The Obamas delivered 2012 stump speeches at Democratic National Committee fundraisers in Miami and and Los Angeles Monday, reminding supporters that "We are not done," as the first lady said. President Obama is working to win back the Democratic donors who've soured on him since 2008, reminding them that "Big changes don't happen overnight.... The reason we're here today is because our work is not done."
Barack Obama's first stop was at a $10,000-a-plate dinner at the home of Samsonite's former CEO Steven Green, who also served as Clinton's ambassador to Singapore. Then he hit the "Obama Victory Fund 2012 Kick-Off Reception," which cost between $250 and $2,500 a ticket. Then he moved on to a dinner event at the home of J.P. and Maggie Austin, which cost attendees $35,800 per person, CBS4 reports. Meanwhile, Michelle Obama went on her first fundraising trip without the president, speaking at two fundraisers, filming a guest spot on the Nickelodeon show iCarly, and sitting on a panel with Second Lady Jill Biden and J.J. Abrams and urged Hollywood to portray the military in a more positive light.
Both Obamas' addresses sounded like stump speeches. They ticked off the president's accomplishments on health care and financial regulatory reform. "Oh, and along the way," Barack Obama reminded donors, "we did a few other things" like repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell and appoint two women to the Supreme Court. Some liberals are pretty frustrated with the president, and both Obamas insisted the president had faced an uphill battle. "It’s going to be long," the first lady said. "It is going to be hard. I joke, did you ever think Barack Obama was going to be easy? Was there ever anybody here who just thought he’d just trounce in and fix everything, Barack Obama?"
The Obamas have some work to do in reassuring donors, The Wall Street Journal's Carol E. Lee and Jonathan Weisman report. Hillary Clinton supporters, especially, are reluctant to bundle contributions from friends, and even reelection adviser David Axelrod acknowledges donors have been neglected. "I don't think we have been particularly attentive to the so-called care and feeding of donors," Axelrod told The Journal. "I think it was largely a function of the fact that the president and everybody around him was absorbed in dealing with some fairly significant challenges."
But rekindling donor romance has not always been easy, The Journal says. Take this incident, for example:
At a recent gathering of major donors here, former National Economic Council Director Larry Summers, who headlined a breakout session on the economy, got into an exchange with a donor that resulted in the man walking out of the session, according to people at the event.
The donor told Mr. Summers that he'd had trouble getting approved for a loan, according to people present. After the man repeatedly returned to his personal troubles, Mr. Summers said that no one at the conference--where attendees were asked to raise $350,000--was experiencing the kinds of financial difficulties faced by ordinary Americans. The man got frustrated and left the room, people at the event said.
Tuesday Obama will be in Puerto Rico for another fundraiser. Puerto Ricans gave $4 million in federal campaign donations in 2008, $354,000 of them to Obama, ABC News' Devin Dwyer reports. Obama is the first president to honor the island with an official visit since John F. Kennedy went in 1961. Dwyer writes,
The symbolism of the trip might hold the greatest significance for Obama and Democrats, however, generating goodwill with the booming Puerto Rican population living inside the United States, particularly Florida, where they can cast presidential ballots next fall.
Fewer grumpy donors there, perhaps.
Here are Barack Obama's remarks. Michelle Obama's are below.
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT A DNC EVENT
Adrienne Arsht Center
7:50 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Miami! (Applause.) It's good to see you. (Applause.) It is good to be back in Miami. (Applause.) Thank you, thank you, everybody. Thank you. Everybody have a seat. Have a seat.
What do you guys think of our new DNC chair? (Applause.) Debbie Wasserman Schultz. We are so thrilled to have her. You want Debbie on your side. (Applause.) She's a mom, she's got that cute smile and all that, but she is tough. Don't mess with Debbie. (Laughter.) We are so glad of her leadership.
I know that a lot of folks have already been acknowledged. I want to make sure to mention resident commissioner Pedro Pierluisi of Puerto Rico. Where is he? Pedro, are you still here? There he is right there. (Applause.)
Adrienne Arsht, thank you so much for everything that you've done for the civic life in Miami. (Applause.) Our Florida finance chair, Kirk Wager, is here. (Applause.) Founding co-chair of Gen44, Andrew Korge, is here. (Applause.) Alonzo Mourning is in the house. (Applause.) And, look, he's not from Miami, but he's got 11 championships, so I've got to mention Bill Russell is in the house. (Applause.) Bill Russell -- greatest champion of all time in team sports in North America right here. (Applause.)
It is wonderful to be back. Many of you I've known for a very long time, some of you I'm getting a chance to see for the first time. And it got me thinking back to election night two and a half years ago, in Grant Park. It was a beautiful night in Chicago, and everybody was feeling pretty good who had supported me. And it was an incredibly hopeful time. And you will recall -- maybe you won't but I'm going to remind you -- (laughter) -- I said, this is not the end, this is the beginning. This is the beginning.
Because what I said to the American people that night was that for almost a decade too many Americans had felt as if the American Dream was slipping away. We had seen economic growth and corporate profits and a stock market that had gone up, but there were too many folks who were struggling each and every day, working as hard as they could, being responsible for their families, being responsible to their communities, but somehow they just couldn’t keep up. Wages and incomes had flat-lined, even though the cost of everything from health care to college tuitions to gas had all skyrocketed.
Around the world, the impression of America as a preeminent force for good had lost sway. We were in the midst of two wars. We didn’t seem to be able to tackle challenges that had confronted us for decades -- didn’t have an energy plan that was worthy of the greatness of America; didn’t have an immigration system that would allow us to be a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants; had a school system in which we had no longer -- we were no longer at the top and weren’t preparing our young people to meet the challenges and demands of the 21st century global interdependent economy.
And so when I started the race for President, what I said to all of you was, if you’re looking for easy answers, you’re looking in the wrong place. If you’re looking for just a bunch of partisan rhetoric, I’m probably not your guy. But if you want to join me on this journey,, to make sure that America is living up to its ideals, if you wanted to reclaim the that sense that in America anything is possible if we’re willing to work for it, and if you wanted to see if we could get beyond some of the politics of the past and point towards the future, then I wanted you to be a part of this process. And so all that culminated in Grant Park that night.
But then I said, you know what, this just gives us the opportunity to do what’s possible. This is not the end state. I didn't run for President just to be President. (Applause.) I ran for President to do things -- to do big things, to do hard things.
What we didn't know at the time -- I said this is going to be a steep climb to get to where we want to go, to achieve that summit. We didn't know how steep that climb was going to be because what we now know was we were already in the midst of what would turn out to be the worst recession since the Great Depression -- came this close to a financial meltdown that would have spun the global financial system out of control.
We lost 4 million jobs in the six months before I was sworn in, and we’d lose another 4 [million] before any of our economic initiatives had a chance to take effect. And all the challenges that ordinary families, working families, middle-class families had been feeling for years were suddenly compounded. Folks were losing their jobs, losing their homes, didn't know what the future held.
And so we’ve spent the last two and a half years trying to heal this country, trying to mend what was broken. And with the help of people like Debbie and Pedro, we’ve made enormous strides. With the help of you, we have made enormous strides. I mean, think about it. An economy that was contracting is now growing. An economy that was shedding millions of jobs, we’ve seen over 2 million jobs created in the last 15 months, in the private sector. (Applause.) The financial system stabilized. And some of the decisions that we made were not popular. Everybody acts now like, well, yeah, that was easy. (Laughter.) Think about it.
Just think for a moment about the U.S. auto industry. We were on the verge of the liquidation of two of the three big automakers in the United States -- Chrysler and GM. Now, there’s been some revisionist history that’s been offered lately about, well, they might have survived without our help -- except nobody at GM or Chrysler believes that. They were going to break that up and sell off the spare parts. And as a consequence, you would have seen a million people -- suppliers, dealerships -- all gone, in the midst of this incredible hardship that people were already experiencing. (Applause.) And we made tough decisions and we made the right decisions. And now we’ve got the big three automakers -- (applause) -- all profitable, all increasing market share, hiring back workers.
And we didn’t forget the promises that we had made during the campaign. We said we wanted to make sure that once again America would have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. And so in pursuit of that goal, we said let’s stop subsidizing big banks as middlemen on the student loan program. (Applause.) Let’s take back billions of dollars and give it directly to young people so that millions of children -- a million of our kids are going to be able to go to college without $100,000 or $200,000 worth of debt.
We said we’re going to start building a genuine clean energy industry in this country, and made the largest investment in clean energy in our history. And we did that. We said that we’d begin the process of rebuilding our infrastructure in this country, and made the largest investment rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our ports since Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s, putting hundreds of thousands of people to work all across America, doing the work that needs to be done.
We said we had to finally, after generations, deal with the travesty of the richest nation on Earth having people who went bankrupt because they went sick and couldn’t afford to provide health care to their families -- (applause) -- and we passed a historic health care law that is going to make sure that everybody in this country can get health care and is going to help drive prices down on health care in the bargain. (Applause.) We promised we’d do that, and we did it.
Oh, and along the way, we did a few other things, like pass equal pay for equal work legislation. (Applause.) And make sure that never again will you be barred from serving your country in uniform just because of the person that you love. (Applause.) And we appointed two women to the Supreme Court, one of them the first Latina in our history. (Applause.) And we expanded national service so that our young people would know what it means to give back to this country. (Applause.)
And we passed financial regulatory reform so that not only would we not see a reprise of the financial shenanigans that had gone on before, but we’d actually have a consumer bureau that would be able to look after folks when they take out credit cards and they take out mortgages, so that they wouldn’t be cheated. (Applause.)
And on the international front, we said we would end the war in Iraq -- and we have ended combat operations in Iraq and will be bringing our troops home this year. (Applause.) And we said that we would start refocusing our efforts in Afghanistan, and especially go after al Qaeda -- and we went after al Qaeda and we’re going after al Qaeda -- (applause) -- and beginning the transition process so that Afghans can take responsibility for their security.
And in the meantime, we dealt with a few other things -- like pirates. (Laughter.) And pandemic and oil spills. So there were a few other things that kept us occupied.
And I describe all this not for us to be complacent, but for all of us to remember that as hard as these battles have been, as much resistance as we’ve gotten, as much as the political debate has been distorted at times, that our basic premise -- the idea that when we put our minds to it, there’s nothing America can’t do -- that's been proven. (Applause.) That's been borne out. We have the evidence. We’ve brought about amazing change over the last two and a half years.
And we couldn’t have done it without you. We couldn’t -- we could not --
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Keep your promise, stop AIDS now!
THE PRESIDENT: That's all right. That's all right. We’re good. We’re good.
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: (Inaudible.)
THE PRESIDENT: Hold up. Hold up.
So -- now, here’s the thing. The reason we’re here today is because our work is not done. (Applause.) For all the progress we’ve made, our work is not complete. We’re not at the summit. We just -- we’re just partway up the mountain. There’s more to do. There is more to do.
We still don't have the kind of energy policy that America needs -- and all of you experience that at the pump each and every day. Our economy is still vulnerable to the spot oil market and us having to import billions of dollars, when we could be not only producing more energy right here at home, but we could be producing energy that's clean and renewable and what would ensure that we could pass on the kind of planet to the next generation that all of us long for. (Applause.)
We know that we’re not done when it comes to issues like immigration reform. I was down here at Miami Dade -- (applause) -- an amazing institution that embodies what America is all about. Young people who can trace their heritage to 181 different countries were represented. (Applause.) And some of you who may not be familiar with the ceremony, what they do is they bring out the flags of each country where somebody can trace their roots. And everybody cheers. The Cuban flag comes up and everybody goes crazy. (Applause.) The Jamaican flag comes up and everybody is hooting and hollering. (Applause.) See, sort of just like this.
But then there’s one flag that comes up, and that is the American flag, and everybody explodes -- (applause) -- because that’s the essence of who we are. Out of many, one. But we don’t have a system that reflects those values. It is still an issue that’s exploited, that’s used to divide instead of bringing people together. We’ve got more work to do.
We’ve got more work to do when it comes to rebuilding the infrastructure of this country. We’ve got a couple of trillion dollars worth of work that needs to be done. We were at a Jobs Council meeting up in North Carolina and the chairman of Southwest, the CEO of Southwest, he explained how because our air traffic control system is so archaic, we probably waste about 15 percent of fuel because planes are having to go this way and that. The whole system was designed back in the 1930s before you even had things like GPS. But think about -- what’s true for the airlines industry is true for our roads, it’s true for our ports, it’s true for our airports, it’s true for our power system. We’ve got more work to do.
We’ve made incredible progress on education, helping students to finance their college educations, but we still don’t have enough engineers. We still don’t have enough scientists. We still lag behind other countries when it comes to training our young people for the jobs, the high-skilled jobs that are going to provide high wages and allow them to support a family.
But we’ve made incredible progress K through 12 with something we call Race to the Top, which basically says -- (applause) -- to school districts and to states, you reform the system and we will show you the money, and so providing incentives. And 40 states across the country have made critical reforms as a consequence to this program. But we still have schools where half the kids drop out. We still consign too many of our young people to lives of desperation and despair. We’ve got more work to do.
And we’ve got so much work to do on our economy. We’ve got so much more work to do on our economy. Every night I get letters. We get about 40,000 pieces of mail at the White House every day, and I ask my team to select 10 letters for me to read that are representative of what people are feeling out there. And I will tell you these really are representative, because about half of them call me an idiot. (Laughter.) And -- but most of the stories are just some ordinary folks who have done the right thing, have worked hard all their lives. Some of them are small business owners who have poured their savings into a venture, and then when the recession hit they lost everything, and now they’re trying to get back on their feet.
You get letters from moms who are trying to figure out how to pay their bills at the end of the month, and they’re going back to school while they’re working to see if they can retrain for a better job. Sometimes you get folks who have sent out 100 resumes and haven’t gotten a response, and are trying to describe what it’s like to tell your child than nobody wants to hire you. Sometimes you get a letter from a kid who says, my parents are about to lose my home -- Mr. President, is there something you can do to help?
And in all those stories, what you see is incredible resilience and incredible stick-to-itiveness, and a sense on the part of people that no matter how down they are, they’re not out. And they don’t expect government to solve all their problems. All they’re looking for is that somebody cares and that we’re doing everything we can, trying every idea to make sure that this economy is moving. And they don’t understand how it is that good ideas get caught up in partisan politics, and why is it that people seem to be arguing all the time instead of trying to do the people’s business.
So we’ve got more work to do -- investing in our education system and making sure that -- (applause) -- making sure that our infrastructure is built and we’re putting people back to work, and helping the housing market recover, and dealing with our budget in a way that allows us to once again live within our means but doing so in a way that is consistent with our values.
You know, this budget debate that we’re having in Washington right now, it’s not just about numbers. It’s about values. It’s about what we believe and who we are as a people. The easiest thing to do to balance a budget is you just slash and burn and you cut and you don’t worry about the consequences. But that’s not who we are. We’re better than that. (Applause.)
I don’t want to live in a country where we’re no longer helping young people go to college, and so your fate is basically determined by where you were born and your circumstances. If that were the case, I wouldn’t be standing here today. I don't want to live in a country where we no longer believe that we can build the best airports or the best rail systems. I don't want to live in a country where we’re no longer investing in basic research and science so that we’re at the cutting edge of technology. I don't want to live in a country where we are abandoning our commitment to the most vulnerable among us -- the disabled, our seniors -- making sure that they’ve got a basic safety net so that they can live with dignity and respect in their golden years. (Applause.)
And so here’s the -- the good news is that we can bring down our deficit and we can work down our debt, and we can do so the same way families all across America do, by prioritizing and deciding what’s important to us. So we’re going to have to scrub the federal budget and get rid of every program that doesn't work, and get rid of every regulation that is outdated. And we’ve got to make sure that we build on all the tax cuts that we’ve provided to small businesses and to individuals over the last couple years so that they’re getting back on their feet.
But we’ve also got to make sure that whatever sacrifices we make, whatever burdens are borne are spread among all of us; that we’re not just doing it on the backs of the poor; that we’re not just doing it on the backs of our seniors; that we’re not just doing it on the backs of the most vulnerable. (Applause.)
And the other side say, well, you know what, we can just cut and cut and cut and cut -- and by the way, you, Mr. President, since you’ve been so lucky, we’re going to give you a $200,000 tax break. I’d love to have a tax break. I don’t like paying taxes -- I’m the President. (Laughter.) This notion somehow that I enjoy paying taxes or administering taxes, that makes no sense. Nothing is better for a politician than saying, you know what, forget about it, you will have everything you need and everything this country needs and you don’t have to pay for a thing.
But, you know what, I don’t want a $200,000 tax break if it means that 33 seniors are each going to have to pay $6,000 more a year for their Medicare. (Applause.) I don’t want that. I don’t want a tax break if it means hundreds of kids won’t be able to go to Head Start. (Applause.) That’s not a tradeoff I’m willing to make. That’s not a tradeoff most of Americans are willing to make. That’s not who we are. That’s not what we believe in.
And the reason I’m not willing to make a tradeoff, it’s not out of charity. It’s because my life is better when I know, as I’m driving by a school, you know what, those kids in there, they’ve got the best teachers, they’ve got the best equipment -- I know that they’re going to succeed. That makes me feel better about my life and about my country. (Applause.)
And if I’m seeing an elderly couple stroll by holding hands -- and I’m saying to myself, you know, that’s going to be Michelle and me in a few years -- and I know that whatever their circumstances, I know they’ve got Social Security and they’ve got Medicare that they can count on, that makes my life better. That makes my life richer. (Applause.)
So that's what this campaign is going to be about. It’s going to be about values. It’s the same thing that the 2008 campaign was about: What's important to you? Who are we? What is it about America that makes us so proud?
When I think about why our campaign drew so much excitement, it was because it tapped into those essential things that bind us together. I look out at this auditorium, and I see people from every walk of life, every age, every demographic -- but there’s something that binds us together, that says this is what makes our country so special.
And that's what’s at stake. That's the journey that we’re on. And the only way that we stay on track, the only way that we continue that journey is if all of you are involved. Because what also made the campaign special was it wasn’t about me -- it was never about me -- it was about us. It was about you. (Applause.) It was about you being willing to be involved, and you being willing to be engaged. Because that's also what makes America special -- ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
Now, two and a half years have passed since that night in Grant Park, and I’ve got a lot more gray hair. (Laughter.) And what seemed so fresh and new, now -- we’ve seen Obama so many times on TV, and we know all his quirks and all his tics and he’s been poked apart. And there’s some of you who probably have felt at times during the last two and a half years, gosh, why isn’t this happening faster? Why isn’t this easier? Why are we struggling? And why didn’t health care get done quicker? And why didn’t we get the public option? (Laughter and applause.) And what -- I know the conversation you guys are having. (Laughter.) "I’m not feeling as hopeful as I was." And I understand that. There have been frustrations, and I’ve got some dings to show for it over the last two and half years.
But I never said this was going to be easy. This is a democracy. It’s a big country and a diverse country. And our political process is messy. Yes, you don’t always get 100 percent of what you want, and you make compromises. That’s how the system was designed. But what I hope all of you still feel is that for all the frustrations, for all the setbacks, for all the occasional stumbles, that what motivates us, what we most deeply cherish, that that’s still within reach. That it’s still possible to bring about extraordinary change. That it’s still possible to make sure that the America we pass down to our kids and our grandkids is a better America than the one we inherited. (Applause.) I’m confident about that. I believe in that, because I believe in you.
And so I’m glad you guys came to the rally. But just like in 2008, if we want to bring about the change we believe in, we’re going to have to get to work. You’re going to have to make phone calls. (Applause.) You’re going to have to knock on doors. You’re going to have to talk to all your friends and all your neighbors, and you’re going to have to talk to the naysayers. And you’re going to have to go out there and say: We’ve got more work to do. And if they tell you, I don’t know, I’m not sure, I’m not convinced -- you just remind them of those three words that captured this campaign, captured the last campaign and will capture the 2012 campaign: Yes, we can.
Thank you, Miami. God bless you. (Applause.) God bless the United States of America.
REMARKS BY THE FIRST LADY
AT A DNC EVENT
Los Angeles, California
7:36 P.M. PDT
MRS. OBAMA: Well, that was so nice! Sheesh. (Applause.) Thank you so much. It is a real pleasure to be here with all of you tonight in this beautiful setting at the home of two of my favorite people in the whole wide world. And when you’re my age, you don't often run into new people that you just sort of click with. But Michael and James have been just a true blessing to our family. I mean, imagine moving to this new house -- it’s a little more than a house -- not knowing where stuff goes, how it works, and Michael just -- he has the right temperament, because believe it or not, the President has opinions about his drapes. (Laughter.) And Michael is very patient with him in a very humorous way. It’s a very good balance. It’s very interesting to watch.
But I want to thank them for generously hosting us at this beautiful home in this beautiful setting. Thank you guys. You are amazing. Well done. (Applause.)
I also want to recognize all of the National Finance Committee members here. Yay, you all. (Applause.) Firing it up. You made this event such a tremendous success, and we couldn’t do this without you. We are truly, truly grateful and proud because all of you are good, solid people, as well. So thank you.
And finally I want to thank all of you for being here tonight. I’m thrilled to see so many new faces. That is always good. And I’m thrilled to see so many folks who have been with us right from the beginning; folks who have been through all of the ups and the downs and the nail-biting moments along the way, because there have been many.
And tonight, as we look ahead to the next part of this amazing journey, I can’t help but think back to how it all began.
And I have to be honest and tell you that when Barack first started talking about running for President, I was not exactly enthusiastic about the idea. (Laughter.) I mean, don't get me wrong, I was proud of what my husband was doing in the Senate; he was a phenomenal U.S. senator. And I knew that he would make a phenomenal President. That was never a doubt in my mind.
But like a lot of people, I still had some cynicism about politics. And I was worried about the toll that a presidential campaign would take on my family. At the time, we had two young daughters. They are growing. Malia is here. And yes we are having conversations about shorts and heels and all that stuff. I don't know what to do. But she’s growing up. But at that time they were still young. And the last thing that I wanted to do was disrupt their lives and turn their routines upside down. The last thing that I wanted in the world was to spend time apart from my girls.
So it took some convincing on Barack’s part, and by “some,” I mean a lot. (Laughter.) No, really. And even as I hit the campaign trail, I was still a little uneasy about this whole “President thing.” That's what Malia used to call it -- “Is Dad doing that President thing?” (Laughter.)
But something happened to me during those first few months on the campaign trail that changed me, because for me campaigning in places like Iowa and New Hampshire, South Carolina, it wasn’t just about handshakes and stump speeches. For me it was really about the conversations that we were able to have with people on front porches and in folks’ living rooms, people who didn’t know a thing about us. Barack Obama who? You just let Barack Obama walk into your house and sit at your kitchen table -- it takes some courage -- into their homes, into their lives.
And I remember one of my first events in Iowa was a gathering in a backyard. It was a beautiful day. Never been there before. Didn’t know the family. Tons of people out, just curious to see who I was. And within minutes, I was so comfortable that I remember kicking my shoes off -- I had high heels on, as usual -- and I was standing barefoot in the grass, just talking to folks.
And that’s what campaigning was about for me. It was about meeting people one-on-one and hearing what was going on in their lives. And I learned a lot about folks. I learned about the businesses that they were trying to keep afloat -- the home that they loved, but could no longer afford, the spouse who came back from war, and still needed a lot of help, the child who was so smart, like so many of our children, who could be anything she could imagine if only her parents could find the way to pay tuition.
And these stories moved me. That's it. These stories were familiar to me. That was the thing.
Because in the parents working that extra shift, or taking that extra job, I saw Barack’s mother, a young single mom struggling to support Barack and his sister.
I saw my father, who dragged himself to work at the city water plant every morning, because even as his Multiple Sclerosis got worse and he got weaker and weaker, my father was always determined to be our family’s provider.
And in the grandparents coming out of retirement to pitch in and help make ends meet, I saw my own mother -- oh, thank God for Grandma -- who has helped raise our girls since the day they were born. We couldn’t do this without Grandma.
I saw Barack’s grandmother who caught a bus to work before dawn every day to help provide for their family. She was the primary breadwinner.
In the children I met who were worried about a mom who’s lost her job, or a father deployed from home for months on end, kids so full of promise and dreams, of course I saw my own daughters, who are the center of my world.
And the thing is, is that these folks weren’t asking for much. They were looking for basic things –- things like being able to see a doctor when you’re sick. Things like having a decent public school to send your kids to, and a chance for them to go to college even if you’re not rich. Things like making a decent wage, having a secure retirement, leaving something better for your kids.
And while we may have grown up in different places and seemed different in so many ways, their stories were my family’s stories. They were Barack’s family’s stories. Their values were the ones we learned all over this country -- basic things -- you treat people how you want to be treated, you put your family first always, you do what you say you’re going to do every time, you don't make false promises. These were our family’s values.
And then suddenly, as I traveled around and saw the sameness, everything Barack had been saying about how we’re all interconnected, about how we’re not red states and blue states, those weren’t just lines from a speech. It was what I was seeing with my own eyes, something that I wish every American could experience, because that changed me.
And you know what else changed me during those months on the campaign trail? All of you did, truly, this cynic, because when I got tired, I would think of all the folks out there making calls and knocking on doors day after day, folks who would never imagine themselves as part of the political process, and many of you were doing that, knocking on strange people’s doors, getting them to vote for Barack Obama. And that would energize me.
And when I got discouraged, I would think of the folks opening their wallets even when they didn’t have much to give, because a lot of people were giving a dollar, $25, their last dollar.
I would think of the folks who had the courage to let themselves believe again and hope again, because there are many people my grandparents’ age who never believed this could happen. And it wasn’t because they didn’t believe in Barack. They didn’t believe we could do this, that this country could do it. They had to let go and let themselves believe, forget everything they had learned, everything they experienced, and think about what was possible. And they would give me hope.
And the simple truth is that today, four years later, we are here because of all of you. And I’m not just talking about winning that election. I’m talking about what we’ve been doing every day in the White House since that time to keep fighting for the folks we met and the values we share. I’m talking about what Barack has been doing to help us all win the future.
And at a time when we still have so many challenges and so much work to do, it is so easy to forget about what we’ve been able to accomplish along the way.
But I want to just take a step back for a moment and think about these past couple of years, because it’s only been two years, right?
And in two years, we have gone from an economy that was on the brink of collapse to an economy that is growing again. We’re helping middle class families by cutting taxes, and working to stop credit card companies from taking advantage of regular folks. We’re going to give working moms and dads a childcare tax credit because we know that those little costs add up. And we’re helping women get equal pay for equal work with the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay act. That was the first bill that my husband signed into law, the very first thing he did as President of the United States. (Applause.)
And because of health reform, millions of Americans will finally be able to afford a doctor. Their insurance companies won’t be able to drop their coverage when they get sick, or charge them through the roof because their child has a pre-existing condition. (Applause.) No more. And now we have things covered like preventative care –- prenatal care, mammograms, ooh, just going crazy -- (laughter) -- things that save money but more importantly things that save lives.
Because we don’t want to leave a mountain of debt for our kids, we’re reducing our deficit and doing what families across this country are already doing. We’re cutting back so that we can start living within our means.
But that still means we need to invest in the things that really matter -- things like clean energy, so that we can really bring down gas prices, things like scientific research, including stem cell research. Those are the investments that this President is making. (Applause.) We’re also investing in community colleges, which are a gateway to opportunity for so many people, Pell Grants, which help so many young people afford their tuition. And then through a competition called Race to the Top, we’ve got 40 states now working to raise standards and reform their schools.
We’re working to live up to our founding values of freedom and equality. And today, because we 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.) No more.
And you might also recall that my husband appointed two brilliant Supreme Court Justices -- (applause) -- and for the first time in history, our daughters –- and our sons –- watched three women take their seats on our nation’s highest court. (Applause.)
And we are also working to keep our country safe and restore our standing in the world. We’re responsibly ending the war in Iraq and we’ve already brought home 100,000 men and women in uniform who have served this country so bravely.
And today, thanks to the tireless work of our intelligence and counter-terrorism communities and the heroic efforts of our troops, the man behind 9/11 and so many other horrific attacks has finally been brought to justice. Yes, that did happen. (Applause.)
And finally, we’re tackling two issues near and dear to my heart, both as First Lady and as a mom.
The first is childhood obesity. I mean, this issue doesn’t just affect our kids’ health and how they feel. This issue affects how they feel about themselves and whether they will have the energy and the stamina to succeed in school and in life.
Are we good there? Do we need -- because we have agents. They have stuff. They come equipped with things. All right.
So we are working through this initiative to get better food into our schools and communities and to help parents make better decisions for their kids.
The second issue that Michael mentioned is one that I came to on the campaign trail, meeting so many extraordinary military families. These folks are raising their kids and running their households all alone while their spouses are on deployment after deployment, and they do it with tremendous courage and strength and pride. That’s why Jill Biden and I launched a nationwide campaign to rally this entire country to serve those families and those men and women as well as they serve us. (Applause.)
So these are just some of the things that have been accomplished in two years. I could go on but I don't want to make you stand in your heels. It gets difficult. (Laughter.) I know.
So I think it’s fair to say that we have seen some significant change these last couple of years. And we should be proud of what we’ve accomplished. But we should never be satisfied, because we know that we still have a lot of work to do. We know that too many of our kids still don’t have what they need to succeed. We know that too many folks are still struggling to pay the bills today.
The truth is, is that all those folks we campaigned for, and won for, and that we’ve been fighting for, for these past two years, those folks still need our help. We are not done.
And that, more than anything else, is what drives my husband as President of the United States. That’s what I see when he returns home after a long day traveling around the country, and he tells me about the people that he’s met. And I see in those quiet moments late at night, after the girls have gone to bed, when he’s reading the letters people have sent him -- the letter from the woman dying of cancer whose health insurance wouldn’t cover her care. The letter from the young person with so much promise, but so few opportunities.
And trust me, I see the sadness and the worry creasing his face. You want to know where the gray hairs come from? I hear the passion and determination in his voice. Says, “You won’t believe what these folks are going through.” Says, “Michelle, this isn’t right. And we still have to fix this. We have to do more.”
So the one thing I want to share with you about my husband is that when it comes to the people he meets, Barack has a memory like a steel trap. I mean, he might not remember your name, but he will remember, if he’s had a few minutes and a decent conversation with you, he will never forget your story. It becomes imprinted on his heart. And that is what he carries with him every day –- that collection of hopes, and dreams, and struggles.
And that’s where Barack gets his passion. That is why he works so hard every day, and I have never seen anyone work this hard. Every day. Every day. Most days there isn’t an issue that faces this world that he is not expected to fix.
Starting the first thing in the morning and going late into the night, this is a man who is hunched over briefing books. He reads every single word. He is gifted. He is able to retain, make notes, ask questions. He knows more than the people briefing him. This man is special because all those wins and losses, they’re not wins and losses for him. They’re wins and losses for the folks whose stories he carries with him, the folks he worries about and prays about before he goes to bed at night.
And in the end, for Barack, and for me, and for so many of you, that is what politics is about. It’s what it should be about. It’s about how we work together, even when it’s hard, to make real changes that make a real difference in people’s lives. That young person attending college today because she can finally afford it. That is happening. The mom or dad who can take of their child today find a doctor because of health care reform. That is happening. The folks who are working on the line today at places like GM, bringing home a good paycheck for their families. That change matters.
And now, more than ever before, we need your help to finish what we’ve started. We need all of you to be with us for that next phase of our journey. And I’m not going to kid you, because I didn’t kid you when we first started, I never said this was going to be easy. And no one can quote me on that.
It’s going to be long. It is going to be hard. I joke, did you ever think Barack Obama was going to be easy? Was there ever anybody here who just thought he’d just trounce in and fix everything, Barack Obama?
But here’s the thing about my husband –- and this is something that I’d appreciate even if he didn’t have the good sense to marry me. (Laughter and applause.) Even in the toughest moments, when it seems like all is lost, Barack Obama never loses sight of the end goal. He never lets himself get distracted by the chatter and the noise. It’s amazing. He just keeps moving forward.
And in those moments when we’re all sweating it, and all of you have been sweating it at some point, because I know I have -- will the bill get passed, will the negotiations fall through, what will he do, why isn’t he doing this, he should do more of that -- I do it to him, too -- (laughter) -- Barack always reminds me that we’re playing a long game here. He reminds me that change is slow. Nothing worth having happens in an instant, something we tell our children so that they actually invest. You don't get success overnight.
But he tells me that if we keep showing up, as we tell our children, if we keep fighting the good fight, and doing what we know is right, then eventually we will get there, because we always have. As bleak as things may be, we always wind up in the right place.
And that’s what he needs from you. He needs you to be in this with him for the long haul. He needs you to hold fast to our vision and our values and our dreams for our kids and for our country. He needs you to work like you’ve never worked before.
And let me tell you, that is what I plan to do. And I won’t be doing it as a wife or as a First Lady. I’m going to be doing it as a mother, who wants to leave a legacy for my girls. And more than that, I’m going to be doing it as a citizen who knows what we can do together to change this country for the better, because the truth is, is that no matter what happens, my girls are going to be okay. I’m going to see to that. My girls will have plenty of advantages and opportunities in their lives. And that’s probably true for many of the kids here, many of your kids.
But I think the last four years have shown us the truth of what Barack has always said: That if any child in this country is left behind, then that matters to all of us, even if it is not our daughter or our son. (Applause.) We cannot just look inward. If any family in this country struggles, then we cannot be fully content with our own family’s good fortune, because that is not what we do in this country. It’s not who we are.
In the end, we cannot separate our own story from the broader American story. Like it or not, we’re all in this together. And that's how it should be. That's a good thing. And I know that if we put our hearts and souls into this, as we’ve done before, if we do what we need to do during these next couple of years, then we can continue to make that change that we believe in. I know that we can build that country that our kids deserve.
So I have one last question. Are you in? (Applause.) I mean, come on. Are you in this? Are you ready for this? (Applause.) Because I certainly am. And I hope that all of you are fired up, ready to go, because I really look forward to this. This is going to be good working with all of you in the months and years ahead.
Thank you. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for your commitment. Thank you for taking a risk. You haven’t made a mistake. We’re making things happen.
Thank you all so much. (Applause.)
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.