(The First Lady made the following remarks at a fundraising event for US Senate candidate Ed Markey on May 29, 2013.)
MRS. OBAMA: (Applause.) My goodness. Yes. Thank you so much. Rest yourselves because I want you working hard for Ed. (Laughter.) So I don’t want you to wear yourself out here.
Let me start by thanking our dear friend Ed for that very, very kind introduction. I think he should say that again with my husband here in the room. (Laughter.) But more importantly, for being such a passionate champion of families right here in Massachusetts.
Official 2013 First Lady portrait.
||As you know, during his time in Congress, Ed has fought to cut taxes for working folks and to support small businesses. He has worked tirelessly to protect our environment and create new clean-energy jobs. He has stood up time and again for a woman’s right to choose. And he has been a leader in the fight for sensible gun laws to keep all of our children safe. So yes, I am so proud to be here — (applause) – on behalf of Ed, who will be a phenomenal next senator from the state of Massachusetts. You all are very blessed. (Applause.)|
And I can’t thank and recognize him without thanking and recognizing his better half, one of my dear friends, Dr. Susan Blumenthal. Love you to death. (Applause.) Way to go. Talk about some fabulous women — this one here is doing it all, and she has been always a true supporter of me from the very beginning. So Susan, thank you so much. We’ll get it done. (Applause.)
And I want to join in recognizing Senators Warren and Cowan as well as Congresswoman Tsongas. Thank you all for being here. Thank you for your outstanding leadership. We are thrilled that you’re here — thrilled that you’re here, but thrilled that you’re in Washington, more importantly. So thank you. (Applause.)
||And I want to take a moment to particularly say a special thank you to the Mayor of this great city, Mayor Menino, a man who has been a true leader and inspiring folks here with his courage and his dedication. And while I know he wasn’t able to join us today, I think I speak for all of us when I say that we are so grateful for his lifetime of service to this city. And I, for one, have benefited from this city in my law school education, so I know he’s done a great job. So let’s give him a wonderful round of applause. (Applause.)
And most importantly, I want to thank all of you for being here to support Ed today. I also want to thank you for being here for my husband — not just once, but twice. Thank you for all the hard work that you did on his behalf. Thanks for making those calls. Thank you for knocking on all those doors. Thank you for getting everyone you know out to the polls.
Just understand that because of you, we didn’t just win two elections; we made real and meaningful change in this country. Because of all of you, our economy continues to strengthen with 38 straight months of job growth — that’s more than three years of job growth under this President. (Applause.)
Because of all of you, we passed health reform so that 41 million Americans can finally get the insurance they need and the peace of mind they deserve. (Applause.) Thank you.
Because of you, we are taking on climate change, gun violence and comprehensive immigration reform. Yes, we’re going to get that done. (Applause.) And because of you, we have a President who stands up for our most fundamental rights — whether that’s equal pay for women or the freedom for all of us to marry the person we love. (Applause.)
All of that and so much more has happened because of you. And that’s what elections are all about. It’s like Barack said in his 2008 Election Night speech. He said, “This victory alone is not the change we seek — it is only the chance for us to make that change.” And that was true back then, and it is even more true today. Because while we’ve made a lot of important change these last four years, we still have so much more to do.
Although our economy is improving, too many middle-class families are still struggling. And that fundamental American promise that so many of us grew up with — that no matter where you start out, with hard work, you can build a decent life for yourself and an even better life for your kids — that promise is no longer within reach for too many families in this country.
In fact, it probably wouldn’t be in reach for the family I grew up in if we were trying to make it in today’s economy. As many of you know, neither of my parents had a college degree. But my father’s job at the city water plant paid him a decent wage, enough to put food on the table and, with the help of student loans, send two of us to college. That job also gave him health insurance and a pension that my mom still lives on today.
Now, we weren’t rich by any stretch of the imagination, but we had stability and we had peace of mind. Because when I was growing up, a family of four living on a single blue-collar salary could build a solid life without much debt and without relying on any form of public assistance. And today, for so many families, that’s no longer the case; it’s not possible. Folks are working harder than ever before and doing everything right, but it’s still not enough. And while there is so much noise and talk and back-and-forth going on in Washington, hardly any of it seems to be about the struggles these families face.
So yes, it is easy to get frustrated and cynical. And now that the excitement that comes with a presidential campaign has faded, it is so tempting to just turn off the TV and wait another four years to re-engage.
But make no mistake about it, while we are tuning out, others are tuning in, others are tuning in, others are doing everything they can to make their voices heard. And we are seeing the effects of that kind of imbalance every single day in Washington.
Just last month, we saw the failure of common-sense legislation to protect our kids from gun violence — legislation, by the way, that 90 percent of the American people supported. We are seeing a budget stalemate and a sequester, resulting in children across the country being turned away from Head Start, and so many seniors losing their Meals on Wheels. Now there’s even talk about cutting food stamps, which could mean hundreds of thousands of children in this country going to bed hungry each night — here in the wealthiest nation on earth.
And that is not who we are. That’s not what this country is about. We are so much better than that. We are so much more compassionate and fair. Hey, Carole. (Laughter.) Carole is here. (Laughter.) You know we are better than that.
MS. KING: I do.
MRS. OBAMA: We are so much more decent than that. And we know this because we see this every single day in communities across this country. We see it where people are working hard at their jobs, sacrificing for their kids, doing everything they can to help their neighbors.
We especially see it in times of tragedy and crisis — in teachers who rushed children to safety in Newtown, teachers who risked their lives to save students in Oklahoma. We saw it in the volunteer firefighters who plunged into flames in Texas, and of course all those folks right here in Boston who ran toward the explosion, spent hours tending to perfect strangers.
None of these folks asked the people they were helping whether they were Democrats or Republicans. They didn’t ask whether they were Christians or Muslims or Jews. They didn’t care whether they were gay or straight. It was simply enough that they were fellow Americans who were suffering and needed aid. And shouldn’t that be enough for all of us?
And that’s the question I was asking myself during a recent visit to my hometown of Chicago, when I had the privilege of spending an afternoon with a wonderful group of students at a school called Harper High. Now, Harper is located in one of the toughest neighborhoods in the city — a community that has been torn apart by poverty and hopelessness, by gangs and drugs and guns.
And I shared this story with our congressional spouses, Susan, just last week. Because that afternoon, I sat down with about 25 students — these kids were the best and brightest at that school — the valedictorian, the football star, kids in ROTC. But every day, these kids were facing impossible odds — jobless parents addicted to drugs, friends and loved ones shot dead before their very eyes.
In fact, when the school counselor asked these men and women in our group whether they knew someone who’d been shot, every single one of those kids raised their hand. She then asked a simple question. She said, “What do you think when the weather forecast says ‘85 and sunny’?” Now, you’d assume that nice weather like that would be a good thing, but not for these kids. They replied that a weather report like that put fear in their hearts because in their neighborhood, when the weather is nice, that’s when the gangs come out and the shootings start.
So instead of reveling in the joys of their youth — things like college applications, getting ready for prom, getting that first driver’s license — these young people were consumed with staying alive. And there are so many kids in this country just like them — kids with so much promise, but so few opportunities; good kids who are doing everything they can to break the cycle and beat the odds.
They are the reason we’re here today. And today, we need to be better for them. We need to be better for all of our children in this country because they are counting on us to give them the chances they need for the futures they all deserve. So here’s the thing: We just can’t wait for the next presidential election to get fired up and ready to go. We can’t wait. Right now, today, in this election, we have an obligation to stand up for them.
So we must recapture that same passion, the same energy and urgency that we felt back in 2008 and 2012. We must keep working together to build a country worthy of all of our children’s promise. That’s what we must do today.
So let’s begin by ensuring that every child has access to quality pre-kindergarten, excellent schools, affordable college, because we want all of our kids to fulfill their boundless potential. Let’s finally pass common-sense gun safety laws, because no mother, no father, should ever have to worry when they drop their child off at a movie or a mall or at school. (Applause.)
And then, when our kids grow up, let’s make sure they have jobs that pay a decent wage, because we know that it is wrong for anyone in this country to work 40 or 50 hours a week and still be stuck in poverty. And let’s make sure they have the health care they need, because no one in this country should get their primary care in an emergency room.
When it comes to women’s health, let’s keep fighting for our most fundamental, personal rights, because we know good and well that women are more than capable of making our own decisions about our bodies and about our health care. We know that.
And I know we can do this. I know we can. But make no mistake about it –- and this is the key point that I want to make here today –- my husband can’t do it alone. He absolutely needs folks like Ed Markey in the Senate to make it happen. Absolutely. (Applause.)
So here in the state of Massachusetts, we need you to do everything you can over these next four weeks to get Ed Markey elected. And it’s all on you this time. No one else can make this happen but you. But that’s a beautiful, promising thing.
So we need you to do all you can. Keep on writing those checks. (Laughter.) And if you haven’t maxed out, max out. (Laughter.) And get your friends to max out. We got a few more weeks. Get the money in.
And while raising money is important, we know it’s not nearly enough. We also need you out there every single day between now and June 25th, knocking on doors, making calls, getting everyone you know out to the polls.
Because we all know what happens with special elections when we don’t do that work: People don’t turn out. And now it’s summer, and it’s summer in Boston. I’m from Chicago. I know the excitement when you live in cold weather. It gets a little bit above 50 and everybody loses their mind. They got shorts on, laying out. (Laughter.) So a lot of folks just aren’t going to be thinking about politics.
So you need to get out there and shake them up, get their focus. And when you come across folks who think that special elections don’t matter, please remind them of what exactly is at stake when we talk about sending Ed Markey to the Senate. Remind them about the difference that just a few votes can make in our Congress.
For example, remind them that legislation on equal pay for women failed by just two votes in the Senate — two votes. Remind them about the DREAM Act, the act that gives immigrant kids a fair shot in this country. That act failed twice, once by just five votes, and once by just four. So as you know, the President had to sign an executive order to finally get this done. (Applause.)
And then there’s that common-sense gun bill that I talked about earlier. As you know that bill failed. And you know by how many votes? Failed by just six votes — six votes. So this election isn’t just about one seat in the U.S. Senate; this election is about every single issue we care about. It is about every single issue that affects our children and our grandchildren, nothing less.
So we must summon the same passion and energy that got our friend Elizabeth Warren elected. We need to summon the same passion and energy that got Barack Obama elected, because listen to this, Massachusetts: You simply cannot elect Barack Obama by a landslide and then lose this Senate seat. That makes no sense at all. (Applause.)
Because my husband needs Ed Markey in the Senate. (Applause.) He needs Ed Markey to keep helping us make that change we all believe in. So remember all of those times I’ve asked you to have my husband’s back? This is one of those back-having times — right now. (Laughter.)
And I know it won’t be easy. This election is less than a month away. And I know that plenty of special interests are pouring all kinds of resources into this election, and others, but remember, as we saw last year, just last November, that person who spends a million dollars or even $10 million, that person still just has one vote just like the rest of us.
So you need to get everyone you know to cast their votes and make their voices heard on June 25th. And if anyone tries to tell you that they’re too busy, or that it’s too much of a hassle, or that this election just doesn’t matter, I want you to share a story with them. I want you to tell them about a woman named Desiline Victor, who Barack talked about in his State of the Union address. She was sitting in the box with me. Now, Desiline lives down in Florida, and she waited for hours in line to cast her vote in November.
You might think that’s not so unusual, because a lot of people had to wait in long lines this past election. But see here’s the thing: Desiline is 102 years old. She was born before women had the right to vote. And she’s been a citizen of this country for less than 10 years. And even though her feet probably ached, even though she was tired, she was determined to cast her vote and make her voice heard in the country that she loves.
So here’s what we have to do. We have to say to ourselves, now, if Desiline can summon that kind of passion and energy, then we don’t have any excuse. If Desiline can summon the kind of patriotism and determination, then so can we. And if you all do that here in Massachusetts, which I know you will, then I know that we will elect Ed Markey to the U.S. Senate.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We’re fired up, Michelle!
MRS. OBAMA: Be fired up! (Applause.) And I know that we will continue our work to build a future worthy of our children.
Thank you all. Thank you for all your work. We will get this done. Thank you so much. We love you. God bless.