First Lady Michelle Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention on Sept. 4, 2012
|The Obamas - a humble past.|
OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you so much.
I want to start by thanking Elaine. Elaine, thank you so
much. We are so grateful for your family's service and
sacrifice. And we will always have your back.
Over the past few years as first lady, I have had the
extraordinary privilege of traveling all across this country.
And everywhere I have gone and the people I've met and the
stories I've heard, I have seen the very best of the American
I've seen it in the incredible kindness and warmth that
people have shown in me and my family especially our girls.
I've seen it in teachers in a near bankrupt school district to
vowed to keep teaching without pay. I -- I have seen it in
people become heroes at a moment's notice, diving into harm's
way to save others, flying across the country to put out a fire,
diving for hours to bail out a town. And, I've seen it in our
men and women in uniform and our proud military families.
In -- in wounded warriors who tell me they are not just
going to walk again, they are going to run and they are going to
In the young men blinded by a bomb in Afghanistan who said
simply, ``I'd give my eyes and 100 times again to have the chance
to do what I have done, and what I can still do''.
Every day, the people I meet inspire me. Every day they
make me proud. Every day they remind me how blessed we are to
live in the greatest nation on earth.
Serving as your first lady is an honor and a privilege.
But, back when we first came together four years ago, I still
had some concerns about this journey we'd begun.
While I believe it if we dig deeply in my husband's vision
for this country, and I was certain he would make an
extraordinary president, like any mother, I was worried about
what it would mean for our girls if he got that chance. How
would we keep them grounded under the glare of the national
spotlight? How would they feel being uprooted from their
school, their friends and the only home they'd ever known?
See our life before moving to Washington was filled with
simple joys. Saturdays at soccer games, Sundays at grandma's
house, and a date night for Barack and me with either dinner or
a movie because as an exhausted mom, I couldn't stay awake for
And the truth is, I loved the life we had built for our
girls. And I deeply love the man I built that life with and I
did not want that to change if he became president.
I loved Barack just the way he was. You see, even back
then, when Barack was a Senator and presidential candidate, to
me, he was still the guy who picked me up for our dates in a car
that was so rusted out, I could actually see the pavement going
by in a hole in the passenger side door
He was the guy whose proudest possession was a coffee table
he'd found in a dumpster.
And whose only pair of decent was half a size too small.
But see when -- when Barack started telling me about his family,
see now that's when I knew I'd found in him a kindred spirit.
Someone whose values and upbringing were so much like mine.
You see Barack and I were both raised by families that did
not have much in the way of money or material possessions but
who had given us something far more valuable: their
unconditional love, their unflinching sacrifice and the chance
to go places they had never imagined for themselves.
My father was a pump operator at the city water plant, and
he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and my brother and I
were young. And even as a kid, I knew there were plenty of days
when he was in pain. And I knew there were plenty of morning
when it was a struggle for him to simply get out of bed.
But every morning I watched my father wake up with
a smile, grab his walker, prop himself against the sink and
slowly shave and button his uniform.
And when he returned home after a long day's work, my
brother and I would stand at the top of the stairs of our
apartment, patiently waiting to greet him, watching as he
reached down to lift one leg and then the other to slowly climb
his way into our arms. But despite these challenges, my dad
hardly ever missed a day of work. He and my mom were determined
to give me and my brother the kind of education they could only
And when my brother and I finally made it to college,
nearly all of our tuition came from student loans and grants,
but my dad still had to pay a tiny portion of that tuition
himself, and every semester, he was determined to pay that bill
right on time, even taking out loans when he fell short. He was
so proud to be sending his kids to college and he made sure we
never missed a registration deadline because his check was late.
You see, for my dad, that is what it meant to be a man.
Like so many of us that was the measure of his success in
life. Being able to earn a decent living that allowed him to
support his family. And as I got to know Barack, I realize that
even though he had grown up all the way across the country, he
had been brought up just like me.
Barack was raised by a single mom who struggled to pay
bills and by grandparents who stepped in when she needed help.
Barack's grandmother started out as a secretary at a community
bank. She moved quickly up the ranks, but like so many women,
she hit a glass ceiling. And for years, men no more qualified
than she was, men she actually trained, were promoted up the
ladder ahead of her, earning more and more money while Barack's
family continue to scrap by.
But day after day, she kept on waking up at dawn to catch
the bus, arriving at work before anyone else, giving her best
without complaint or regret. And she would often tell Barack,
``So long as you kids do well Bar, that is all that really
matters.'' Like so many American families, our families weren't
asking for much. They didn't begrudge anyone else's success or
care that others had much more than they did. In fact, they
admired it. They simply believed in that fundamental American
promise -- that even if you don't start out with much, if you
work hard and do what you are supposed to do, you should be able
to build a decent life for yourself and an even better life for
your kids and grand-kids. That's how they raised us.
That's what we learned from their example. We learned
about dignity and decency. That how hard you work matters more
than how much you make. That helping others means more than
just getting ahead yourself.
We learned about honesty and integrity. That the truth
matters. That you don't take shortcuts are played by your own
set of rules.
And success doesn't count unless you earn it fair and
square. We learned about gratitude and humility . That so many
people had a hand in our success from the teachers who inspired
us to the janitors who kept our school clean.
And we were taught to value everyone's contribution and
treat everyone with respect. Those are the values that Barack
and I and so many of you are trying to pass on to our own
children. That's who we are. And standing before you four
years ago, I knew that I did not want any of that to change if
Barack became president. Well today, after so many struggles
and triumphs and moments that have tested my husband in ways I
never could have imagined, and I have seen firsthand that being
president does not change who you are. No, it reveals the you
You see, I have gotten to see up close and personal what
being president really looks like, and I've seen how the issues
that come across a president's desk are always the hard ones.
You know, the problems where no amount of data are members will
get you to the right answer. The judgment calls where the
stakes are so high and there is no margin for error. And as
president, you are going to get all kinds of advice from all
kinds of people, but at the end of the day when it comes time to
make that decision as president, all you have to guide you are
your values and your vision and the life experiences that make
you who you are.
So when it comes to rebuilding our economy, Barack is
thinking about folks like my dad and like his grandmother. He's
thinking about the pride that comes from a hard day's work.
That is why he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to help
women get equal pay for equal work.
That is why he cut taxes for working families at small
businesses and fought to get the of the industry back on its
That's how he brought our economy and the brink of collapse
to creating jobs again. Jobs you can raise a family on, good
jobs. Right here in the United States of America.
When it comes to the health of our families, Barack refused
to listen to those folks who told him to leave health reform for
another day. Another president. He didn't care whether it was
the easy thing to do politically. That is not how he was
raised. He cared that it was the right thing to do.
He -- he did it because he believed that here in America,
our grandparents should be able to afford their medicine. Our
kids should be able to see a doctor when they're sick. And no
one in this country should ever go broke because of an accident
or an illness.
And he believes that women are more than capable of making
our own choices about our bodies and our health care.
That is what my husband stands for.
When it comes to giving our kids the education they
deserve, Barack knows that like me and so many of you, he never
could have attended college without financial aid. And believe
it or not, when we were first married, our combined monthly
student loan bill was actually higher than our mortgage. We
were so young, so in love, and so in debt.
And that's why Barack has fought so hard to increase
student aid, and keep interest rates down because he wants every
young person to attend college without a mountain of debt.
So, in the end for Barack, these issues are not political.
They're personal. Because Barack knows what it means when a
family struggles. He knows what it means to want something more
for your kids and grand-kids. Barack knows the American dream
because he's lived it.
And he wants everyone in this country, everyone to have the
same opportunity no matter who we are or where we are from or
what we look like or who we love.
And he believes that when you work hard and done well and
walk through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it
shut behind you.
|Obama and dad outside the Snr Obama's abode in Kogello, Kenya|
same chances that help you succeed.
So when people ask me whether being in the White House has
changed my husband, I can honestly say that when it comes to his
character and his convictions and his heart, Barack Obama is
still the same man I fell in love with all those years ago.
He is the same man who started his career by turning down
high- paying jobs and instead of working in struggling
neighborhoods where a steel plant had shutdown, fighting to
rebuild communities and get folks back to work. Because for
Barack, success isn't about how much money you make. It is
about the difference you make in people's lives.
He is the same man -- he is the same man when our girls
were first born, would anxiously checked their cribs every few
minutes to ensure they were still breathing, proudly showing
them off to everyone we knew. You see, that's the man who sit
down with me and our girls for dinner nearly every night,
patiently answering questions about issues in the news,
strategizing about middle school friendships. That's the man I
see in those quiet moments late at night, hunched over his desk,
pouring over the letters people have sent him. The letter from
the father struggling to pay his bills. From the woman dying of
cancer whose insurance company won't cover her care. From the
young people with some much promise but so few opportunities.
And I see the concern in his eyes, and I hear the determination
in his voice as he tells me, ``You won't believe what these folks
are going through Michelle. It's not right. We have got to
keep working to fix this. We have so much more to do.''
I see how those stories...
AUDIENCE: Four more years!
OBAMA: I see how those stories, our collection of
struggles and hopes and dreams, I see how that's what drives
Barack Obama every single day. And I did not think it was
possible, but let me tell you today, I love my husband even more
than I did four years ago. Even more than I did 23 years ago
when we first met.
Let me tell you why -- I love that he has never forgotten
how he started. I love that we can trust Barack to do what he
says he is going to do, even when it is hard, especially when
it's hard. I love that for Barack, there is no such thing as us
and them. He doesn't care whether you are a Democrat, a
Republican, or none of the above. He knows that we all love our
country, and he is always ready to listen to good ideas, he is
always looking for the very best in everyone he meets. And I
love that even in the toughest moments, when we're all sweatin'
it -- when we're worried that the bill won't pass, and it seems
like all is lost, see Barack never lets himself get distracted
by the chatter and noise. No, just like his grandmother, he
just keeps getting up and moving forward with patience and
wisdom, and courage and grace.
And he reminds me -- he reminds me that we are playing a
long game here, and that change is hard, and change is low and
never happens all at once, but eventually we get there, we
always do. We get there because of folks like my dad, folks
like Barack's grandmother, men and women who said to themselves,
``I may not have a chance to fulfill my dreams but maybe my
children will. Maybe my grandchildren will.'' See, so many of
us stand here tonight because of their sacrifice, and longing
and steadfast love, because time and again, they swallowed their
fears and doubts and did what was hard.
So today, when the challenges we face start to seem
overwhelming or even impossible, let us never forget that doing
the impossible is the history of this nation.
OBAMA: It is who we are as Americans. It is how this
country was built.
And -- and if -- if our parents and grandparents could toil
-- and -- and struggle for us, you know if they could raise
beams of steel to the sky, send a man to the moon, connect the
world with a touch of a button, then surely, we can keep on
sacrificing and building for our own kids and grandkids, right?
OBAMA: And if so many brave men and women could sacrifice
their lives for our most fundamental rights, then surely we can
do our parts as citizens of this great democracy to exercise
those rights. Surely we can get to the polls on a election day
and make our voices heard.
If -- if farmers and -- and blacksmiths could win an
independence from an empire, if -- if immigrants could leave
behind every, if women can be dragged to jail for seeking to
vote, if a generation could defeat a depression and define
greatness for all time, if a young preacher could lift us to the
mountain top with his righteous dream, and if proud Americans
can be who they are and boldly stand at the altar with who they
love, then surely, surely, we can give everyone in this country
a fair chance at that great American dream.
Because in the end -- in the end, more than anything else,
that is the story of this country. The story of unwavering hope
grounded in unyielding struggle. That is what has made my story
and Barack's story and -- and so many American stories possible.
And let me tell you something, I say all of this tonight, not
just as a first lady, no, not just as a wife. You see, at the
end of the day, my most important title is still mom-in-chief.
My -- my -- my daughters are -- are still at the heart of
my heart and the center of my world. But, let me tell you,
today, I have none of those worries from four years ago, no.
Not about whether Barack and I were doing what was best for our
girls. Because today, I know from experience that if I truly
want to leave a better world for my daughters, and for all of
our sons and daughters, if -- if we want to give all of our
children a foundation for their dreams, and opportunities worthy
of their promise, if we want to give them a sense of that
limitless possibility, their belief that here in America, there
is always something better out there if you are willing to work
for it, then we must work like never before, and we must once
again come together, and stand together for the man we can trust
to keep moving this great country forward.
My husband, our president, Barack Obama.
Thank you. God bless you, and God bless America.
You can watch the entire speech here;