Full Text Campaign Buzz July 13, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech During 2 Day Virginia Tour at Phoebus High School, Hampton, Virginia — Stresses Middle-Class Tax Cuts Extension




Remarks by the President at a Campaign Event in Hampton, Virginia

Source: WH, 7-13-12

Phoebus High School, Hampton, Virginia

4:48 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Hampton!  (Applause.)  Oh, it’s good to be back!  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE:  Obama!  Obama!  Obama!

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you.  It is good to be back, Hampton.  Hello, Phantoms.  How are the Phantoms doing here?  (Applause.)  Oh, it looks like we got some rivalry here with the Phantoms.  (Applause.)

A couple of people I want to say thank you to.  First of all, some people may not remember that when I announced for President, the very first endorsement I received outside of my home state of Illinois was — (applause) — didn’t say it was you.  (Laughter.)  I didn’t know about your endorsement.  But what I do know is being in Richmond and being introduced by then-Governor Tim Kaine.  (Applause.)  He has been a great friend ever since.  He was a great governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. He is going to be a great United States senator with your help.  (Applause.)

You guys also have an outstanding ex-governor who is making his mark and making a difference already in the United States Senate — give it up for Mark Warner.  (Applause.)

I believe that your fine Congressman who is always fighting on your behalf is around — Bobby Scott is in the house.  (Applause.)  And one of my favorite mayors in the country, we love her and she is doing an outstanding job.  Mayor Molly Ward is in the house.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you!

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

I also want to acknowledge, we recently lost an outstanding trailblazer who made such a difference in the lives of so many, so we miss her.  We pray for her family.  She is in a better place — State Senator Yvonne Miller.  (Applause.)

Now, it’s a little hot, everybody, so if you’ve got a seat, go ahead and take a seat.  If you’ve got a seat.  If you don’t have a seat, hang in there.  (Applause.)  And I’ll try not to be too long-winded.  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Take your time!

THE PRESIDENT:  See, I know these are some churchgoing folks when they say take your time.  (Applause.)  I know we’ve got some outstanding preachers here, as well, so I’m not going to try to compete with them.  (Laughter.)

Now, unless you’ve been managing to hide your television set somewhere under a rock — (laughter) — you may be aware that we’re in the middle of campaign season.  And let’s face it, it’s not always pretty to watch.  There’s more money flooding into the system than ever before, more negative ads, more cynicism.  What you read in the newspapers, it’s all about polls and who’s up and who’s down, instead of what actually would make a difference in your lives.  And I know sometimes it’s tempting to turn away from participating, and it’s tempting sometimes to get cynical about the process and the possibilities of bringing about change in this country.

But the reason you’re here and the reason I’m here is because we still believe.  (Applause.)  We still believe in America.  We still believe in hope.  And we still believe in change.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We got your back, Mr. President!

THE PRESIDENT:  And I’ve got yours.  (Applause.)  Because as small and as petty as politics can sometimes seem, the stakes this year could not be bigger.  In a lot of ways, the stakes are bigger than they were back in 2008, because we’re facing a choice between two very different visions for this country.  And the choice between these two paths for our country ultimately is going to be up to you.

Now, this is my last political campaign.


THE PRESIDENT:  No, Michelle is very happy about that.  (Laughter.)  Let me tell you.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love Michelle!

THE PRESIDENT:  I know you all love Michelle.  I know that.  (Applause.)

But since this is my last campaign, it got me a little nostalgic about my first campaigns.  I think about the places I used to travel in Illinois — VFW halls and diners, and we’d go to small towns and we’d go to big cities, and you’d meet folks from every walk of life — black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled, not disabled — you name it.  And everywhere I went, what was interesting was that for all the differences there was something everybody had in common, and in people’s lives I’d see my own life.

I would meet an older vet and I’d think about my grandfather and my grandmother, part of that World War II generation — my grandfather fighting in World War II, then coming home, and my grandmother who had been working on a bomber assembly line — they were able to go to college on the GI Bill, and how they were able to buy their first home with an FHA mortgage.  And I thought about my mom, because if I’d see a single mom I’d think about how challenging it was for her to raise me without a dad, and raise my sister without a dad — how she was able to put herself through school and work at the same time — (applause) –and give her child the best education this country had to offer.

And I’d think about Michelle’s family.  I’d meet a family, and it didn’t matter whether it was some rural area or small town — you’d meet folks who remind me of Michelle’s dad who had Multiple Sclerosis, could barely walk by the time I met him, but never missed a day of work — worked a blue-collar job.  And Michelle’s mom stayed at home until the kids got old enough and then became a secretary at a bank, and she worked as a secretary all her life.  And they never had a lot.  But they had a lot of love.  (Applause.)  And they had strong values.  And they had discipline.  And that’s why Michelle and her brother could go on and achieve things that their parents couldn’t even imagine.

And what I’d realized during that first campaign and all the campaigns after that was that our lives all were a testament to that fundamental American idea, the idea that no matter who you are, no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from, no matter what your last name is, you can make it if you try.  (Applause.)

This country has never been full of folks looking for handouts.  We’re a nation of workers and doers and dreamers.  We work hard for what we get.  And all we ask for is that our hard work pays off, that our responsibility is rewarded, that if we’re willing to put in the effort, we can find a job that supports a family, and be able to get a home we can call our own, we won’t go bankrupt when we get sick, take a little vacation once in a while, send our kids to college and let them do things so much bigger than what we did, and then retire with some dignity and some respect, and be part of a community and a neighborhood and a nation that looks after its own.  (Applause.)

That basic bargain is what built the biggest middle class we’ve ever seen.  That basic bargain is what made us an economic superpower.  That basic bargain is what made us the envy of the world.  (Applause.)

And in 2008 we came together — not just Democrats, we had independents, we had Republicans — all who recognized that that basic bargain was starting to fray, that it was getting weaker.  We’ve gone through a decade that had seen wages and incomes not go up, job growth sluggish, surpluses turning into deficits.  That middle-class dream seemed like it was slipping away for too many people.

And then just as the campaign was being completed and just as we were making some history, what we realized was we’re going through the worst financial crisis and economic crisis since the Great Depression.  We knew that turning this thing around would not be easy.  We knew it was going to take more than one year or one term or maybe even one President.

And this crisis has been tough on a lot of folks and a lot of families.  It robbed millions of hardworking Americans their livelihoods, their homes, their savings.  It pushed the American Dream, that basic bargain even further out of reach for too many people.  But you know what, that crisis didn’t change who we are or what we believed in.  It didn’t change our character as a country.  It hasn’t changed why we came together in 2008.

Our mission right now is to put people back to work and recover from this recession.  But it’s more than that.  It is also about how we restore that basic bargain that every American believes in, that if you work hard you can get ahead.  (Applause.)  Our goal is an economy where hard work pays off; an economy where everybody — whether you’re starting a business or you’re punching a clock — everybody can have confidence that they can make it.  That’s what the campaign in 2008 was about.  That’s what this campaign is about.  That is the reason I am running for a second term as President of the United States of America.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE:  Four more years!  Four more years!

THE PRESIDENT:  Now, let me just say this.  For all the work that we’ve done — as Tim Kaine talked about, creating more than 4.5 million jobs, making sure that we’re bringing manufacturing back to our shores, restoring our auto industry so it’s number one again, getting health care passed — (applause) — for all the work that we’ve done we’ve got a lot more work to do.  And what’s holding us back from meeting these big challenges is not the lack of technical solutions, it’s not the lack of big ideas. The problem is we’ve got a stalemate in this country — at least we’ve got a stalemate in Washington.  Actually, when you talk to ordinary people, they seek common sense, but apparently it’s harder to recognize in Washington.

So we’ve got a choice.  The outcome will determine not just how things go a year from now or five years from now or 10 years from, but maybe 20 or 30 or 40 years from now.  My opponent and his allies in Congress, they believe that prosperity comes from the top down.


THE PRESIDENT:  No, look, I mean, this is what democracy is about.  We’re going to have a debate about how to grow this economy and help build a strong middle class.  And they believe that happens from the top down.  They believe that if we spend trillions of dollars more on tax cuts for the wealthy, if we eliminate regulations that protect consumers — make sure insurance companies can’t take advantage of you, that we eliminate regulations that protect our air and our water and make sure our children are healthy — if we do those things, then somehow even if we have to pay for it by gutting education or maybe raising taxes on middle-class families or eliminating training programs, that somehow we’re going to be better off.


THE PRESIDENT:  That’s their theory.  Now, here’s the problem.  They tried it.  This country tried that for the decade before I took office, and it didn’t work.  (Applause.)  We are still paying trillions of dollars in tax cuts for folks who didn’t need them and weren’t even asking for them, and it didn’t lead to better jobs or better wages for the middle class.

The lack of regulation and rules on Wall Street was exactly what allowed people to take reckless shortcuts that resulted in the crisis we’re still dealing with.  So we don’t need more top-down economics.  That’s my belief.  That’s my view.  We need somebody who is going to fight for the middle class.  (Applause.)

I believe that’s how you grow the economy, from the middle out, from the bottom up — (applause) — looking after working people and making sure they’ve got opportunity.

That’s what I’ve been fighting for since I got into this office.  That’s what I’ll be fighting for as long as I have the privilege of being your President.  (Applause.)

On the last campaign, I promised to cut taxes for the middle class, and I kept that promise.  (Applause.)  We’ve cut taxes by about $3,600 for the typical family.  Four years later, I’m running to keep middle-class taxes low.  This week, I called on Congress to immediately extend these tax cuts on everybody who is making $250,000 a year or less.  (Applause.)  Now that, by the way, includes 98 percent of Americans.  (Applause.)  If you’re one of the 98 percent whose incomes are less than $250,000 a year, you would not see a dime of tax increases on your income tax.  (Applause.)

Now, if Congress doesn’t act, nearly 3 million families right here in Virginia — and I suspect most of you — will see your taxes go up by an average of $1,600 on January 1.


THE PRESIDENT:  You don’t like that.


THE PRESIDENT:  So we need to keep this tax hike from happening.  But the Republicans in Congress are refusing to act. They refuse to let you keep your tax cut — 98 percent of Americans keep their tax cut — unless we also spend an additional trillion dollars on tax cuts for the top 2 percent.


THE PRESIDENT:  Now, keep in mind, this is the same House of Representatives that have now voted 33 times to repeal health care — 33 times.  Seems like once a week they vote — even though they know they can’t pass it, they vote to repeal health care.  Even though they know it won’t pass.  They could take one vote to make sure your taxes don’t go up, and they haven’t done that yet.  (Applause.)

All because they want to keep tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires and folks like me who don’t need it.  Our lives will not — Michelle and I, our lives will not be better.  The average — Warren Buffett’s life is not going to be better if he gets that additional tax cut.  (Laughter.)  And, by the way, here’s the important thing — the way this is organized, the truth is, those top 2 percent, they’d still get a tax break, just only up to $250,000.  The money they made after that, that’s when they would have to start paying slightly more.

Now, let me say this.  If you believe that the recipe for economic growth is to give the top 2 percent additional tax breaks, then by all means you should send those folks to Washington.


THE PRESIDENT:  Because that’s not what I believe.  That’s not why I’m in Washington.  I’m there to fight for you.  I’m there to fight for the middle class.  I’m there to fight for families who are working hard every single day.  (Applause.)

People like me and Governor Romney, we do not need a tax cut.  And that’s part of what this election is about, because it represents these two different views, these two different theories about how you grow the economy.

On almost every issue in this race, the choice couldn’t be more stark.  When America was seeing its auto industry on the brink of collapse, my opponent said, let’s “let Detroit go bankrupt.”  That would have cost about a million jobs.  I said I’m betting on American workers.  I’m betting on American ingenuity.  And you know what, GM is the number-one automaker again because we made that bet.  (Applause.)

So now I’m running to make sure what happened in the auto industry is happening in other sections of manufacturing.  It doesn’t just need to happen in Detroit; it needs to happen in Cleveland and Raleigh and Richmond and Hampton.  (Applause.)

Governor Romney, his main claim to fame, the reason he says he can fix the economy is because of his business record.


THE PRESIDENT:  It turns out that that his business record was starting a company that’s been investing in what were called “pioneers” of outsourcing.  He wants to keep giving tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas.  I want to end those tax breaks.  I want to give tax breaks to companies that are investing here in Virginia, investing in American workers, investing in advanced American manufacturing so we can sell our goods around the world stamped with three proud words:  Made in America.  That’s why I’m running.  (Applause.)

I’m running because in the 2008, I promised to end the war in Iraq and I have.  (Applause.)  I promised to go after al Qaeda’s leadership and we have, and Osama bin Laden is no longer threatening America.  (Applause.)  Our brave men and women in uniform — and Virginia has as many veterans and folks serving in our Armed Forces as any state in the country — and we could not be prouder of them.  (Applause.)  But we’re starting to bring our troops home.  And our national security is, in part, going to depend on what kind of economy do they come back to.  Can they find jobs?  Can they start small businesses?  And that’s why, after a decade of war, I want to take half the money we’re saving because we’re no longer fighting in Iraq and we’re winding down in Afghanistan — take half of that, use it to pay down our deficit; take the other half to do some nation-building here in the United States of America.  (Applause.)

Let’s rebuild our roads and our bridges, our ports, our airports.  Let’s lay broadband lines that can reach into rural communities that are isolated, high-speed rail that can make sure that we’re on the forefront of the 21st century economy.  That’s what I’m fighting for.  That’s what I believe in.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  we love Barack Obama!  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m running again because we’ve done a lot of work in education.  but we’ve got more to do.  And I want to make sure we are providing every single child — not just some kids, not even just most kids, but all kids — the best education possible.  (Applause.)

Our tuition tax credits save millions of families thousands of dollars.  Now I want to extend it.  We just won a fight with Congress.  Those of you who are over at Hampton, other colleges and universities in the state — well, we just won a fight to make sure that your loan rates would not double.  (Applause.)  Now I want to make sure that we’re actually bringing down tuition and costs for college for every young person who’s willing to work hard to get an education.  (Applause.)

I want to make sure our schools can hire the best teachers, especially in math and science.  I want to give 2 million more Americans the chance to go to community colleges and get trained for the jobs that businesses are hiring right now.  (Applause.)  In the 21st century, higher education can’t be a luxury.  It is a vital necessity.  That’s why I’m running.  I want to fight to make sure that everybody has the chance to get ahead.

My opponent’s plan to help responsible homeowners is to let foreclosures hit bottom.  That’s not a plan.  That’s not a solution.  That’s a problem.

My administration has already helped a million responsible homeowners refinance their mortgages.  I’m running to give everybody a chance to refinance.  You could save $3,000 a year that you could then spend on going to a restaurant and helping a business get more business, and fixing the basement, and rebuilding the equity in your home.  And that’s good for everybody.  That’s good for the entire economy.  That’s an example of the kinds of things we could be doing if we break this stalemate.

I’m running because I continue to believe that in America nobody should go broke just because they got sick.  (Applause.)  I’ll work with anybody who wants to continue to improve our health care system.  But the Supreme Court has spoken — this health care law is here to stay.  We’re not going backwards.  (Applause.)

If you’ve got health insurance, nothing is changing for you. You’re not being charged a tax.  The only thing that’s happened to you is your insurance is more secure because insurance companies can’t drop you because of some fine print, or not cover your illnesses because you’ve hit a lifetime limit.  Insurance companies now have to cover young people until they’re 26 on their parent’s plan, which is helping young people all across the country.  (Applause.)  We’re not going to let Medicare get turned into a voucher system.  We’re not going to spend the next four years refighting the battles of the last four years.  We need to move forward.  (Applause.)

And I am running to make sure that we pay down our debts and reduce our deficits but do so in a responsible, balanced way.  And that means, yes, cutting out programs we can’t afford.  I don’t believe every government program works, and government shouldn’t try to help everybody.  If you don’t want to get help, we can’t help you.  (Applause.)  If you’re not willing to work hard, there’s only so much that can be done.  But you know what, we’re not going to sacrifice education, and training, and basic research into things like cancer and Alzheimer’s.  That would be shortsighted.

So if we’re going to reduce our deficit and debt we have to do it smartly — get rid of programs that aren’t helping the economy grow, but also ask the wealthiest to do a little bit more.  (Applause.)  And that includes folks like me.  That includes people like Mr. Romney.

And, by the way, just like we tried their way and it didn’t work, we tried what I’m proposing and it did work.  Bill Clinton did it and we got 23 million new jobs, and a surplus instead of a deficit, and a whole bunch of folks got rich in the process.  Because in America, when the middle class is doing well and folks who are poor and trying to get into the middle class have a chance, everybody does well.  Folks at the top do well because now they’ve got customers.  It’s good for everybody.  That how we grow the economy together.  (Applause.)

All these things, whether it’s bringing back manufacturing or construction jobs back, protecting health care, making sure kids get the best education, making sure veterans are getting the training they need when they come home — all this stuff ties together.  They’re all part of that central idea, that promise that if you work hard you can get ahead, and the belief that we do that together.

When my grandfather got that GI Bill, when this generation is getting the Post-9/11 GI Bill, that’s not just for them — it’s for all of us, because if they’re doing well, we’ll all do well.  (Applause.)  When we built the Golden Gate Bridge and the Hoover Dam, that wasn’t just good for the folks in those states, that’s good for the whole country, because it means we’re moving goods and services and people faster around the world, and we’re move competitive.  We rise or fall together.  And now we’ve got an obligation to pass on that tradition to our children and our grandchildren.

Now, over the next four months, you are going to see all these negative ads with those voices of doom talking about how bad the economy is and how much it’s Obama’s fault.  And you’ll hear — I mean, they’ll say it every which way, but it’s always the same argument, because they know their economic theory doesn’t sell because the facts are it didn’t work.  That’s their only message.  So all they can say is, you know what, it’s Obama’s fault, and if we get rid of him, somehow Mr. Romney’s going to put it all back together — although he won’t tell you how.


THE PRESIDENT:  Now, that may be a plan to win an election, but it’s not a plan to put people back to work.  It’s not a plan to reduce our deficit.  It’s not a plan to grow the middle class. It’s not a plan to revive the American Dream.

And the thing is, you know what, we’ve been outspent before. We’ve been counted out before.  When I announced in 2008, there was a whole bunch of folks who didn’t believe.  Well, everybody now says they believe, but there were a whole bunch of folks back then who didn’t believe.  (Applause.)  You know that’s right.

But you know what, through all the campaigns, what’s always given me hope is the American people.  There is a core decency, there’s an honesty, there’s a common sense that cuts through all the noise and all the distractions and all the nonsense.

What gives me hope is remembering the story of your families because they’re just like the story of my family — all the struggles of parents and grandparents and great-grandparents who went through struggles we can’t even imagine, but somehow came out on the other end; who understand that even in the darkest of night there’s a brighter day dawning.  Some of them came here as immigrants.  Some folks came not of their own accord.  Some came to work in mines, some came to work in mills, some worked the farms.

And they didn’t always know what was around the corner, but what they did understand was there was something different about America.  They knew that in a land where people are free to pursue their individual dreams they can still come together as one American family.  They knew that being middle class wasn’t about how much was in your bank account, but it was about an attitude that said if we work hard we can have enough.  (Applause.)

We don’t envy folks who succeed; we think it’s great if they get rich.  But the main thing is family and values, and being self-reliant and looking out for one another, and helping your neighbor, and faith — that’s what’s important.  (Applause.)  It’s about the security of knowing that you can take care of your family, and that your kids can do better than you did.  And here’s the thing, Virginia — when people come together and tap into that basic, honest core of America, when ordinary folks start working together and pointing us in that direction, we can’t be stopped.  (Applause.)  All the money, all the special interests, all the negative ads — it can’t stop you.  (Applause.)  It can’t stop you.

In 2008, I said I wasn’t a perfect man and I wouldn’t be a perfect President.  But what I said was I’d always tell you where I stood, I’d always tell you what I thought, and I’d wake up every single day fighting as hard as I knew how for you — (applause) — to make sure your lives are a little bit better.  (Applause.)

And so, as much as we got done, I know sometimes change doesn’t feel like it’s come fast enough.  And I know there are still a lot of folks out there hurting.  But you know what, I’ve kept that promise.  (Applause.)  I kept that promise — because when I see your kids I see my kids.  (Applause.)  When I see your grandparents I remember my grandparents.  I see myself in you.  I still believe in you.  And if you still believe in me and you’re willing to stand up — (applause) — and knock on doors and make phone calls and get organized, I promise you we will finish what we started.  We will win this election.  And we will remind that world why it is that America is the greatest nation on Earth.  (Applause.)

God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END                5:25 P.M. EDT

Full Text Campaign Buzz July 13, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Virginia Campaign Trip Speech Criticizes Mitt Romney on Deficit, Taxes




Remarks by the President at Campaign Event in Virginia Beach, VA

Green Run High School
Virginia Beach, Virginia

1:05 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Virginia Beach!  (Applause.)  Thank you!  It is good to be back in Virginia!  (Applause.)

A couple of people I want to acknowledge.  First of all, please give Ricki a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  We are so proud of her, not just for introducing me — that’s not that big a deal — (laughter) — but her serving her country, first in uniform herself and then as a military spouse.  She is an example of what is best about America, and we could not be prouder of her. (Applause.)

A couple other people I want to acknowledge.  First of all, your outstanding former governor and soon to be United States senator, Tim Kaine.  (Applause.)  Your outstanding former governor and already senator, Mark Warner.  (Applause.)  We’ve got your Second Congressional District candidate, Paul Hirschbiel is here.  (Applause.)

And I want to give a special acknowledgement to somebody who’s not here but who we will always remember.  She was a true trailblazer, not just here in Virginia but across the country, and did so much for so many.  So we are truly blessed to have known and we profoundly miss State Senator Yvonne Miller —  (applause) — who is now in a better place.  (Applause.)  And our thoughts and prayers go out to her family.  Her two brothers were here — I had a chance to meet them — and we’re so proud of them.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you!

THE PRESIDENT:  I love you back.  (Applause.)

Now, some of you may have noticed that we are in campaign season.  (Applause.)  I know that’s surprising to many of you.  (Laughter.)  I don’t suppose you’ve seen any advertising on TV.  (Laughter.)  You know, we are seeing more money spent than any time in American history — a lot of it undisclosed, coming from folks who can write $10 million checks.  Most of the ads are negative — in fact, almost all of the ads are negative.  And it’s understandable that as you watch these TV ads that you start thinking that politics just doesn’t seem to get what’s going on in your lives, that there’s so much negativity and so much cynicism.  And it’s understandable if at a certain point people just say, you know what, there’s a disconnect here, this is not speaking to me, it’s not speaking to what’s going on in my neighborhood, my community.

But I just want to remind everybody that in 2008, there were a lot of folks who didn’t believe either in the possibilities of change.  There were folks that counted us out, people who were sure that a guy named Barack Obama could not be elected President.  (Laughter.)  And so the reason we came together was not because we thought it was a sure thing; it was because we shared a set of values.  (Applause.)  We believed in the basic bargain that has been the bedrock of this nation for well over 200 years.

And I was thinking as I was about to come out about this, which will be my last campaign —


THE PRESIDENT:  No, no, I mean, there’s a term-limit thing in the presidency.  This isn’t like Congress — I can’t just keep on running.  (Laughter and applause.)

AUDIENCE:  Four more years!  Four more years!

THE PRESIDENT:  But it made me think about my first campaigns, my earliest campaigns, and the reason I got into politics in the first place.  Some of you know my grandparents were part of that World War II, Great Depression generation.  And my grandfather fought in Patton’s Army and my grandmother worked on a bomber assembly line.  And when my grandfather came back — at that point my mom had been born — he was able to go to college because of the GI Bill.  And they were able to buy their first home with some help from the FHA.

And then my mother — she was a single mom — my dad left before I even remembered him.  But she was still able to give me and my sister this unbelievable education — (applause) — because of scholarships and grants, and the fact that she was willing to work hard so that she could work and go to school at the same time and raise two kids.

And then I think about Michelle’s family.  Her dad, he was a blue-collar worker, worked at the water filtration plant in Chicago.  And even though he had MS — by the time I met him, he couldn’t really walk.  He had to use two canes.  And he’d have to wake up an hour early, earlier than everybody else, to get to work — just to put on his clothes and get ready for work. But he never missed a day’s work.

And Michelle’s mom, she stayed at home and looked after Michelle and her brother until they got older, and then worked as a secretary most of her life.  And yet, despite these modest beginnings, Michelle and her brother Craig could go to the best schools on Earth, and rise up to do extraordinary things.

So in my first campaign, when I thought about why am I getting into politics, the reason was because we — my family, Michelle’s family — we had benefited from this basic American bargain.  (Applause.)  This idea, at the heart of this nation, that if you’re willing to work hard, if you are willing to take responsibility, then you are not constrained by the circumstances of your birth.  You can go as far as your dreams can take you.  (Applause.)  If you’re willing to work hard, then you can find a job that supports a family — (applause) — and you can have a home to call your own.  And you won’t be bankrupt when you get sick.  (Applause.)  And even if you weren’t born into wealth, you can make sure your kids get a great education and go on to college.  (Applause.)  Maybe you can take a vacation once in a while.

I was up in Ohio talking about my favorite vacation.  When I was 11 years old, my grandmother, my mother, my sister and me, we traveled the country — but we didn’t go on jets.  (Laughter.) We took Greyhound and the train, and I think twice we rented a car.  And we’d stay at Howard Johnsons.  And if there was a pool somewhere, no matter — it could look like a puddle it could be so small — (laughter) — I was so excited.  And you’d go to the ice machine and the vending machine — I was 11 years old; that was a big deal filling up that bucket of ice and getting that soda.  (Laughter.)

And the point was that your vacation didn’t have to be fancy.  It just gave you a sense of how you could spend time with each other.  That was part of that American Dream.  And then the notion that you could retire with dignity and respect after a lifetime of work.  (Applause.)

That’s the idea that got me into politics — because my feeling was, given how much this country had given me and given Michelle, I wanted to make sure that that same bargain held for the next generation — (applause) — that it wasn’t just about me, it was about making sure that every American had those same opportunities.

And the interesting thing is, when I first started running for the U.S. Senate, let’s say, in Illinois, and I’d be driving around and we’d go to downstate Illinois and small farm towns, or sometimes we’d be in the big cities like Chicago — no matter who you met, they had those same stories in their background.  Black, white, Latino, Asian — it didn’t matter — they remembered their parents or their grandparents or great-grandparents — some of them immigrants, some of them brought here not by choice, but each successive generation believing that this union could be perfected, and that if they really worked hard and were able to overcome whatever barriers in their way, that they could succeed.

So I ran in 2008 because I felt that that bargain wasn’t reaching enough people.  And the reason so many of you supported me in 2008 was because you understood that that dream was slipping away for too many people.


THE PRESIDENT:  That we had gone through a decade in which wages and incomes weren’t going up no matter how hard you worked, while the costs of everything from college to health care to groceries to gas kept on going up; and people worrying that maybe their kids might not do as well as they did, when the idea was always that your kids do better than you do.


THE PRESIDENT:  And so that’s what brought us together.  The campaign in 2008 was not about a single candidate.  It wasn’t about me.  It was about us —  (applause) — and our desire to make sure that the American Dream continues for the next generation and the generation after that and the generation after that.   (Applause.)

Now, what we didn’t realize at the time was we were about to confront the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression — millions of people thrown out of work, folks losing the value of their homes.  And so in some ways that dream seemed even further away.  But, you know, we’ve worked hard over the last three and a half years to try to restore that belief that in this country you can make it if you try.  (Applause.)

And that’s how we were able to save an auto industry when some said let’s “let Detroit go bankrupt.”  (Applause.)  We said we’re going to be on American workers and American industry.  And now GM is back on top, and Ford and Chrysler are selling cars — because we believe in that American promise.  (Applause.)  Business started getting back to basics and we’ve now created more than 4.4 million new jobs, more than 500,000 manufacturing jobs created during this time.  (Applause.)

We’ve seen all across the country folks who got laid off retrained, go back to a community college and be able to find a new job in a new industry; small businesses struggling, sometimes keeping their doors open even though they’re not taking a salary, because they know their employees depend on them, and their families depend on them.

It’s turned out that America is tougher than any tough times.  (Applause.)  But what we also understand is we’ve still got more work to do — because, Virginia, the reason I ran and the reason you supported me wasn’t just to get back to where we were in 2007; the reason we came together was to restore that promise for middle-class families and all who are striving to get into the middle class.  (Applause.)  That’s what we’re fighting for.  And we’ve got a lot more work to do on that front.

AUDIENCE:  Four more years!  Four more years!

THE PRESIDENT:  Now, I’ve got to tell you — this election in some ways is going to be more important than 2008, because after three and a half years of not getting much help from the other side —


THE PRESIDENT:  — I think what’s fair to say is, is that we now have a stalemate in Washington.  Solving our problems, making sure that good jobs are created here in the United States, making sure that those good jobs pay and have basic benefits, making sure that we’re bringing down our deficit in a responsible way, making sure that we maintain cutting-edge industries here in the United States, making sure we’ve got the best education system possible — we know how to do those things.  What’s holding us back is not an absence of new ideas; it’s not a lack of solutions.  It’s the fact that there are two fundamentally different visions about how we move this country forward.

And so this election is about more than just two candidates or two political parties, Virginia.  This is about which direction we take this nation.


THE PRESIDENT:  Now, the other side — Mr. Romney and his allies in Congress — they’ve got a very particular idea about how we move this country forward.  And it basically involves taking the country back.


THE PRESIDENT:  Their economic idea, you can summarize it really easily.  They basically want to give $5 trillion in new tax cuts, mostly for the wealthy, on top of the Bush tax cuts even if it means gutting investments in education, even if it means gutting investments in basic research, even if it means that we’re not rebuilding America’s infrastructure, even if it starts cutting into benefits that we’re providing to our veterans.  The basic idea is that if you help folks at the top, at the very top, and if you eliminate regulations that we’ve put in place to make sure banks can’t just do whatever they want, or consumers aren’t cheated by their credit card companies, or insurance companies can’t take advantage of their customers — eliminate those regulations, cut taxes at the very top, that somehow, all those benefits are going to trickle down on you —


THE PRESIDENT:  — that the economy is going to improve and you are going to benefit.

Now, I have to tell you, I think they’re wrong.  (Applause.) And the reason I think they’re wrong, Virginia, is because we tried it.  We tried it for most of the last decade.  And what were the results?  We ended up turning record surpluses into record deficits.  Wages, incomes stagnated.  Job growth sluggish. And it culminated in the worst financial crisis that we’ve seen since the 1930s.

Now, if you try something and it doesn’t work, why would you try it again?  (Applause.)  Why would we want to go back to that? (Applause.)

I’ve got a different idea.  I don’t think top-down economics works.  I believe that we grow this economy from the middle out. (Applause.)  From the bottom up.  I believe the heart and soul of this country is making sure that working people can feel some security in the middle class and we’re growing our middle class, and we’re going back to that basic American bargain that says everybody gets a fair shot and everybody does their fair share, and everybody is playing by the same set of rules.  (Applause.)  That’s what I believe, and that’s why I’m running for a second term as President of the United States of America.  (Applause.)

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

THE PRESIDENT:  Now, if you want a specific example of the differences between my approach, my vision — our vision — and the other side’s version, let’s look at the debate we’re having about taxes right now.

I have cut taxes for middle-class families by an average of $3,900 since I’ve been in office.  (Applause.)  Because my attitude was working people were the ones who were hurt most severely by the crisis and, by the way, if they got a tax break, they were most likely to spend that money for necessities and put it back into circulation, and that would do the most for the economy.

So just in case some of your friends or neighbors, or Uncle Jim, who’s a little stubborn and been watching FOX News — (laughter) — and he thinks that somehow I raised taxes — let’s just be clear:  We’ve lowered taxes for middle-class families since I came into office.  (Applause.)

Now, what I’ve said is that the way the law is set up right now, if we do nothing, on January 1st, everybody’s taxes go up.  Everybody’s income taxes go up on January 1st if Congress does nothing.  So what I’ve said is now is not the time to raise taxes on the middle class.  The economy is still fragile.  We’re still digging ourselves out of this hole.  So let’s provide certainty to 98 percent of Americans:  98 percent of Americans make $250,000 a year or less; let’s say to that 98 percent, your taxes will not go up.  (Applause.)

And, by the way, this is the first $250,000 of income — which means that even millionaires would get a little tax break because for their first $250,000 their taxes wouldn’t go up.

The Republicans say they agree that middle-class taxes should not go up.  That’s my belief.  So what I’ve said is we both agree that middle-class taxes shouldn’t go up, let’s go ahead and get this done tomorrow.  (Applause.)  Let’s get this done next week.  What’s the holdup?  (Applause.)

Well, it turns out that the holdup is we’ve got a disagreement on the top 2 percent.  The top 2 percent, folks like me, we don’t need a tax break.  And it turns out if you give us a tax break along with the 98 percent, that costs about a trillion dollars.  We already benefitted from most of the tax cuts over the last decade, so we don’t need it, we’re least likely to spend it.  It’s least likely to give a boost to the economy.  We can’t afford it because we’re trying to bring down our deficit and trying to control our debt.

Now, the Republicans disagree with me on this.  Mr. Romney disagrees with me on this.  And my attitude is, well, that’s fine, but let’s not hold middle-class folks hostage.  (Applause.) The top 2 percent, those tax cuts, that will be settled in the next election.  And I’m looking forward to having a debate, because if you say you want to bring down the deficit but you’re not willing to let tax cuts lapse for the top 2 percent, it tells me you’re not serious about deficit reduction.  (Applause.)

But we can have that debate.  But in the meantime, let’s go ahead and help middle-class families right now.  And so far I have not gotten an okay from the other side on that.  And that tells me I guess they’re not that serious about deficit reduction.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Those folks let him down.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Now — but this is just an example of their broader theory.  They think that if you just help wealthy investors, it helps everybody.  I think the opposite.

Let’s take small businesses.  I’ve cut small business taxes 18 times since I’ve been in office.  (Applause.)  And by the way, 97 percent of small businesses make $250,000 a year or less.  So for 97 percent of small businesses, they’d also benefit if we went ahead and got that done right now.  (Applause.)

So far they haven’t taken me up on this offer.  But what this shows is the difference in philosophy, because I believe that if you’re doing well, then the country does well.  (Applause.)  I believe if the small business person and the teacher — (applause) — and the construction worker, and the firefighter, and all those folks who put in a hard day’s work every day — if they’re doing well, then everybody does well.  (Applause.)

That’s my vision for America, and that’s why I’m running for a second term as President of the United States.  (Applause.)

I’m running because I want to make sure that every young person in America has a great education.  (Applause.)  I’ve got a plan to hire new teachers, especially in math and science.  (Applause.)  We’ve already expanded the Pell Grant program to help make college more affordable, provide tax credits to middle-class families to help make college more affordable.  (Applause.) I want to keep on going and make sure that 2 million more people can go to community colleges to get trained in the jobs that exist right now, and lower college tuition costs.  That’s why I’m running for President of the United States of America.  (Applause.)

I’m running because I believe we should have manufacturing jobs created here in the United States.  (Applause.)  I don’t think the auto industry is unique; I think there are a whole bunch of companies who we can attract back to the United States. But we’re going to have to change our tax code and stop giving tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas.  Give those tax breaks to companies that are moving back here to the United States of America, hiring American workers, making products stamped with three proud words:  Made in America.  That’s why I’m running for President of the United States.  (Applause.)

I am running for President because there are a lot of folks in Virginia who have served us in uniform with such bravery and dedication and patriotism — (applause) — and I want us to keep faith with our troops, and make sure that our veterans get the benefits that they have earned, and that military families like Ricki’s are getting the help that they need when their loved ones are fighting on our behalf.  (Applause.)

But part of keeping faith is also making sure that we’ve got a smart national security strategy.  And it also means making sure that we’ve got a strong economy to support a strong military.  In 2008, I promised we would end the war in Iraq, and we’ve ended it.  (Applause.)  We are transitioning in Afghanistan and beginning to bring our troops home from that theater.  We have gone after al Qaeda, decimated their leadership ranks, taken out Osama bin Laden.  (Applause.)  So now I think it’s a good time for us to take half of those savings that we’ve gotten from winding down these wars, use half of it to pay for the deficit, use the other half to do some nation-building here at home.  (Applause.)

Let’s put Americans back to work rebuilding our roads and our bridges, building broadband lines into rural areas, making sure that we’ve got the best airports and the best rail lines in the world.  That’s why I’m running for President of the United States — because I want to rebuild America and put people back to work.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE:  U.S.A.!  U.S.A!  U.S.A!

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m running because I want to build not just the best energy policy in the world here in the United States, I also want us to take the lead in clean energy.  We’ve seen oil production go up.  We’re seeing natural gas production go up.  And we’ve doubled our investment and production in solar and wind and biodiesel.  (Applause.)  I don’t want us to be dependent on what happens in the Middle East for our energy.  I want us to develop homegrown energy.  (Applause.)

I want us to stop giving tax subsidies to oil companies that are already incredibly profitable.  I want to double down on our investment in clean energy that’s never been more promising — in solar and wind and biodiesel — and put people back to work so that we can free ourselves from dependence on foreign oil, and build up America.  That’s why I’m running for a second term as President of the United States.  (Applause.)

And I’m running so that we bring down our deficit and our debt in a balanced, responsible way.  We’ve already made a lot of tough cuts to the federal government, and I’m prepared to do more.  I don’t believe that every government program works.  I don’t believe that government is the answer for every problem.  We’re not going to improve our schools unless our parents are focused on education.  (Applause.)  Americans can’t be looking for handouts.  There are some folks you can’t help if they’re not willing to help themselves.  But what I also believe is, is that there are some investments like in education, or in basic research, or in transportation — there are basic investments we need to make to grow our economy.

And so if we’re going to bring down our deficit in a sensible way that grows the economy and grows our middle class, it can’t be based simply on cuts to basic programs and asking nothing from those who have been the most fortunate in this society.  (Applause.)  So what I’ve said is we’ll make cuts, but we’re also going to ask the wealthiest Americans like me to do a little bit more.  And I promise you, we can afford it.  (Applause.)

And by the way, the last time we did that, it worked.  Bill Clinton did it, and we ended up having 23 million new jobs.  We went from deficit to surplus, and we created a whole bunch of millionaires to boot.  So don’t tell me that that’s going to destroy jobs.  That’s going to create jobs — because we’re doing it in a way that focuses on building the middle class.  (Applause.)  And there are a whole bunch of wealthy Americans who understand that and are willing to do the right thing if they’re asked.  And I’m prepared to ask them.  That’s why I’m running for President of the United States of America.  (Applause.)

So we’ve got a lot of work to do.  We’ve got a lot of work to do.  And the way we’re going to get it done is by you making a decision.  There may be some — there are people who agree with Mr. Romney and his allies in Congress.


THE PRESIDENT:  No, no, that’s how our democracy works.  Even though the theory that they are promoting they’ve tried —

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Don’t believe it!

THE PRESIDENT:  — and it didn’t work, they want to try it again.  That’s the way our democracy works.

But you know what, I’m betting that the American people, they don’t want to go backwards.


THE PRESIDENT:  You don’t want to refight the fight we had in health care.  Let me tell you health care was the right thing to do.  (Applause.)  If you already have health care, the only thing this bill does is make sure that it’s even more secure and insurance companies can’t jerk you around.  (Applause.)  It allows young people to stay on their parent’s health insurance plan — 6 million young people have already benefited from that program.  (Applause.)

It lowers prescription drug costs for seniors.  It guarantees preventive care for everybody, including women.  (Applause.)  Thirty million people are going to be able to get health insurance that didn’t have it before, and that means — and we’ll help them get it.  And the only thing that we have said is if you can afford to get health insurance and you don’t, you can’t pass those costs on to somebody else.  (Applause.)  You’ve got to take responsibility — that’s part of the American way.  So we’re not going to refight that battle.

I noticed the House of Representatives — the Republicans in the House of Representatives, they voted to repeal it again.  That was the 33rd time they’ve done that.  (Laughter.)  Thirty-three votes to repeal the health care bill; all it would take is one vote to make sure that all of you don’t see your taxes go up next year.  (Applause.)  You tell me what would be a better use of time.  (Applause.)

Mr. Romney doesn’t think we should have a timetable for getting out of Afghanistan.  I disagree.  I don’t want to go backwards, I want to go forwards.  (Applause.)  The other side says they want to go back to the days when you could not serve the country you love because of who you love.  I disagree.  I don’t want to go backwards, I want to go forwards.  (Applause.)

Mr. Romney says that undocumented workers in this country should “self-deport.”  My belief is that we are a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants, and I want to make sure that we get comprehensive immigration reform that gives young people who’ve been raised here a chance to live out their own American Dream.  (Applause.)  I don’t want to go backwards, I want to go forward. (Applause.)

All these things that I’m talking about, it all goes back to that first campaign I ran.  It all goes back to my family and your family, and this basic idea of how we make sure that the middle class is strong and growing in this country; how do we make sure that folks who aren’t quite there yet, if they work hard enough, can get into that sense of security and take care of their families.  And you know what, we have learned from our history that that’s done together.  (Applause.)

When previous generations funded the GI Bill, or built the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge, or sent a man to the moon, or invested in the basic research that created the Internet, they didn’t do that because it was going to benefit one person or a handful of people or one group.  They did it because they understood we rise or fall together, as one people.  (Applause.) And that’s how I want to move this country forward — together, as one people.  And that’s why I’m running again as President of the United States.  (Applause.)

But if I’m going to get there I’m going to need you.  (Applause.)  The way this democracy works, the choice is going to be up to you.  And over the next four months, you are going to see more negative ads than you’ve ever seen in your life.  You’re going to start getting out that DVR to block them out and fast-forward and all that stuff.  (Laughter.)

And the other side, they basically just have one argument — which is the economy is not where it should be and it’s Obama’s fault.  And they’ll just keep on repeating that over and over again because they know they don’t have new ideas.  They know the American people wouldn’t just buy what they’re selling on its own.  So they don’t want to talk about what they’re going to do; they just want to talk about what hasn’t gotten done.

And that may be a way to try to win an election, but it’s not a plan to create jobs.  It’s not a plan to strengthen the middle class.  And I don’t care how much money they spend.  What you taught me in 2008 is that when regular folk, when working people, when all of you tap into that basic decency and goodness of the American people, when you focus on what’s true and what’s right, and you cut through all the nonsense and all the noise and all the spin, and you remember your families and your parents and your grandparents and everything they did to give you the opportunities that you had, then you can’t be stopped.  (Applause.)

When you decide change is going to happen, change happens.  (Applause.)  When you decide we’re moving forward, we move forward.  (Applause.)

That’s what you taught me in 2008.  And some of you will remember, in that campaign I told you I’m not a perfect man — Michelle told you that, too — (laughter) — and I told you I wouldn’t be a perfect President.  But what I told you was I’d always tell you what I thought, I’d always tell you where I stood, and I would spend every single day that I have the privilege of having this office thinking about you and fighting as hard as I knew how to make your lives a little bit better.  (Applause.)

I made that promise because I saw myself in you, and I saw Michelle in you.  And when I look at your kids, I see my kids.  (Applause.)  And when I look at your grandparents, I see my grandparents.  And because of the values we share, I believe in you.  And I hope you still believe in me.  (Applause.)  Because I’ve kept that promise, and I fought for you, and I’m going to keep on fighting for you as long as I have the chance to be your President.  (Applause.)

And if you’re willing to stand up with me, and knock on doors with me, and make phone calls, and get out and organize, then we’ll finish what we started in 2008, and we’ll remind the world just why it is that the United States of America is the greatest nation on Earth.  (Applause.)

God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.

1:47 P.M. EDT

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