Obama Video Clips > 2008-04-02 - Michelle Obama - Carnegie Mellon - Pittsburgh PA
So I hear this is a tough mic. It's kinda wobbly; uh, it's going down, mic's
How are you guys doing? What do we have here? Oh: plan B. Here we go. Yeah.
Here we go. Are we ready for some excitement? Not with the mic.
I am so honored to be here. I want to thank a few people: first, the Carnegie Mellon administration, and the staff who made it possible for this event to take place here. Thank you guys. And also to Students for Obama: where are my Students for Obama?
Yes we can!
And of course, last but not least, the woman who introduced me, Teresa Heinz, who has been such an exceptional mentor to me personally. You know, there are not that many people who have gone through this, who you can reach out to and say: what is this gonna be like? And she has been so generous with her time, with her emotions; she is a true, passionate advocate for the right things for this country, and I want us to give her another round of applause for it. Teresa Hynes.
So, I don't know if you've been following this, but my husband, Barack Obama, is running for President of the United States. Still running. And it has been an amazing year; this year has been so much more than I would have ever imaged. It has required patience, sacrifice, and sacrifice, dedication; but when we first started this thing more than a year ago, we didn't know what to expect.
In February, Barack announced his candidacy in Springfield, Illinois in front of the steps of the old state capitol, and it was freezing cold, `cause we live in Chicago, Illinois. You may know something about bitter cold; it was about twenty-below, and the event was outside, and I said, "no one's coming, because it is too cold." That was the first time in a long time that I'd been wrong.
But 16,000 people showed up for his announcement. Sixteen-thousand people. And the enthusiasm has not died down. We were ecstatic; it was an amazing, inspirational day. But after that day, everybody said: this race is over. They said there was no way Barack Obama could win. There was a candidate that was inevitable. And we said: wow, really, it's over? That's it? We didn't have a chance to talk to anybody, nobody voted, we hadn't raised any money, but all the pundits said: it is over.
They said there were several things that needed to happen to demonstrate a strong candidacy, and, of course, Barack could do none of them. The first was: raising money. They said that the true test of a strong candidate was the ability to raise money. And they said that there was no way that a guy named Barack Obama was gonna be able to raise the kind of money to match the financial wealth and might of an inevitable candidate.
But, see, what they didn't anticipate was the way that Barack was going to go about raising money. You know, he relied on regular folks. His philosophy was that $23 was just as important as $2,300 if you voted, and got engaged, so he built a financial organization that reached out to regular folks, and folks were writing $20, $50, $100 checks. We amassed millions. We have no surpassed a million donors. Unprecedented.
So as a result of people like you, Barack not only was able to compete financially, but surpassed every expectation. But then after he raised the money, what happened? They said: well, money's not important, you know, everybody's gonna raise a lot of money, so that's no longer important. What was the true test of a strong candidacy was who could build an organization, because they said well, because they said: not Barack.
They said there was no way that this guy Barack Obama maybe he could raise a little money but he certainly couldn't build the kind of political organization to outmatch a political dynasty that had been building relationships around this country for decades. But then what did Barack do: he approached that differently. Because he said, you know what: I'm going to reach out once again to regular folks.
And his campaign attracted thousands of folks who had never been engaged in this process before; who didn't find a reason to be involved. A lot of young people, but let me tell you, it was folks from all walks of life that came to volunteer. And we built, in the early states, some of the strongest political organizations that folks had ever seen.
So we built it. But then after he built it, they said: well, organization's not important, everybody can build an organization. The true test of a candidate was whether they could win Iowa. Remember Iowa? Iowa Iowa was the test, because they said Iowa was different, because Iowa was a caucus. And with caucuses, you've got to go into the state, and they get to know the candidates up-close and personal.
It's different. Iowans take this process seriously, and we found that to be the case. We went into Iowa. We spent months in Iowa. I have been to every county in that state. And it has been a joy, because the folks in Iowa do take this process seriously. We've met in churches, and whoa, got somebody from Iowa; we love Iowa we were in open-air barns, and people's kitchens.
I mean, these were the days we were just talking about; reminiscing about those days in Iowa, where we would sit down with fifty people, and twenty people, and talk for hours. The folks in Iowa did get to know every candidate up-close and personal. And you know what they decided? They decided that Barack Obama was their choice.
Now, we were excited too. We were excited about that too, because Iowa was the big test. Barack won Iowa overwhelmingly. But then what happened? They said: Iowa's not important, Iowa's not important because it's just a caucus, and caucuses are different, they don't count as much. I was there: that's what they said. They said that was this was now was a national race. Because, see, Barack was down in the national polls back then. Down by double-digits, and they said that there was no way that Barack Obama narrow a double-digit lead. There's no way.
Until he started doing it. And then the polls started narrowing. And then we rolled into New Hampshire, and New Hampshire was supposed to be his opponent's firewall. He was supposed to get killed in New Hampshire, because his opponent had been building relationships in that state. Well we didn't win that state: we only lost narrowly by about two or three percentage points, but walked away with just as many delegates. We consider that a huge victory.
And then we came to South Carolina oh, South Carolina. We were excited too, until they said that South Carolina doesn't count, because Barack was supposed to win South Carolina. We were like: really? It's not gonna count? Nope. But what they didn't count on was the margin of victory. They didn't realize that Barack was gonna win South Carolina by such an overwhelming margin, and that he didn't just win the black-vote in South Carolina. He won every county in that state except for two. So that was hard to spin.
So where are we now? We're in this place where Barack has won more pledge delegates; where he's won more of the popular vote; he's raised more money; he's won more states. He's won in all kinds of states. He's won in red states, in big states, in small states, in blue states, in swing states. He's won the black-vote, the white-vote; he's won among women, and young people. He has amassed victories so diverse.
Ask yourselves: when was the last time that you've seen a candidate who could pull together wins in places like Utah, and then in Virginia, and then go up to Alaska, and then go down to Louisiana, and back up to Maine, and Illinois. When was the last time we've seen somebody who could pull together that kind of a diverse coalition. Oh, and yes: he did win the Texas caucuses, by the way.
So Barack has done what everybody said he couldn't do over a year ago. This has been an amazing year. And we've learned a few things this year; we've learned a couple of things. First of all, we've learned that the American people are hungry for change. Hungry for something different. And some of this is about Barack, but a lot of it is about people being tired of the way things have been.
And folks are engaged in a way they have not been before. People have been lining up to attend political rallies; standing out in the cold with their kids on their shoulders. People are watching CNN, and MSNBC; those stations haven't seen such high ratings. People are engaged. Folks are sitting around the TV with their five-year-olds, watching Presidential debates. Folks are engaged. People are talking about delegates, pledge delegates, superdelegates. When was the last time anybody knew there were even any delegates?
This is this is something new that's going on. And it is a very good thing. No matter what the outcome is, this level of engagement in the political process. People feeling like they can have a stake. Young people coming out of the shadows and saying: we can own a part of our democracy. That is a good thing. And we should all be proud of that. We should all be proud of that.
But we've also learned something else this year. We've learned that we are still living at a time in a nation where the bar is set. And I talk about this all the time: the bar is set, they say, you know, if you can get here, you'll be okay. If you can do this thing, you're good. And then you work hard, you struggle, you reach, you get to the bar, you're right there, you're about to grab onto the bar, thinking that you've arrived, and what happens?
They move the bar, snatch the bar right out from under you. And that's kinda what's been going on in this race. Raise a little money? Not good enough. Build an organization? Not good enough. The wins that you have never count. You always have to do a little bit more. But the irony is that that's what's going on for regular folks in this country. The truth of the American experience today for many regular folks is that folks are trying to reach a bar that just keeps moving.
And the problem is that when you live in a nation where the bar is always shifting and moving, and you don't know whether the work that you've put in is gonna lead to the outcome that you thought you'd get, is that it makes people feel isolated. Because folks are struggling so hard every day. And their struggles are not amounting to what they hoped would happen. So you start feeling isolated, and lonely, and it is easy to be divided when you are in a country that is struggling to reach an ever-moving and shifting bar.
You feel like your pain and struggle is all your own: that you are alone in your failures. So it's easy to be divided. And it is also easy to be apathetic, because you feel like: you know what, I am working so hard, and can't get ahead, that why bother? What's voting gonna do? You don't trust that your government can do anything, so people fold their arms in disgust and say: you know what, that's somebody else's problem, I don't have time to vote because I'm too busy trying to chase an ever-moving bar.
So people don't engage. And when you live in a country where the bar is moving and shifting on you, then it is so easy to be guided by fear. Because when you're world isn't right when you're trying to everything in your power to make it right, and it doesn't happen all you have is fear. Fear of other people who are a threat to you. And that's where we are. And the problem with being in a country that is guided by fear is that it cuts us off from one another.
It cuts us off from one another in our own neighborhoods; in our own families; in our communities. And it has certainly cut us off from the rest of the world. The problem with fear is that it creates this veil of impossibility, and we spend more time in this country talking about what we can't do; what can't change; what won't work. And we pass that belief-system on to our children. So we're raising a generation of young people who are insular, and timid, and many of them don't try because we already told them why they can't do it.
And, see, I don't want that for my girls. You know, I got these beautiful little girls Malia and Sasha and like many of you, they are our light. And my view is that in 2008, with all that we have overcome, we deserve to hand those children the best. We should be living in a time where all children in this country no matter what their race, their neighborhood, their gender, their parents' political party all our children should be able to dream big, huge, gigantic dreams, and know that they are gonna have the love, support, and resources of this entire nation behind them every step of the way.
That's where we should be right now, but we're not there. And we know it. We're not there because we're still struggling to catch that bar. And you lose focus when you're trying to catch a shifting and moving bar, and I know this because of how I grew up. I talk about this everywhere I go. I talk about how I view the world the lens through which people like me and Barack see the world. It comes from our upbringing.
`Cause I don't care how many news covers I'm on, or stump speeches I give, or how many times Barack is in front of big crowds. Deep down inside, we are working-class kids. And we view the world through that lens. And when I look at the life that I lived growing up not so long ago, it has changed. The life I was able to have that my family was able to provide for me is no longer possible.
My father was a blue-collar city worker in Chicago. They did not go to college. But, see, what my father was able to do on that simply city salary he could raise a family of four. My mother stayed home, because you could send your kids to the neighborhood public schools around the corner, and know that they get a good education. So I tell people: when you look at me, don't see just the next First Lady of the United States. I want people to see what an investment in public education can look like.
We need to be reminded of why public education is critical, because I wouldn't be here if it weren't for those solid neighborhood schools around the corner with good teachers. We didn't have a whole lot of resources, but we had parents who cared; we had art, and music, and gym. There was nothing miraculous about my upbringing. There were no miracles happening in my household. All I saw every day were hard work and sacrifice.
See, because, when you grow up with parents who are willing to put all their dreams aside to let you achieve a little bit more, you see them getting up and going to work every day to jobs that they don't love. My father a man with a disability went from being a swimmer, a boxer, serving in the military; but because of MS, he couldn't walk without the assistance of a cane. My father didn't complain, didn't show disappointment: he got up and went to work every single day. That's what I saw.
And what I now know as an adult with my own children is just how much of a struggle that was, but you know what my father had? Was the ability to get up and go to a job. He took pride in the fact that he could support his family. My father, like most Americans in this country, didn't want much; my father wasn't asking for much; my father didn't mind having a bar that was high. He didn't mind working hard.
He just wanted the bar to be still. He wanted fair. He wanted opportunity. And most Americans in this country: all they want to know is if they get up and go to work every day, that they'll earn enough to take care of their families. That they'll earn enough to pay their bills. Most Americans want to know that they can send their kids to some decent public schools in their community, and ensure that they'll get a decent education. Maybe go to college, but at least be prepared for a job.
Folks want to know that if they get sick, they won't go bankrupt. And they want to know that after a lifetime of hard work and sacrifice, that one day they can retire with a little respect and dignity. That's all that most Americans want: they want the bar still. But, see, we're living in a time with a shifting and moving bar that that little dream of life that my father provided me is gone for regular folks.
And this has been true throughout Democratic and Republican administrations. That's where the hunger comes from. Because we're not there yet. We all know this: we're living this. The jobs that my father had those blue-collar jobs don't exist, they're dwindling all over this country. I don't care where I go: people are begging for jobs. And if you're lucky enough to have a job, nine times out of ten, salary's not keeping up with the cost of living.
So people are working harder and harder for less and less, as costs are going up. Food; gas; rent. People cannot make it, and they're working just as hard. And I don't know how single parents do it; there are millions of them all over this country. And you know what I know? Single parents love their kids too. And they are doing their best, feeling every day like they're failing because they don't realize how much that bar is moving on them.
Going to two and three jobs, coming home, trying to cook a good meal, keeping up with kids homework. It is impossible. But yet they're trying still, and feeling depressed. And education it is not what it needs to be. Everybody in this country knows that No Child Left Behind is strangling the life out of our education systems.
Teachers don't have the resources or the flexibility to teach. Parents don't know whether their kids are getting the preparation that they need. And we all know that the measure of a child's success cannot be by a couple of tests. `Cause if that were the case, I wouldn't be here. So now parents have that to worry about on top of whether they have enough; are their kids being prepared, can they go to college.
And college you are know what a dream college has become. And there are thousands, millions, or young people like me and Barack, who did everything that was asked of them. Many met and have surpassed the bar took every test, prepared, applied, got into the college of their choice. Only to look at the cost, look at their family's income, and say: there's no way I can do this, even though I am ready, and prepared, I can't afford it. So they don't go.
For every student here, there are many, many more of you at home who are not here because you couldn't afford it. Not because you weren't ready. And then there are those of us, who take on the loan debt. We are here because we take out loans: that was me and Barack. Just a few years ago, we were still in debt for our college education. It was the biggest bill we had bigger than our mortgage, `cause, see, we went to those good schools.
And I'm still waiting for Barack's trust fund to show up. I was like: you sure? And then I heard about Dick Cheney, and I thought, well maybe we got something coming from cousin Cheney. But alas, my husband was broke. But we did what we thought we were supposed to do: we got good educations, we left corporate America. And with every step we make, bringing our skills back to our community, we made less money.
My mother laughed too, she was like: what are you all doing? So by the time we should have been saving for our own kids' college, we found that we were still in debt, paying down our own education. Imagine: a President of the United States, who's just a few years outside of paying down student loans. We've never seen that before. We have never seen that before.
But that would be Barack. The only reason we're not in debt today is because Barack wrote two best-selling books. I say it was like Jack and his magic beans. He's like: look honey, I'm gonna write these books, and we'll be fine. I'm like: yeah, sure, right. But he did it, and I thank all of you all for buying that book. But there are millions of young couples like me and Barack, with their MBAs and MPHs and MAs and MSWs and QRSTUVs. All ready to do the right thing, but they're finding that they can't save for their own kids' college, because they haven't paid down their debt. That bar is moving and shifting.
And the same thing is happening with health care. We are a nation in debt not because people are buying big fancy cars, but because somebody got sick. And, see, we were told that if you have a job and a little health care which millions do not then you'd be okay. But now we're finding that deductibles and premiums are so high that most Americans that I meet are praying that they don't get sick, because they will be in financial ruin.
I don't care wherever I go, there are more Americans who do not know how they'll handle a health care crisis, and they are gambling that things don't turn out badly, and these are folks getting up and going to work every day, with children. And the same thing is true for our seniors: the bar's shifting and moving.
See, because, the folks all of us who have those people in our lives who have given up everything for us to be standing here. Who have worked their fingers to the bone only hoping that one day, they could enjoy the fruits of their labor and sacrifice. Put their feet up; maybe have a vacation, maybe; work on a hobby. For me, I need grandma helping with the kids.
Many of them would love to be doing that, providing that moral support, that guidance. For many families where everybody's got to work, and childcare isn't enough. And I know, moms, when kids aren't in the right place, and you mentally don't know that your kid is in a good place, you can't work. You can't focus. So we need our grandparents whole and healthy and strong, not struggling to pay their own bills like many of them are. So that they can help with the next generation.
But, see, that is not where we are in America right now. So this is where we are in 2008. And I could go on: I haven't even talked about the environment. But I don't want to bring you down. What Barack understands, and why I am here on his behalf, is that Barack knows that our greatest challenge is not that we are suffering from a deficit of resources. We are still one of the wealthiest nations on the planet. Still, with our economic ups and downs, and it's not that we're suffering from a deficit of policies and plans. Because we know the answers to many of these issues, we know what we're supposed to do.
You take education: we know what good public schools look like because there are thousands of them all across this country. Thousands of outstanding public schools; the problem is they're too few. Everybody is finagling to get their kid into that decent school. They're putting grandma's address down, calling the Congressman, standing in line. We know. Many of you went to that one good school.
The problem isn't that we don't know what it looks like. What Barack understands is that we are suffering from a deficit of empathy. Now, see, that sounds simple, and some people think that all the answers are complex; they require some mathematical equation, some big, long ten-point plan. What Barack gets is that we have lost the understanding that we have a mutual stake in one another. That we have an obligation to sacrifice and compromise for one another.
That we cannot live in a nation where some people have the whole pie, and many people don't even get a crumb. That cannot be sustainable. Barack knows that we have to be at a place where we understand that we have to compromise and sacrifice for one another. That's how this society will thrive. But, see, we've been told just the opposite by our leaders. We've been told: don't worry about anybody else, just take care of your own little plot of land. If your kids have a good education, don't worry about anybody else's. If you've got a job, don't worry about anybody else. You got health care, you're good, others will pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. That's what we've been told.
We're a nation at war, right now, where the only people who are sacrificing on a daily basis are the soldiers and their families. Our leadership has told us: don't worry `bout it, the rest of y'all just keep shopping. And it's not that we wouldn't sacrifice if asked as a nation. So we're at a point in time where we are suffering from a deficit of inspiration. And I know in my heart that the only person in this race who gets it, and who can re-energize and re-invigorate this democracy is my husband: Barack Obama.
But, it is important it's important for people to understand why I say that. `Cause I know there are still people we're down in the polls here in Pennsylvania. We are behind; that means that there are people out there who don't quite believe that Barack Obama has what it takes. And, I'm his wife, so what do I know, I'm a little biased. But let me tell you why I say this, because I am not crazy. I wouldn't be here if I didn't think that Barack was the person that we needed right now.
And why I say this is because of character. Again: it sounds so simple, but character matters to me, and I am looking for a different kind of leader. A leader who can touch our souls in a way that we haven't felt in a while, `cause our souls are broken. And character is critical. So who's Barack Obama, and why do I think his character is so important? See, my father told me that you measure the character of an individual not by what they do when the lights are shining and the camera's on.
I don't care what you did after you decided you wanted to be President. What we you doing in the shadows when nobody was looking? See, this is where Barack Obama is different. Trust me on this: Barack has been gaining experiences in the shadows that his opponents will say don't count. Just like all that money he's raised, and those wins he racked up. But let me tell you who Barack is, because I think it's critical.
See, Barack is a product of a single parent teenage mother. He didn't have it easy. He grew up in Hawai'i: better weather. But that's about it. Just imagine an eighteen-year-old white woman raising a black kid in the Sixties. Now you know she was dreamer. And because of her dreaming, his mother was able to envision a life for herself that many young girls from Kansas could not. She saw herself traveling the world, going to places like Indonesia and studying women's issues, helping folks in other countries.
So because of her naοvetι, sometimes Barack and his family lived on food stamps, but he also got to see the world in a way that many Americans do not. And I just say: imagine a President of the United States who understands and respects other cultures without fear. Imagine a President of the United States who understands how this great nation can impact small villages across oceans not because he's received a policy briefing from a set of Washington insiders, but because he's lived in those villages. He's got a grandmother living in one of those villages in Zaire, in Kenya.
Imagine the perspective that we would have on foreign relations and policies that comes from just how he's lived his life. There's no other candidate in this race who would bring that. No one. And: yes he's had this exotic, interesting background, but he was also raised by his maternal grandparents. Toot and Gramps. There were from Kansas; they were not dreamers, they were folks with their feet firmly planted in the ground.
See, his grandparents were like my parents. They were the ones who sacrificed everything so that his family could have a little bit more. They were the ones who got up and went to jobs they didn't care about. And when you see people you love sacrificing for you every day like we did, you know you're blessed. And what you understand is that you live by a certain set of values, you live your life that way.
We learned in our household basic things like your word is your bond; that truth and honesty count for everything; that you say what you mean; that you don't feel entitled to anything in life. When you're a working-class kid, you don't expect anything. You know you have to work harder, be smarter, be tougher, and that's the way it is. You're taught that you treat other people with respect and dignity, even if you don't know them, and especially if you don't always agree with them.
Because what we learned is that you never know who you're gonna need to sit down with and work with. So you don't leave your opponents with nowhere to go, because if you're gonna work towards solutions, you've got to build trust. That's who Barack is, and he's been a young man and I want young people to understand this who has been trying to live those values.
This has been a young man who has lived every single minute of his life worrying about how to demonstrate the principle that: to whom much is given, much is expected. Imagine a President of the United States who approaches life from that. For Barack, every chance he has had to make a decision, he has illustrated his values, and it started when he left college.
As Theresa said, he could have gone to Wall Street, made a lot of money, but what does he do? Becomes a community organizer, working in some of the toughest neighborhoods in the South Side of Chicago. Working in the shadows. Nobody was watching him then. Nobody was counting what he was doing, but let me tell you what he was doing. He was working for people who had a reason to give up hope. Folks who lived in communities much like the ones in this state; steel mills had gone out of business.
Folks were unemployed, living in brown fields. No jobs; unsafe streets; no schools. Barack worked for years, working mainly with grandparents raising grandchildren. Single mothers trying to hold it together. Spent years bussing people down to City Hall to help them find their voice and advocate for change, to find their power. You tell me anybody else in this race who's bringing that kind of experience to the race.
There's no one else who has made those choices in life. But Barack has, and it doesn't stop there. Barack's a lawyer, I'm a lawyer; everybody we knows a lawyer, `cause that's the only way you can pay off your student loans. But Barack is a lawyer that could have made millions. Barack was the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. If you wanna talk about some bar-setting; if you want to talk about sheer intellectual, academic achievement there are many lawyer in this race there are none who have done that. None.
And when you have become the editor of the Law Review of the best school in the world, you can write your ticket anywhere. But what does Barack do, what was the choice that he made when nobody was looking? He said: I'm gonna go back to Chicago, teach Constitutional law, work for a civil rights firm. Why? Because to whom much is given, much is expected. And when you're given the gift of advocacy, you don't sell it to the highest bidder, as Barack believes. You work for the least of these.
So Barack worked for years on issues of housing fairness, employment discrimination, voting rights. These are the kind of experiences he was gaining when nobody was looking. Experiences that his opponents will say somehow don't count. But it doesn't stop there: Barack has more legislative experience than his opponent does. Barack has been in the State Senate for eight years before coming to the U.S. Senate. His opponent hasn't done that.
And it's not just any state. So when people say: well, is Barack tough enough to handle the Republicans? They'll put that down: maybe he's not tough enough. I'm like: do you know where we live? We live in Chicago. Illinois politics: it's some of the meanest, toughest politics. Every trick that has been played: they taught it there.
But what did Barack do? His approach to politics was: let me not become of it, let me rise above it. And his view was that if you were brought to politics by regular folks, then you can try some things out. You can take some risks. So he said: let me try some stuff out, let me see what happens if I approach politics with my values, if I tell the truth, if I work hard, if I develop trust with people I don't agree with. What if I listen, and build relationships with people who I don't know. People I don't always understand. What if I keep an open mind. What if I work harder and faster and smarter; can't I get something done in Illinois, one of the most divided, political state legislatures in the nation.
Let me tell you what Barack Obama was able to do in his eight years expand health care for kids in our state; pass an earned-income tax credit for working folks; help reform ethics in a state that hadn't seen ethics reform in more than 25 years; help mend a broken death penalty system that sent dozens of innocent mean to death row; helped to ensure that welfare mothers being put off the rolls had access to childcare.
These were just some of the things that Barack was able to do, at a time when he was in the minority most of the time. So I just say: imagine a President of the United States who has a proven track record of working in a tough political climate in a divided house and making stuff happen at a time when we need that kind of leadership. There is no one else in this race who has done that. No one.
And if we need to know what folks will do in times of crisis, we've got evidence of that. We've got this war that we're in. If we want to know who these folks are, and what they will do when times are tough, let's look at what I call Exhibit A. The War in Iraq. That was a situation where we had a whole lot of folks with years of Washington experience all coming together and looking at the same facts and information.
And, see, that was a popular war at the time because we were afraid, and we were mad. And we liked tough-talk, that made us feel secure. And we had a lot of folks saying: we need to fight this war. And very few people had the guts and the wisdom to stand up and say no to what was then a popular war. The only person in this race who stood up when it wasn't convenient for him was Barack Obama.
But remember that bar I was telling you about? Well it's there again, because his opponent said: well, his speaking out doesn't count, because he wasn't in the U.S. Senate at the time when he spoke out. So it doesn't count. Well, let me tell you where Barack was, just to put it in perspective. Barack was not in the U.S. Senate at the time that he spoke out, because he was trying to get to the U.S. Senate.
Barack was in the midst of his own tough seven-way U.S. Senate primary race. And it was a race that he wasn't supposed to win. `Cause you know what they were saying about him back them? I was there. They said he was too young; they said he was too inexperienced; they said he couldn't raise the money. Yes they did. They said there was no way he could build a political organization to outmatch an Illinois dynasty that was running. They said he was too black, and then they said he wasn't black enough.
And when all of that didn't work, you know what they said? They went to their old go-to fear-bomb, and they said his name. Watch out for his name, I kid you not; I was there. They said there was no way that folks in downstate Illinois would vote for a man named Barack Obama. Fear the name, because it's different. They're banking on fear.
So when you see Barack getting those mudslings at him and he doesn't seem to get all frustrated, it's not that he's crazy. It's just that he's heard it all before. There is nothing new going on. What Barack has learned in his political career is that the American people are hungry for the truth, and they can handle it. But he also knows that we are at a time politically where, when power is confronted with real change, sometimes they will say anything to stop it.
So the question in this race, Pennsylvania, is not whether Barack Obama is ready. That is just not the question. Barack will be one of the most dynamic leaders that we have seen in a long time. And the thing that I want to remind you is that everybody in this Party knows that. And you know why I say that; because, see, before he was running, right after that wonderful speech at the convention, everyone wanted a piece of hope. It wasn't naοve then.
Barack's spent the entire fall traveling around campaigning and raising money for every single Democratic race. Every single person wanted him on stage with them for a little piece of hope. There wasn't anything naοve about it. The problem came when Barack said: you know what? I'm standing back here, but maybe I could run this. And that's when folks said: whoa, little buckaroo, not so fast.
The question for us in this race is what are we ready for. That has always been the question for me. I was curious about what happens to this nation when they are confronted with the kind of leaders that they say they want. What happens when you get a decent candidate who is honest, works hard, has experience, can build an organization, can unite people, can inspire people when he looks you in the face. What do we do?
Do we hold onto that fear? See, `cause that fear sometimes gives us comfort, we're so used to it. And sometimes, we like our isolation and division, `cause it gives us an excuse not to do anything. But what Barack Obama is asking you, he is saying: don't count on me, count on yourselves. The kind of change that Barack is talking about because people say: change to what? this is the change that puts the power of democracy back in your hands. And the question is: are you ready to take it?
But Barack says you cannot go back to your lives as normal. You can't be complacent anymore. You can't not vote. You can't use fear as an excuse. You can't stay divided and isolated from your neighbors; you have to communicate. You have to organize in your own neighborhoods, in your own schools, in your own churches and synagogues. You cannot turn the TV off and go back to business-as-usual.
So Barack is saying: don't vote me in because you think that that's it. You vote Barack in because you are now ready to own this. And if that's the kind of change that you're looking for, then there is nobody else in this race other than Barack who you should be thinking about. But change this kind of change doesn't come easy.
We are gonna need Pennsylvania. Because, in this ever-shifting, moving bar, Barack Obama will always be the underdog. No matter how much money he raises; no matter how many wins he pulls together; no matter how many delegates he accumulates, he is still the underdog. It's the way it works. So we need you, Pennsylvania. We need you standing with us; we need you praying with us; we need you working, voting, bringing people out. That's the only way this kind of change will happen. From the bottom up, not from the top down.
And if you're ready for that kind of change, then he's the man you want. If you don't know what's at stake, then the last thing I'll share with you is a story I've shared all over this country. After the South Carolina primary, I met this young girl, ten years old; came up to me at a little rally in a beauty shop in Newberry. She walked up to me, pushed through the crowd, she said: "Mrs. Obama, I need to tell you something."
I was like: okay. She said: "do you realize when your husband becomes the next President of the United States, it will be historical." I said: "Well, yeah." I said: "But what does that mean to you?" And she said, without missing a beat, she said: "It means that I can imagine anything for myself." But then, this little girl broke down in tears, right there on the spot.
She started crying so hard that it broke my heart; `cause I started thinking. well what is she crying about? Couldn't be me. But she couldn't stop. See, and as I think about this little ten-year-old girl, I think, you know: this little girl gets it, she knows what's at stake in this election. Ten-year-old little girl. She knows how far behind she already is. She knows that she's in schools that are underfunded, that won't prepare her for anything.
She knows she's living in neighborhoods where most of the people there don't have jobs. She knows that if she gets sick, she won't have access to any kind of health care; she'll sit in an emergency room, until her condition worsens. But, see, she also knows that she is so much better than the limited expectations that this country has of her. She knows in her heart that she has dreams, and dreams is all she has.
So don't let anybody tell you that dreaming and hope don't matter. Because there are millions of little kids out there, and all they have are their little-bitty hopes, and they are counting on us to get this right. They are counting on us to show them a different side of this nation. A different set of possibilities. They want that veil of impossibility snatch off their heads, because it is suffocating them.
And how do I know? Because that ten-year-old girl was me. I am not supposed to be here. Every statistic says that a little black girl from the South Side of Chicago is not supposed to be here. We still live in a nation where somebody like me and there are thousands of kids out here just like me, of all races and locations where the world has told us: No! You can't do that.
I had the nerve to think I could go to Princeton, where I had counselors telling me: no, you're test scores aren't high enough. Well I applied, I got in, and what do you know: I graduated with Departmental Honors. So they were wrong. And then, I go to apply at a law school. People tell me: don't go for Harvard, that might be a little too tough for you. Well I applied, I got in, I did fine.
And there are certainly people who would tell me that I should not even dream of becoming the next First Lady of the United States of America. But the one thing I want young people to know out here: if you get nothing else from this race, no matter what the outcome is, do not let anybody set the limits of your dreams. No one. Because the one thing that I have learned in my life is that every time I push past someone else's limited expectations of who I should become, and I push my way at the table that others felt so entitled to, where these folks were supposed to be so much more prepared and ready.
Every single time I got to the table, and looked around at these folks, there was no magic there. They were no more prepared or ready. So all we have in this world is a little hoping and dreaming. And I want everybody to close their eyes and just dream a little bit, because it took a lot of dreaming for me to be here. Dream of the day that a man like Barack Obama is standing in front of the Capitol with his hand on the Bible, taking the oath of office to become the next President of the United States.
And as you close your eyes and dream, imagine what that image alone will send to the millions of young kids like me; like all of you who've been told: No, wait, don't, you can't. On that day, we show them a different possibility of who they can become, and who we are. And understand that the world is watching us as well. And there are millions of little shining stars out there all over the world who are looking to this nation, and hoping and praying that we can do this.
So the question that I have for you, Pennsylvania: can we do this? Can we do this? Can we do this? Alright, let's fire up; ready to go. We need you. Thank you.