Full Text Obama Presidency June 4, 2013: First Lady Michelle Obama’s Speech at DNC Fundraising Event — Confronts Protester Heckler

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Michelle Obama Heckled by Gay Rights Advocate, Threatens to Leave Event

Source: ABC News (blog), 6-5-13

First lady Michelle Obama was heckled by a gay rights advocate at a fundraiser tonight and responded by threatening to leave the event, telling the protester only one of them could speak….READ MORE

Remarks by the First Lady at DNC Event

Private Residence
Washington, D.C.

6:07 P.M. EDT

MRS. OBAMA:  Oh, my goodness!  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you!

MRS. OBAMA:  Love you too!  And yes, I’m here because I love you.  (Laughter.)  And I’m here because I love my husband — it’s true.  (Applause.)  But I’m also here because I love my country, more importantly.  I do.  (Applause.)

But I want to start by thanking Karen for that very powerful and very important introduction that she just delivered.  I think she made some outstanding points that hopefully I will further emphasize.  And I want to thank both Karen and Nan for generously hosting us here in their beautiful home tonight, and for always having our backs, and always mazing out in so many ways.  I’m proud to have you as supporters, but more importantly, as friends.  So let’s give them another round of applause.  (Applause.)

I also want to thanks Congresswoman Sinema, as well as Debbie Wasserman-Schultz for their service and for being here, and for their undying support — encourage, and all that good stuff.  Debbie has been a phenomenal DNC Chairwoman, so let’s give her a round of applause.  (Applause.)  We’re thrilled they could be here, but we’re also glad that they are off voting, like they’re supposed to.

But most of all, I want to thank all of you for being here.  I want to thank you not just for being here tonight, but for being there for my husband not once, but twice.  Thank you.  Thank you for working so hard.  Thanks for making the calls and knocking on doors and writing checks and getting everyone you know to the polls.

And I just want us to understand what we accomplished because of all of you.  We didn’t just win two elections, we made real and meaningful change in this country — we did.  Because of you, we’re now in an economy that continues to strengthen with 38 straight months of job growth.  That’s more than three straight years — that’s happened because of you.

Because of you, we have passed health reform.  We are taking on climate change, gun violence, and fortunately, comprehensive immigration reform because of you.  Because of you, we have a President who stands up for our most fundamental rights –- whether that’s fighting for equal pay for women — amen — ending “don’t ask, don’t tell” — amen — or supporting our right to marry the person we love.  That’s the President we have.

And all of that, and so much more, has happened because of you.  And that’s what elections are all about.

It’s like my 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.”  It was a chance.  That’s what — elections give you the chance.  And that was true back then, and it is even more true today.  Because while we’ve made a lot of important change these past four years, we still have so much more to do.

Although our economy is improving, too many middle-class families are still struggling in this country.  And that fundamental American promise that so many of us hopefully 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 –- see, that promise is no longer within reach for too many families.  In fact, it probably wouldn’t be in reach for the family I grew up in if we were trying to make it today.

As many of you know my story, neither of my parents had a college degree.  My father’s job at the city water plant paid him a decent wage.  It paid him enough to put food on our table.  And with the help of student loans, he was able to send both me and my brother to an excellent college.

That job, that little job he had also gave him health insurance, it gave us health insurance, and a pension that my mother still lives on today.  We were not rich by any stretch of the imagination, but we had stability.  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 debt and without relying on any form of public assistance.  That was how I grew up.

But today, for so many families, that’s no longer possible.  Folks are working harder than ever before, doing everything right, and it’s still not enough.  And while there’s so much talk and noise and back and forth going on in Washington, hardly any of it seems about the struggles of these folks.

So yes, it’s easy to get frustrated — and I know there are plenty of people here frustrated — and it’s easy to be cynical — and I know there are plenty of cynical people here.  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 for another four years to reengage.

But here’s the thing.  As Karen pointed out, make no mistake about it, while we are tuning out with our frustration and our cynicism and our disappointment, others are tuning in, believe me.  Others are doing everything they can to make their voices heard in whatever way they can.  And we are seeing the effects of that kind of imbalance every single day in Washington.

Just a couple of months ago, we saw the failure — do you hear me — the failure of common-sense legislation to protect our children from gun violence — legislation, by the way, that 90 percent of the American people supported failed.

We are seeing a budget stalemate and a sequester, resulting in children across this country being turned away from Head Start.  So many seniors losing their Meals on Wheels.  And now there’s even talk about cutting food stamps, which could mean hundreds of thousands of kids 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, so much more decent.  And I know this because I see it and we see it every day — that decency in communities across this country, where people are waking up every day, working hard at their jobs, every day sacrificing for their kids.  I see it.  It is there for us to see — doing everything they can to help their neighbors.

We especially see it in times of tragedy and crisis — in the teachers who rushed children to safety in Newtown, teachers who risked their lives to save students in Oklahoma — teachers.  We saw it in all those folks in Boston who ran toward the explosions and spent hours tending to perfect strangers.

And 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 was a question that I was asking myself during a recent visit to my hometown of Chicago when I had the privilege —

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Chicago!

MRS. OBAMA:  Chi-town!  (Laughter.)  South Side!  (Laughter.)  So you have to understand, that’s call and response, you say, “South Side.”

AUDIENCE:  South Side!  (Laughter.)

MRS. OBAMA:  Just pardon us for a moment.  (Laughter.)  We are crazy like that on South Side.

But I had the privilege of spending an afternoon with a wonderful group of students at a school called Harper High.  In fact, these kids are coming to spend a day — two days with us — one at the White House; they’re going to be in Washington, these kids.  They’re coming.

Now, Harper is located in one of the toughest neighborhoods in the city, Englewood.  You all know Englewood, right?  A community that has been torn apart by poverty and hopelessness; by gangs, drugs, and guns.

And that afternoon, I sat down with these 25 students — and these kids were the best and the brightest at that school.  The valedictorian, the football star, kids in ROTC.  But let me tell you something about the kids at Harper.  Every day, they face impossible odds — jobless parents addicted to drugs; friends and loved ones shot before their very eyes.

In fact, when the school counselor asked these young men and women whether they had ever known any who had been shot, every single one of those students raised their hand.  So she then asked them, “What do you think when the weather forecast says ’85 and sunny?’”  Now, you would assume that nice weather like that, a beautiful day like today, would be a good thing.  Not for these kids.  They replied that a weather report like that puts fear in their hearts, because in their neighborhood, when the weather is nice, that’s when gangs come out and the shootings start.

So, see, for these wonderful kids, instead of reveling in the joys of their youth — college applications and getting ready for prom and getting that driver’s license — these young people are 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.  And they are the reason we are here tonight.  We cannot forget that.  I don’t care what we — they, those kids, they are the reason we’re here.

And today, we need to be better for them.  Not for us — for them.  We need to be better for all of our children, our kids in this country.  Because they are counting on us to give them the chances they need for the futures they deserve.  (Applause.)

So here’s the thing — we cannot wait for the next presidential election to get fired up and ready to go.  We cannot wait.  Right now, today, we have an obligation to stand up for those kids.  And I don’t care what you believe in, we don’t —

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible.)

MRS. OBAMA:  Wait, wait, wait.  One of the things —

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible.)

MRS. OBAMA:  One of the things that I don’t do well is this.  (Applause.)  Do you understand?  (Applause.)  One of the things — now —

(Inaudible audience interruption.)

MRS. OBAMA:  So let me make the point that I was making before:  We are here for our kids.  (Applause.)  So we must recapture that passion, that same urgency and energy that we felt back in 2008 and 2012.  Understand this.  This is what I want you all to understand, this is not about us — no one back here.  It’s not about you or you, or your issue or your thing.  This is about our children.  (Applause.)

And we must keep on working together to build a country worthy of all of our children’s promise.  Let’s ensure that every child has access to quality pre-K — because right now that’s not happening — to excellent schools — every child — to affordable college.  Because we need all of our kids to fulfill their boundless — they are our future.

Let’s finally pass some commonsense gun safety laws — (applause) — because no one in this country should ever worry about dropping their child off at a movie or a mall or at school.  Not in America.  And then, when these precious little young people, they grow up, let’s make sure they have some 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 us make sure that they have the health care they need, because no one in this country should get their primary care from an emergency room.  We know better than that.  And when it comes to women’s health, let’s keep fighting for our most fundamental, personal rights, because we as women, we know we are more than capable of making our own decisions about our bodies and our health care.  (Applause.)

Now, I know we can do this.  It’s all within our reach.  But make no mistake about it — and this is the key point I want to make here — Barack Obama cannot do this alone.  And he cannot do this with a fractured party.  Do you understand me?  We need folks in Congress to help him every step of the way, like Karen said.

That is why it is simply not enough to just elect a President every four years.  We need you to be engaged in every election — every election — because special elections matter.  Midterm elections really matter.  It matters who we send to Congress.  It matters.  And if you don’t believe me, just look at the record.  Look at the difference just a few votes in Congress can make when it comes to the issues that we say we care about.

For example, legislation on equal pay for women failed by two votes in the Senate — two votes in the Senate.  The DREAM Act, the act that gives immigrant kids in this country a fair shot?  That act failed twice, once by just five votes and once by four.  So what did the President have to do?  He had to sign an executive order to finally get it done.  That’s the only reason it got done.  And that common-sense bill I talked about earlier, that gun bill?  That bill failed by how many votes?  Six.  Six votes.

So like I said, it matters who we send to Congress.  This other stuff, between us, doesn’t matter.  We need all of you engaged in every special election and in every mid-term election all across this country.  We need you to keep on writing those checks.  And here’s another part — if you’re not maxed out, max out.  That’s what being maxed out is all about.  Max out in every way, shape or form with a check, with engagement.  You got friends?  Get them to max out.  Maxing out is a big term.  It’s not just about a check, it’s about passion.  It’s about feeling.  It’s about commitment.

And while raising money is important, as I said, money alone is not enough.  We need you all out there, working, making phone calls, getting everyone you know to the polls just like we did before.  And I know it won’t be easy.  It never is.  And I know that plenty of special interests will be pouring all sorts of resources into these elections.  They always do.  So we need you to be engaged and bring everyone you know with you.

And if anyone tries to tell you that they’re too busy, that it’s too much of a hassle, or that special elections just don’t matter, I’m going to share a story that I shared in New York that I’m sharing everywhere I go that Barack actually talked about at his State of the Union speech.

I want you to tell them about a woman named Desiline Victor.  (Applause.)  Some of you heard about Desiline.  Well, Desiline lives down in Florida, and she waited for hours in line to cast her vote last November.  Now, you might think, well, that’s not so unusual because a lot of people had to wait in long lines this past election, right?

But see here’s the thing:  Desiline is 102 years old.  (Applause.)  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 she was tired — I’m sure she was — even though her feet probably ached — and I’m sure they did — she was determined to cast her vote and make her voice heard in the country she loves.

So here’s what we have to tell ourselves when we get frustrated, or you’re tired, or we’re disappointed.  (Laughter.)  If Desiline Victor can summon that kind of passion and energy, then we don’t have any excuse.  If Desiline Victor can summon that kind of patriotism and determination, then so must we.

So if we keep on working, and organizing, and engaging, I know that we can keep on making that change we all believe in, and together we can build a future worthy of all our children.

Can we do this?  (Applause.)  Are we a little more fired up?  (Applause.)  Are we a little less frustrated right now?  (Applause.)  We ready to roll up our sleeves, figure out how to get engaged, how we’re going to max out in our own individual ways?  Can we do this?  (Applause.)  Because we need you.  Barack Obama needs you and I need you, quite frankly.  So let’s get it done.

Thank you all.  God bless.

END
6:27 P.M. EDT

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Full Text August 3, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Birthday Remarks Online & at Chicago Democratic National Committee Fundraiser

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY: THE HEADLINES:

Remarks by the President in a DNC Video Teleconference

Aragon Entertainment Center
Chicago, Illinois

6:59 P.M. CDT
August 3, 2011

THE PRESIDENT:  Hey, guys.  How are you?  I am beaming in from Chicago.  We’re having a little birthday celebration in my hometown.  But I just want to say thank you to all of you.  I can’t think of a better group of folks to spend my birthday with.

You may hear the El train in the background.  It’s passing right next to us.  You know, when we started this whole journey back in 2008, the one thing that I was clear about was that this was not going to be about me.  This was going to be about us.  It was going to be about the values we hold dear as Americans.  It was going to be about grassroots folks being empowered, talking about how we can create jobs in our community and improve our schools and make sure our kids have opportunities to go to college, and how people can retire with dignity and respect.  And those bread-and-butter issues were not going to be settled in Washington.  They were going to be settled on the ground, in neighborhoods.  And as somebody who cut my teeth as a community organizer, I knew that nothing was more powerful than the American people when they make common cause and they decide that they want to bring about change.

And what was true in 2008 is just as true today.  We’ve obviously been through a lot of battles over the last two and a half years dealing with one of the worst recessions in our history and certainly one of the toughest economic situations in my lifetime.  But despite all that, what we’ve been able to do is to work to make sure that the economy has started recovering.  We were able to save over a million jobs through our intervention in the auto industry.  We were able to finally get health care done so that families were more secure.  We were able to make sure that things like “don’t ask, don’t tell” got ended and that we were going to make sure that ordinary folks were benefitting from tax cuts, small businesses were benefitting.  All those things we could not have done had it not been for you.

And so as we gear back up to fight some tough battles — and you saw this week how tough some of these battles are going to be — it is absolutely critical that all of you stay involved.

And so I want to thank everybody at these house parties, but I want to urge all of you to get involved as a team to start going out not only spreading the message but also listening to people and finding out what’s on their minds and figuring out how we can engage them and get them involved.  And that’s where these neighborhood teams are so important.  We’re already had contact with 42,000 individuals face to face across the nation because of the teams that are activated in the states that are represented on this phone call.  We have had 2 million calls made to folks all across the country, contacting them, listening to their concerns, and finding out how they want to get involved in this campaign.

But this is always easier to do as a team and as a group than it is for folks to do this individually.  Obviously I want you to talk to your friends and your family and the Republican uncle that you got who isn’t persuaded yet, and you corner him at an event, and you talk issues at the workplace, around the water cooler, having conversations with friends of yours about why it’s so important for them to be engaged.

All that’s important, but what’s most important is when you guys as a team think about your neighborhoods and all the people that may have gotten turned off to politics, may be disillusioned, maybe are going through a tough time because of this difficult economy.  When they know their neighbors, their friends, folks who are — they see at parent-teacher night, when those folks see you, you’re the best ambassador we could have.  And when you go out as a team, it’s going to strengthen your capacity to move people in a direction that could bring about the change we want.

So I just want to emphasize to you how important you are, and I hope that you use this house party, in addition to having some cake — I don’t know if you guys have party hats — but in addition to having a good party, I hope you guys talk about how your neighborhood teams can get together and really do some great work on the ground.

We’re in for a long battle.  We’ve got 16 months in which we’re just going to have to be knocking on doors, making phone calls, turning out voters.  But it starts now.  It builds now.  And it starts with you.

So thank you, everybody, for being part of this.  And I think I’m going to get a chance to answer a couple questions before I sign off.

MR. BIRD:  Excellent.  Mr. President, thank you so much for joining us.  Our first question we’re going to take from North Carolina, in Greensboro, North Carolina.   And you’ll be able to take the question live.

Q    Hi, Mr. President.  Happy birthday!  (Applause.)

(Singing Happy Birthday.)  (Applause.)

It’s such a great honor — I’m sorry?

THE PRESIDENT:  I said you all have great voices.

Q    Oh, thank you.  We do our best.  It’s such a great honor to continue the great work we started in 2008.  I want to continue to do great work for you for the next year and a half.  While I’m out there canvassing, though, I have difficulty answering some of the detailed questions in regards to taxes and the wars.  As one of the best organizers I know, which is you, Mr. President, what type of — what type of advice do you have for someone like me?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, I just want to thank all of you guys for the great work you’re doing, and I can’t wait to see you guys at the convention in North Carolina.  It is going to be absolutely outstanding.  (Applause.)

But a couple things I’d say.  First of all, when you go out and talk to people, I want to make sure that everybody understands you’ve got to listen as much as you talk.  So part of what people want to know is, is that they’re being heard.  What are their concerns?  What are — what’s keeping them up at night?  What would they like to see happen in Washington?

So making sure we listen, that’s really important.  The second thing is that we always have to talk about values.  People are concerned about issues, but they also want to know what do we stand for.  And so if somebody asks about taxes, nobody is really interested in hearing what precise marginal tax rate change would you like to see in the tax code.  What they want to know is that our campaign stands for a fair, just approach to the tax code that says everybody has to chip in, and that it’s not right if a hedge fund manager is being taxed at a lower rate than his or her secretary.  And so that’s a values issues:  Is the tax code fair?

If somebody asks about the war, whether it’s Iraq or Afghanistan — if it’s Iraq, you have a pretty simple answer, which is all our folks are going to be out of there by the end of the year.  If it’s Afghanistan, you can talk about, look, we think it’s time for us to transition to Afghan lead and rebuild here at home.  So, again, it’s a values issue:  Where are we prioritizing our resources?

I think the key is not to get too bogged down in detail, but having said that, the last point I’d make is, it’s Jeremy’s job to make sure that you guys have good talking points and know the answers to some of these questions.  And so when your neighborhood teams start forming, on any given issue, every single week, you should be getting sort of updates in terms of what is going on in Washington.  We’re going to be rolling out plans to improve our infrastructure and put construction workers back to work.  We’re going to be rolling out plans to make sure that we continue the payroll tax cut that’s put $1,000 in the pockets of every American on average.  So we’ll have a bunch of issues, and those will change week to week.  And you should be able to get the kind of information that you need that at least gives you enough of a sense of what we’re doing and what we care about that you can answer these questions intelligently.

And you know, the last point I’d make.  Sometimes it’s not so bad to say, “I don’t know.”  So if somebody asks you something about, well, where does the President stand on Cyprus — (laughter) — there’s nothing wrong with you saying, “I’m not sure, but here’s what I can promise you — I’ll find out an answer and we’ll make sure to call you back and give you an answer.”  And people appreciate that.  They don’t expect you to know the ins and outs of every single policy.  But they do expect that you’re going to treat them with courtesy and that you’re going to get back to them if you don’t know the answer to something.

All right?  Thank you, guys.

Q    Thank you so much!  (Applause.)

MR. BIRD:  Thank you, North Carolina.  Mr. President, we’re going to take one more question, and this question comes from Maureen, who’s calling in from Shaker Heights in Ohio.  And we’re going to turn it over to Maureen and her house party right now.

Maureen.

THE PRESIDENT:  Hey, Maureen!

Q    Hello.  Happy birthday.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

Q    I have a question for you.  All right, in 2008, I went door to door with my father and with you, and we had a great time.  In 2012, I’m going to be recruiting others, and I want them to help me knock doors.  And if you were asking someone to volunteer, how would you ask them?

THE PRESIDENT:  You know, first of all, Maureen, thank you to everybody in Shaker Heights, and thanks to everybody in Ohio for the unbelievable work you guys have already done.  That’s how we won Ohio.  (Applause.)

But I think the main thing is to give people a sense that this campaign is about them and not about just electing a President.  It’s about being part of a community and going out there and talking to your fellow members of your community about what values you care about.  So make sure that people feel ownership over the process.

And also, make it fun.  I mean, I think that if you say to folks, you know what, we’re going to go door to door, but at the end of it we’re all going to get together and have a picnic, or come over to your house and talk about the issues that are important to us, and let’s bring some kids along, and make it a community event, that makes it a lot more effective.

So I think that asking people to get engaged because the future is going to be determined by this election.  We’ve already seen over this last week just how different the visions are of the two parties in terms of where we should take this country.  I think it’s very clear who’s going to be looking out for working families, who wants to invest in things like education, who wants to make sure that we’ve got strong social insurance programs like Medicare and Social Security that are going to look after people, but also how do we maintain those in a responsible way.

So you can make the pitch saying, this is really an important moment in our history; we’ve got to get involved right now.  But you also want to make it fun and make them feel like they’re part of something larger.  A lot of folks just respond to wanting to be with their friends and doing something interesting.

And if you do that, I guarantee you won’t get 100 percent takeup because people are busy and they may not be able to go every time.  But as the people at your house party know, it turns out it’s actually pretty fun to spend some time with people and work on issues that you care about.

So I couldn’t be more appreciative of you guys, and I’m really very grateful.

All right, Maureen?  Good luck.

Q    Thank you very much, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you guys.

Q    Happy birthday!

MR. BIRD:  All right.  Mr. President, we’ll take one last question, and then we can conclude.  Our question came from the question and answer pile, from Grand Rapids, Michigan.  And the question was, what’s the most important thing we as volunteers can do to further your campaign?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we’ve already talked about it.  The most important thing you can do is to be engaged and to reach out to your circle of friends and family, not to try to give them just a laundry list of things that we’ve already done, but to listen to them and give them a sense that they can make a difference if they get involved.

This democracy works when people get involved.  This democracy works when people are paying attention.  And this democracy works when people are joining together to make their voices heard.  And that’s what all of you are all about.

The more you guys are out there engaging people, talking to people, listening to them, asking their ideas, the more this is a bottom-up as opposed to a top-down operation.

One of the great things in 2008 was folks were just starting their own organizations.  We had folks in Idaho who just decided out of the — we’re going to start a Idaho for Obama.  And we didn’t have any staff there, we didn’t have any money.  And yet they were able to organize an 18,000-person rally just out of their own energy and input, and they owned this thing.

And that’s the thing I want to emphasize to all of you.  You own this campaign.  You own this country.  And if you use that power that you’ve got, then we’re going to be able to continue to get all the things done that we want to get done.  I know that over the last two and a half years there have been times where people have been frustrated.  This past week was a frustrating week.  But think about all we’ve accomplished together.  We’ve been able to start turning around this economy.  We’ve been able to get health care passed.  We’ve been able to make sure that there’s an equal day’s pay for an equal day’s work.  We’ve been able to make sure that children were able to get health insurance that didn’t have it before.  We’ve been able to end this war in Iraq in a responsible way.

And so that should give us confidence that we can make happen all the things that are still undone, whether it’s making sure that the economy is growing faster and creating more jobs, to getting immigration reform passed, to making sure that we’ve got an energy policy that makes sense in this country and making sure that we’ve got a tax code that’s fair and that’s just and that we’re dealing with our deficits and debt in a responsible way and it’s not all on the backs of middle-class families.

Those are things that I know we can accomplish, but this election is going to be a seminal election, in some ways maybe more important than the last one.  And with your voices, I’m absolutely confident that we not only can win, but more importantly, we can deliver the change that’s needed for the American people.

So I’ve got to go downstairs.  I’m going to have to — there’s a big crowd wanting to sing me happy birthday.  I don’t know if there’s cake down there.  But I know they’ve been waiting for me.  But I want to say to all of you, thank you for your good wishes.  Thanks for your courage.  Thanks for your determination and tenacity.  And I’m going to see you all hopefully when I get to the various states and cities and towns where you guys are gathered.

All right?  Have fun.  See you.

END
7:16 P.M. CDT

 

Remarks by the President at a DNC Event

Aragon Entertainment Center
Chicago, Illinois

8:21 P.M. CDT
August 3, 2011

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody!  Hello, hello, hello!  Thank you.  Thank you.  Everybody have a seat, have a seat, have a seat.

Well, if you guys are taking off your jackets, I’m going to take mine off too.  (Laughter.)  It’s too hot.  It is too hot.

Well, it is wonderful to see all of you.  (Mayor Emanuel takes the President’s jacket.)  Thank you.  Now that’s service.  (Laughter.)  I still have that pothole in front of my house.  (Laughter.)  Golly, I’ve been working on that.  Trees need trimming.  (Laughter.)

It is wonderful to see all of you.  I know that most of you had a chance to listen to me speak downstairs, so I’m not going to give another long speech.  The main thing I just want to do is to say thank you to all of you.  A lot of folks came, traveled from across the country.

And obviously we’ve just gone through an extraordinary week in Washington, an extraordinary two weeks in Washington.  It’s not the kind of extraordinary that the American people are looking for.  (Laughter.)  Because at a time when so many families are struggling, at a time when we should be singularly focused on how to make ourselves more competitive and make sure our kids have the best educations possible and how are we transforming our energy strategy and how are we building on high-tech industries and the huge competitive advantages that we have, politics continues to get in the way.

And I think this episode was just a severe example of what’s been going on for quite some time.  And it’s part of what led me to run for President.  It’s part of what led Rahm to get into public service.  And it’s part of the reason why hopefully all of you are here tonight, because you recognize we’ve still got some more work to do.

The good news is that after this week we have made a legitimate down payment on deficit reduction in a way that’s actually responsible, that is not going to dismantle our social safety net, isn’t going to prevent us from making the key investments we need to win the future.

But it also sets the stage for what is going to be a singular debate over the next year and a half, and that is two alternative visions about where the country needs to go.

I give the other side credit.  They are single-minded in their focus, in wanting to cut programs and shrink government.  My argument, Dick Durbin’s argument, the argument that I think all of you believe in, is that we need a government that is smart, that is living within its means, but also we need a government that is making the kind of commitment to opportunity for everybody, for every child; that is making investments that the private sector alone can’t make; that are setting policies that allow us to be competitive into the future; that is looking after our seniors and poor children and the disabled and empowering them; and that all of us have a role to play in that kind of America and all of us have to make some sacrifices to deliver that kind of America.

And I think most of the American people believe the same thing.  But in this kind of environment of 24-hour cable chatter and big money flooding the airwaves and slash-and-burn politics, sometimes I think that core belief in what is possible here in America gets lost.  It’s our job to constantly restore it and revitalize it and to have confidence in the American people that if we’re making our arguments with the same kind of passion and commitment that the other side is showing, that ultimately our democracy will make a decision — and I think it will be a decision to pursue the kind of vision that all of us believe in.

But we’re going to have a lot of work to do, and it’s going to be tough.  And this week I think signifies not only how tough it’s going to be but exactly what’s at stake.

And for you to make the kind of commitment to be here tonight, to be committed to engaging, the fact that you’re in, is going to make all the difference in the world.

So thank you very much, everybody.  And I think we’re going to just take a bunch of questions, then I’m going to have a chance to walk around the room and shake everybody’s hands before I head back home and see my kids.  Malia is coming home from camp tomorrow just for her daddy’s birthday, and I’m very happy about that.  (Applause.)

END
8:26 P.M. CDT

Remarks by the President at a DNC event

Aragon Entertainment Center
Chicago, Illinois

7:22 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Chicago!  (Applause.)  Oh, it is good to be with some good friends!  (Applause.)  This is a warm welcome right here.  (Applause.)

Let me first of all say thank you to the extraordinary, extraordinary talent that’s on stage.  First of all, one of the greatest jazz musicians of our time, Herbie Hancock.  (Applause.)  OK Go Band — give it up.  (Applause.)  DJ Greg Corner — give it up.  (Applause.)  The lovely and talented Jennifer Hudson from Chicago.  (Applause.)  The not as lovely or talented — (laughter) — but my very determined, very brilliant, very loyal, very tough mayor of the city of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel.  (Applause.)

I don’t know — you know, I’m watching from Washington, but it looks to me like Rahm is doing a pretty good job.  (Applause.)  And as far as I can tell, he hasn’t cursed in public yet.  (Laughter.)  He’s come close, he says.  (Laughter.)  But what he has done is provided extraordinary energy and extraordinary vision to a job that he has wanted for a long time.  And I don’t know too many people who love the city of Chicago more than your mayor, and I couldn’t be more proud of him, so — (applause.)

Now, we’ve got a few more dignitaries in the house.  We’ve got the governor of the great state of Illinois, Patrick Quinn, in the house.  (Applause.)  We’ve got one of the finest senators in the United States of America, Dick Durbin, in the house.  (Applause.)  We’ve got one of the greatest members of Congress in the country in Jan Murkowski in the house.  (Applause.)  We’ve got the ageless Jesse White, the Secretary of State, in the house.  (Applause.)  A great friend of mine, somebody who I wouldn’t have been elected to the United States Senate without him, the former senator of the Illinois State Senate, Emil Jones is here.  (Applause.)  And I know we’ve got a lot of other important people like you in the house.

Now, it’s warm and it’s hot and you just listened to some good music, and you don’t want to have a long political speech.  (Applause.)  But I just want to first of all say I could not have a better early birthday present than spending tonight with all of you —

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I love you!

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

And it’s true that I turn 50 tomorrow — (applause) — which means that by the time I wake up, I’ll have an email from AARP — (laughter) — asking me to call President Obama and tell him to protect Medicare.  (Laughter and applause.)

When I look out at this crowd, I think back to that incredible night in November.  I’m still trying to figure out how the weather was over 60 degrees in November, in Grant Park, back in 2008.  (Applause.)  And it was the culmination of this incredible journey, this long journey that we took together; a campaign that drew on the hard work and support of all of you and people all across the country — men and women who believed that change was possible.  In the face of long odds, in the face of frustrations, in the face of setbacks you said, we don’t have to accept politics as usual, and we can once again have a country that is living up to our finest ideals and our highest aspirations.

And that was a lovely night.  But do you remember what I told you that night?  I said, “Yes, we can,” but I said this would not be easy.  I said, that wasn’t the end of the journey; that was just the beginning.  The economy was already hammering families.  Decisions that had been deferred for too long in Washington were finally catching up with us.  All these problems were gathering all at once. And we knew the road ahead was going to be difficult, that the climb was going to be steep.

I have to admit, I didn’t know how steep the climb was going to be.  (Laughter.)

Because we didn’t realize — we just found out a week ago that the economy that last few months in 2008 was even worse than we had realized.  I mean, the economy had contracted by 8 percent.  It was the worst economy we had ever seen.  The next quarter before any of our economic policies had a chance to go into place, same kind of thing.  We lost 8 million jobs like that.  Hadn’t seen anything like it in most of our lifetimes.

But here’s what I — here’s what I knew.  You did not elect me President to duck the tough issues.  (Applause.)  You elected me President to do the tough things, to do the big things, even if it took time.  (Applause.)

You elected me to make sure that the economy was working not just for those at the very top, but that we had a broad-based, shared prosperity, from the machinist on the line to the CEO in the boardroom.

And I ran because I believed that our success is defined not by stock prices or corporate profits alone, but by whether ordinary people can find a good job that supports a family; whether they can send their kids to college; whether they can retire with dignity and respect.  (Applause.)  Maybe have a little left over for a ballgame or a vacation.  Not be bankrupt when they get sick.

So what we did was we took a series of emergency measures that first year to save the economy from collapse.  And I promise you not all of them were popular.  But we did what we needed to do to start getting the economy growing again, and it has been growing — not as fast as we want, but we got the economy growing instead of contracting because we wanted to help families get back on their feet.  (Applause.)

We went in and we said — I didn’t sign up to be a CEO of an auto company, but I said I’m not going to let a million jobs, especially here in the Midwest, go away, so we’re going to intervene, and we’re going to ask in return that the auto companies restructure themselves.  And we’ve now seen for the first time in a very long time all the Big Three automakers making a profit.  (Applause.)  And making a profit selling small cars and compact cars and doing stuff that a lot of Americans thought couldn’t be done any more.

And we said, even as we’re saving the economy, there’s still some issues out there that haven’t been dealt with in a very long time, so we’re going to make sure that we’ve got equal pay for equal work — (applause) — because I don’t want Malia and Sasha getting paid less than anybody for doing a good job.  (Applause.)

And we’re going to make sure that in this country that we love, that nobody is discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation.  We’re going to make sure they can serve in our military and protect the country that they love.  (Applause.)

And we’re going to invest in clean energy, because we’re tired of being dependent on foreign oil.  (Applause.)  So we want wind turbines and electric cars made right here in the United States of America.  (Applause.)

And we’re going to increase our investment in basic research to find cures for cancer and Alzheimer’s.

And we’re going to revamp our education system, so it starts working for every child and not just some children.  (Applause.)

And, yes, we are going to go ahead and make sure that every family in America can find affordable health care and that they are not losing their home or going bankrupt because they get sick.  (Applause.)  And it was hard, but because of you we kept on driving and we got it done.  (Applause.)

So it’s been a long, tough journey.  But we have made some incredible strides together.  Yes, we have.  (Laughter.)  But the thing that we all have to remember is, is that as much good as we’ve done, precisely because the challenges were so daunting, precisely because we were inheriting so many challenges, that we’re not even halfway there yet.

When I said, “change we can believe in,” I didn’t say “change we can believe in tomorrow.”  (Laughter.)  Not “change we can believe in next week.”  We knew this was going to take time, because we’ve got this big, messy, tough democracy.  And that’s the great thing about America is, is that there are all these contentious ideas that are out there, and we’ve got to make our case.  And we knew that these challenges weren’t made overnight and they weren’t going to be solved overnight.

And so, as we look forward, we know we’ve still got a lot of work to do on the economy.  Now, I hope we can avoid another self-inflicted wound like we just saw over the last couple of weeks — (applause) — because we don’t have time to play these partisan games.  (Applause.)  We’ve got too much work to do.  (Applause.)

Over the next several months, I hope Congress is focused on what the American people are focused on, making sure that the economy is growing, making sure that businesses are getting financing, making sure that young people are getting trained for the jobs of the future; making sure that we’re getting all those construction workers, that got laid off after the housing boom went bust, and putting them to work, rebuilding our roads and our bridges, rebuilding Chicago — (applause) — rebuilding Detroit, rebuilding rural communities all across the country, putting people back to work.

I want to make sure that America is not just an importer; I want us to export.  I want to build electric cars in America, and I want to ship them all around the world, because we’ve got the best technologies.  (Applause.)  I want us to focus on how we can revamp old buildings and old facilities so they’re energy efficient.  And we can start cutting down on our electricity bills, and we can start cutting down on our carbon emissions.  And we can stop being so dependent on foreign oil, and you don’t have to pay as much at the pump.  That’s what the American people are looking for.  That’s what we’ve got to focus on.  (Applause.)

We’ve got more work to do to make sure that we’ve got an immigration system in this country that makes some sense.  (Applause.)  We are a nation of laws and we are a nation of immigrants.  And we want to welcome extraordinary talent to our shores and have a legal immigration system that works for everybody.  (Applause.)  We’ve got to make that happen.

We’ve got to — and a lot of the stuff that we’ve already done we’ve got to make sure it gets implemented effectively.  We finally put some common-sense rules so that banks aren’t taking the kinds of risk that almost led to an economic meltdown, and that consumers are protected when you get credit cards or mortgages.

And, frankly, there are some folks in Congress who are trying to block us from making that progress, and that’s why your voice has to be heard, where we stand up and we say:  We want a financial system that is fair for everybody.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  (Applause.)

And on the foreign policy front, you elected me in part based on a promise that we would end the war in Iraq, and we have ended combat operations there.  And by the end of this year we will have our troops out of Iraq, as I promised and as I committed.  (Applause.)  And in Afghanistan, we’ve got al Qaeda on the run and we are going to begin transitioning to give Afghans more responsibility, but also to start bringing our troops home, because we’ve got a lot of work to do here at home to rebuild America.  (Applause.)

But our foreign policy can’t just be about war; it’s also got to be about peace.  (Applause.)  It’s also got to be about helping countries feed the hungry.  It’s got to be about helping countries transition to democracy.  It’s got to be about respecting human rights all around the world and making sure that America continues to be a beacon of hope.  That’s part of why you elected me.  That’s part of the unfinished business of this administration.  (Applause.)

And as we think about this world, we understand that it’s shrunk, and it’s going to be more competitive.  And if we’re going to leave the kind of America behind to our children and our grandchildren, then we’ve still got some work to do.  Yes, we’ve got to get our fiscal house in order.  And all the progressives out there, I want you to understand that we can’t just ignore this debt and deficit, we’ve got to do something about it.  But economic growth, making ourselves more competitive isn’t just about cutting programs.  It’s also about making investments in our people.  (Applause.)

It’s also about making sure we’ve got the best education system in the world; that we’ve got the best scientists and engineers and mathematicians in the world; making sure that we prize our diversity; making sure that we’ve got a social safety net for the aged and the infirm and our children.  That’s part of what makes us a great nation.  (Applause.)

So, Chicago, we’ve got more work to do.  We’ve got more work to do.  And look, let me just say this, it is going to continue to be challenging every single step of the way.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  But we can do it!

THE PRESIDENT:  But we can do it.  (Applause.)  You know, I’m always — I’m always amused when the pundits in Washington say, boy, you know, Obama hasn’t gotten this passed yet or some of his supporters are disappointed about this, and the — the campaign, it was so smooth.  And I’m thinking what campaign were they watching.  (Laughter.)  I mean, there — at least once a month, folks would say, he can’t win.  At least once a month, people would say, oh, that was a terrible debate for him; or, oh, he’s lost support in this or that group; or, oh, that state is going to go red on him.

What they didn’t understand was is that for all the mistakes I’ll make, for all the boneheaded moves I made — might make –

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  We love you!  We love you!

THE PRESIDENT:  For all the frustrations and the challenges and resistance we have to bringing about change, when I’ve got you guys behind me — (applause) — when I’ve got the American people, when I listen to them — (applause) — and I’m reminded of your decency and those core values that say I am my brother’s keeper and I am my sister’s keeper, and what makes us a great nation is not just the height of our skyscrapers or the size of our GDP, or the power of our military, but the fact that we look after one another, and we take responsibility for ourselves, but also for our neighbors; when we’re working together and we’re joining hands, black and white and Hispanic and Asian and Native American and gay and straight; when the American people join together, we cannot be stopped.

We say to ourselves, “Yes, we can.”  It doesn’t matter how tough a week I have in Washington, because I know you’ve got me — you’ve got my back.  When I come to Chicago, when I travel across the country, I know we can’t be stopped.  (Applause.)  I know America is the greatest nation on Earth.  And I know we will bring about the change that all of us believe in.

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

END
7:44 P.M. CDT

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