep fighting the good fight, then eventually we get there. We always do. We always have. Maybe not in our lifetimes, but maybe in our children's lifetimes, maybe in our grandchildren's lifetimes.
Because in the end, that is what this is about. We are not fighting these battles for ourselves. We are fighting them for our sons and our daughters. We're fighting them for our grandsons and our granddaughters. And like so many people who came before us, that fought for us to stand here, we are fighting for the world we want to leave for them. And that's what's at stake.
So it's time for us to get moving, don't you think? Don't you think it's time for us to get moving? (Applause.)
So let me end with just one question that I need to know from you after this: Are you in? (Applause.) I need to know - are you in? How in are you? Are you as in as I'm in? Because I'm way, way far into this, because I know what's at stake. I know the kind of country that I want to leave for my kids. And I know I can't stand on the sidelines and let somebody else fight these battles for us. (Applause.)
Barack Obama is the President we need, and he needs you working right alongside him. I look forward to working with all of you in the months and years ahead.