Full Text Campaign Buzz September 19, 2012: Mitt Romney’s 47 Percent Victim Voters Speech at May Private Fundraiser — Mother Jones Video Transcript





Romney’s Speech From Mother Jones Video

Source: NYT, 9-19-12

Following is the transcript of a video recorded during a private fund-raiser for Mitt Romney last May, published by Mother Jones magazine and transcribed by The New York Times.

MITT ROMNEY: The president’s foreign policy, in my opinion, is formed in part by a perception he has that his magnetism and his charm and his persuasiveness is so compelling, that he can sit down with people like Putin and Chavez and Ahmadinejad and they’ll find that we’re such wonderful people that they’ll go on with us. And they’ll stop doing bad things. It’s an extraordinarily naïve perception and it led to huge errors in North Korea, in Iraq, obviously in Iran, in Egypt, around the world.

My own view is that the centerpiece of American foreign policy has to be strength. Everything I do will be calculated to increasing America’s strength. When you stand by your allies, you increase your strength. When you attack your allies, you become weaker. When you stand by your principles, you get stronger. When you have a big military that’s bigger than anyone else’s, you’re stronger. When you have a strong economy, you build American strength. For me, everything is about strength and communicating to people what is and is not acceptable. It’s speaking softly but carrying a very, very, very big stick. And this president, instead, speaks loudly and carries a tiny stick. And that’s not the right course for foreign policy.

I saw Dr. Kissinger in New York …[Aside] You’re not eating!

CROWD MEMBER: I’m mesmerized.

MR. ROMNEY: Yeah … don’t spoil [unintelligible].

I saw Dr. Kissinger. I said to him, “How are we perceived around the world?” And he said, one word: “Weak.” We are weak. And that’s how this president is perceived, by our friends and unfortunately by our foes. And it’s no wonder that people like Kim Jong-un, the new leader of North Korea, announces a long-range missile test only a week after he said he wouldn’t. Because it’s like, what’s this president going to do about it? You know, if you can’t act, don’t threaten. Please?

CROWD MEMBER: Just to follow up on Iraq …

MR. ROMNEY: I just want to show you how it’s done, you take this in your fork [unintelligible].

CROWD MEMBER: [unintelligible] … the hostages, on his inauguration. … My question is really, how can you sort of duplicate that scenario?

MR. ROMNEY: I should ask you, how do I duplicate that scenario?

CROWD MEMBER: I think it had to do with the fact that the Iranians perceive that Reagan would do something to really get them out. In other words, he would have the strength, and that’s why I’m following on your thing about strength. That’s why I’m suggesting that something that you say over the next few months gets the Iranians to understand that their pursuit of a bomb is something that you would [unintelligible]. And I think that’s something that could possibly resonate very well with the American public.

MR. ROMNEY: I appreciate the idea.

One of the things that’s frustrating to me is that, on a typical day like this, where I do three or four events like this, the number of foreign policy questions I get are between zero and one. And the American people are not concentrated at all upon China, on Russia, Iran, Iraq. This president’s failure to put in place a status of forces agreement allowing ten to twenty thousand troops to stay in Iraq: unthinkable! And yet, in that election, in the Jimmy Carter election, the fact that we had hostages in Iran, I mean, that was all we talked about. And we had the two helicopters crash in the desert, I mean, that was the focus and so him solving that made all the difference in the world. I’m afraid today if you simply got Iran to agree to stand down, they’d go, “Hold on.” If something of that nature presents itself, I will work to find a way to take advantage of the opportunity.

CROWD MEMBER: Tonight’s your lucky night; more foreign policy. With the first time you were in Jerusalem, we appreciate you being there. How do you think that the Palestinian problem can be solved, and what are you going to do about it?

MR. ROMNEY: I’m torn by two perspectives in this regard. One is the one which I’ve had for some time, which is that the Palestinians have no interest whatsoever in establishing peace, and that the pathway to peace is almost unthinkable to accomplish. Now why do I say that?

Some might say, well, just let the Palestinians have the West Bank and have security, and set up a separate nation for the Palestinians. And then come a couple of thorny questions. I don’t have a map here to look up geography, but the border between Israel and the West Bank is obviously right there, right next to Tel Aviv, which is the financial capital, the industrial capital of Israel, the center of Israel. It’s, what, the border would be seven miles from Tel Aviv to what would be the West Bank. Nine miles. The challenge is, the other side of the West Bank, the other side of what would be this new Palestinian state would either be Syria at one point or Jordan. And of course, the Iranians would want to do through the West Bank exactly what they did through Lebanon, and what they did into Gaza. Which is the Iranians would want to bring missiles, that armament, into the West Bank and potentially threaten Israel. So Israel, of course, would have to say, “That can’t happen. We’ve got to keep Iranians from bringing weaponry into the West Bank.” Well, that means that, who, the Israelis are going to patrol the border between Jordan, Syria and this new Palestinian nation? Well, the Palestinians would say, “No way. We’re an independent country. You can’t guard our border with other Arab nations.”

And then how about the airport. How about flying into this Palestinian nation? Are we going to allow military aircraft to come in? And weaponry to come in? And if not, who’s going to keep it from coming in? Well, the Israelis. Well, the Palestinians are going to say, “We’re not an independent nation if Israel is able to come in and tell us what to land at our airport.”

These problems — they’re very hard to solve. And I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes. Committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel. And these thorny issues. And I say, there’s just no way. So what you do is you move things along the best way you can, you hope for some degree of stability. But you recognize this is going to remain an unsolved problem. We live with that in China and Taiwan. We have a potentially volatile situation, but we sort of live with it. And we kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately somehow, something will happen and resolve it. We don’t go to war to try and resolve it imminently.

On the other hand, I got a call from a former secretary of state — and I won’t mention which one it was — but this individual said to me, “You know, I think there’s a prospect for a settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis after the Palestinian elections.” I said, “Really?” And, you know, his answer was yes. I think there’s some prospect. And I didn’t delve into it, but you know, I always keep open the idea. But I have to tell you, the idea of pushing on the Israelis to give something up to get the Palestinians to act is the worst idea in the world. We have done that time and time and time again. It does not work. So the only answer is show strength, again. American strength, American resolve, and if the Palestinians someday reach a point where they want peace more than we’re trying to force peace on them, then it’s worth having the discussion. But until then it’s just wishful thinking.

CROWD MEMBER: Individuals in this room obviously are your supporters. I am very concerned about the average American who doesn’t know you. There is a terrible misconception and I spend numerous hours trying [unintelligible] to be your defender when you are such a deserving individual. You were saying years ago that “I called George Bush Sr., and he had helped me in my campaign in Massachusetts when I ran for Senate. I told him that there was a guy named Clinton who was [unintelligible] for the following reasons, and he laughed.” Right now, I’m very concerned. Women do not want to vote for you. Hispanics, the majority of them do not want to vote for you. College students don’t. After talking to them and explaining and rationalizing on a one-on-one basis, we are able to change their opinions, but at a mass level, what do you want us to do, this group here, as your emissaries, going out to convert these individuals to someone who’s obviously going to be such an incredible asset to this country. We want you. What do we do? Just tell us how we can help.

MR. ROMNEY: I have some good news for you. It’s not impossible. And the reason I say that is because, for instance, The New York Times had a poll last week, The New York Times and NBC, and I was leading by two points among women. Now the president came out and said: “This is an outrageous poll. They don’t know what they’re doing.” But, by the way, the polls at this stage make no difference at all. The point is, women are open to supporting me; they like the president personally, but they’re disappointed. They’re disappointed with the jobs that they’re seeing for their kids. They’re disappointed with their own economic standing right now. So we can capture women’s votes.

We’re having a much harder time with Hispanic voters. And if the Hispanic voting bloc becomes as committed to the Democrats as the African-American voting bloc has in the past, well, we’re in trouble as a party and, I think, as a nation.


[Crowd rumblings, unintelligible, and laughter]

MR. ROMNEY: We have some great Hispanic leaders in our party that will help communicate what our party stands for, and frankly, what I need you to do is raise millions of dollars because the president is going to have eight hundred, nine hundred million dollars. That’s by far the most important thing you can do, because you don’t have the capacity to speak to hundreds of thousands of people. I will be in those debates. There will be, I don’t know, a hundred and fifty million Americans watching. If I do well, it’ll help. If I don’t, it won’t help.

CROWD MEMBER: You will do so well. Your debates are incredible.


MR. ROMNEY: Thank you. But advertising makes a difference. The president will engage in a personal, character assassination campaign, and so we’ll have to fire back, one in defense and, number two, in offense. And that’ll take money. By the way, you’ll see the ads here. Florida will be one of those states that is the key state, and so all of the money will get spent in 10 states and this is one of them. So the best thing I can ask you to do is, yeah, sure, talk to people and tell them that you know me and word of mouth makes a big difference, but you know, I’m not terribly well known by the American public because …

CROWD MEMBER: You’re known as a rich boy. They say he’s a rich man.

MR. ROMNEY: Don’t worry. Given all those negative things, the fact that I’m either tied or close to the president, and the fact that he’s out there talking about the one-year anniversary of Osama bin Laden being captured, unemployment coming down, unleashing his campaign, we’re still sort of tied? That’s very interesting. Please.

CROWD MEMBER: I would disagree with that. I think a lot of young children coming out of college feel they were let down by the president. They feel that there’s not a job out there for them, and they thought they were going to make sixty thousand and now they’re making thirty thousand. Very similar to the U6. My question to you is, why don’t you stick up for yourself? To me, you should be so proud that you’re wealthy. That’s what we all aspire to, we kill ourselves. We don’t work 9-to-5. We’re way … [unintelligible] five days a week. I raise four girls five days a week. Why not stick up for yourself and say why is it bad to aspire to be wealthy and successful? Why is it bad to kill yourself and why is it bad to cut thirty jobs at the death of three hundred? When there’s people cutting jobs … you saved companies that were failing. So my question is, when does that [unintelligible] … worked his way up to nothing to his present success.

MR. ROMNEY: You heard in my speech tonight … oh, you weren’t here. In every stump speech I give, I speak about the fact that people who bring and achieve enormous success do not make us poorer, they make us better off. And the Republican audience that I typically speak to applauds. I said that tonight, and the media is there and they write about it, they say that Mr. Romney defends success and America and dreamers and so forth. So they write about it. But in terms of what gets through to the American consciousness, I have heard a [unintelligible] lid full of that, as to what they write about. We will have three debates, we’ll have a chance to talk about that at the debates, there will be ads which attack me, I will fire back, in a way that describes the best way we can … I mean the theme of my speech is … I wind up talking about how the thing which I find most disappointing in this president is his attack of one America against another America, the division of America based on going after those who have been successful. And then I quote Marco Rubio in my speeches, I say Marco Rubio … I don’t think I said that at the fund-raising event earlier today, but I did when I was … I just said, Senator Rubio says that when he grew up here, poor, that they looked at people who had a lot of wealth and his parents never once said, we need some of what they have, they should give us something. Instead they said, if we work hard and go to school, someday we might be able to have the same thing.


I will continue to do that. How much of that gets picked up … there’s so many things that don’t get picked up in a campaign because people aren’t watching and, by the way, most people don’t watch during the summer. I say we’re going to go into a season here, starting in mid-June, where almost no one pays attention. Then, after Labor Day, in September and October, that’s when it’ll get [unintelligible]

CROWD MEMBER: Over the past three years, all everybody’s been told is, don’t worry, we’ll take care of it. How are you going to do it, with two months before the election, to convince everybody you’ve got to take care of yourself?

MR. ROMNEY: Well, there are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement and government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. I mean, the president starts off with 48, 49 … I mean, he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax; 47 percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. He’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean, that’s what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the 5 to 10 percent in the center, that are independents, that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon, in some cases, emotion, whether they like the guy or not, what he looks like.

When you ask those people … I find it amazing. We do all these polls and poll all these people to see where we stand in the polls. But 45 percent of the people will vote for the Republican, and 48 or 49 …

[There is missing video footage between the two clips.]

… about twice as much as China. Not 10 times as much, like this reporter said. And we have responsibility for the whole world. They’re only focused on one little area of the world — the South China Sea, the East China Sea. That’s it. And they’re building the military at a rapid rate. This idea that we’ve always spent so much money on the military. … It’s like, “Guys, don’t overthink how strong we are.” We have said, you probably know, this was a couple of years ago, but we had one of our aircraft carriers standing by Japan, and the Chinese pulled up behind us in a diesel sub, a super quiet diesel sub, pulled up behind us. We could have been torpedoed. We’re not that kind of … our Navy is smaller in number of ships in any time since 1917. And this president wants to shrink it. The list goes on. Our Air Force is older and smaller than any time since ’47, when the Air Force was formed. And he wants to shrink it. If we go the way of Europe, which is spending 1 to 2 percent of its economy on the military, we will not be able to have freedom in the world.

CROWD MEMBER: When the electorate tunes in in September, the markets are going to be looking at marginal tax rates going up and another debt ceiling fight …


CROWD MEMBER: … but sequestration under the debt ceiling deal …

MR. ROMNEY: What do they call it, tax again? Isn’t that what they call it?

[Laughter] CROWD MEMBER: Now, the Obamacare praxis on dividends and capital gains, I mean … in the markets, you are going to be speaking very lively in October on all of those issues.

MR. ROMNEY: They’ll probably be looking at what the polls are saying. If it looks like I am going to win, the markets will be happy. If it looks like the president is going to win, the markets will not be terribly happy. It depends on, of course, which markets you are talking about and which types of commodities and so forth. But my own view is that if we win on Nov. 6, there will be a great deal of optimism about the future of this country. We’ll see capital come back, and we’ll see, without actually doing anything, we’ll actually get a boost to the economy. Um, if the president gets re-elected, I don’t know what’ll happen. I can never predict what the markets will do. Sometimes it does the exact opposite of what I would have expected. But my own view is that if we get the “tax again,” as they call it, Jan. 1st with this president and with a Congress that can’t work together … it really is frightening. It’s really frightening in my view.

CROWD MEMBER: Fifty-four percent of American voters think China’s economy is bigger than the U.S. When I first met you four or five years ago, you did a data call where you went very granular and you said, “Look guys,” this is a small group, he says, “This is it. This is what it is.” Tell us like it is. How are you going to win if 54 percent of the voters think China’s economy is bigger than ours? Or if it costs 4 cents to make a penny and we keep making pennies? Canada got it right a month ago. Why isn’t someone saying, “Stop making pennies, round it to the nearest nickel?” That’s an easy thing, you know, compared to Iran. I want to see you take the gloves off and talk to the people that read the paper and read the book and care about knowing the facts and knowledge is power, as opposed to people that are swayed by what sounds good at the moment. You know, if you turned it into, like, “Eat what you kill,” it’d be a landslide, in my humble opinion.

MR. ROMNEY: [Laughs] Well, I wrote a book that lays out my view for what has to happen in the country. And people who are fascinated by policy will read the book. We have a Web site that lays out white papers and a whole series of issues that I care about. I have to tell you, I don’t think this will have a significant impact on my electability. I wish it did. I think our ads will have a much bigger impact. I think the debates will have a big impact. Um …

CROWD MEMBER: [Most of comment unintelligible] … Peterson … in trouble 20 years ago.

MR. ROMNEY: But that’s my point. Which is, being right, my dad used to say, “Being right early is not good in politics.” And, in a setting like this, a highly intellectual subject or a discussion of a whole series of important topics typically doesn’t win elections. And there are, there are … I mean, for instance, this president won because of hope and change. All right? He won because of hope and change.

CROWD MEMBER: Keep the change!

MR. ROMNEY: Yeah, well …


MR. ROMNEY: So, I can tell you that I have a very good team of extraordinarily experienced, highly successful consultants, a couple of people in particular who’ve done races around the world. I didn’t realize these guys in the U.S., the Karl Rove equivalents, they do races all over the world — in Armenia and Africa and Israel. I mean, they work for Bibi Netanyahu in his race. So they do these races and they see which ads work and which processes work best. And we have ideas about what we do over the course of the campaign. I’d tell ’em to you, but I’d have to, you know, shoot you. Hopefully, we’ll be successful.


CROWD MEMBER: I think one of the aspects about the changes that worked well for Obama four years ago was he promised to bring us more honest, transparent government to Washington. I’ve been around politics for this campaign. I worked even with Barry Goldwater in 1964, so I’ve got the oldest Republican [unintelligible] … but from what I see, particularly in the last seven months in my own personal involvement in the issue, is the government in Washington right now is permeated by cronyism, outright corruption. … Our regulatory agencies that are supposed to protect the public are protecting the people that they’re supposed to be regulating. And I think people are fed up with that. It doesn’t matter whether you are in the Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street. People see that the government is working for the powerful interests and the people who are well connected politically and not for the common person, which threatens that whole idea that we have this great opportunity, which we should have and have had historically in the West for anybody from whatever background to become successful. One way in which that becomes compromised is when the government is no longer seen as an honest agent and when our tax dollars are not really being put to work for us but for the people who are plugged in politically. You know, you have cases like [unclear], which I talk about and am involved in. You have Eric Holder, who is probably the most corrupt attorney general we’ve had ever in American history. And I think it’s something, that if spun the right way and in simple terms, can actually resonate with the American people. Obama did not keep his promises. Nancy Pelosi, who was supposed to give us an honest Congress, has given us just the opposite as speaker. And I think that’s a campaign issue that can work well. I’m optimistic that you’ll be elected president, and my recommendation would be to clean house immediately …



CROWD MEMBER: The S.E.C. and the C.F.T.C. are disaster areas..

MR. ROMNEY: I wish we weren’t unionized so we could go a lot deeper than you are actually allowed to go. [To waiter] Am I in the way here? I can say this, and I’m sure you’ll agree with this as well. We speak with voters across the country about their perceptions.  Those people I told you, the 5 to 6 or 7 percent that we have to bring to our side, they all voted for Barack Obama four years ago. And by the way, when you say to them, do you think Barack Obama is a failure, if they were women, they say no. They like him. But when you say, are you disappointed that his policies haven’t worked, they say yes. And because they voted for him, they don’t want to be told that they were wrong, that he’s a bad guy, that he does bad things, that he’s corrupt. Those people that we have to get, they want to believe that they did the right thing but he just wasn’t up to the task. They love the phrase that he’s over his head.  But you see, you and I, we spend our day with Republicans.  We spend our days with people who agree with us.  And these people are people who voted for him and don’t agree with us.  And so the things that animate us are not the things that animate them.  And the best success I have in speaking with those people is saying the president’s been a disappointment.  He told you he’d keep unemployment below 8 percent. It hasn’t been below 8 percent since. Fifty percent of kids coming out of school can’t get a job. Fifty percent.  Fifty percent of the kids in high school in our 15 largest cities won’t graduate from high school. What are they going to do?  These are the kinds of things that I can say to that audience that they nod their head and say, “Yeah, I think you’re right.” What he’s going to do, by the way, is try to vilify me as someone who’s been successful, or who’s closed businesses or laid people off, and isn’t he an evil, bad guy? And that may work. I actually think that right now people are saying, “I want someone who can make things better, that’s going to motivate me. Who can get jobs for my kids and get rising incomes?” And I hope to be able to be the one to poise that battle. Yeah, please.

CROWD MEMBER: I’ve seen Obama a lot of times he’s done talk shows, interviews.  I’ve never seen you on any of them, and I think a lot of women [unintelligible] … I think they would see you in a different light. I think a lot of women especially do not watch debates, do not come to these functions.  I think you have to show your face more on TV and talk like a regular … like a Smith.  I think you could maybe reach a lot of people.

MR. ROMNEY: Well, thank you.  I have been on “The View” twice now.


It went very well. I’ve done the evening shows. I’ve been on Letterman a couple of times, I’ve been on Leno more than a couple of times, and now Letterman hates me because I’ve been on Leno more than him. They’re very jealous of each other, as you know. And I was asked to go on “Saturday Night Live.” I did not do that, in part because you want to show that you’re fun and you’re a good person, but you also want to be presidential. And “Saturday Night Live” has the potential of looking slapstick and not presidential. But “The View” is fine, although “The View” is high risk because of the five women on it, only one is conservative and four are sharp-tongued and not conservative, Whoopi Goldberg in particular.  Although the last time I was on the show, she said to me, “You know what? I think I could vote for you.”  And I said, “I must have done something really wrong.”


I’ve got to sit down and … Darlene, you get the last word.

DARLENE: I was just going to say, I think our media strategy would be sending Anne on “The View.” She is your best advocate, she connects so well, I mean, people talk so much about disconnect and someone said over there that people use the term “rich guy,” and we know that you …

MR. ROMNEY: You know I’m poor as a church mouse!

DARLENE: We know that you value [unintelligible] and hard work, but Anne really connects with women  and she can tell a story and she’s the perfect person who can go on Matt Lauer and go on Victoria … and go on “The View” and go on all of these people and really get the women connecting to you … and I think she’s a great …

MR. ROMNEY:  I think you’re right, I think you’re absolutely right.  We use Anne sparingly right now so that people don’t get tired of her or start attacking.

DARLENE: Who gets tired of Anne?


MR. ROMNEY: But you will see more of her in the September-October time frame and you know, we had, what is her name, Hilary Rosen, who attacked her and that made Anne much more visible to the American people which I think is very helpful. Gave her a platform she wouldn’t have had otherwise.  And I agree with you, I think she will be extraordinarily helpful.

DARLENE: Just the people who friended her on Facebook or whatever happened after the Hilary Rosen came out … that showed you the value of social networking and how important new media can be in this election cycle.  And I just think she can be … and I know she wants you to win.

MR. ROMNEY: She’s out there. She’s in Texas tonight, she was in Louisiana last night, she’s raising money in those places. She was at Ben Crenshaw’s house for dinner tonight, isn’t that something? So there are some benefits. One of the benefits I get is eating the world’s greatest dessert, which I will. Thank you.


Full Text December 13, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Campaign Speech in Washington — Asks Supporters to Stick with Him — Says Election is “Not a Slam-Dunk”



Philip Scott Andrews/The New York Times

President Obama spoke to fund-raisers in Washington on Tuesday as part of year-end briefings on the 2012 presidential campaign.


Democrats Find a Welcome Distraction: Team Obama is viewing the prospect of a drawn-out Republican battle between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich as an advantage to President Obama’s re-election campaign…. – NYT, 12-13-11

Obama beseeches supporters to stick with him: Imploring supporters to stick with him, President Barack Obama acknowledged Tuesday that his re-election is not “a slam dunk” because of understandable public skepticism over the economy but said his campaign would put forward a vision aligned with the mood of the country.
The president, addressing donors at a hotel near the White House, drew attention to his efforts to heal the economy, end the Iraq war and overhaul health care but said “all those things don’t mean that much to somebody if they’re still out of work right now or their house is still underwater by $100,000. So, yeah, this is going to be tough.”
“We’re going to have to fight for it. It’s not going to be a slam dunk,” he said. Obama said the campaign would pursue “the vision that is truest to our history and most representative of the core decency of the American people.”… – AP, 12-13-11


  • Obama campaign sees reasons for optimism: The GOP primary battle: President Obama’s top campaign strategists said Tuesday that the increasingly heated Republican primary battle between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich is helping to shift the national political landscape back to Obama’s advantage. … – WaPo, 12-13-11
  • Obama on 2012: ‘This Is Going to Be Tough’: Admitting his re-election is “not a slam-dunk,” President Obama today asked supporters to stick with him in 2012 because “this is going to be tough.” “It’s understandable if people aren’t feeling as chipper as they were back in 2008,” given the state … – ABC News, 12-13-11


Remarks by the President at a Campaign Event

Source: WH, 12-13-11

Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill
Washington, D.C.

12:05 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody!  (Applause.)  Hello, hello, hello!  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Love you guys.  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)  All right, everybody have a seat.  I don’t want to milk this too much here.  (Laughter.)

To Matthew, thank you for your extraordinary leadership.  We could not be prouder of you.  And for you to have made all the life-changing sacrifices to take on this job — it’s something that I couldn’t be prouder of.  So please give Matthew a big round of applause.  He’s working hard.  (Applause.)

Jane Stetson, Andy Tobias — they are doing remarkable work for the DNC.  And our outstanding chairwoman of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, is in the house.  Give her a big round of applause as well.  (Applause.)

I don’t want to give a long speech.  I want to save most of my time for questions and discussion with all of you.  I’ve got two simple messages.  Number one, thank you.  I look around the room — everybody here has gone above and beyond the call of duty, not just for the last few months but for several years now. I’m reminded of what my friend, Ab Mikva said about being friends with a politician; it’s like having a perpetual child in college. (Laughter.)  It just never stops.  (Laughter.)  But all of you have just done incredible work with great cheer and great determination.  And I’m thankful for it.

Which brings me to the second point.  The reason you do it, I’d like to think, is a little bit because you like me and you think I’m a pretty good guy.  (Laughter.)  I definitely know that part of it is because you love Michelle and think she’s one of the best First Ladies we’ve ever had.  (Applause.)  But the main reason you do it is because you know what’s at stake.

Back in 2008, we used to talk about this being a historic moment for America, that we were at a crossroads in our history. Well, we haven’t fully crossed the road, and in some ways, 2012 is even more important than it was four years ago.  The choices could not be starker.  The vision about where we want to take the country could not be more different.

I gave a speech in Kansas last week where I talked about — (applause) — where we need to go as a country; a country that’s based on everybody having a fair shot, a country that depends on everybody doing their fair share, a country where fair play applies across the board.  And I talked about how, for decade, now, people have felt that the basic compact that if you worked hard, you acted responsibly, you looked after your family, that you would be able to be in the middle class, stay in the middle class, get into the middle class, that your kids would have a better life than you did, that you’d have some semblance of security — that that compact had eroded.

And it hadn’t happened overnight, it wasn’t going to be solved overnight, but there were going to be some critical things that we had to do to make sure that compact was restored:  Making investments in education so our kids are better prepared than anybody in the world.  Making sure that we’ve got the best infrastructure to move products and services, and our businesses can thrive.  Making sure that we’re investing in science and basic research.  Making sure that the rules of the road apply to everybody; so we’re not building a bubble economy but we’re building an economy based on making stuff and exporting it around the world — stamped with the words, Made in America.  And most fundamentally, understanding that we’re all in this together — it’s not a few of us doing well and then the rest of us hoping that we get lucky, but rather, everybody, as a team, moving this country forward.

And that vision, in contrast to a vision that basically says you are on your own, is what this election was about in 2008; it’s what this election is going to be about in 2012.  I am confident that the vision that we believe in so deeply and that we’ve worked so hard for is the vision that is truest to our history and most representative of the core decency of the American people.

But we’re going to have to fight for it.  It’s not a slam-dunk.  We’re going to have to deliver this message effectively all across the country.  And at a time when people have been battered by the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression and the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, it’s understandable if people aren’t feeling as chipper as they were back in 2008.  There’s going to be some skepticism.  There’s going to be some pushback.

All of the things that we’ve done over the last three years — to rescue the economy and rescue the auto industry, and end the war in Iraq and end “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and make sure that health care is in place, and financial reform brings back some integrity to the financial sector — all those things don’t mean that much to somebody if they’re still out of work right now, or their house is still underwater by $100,000.

So, yeah, this is going to be tough.  But I just want to remind all of you that you didn’t decide to support Barack Hussein Obama because it was going to be easy.  There were always easier choices to make, just as there would have been easier political choices for me to make.  We took a flyer on this thing because we believe passionately in an America in which everybody is getting ahead.

That’s worth fighting for.  And here’s my message to you.  If you guys stick with this, if you don’t falter, if you stay steady, we are going to win this thing.  (Applause.)  We are going to win this thing, and America is going to win as a consequence.  (Applause.)

All right?  Thank you, everybody.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

12:15 P.M. EST

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



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.


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.

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.)

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 —


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.)

7:44 P.M. CDT

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