REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT DNC EVENT
The Paramount Theatre
September 25, 2011
2:38 P.M. PDT
AUDIENCE: Four more year! Four more years!
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. Everybody, please have a seat. Have a seat. Now, first of all, it is wonderful to see all of you. It is wonderful to be introduced by two Hall-of-Famers — Lenny Wilkins and Bill Russell. I don’t know if you guys noticed that Bill needs a higher mic. (Laughter.) It was a little low for him. But it was incredible to get to know those two gentlemen during the course of the campaign, and they have just been great, great friends.
In addition, obviously I want to acknowledge your outstanding governor, Christine Gregoire. (Applause.) I want to thank Robert Cray and the Robert Cray Band. (Applause.) I want to thank — you have some of the best elected officials in the country, and you’ve got some of the best congressional — I think one of the best congressional delegations in the country. Stand up, congressional delegation. (Applause.)
It is great to be back in this gorgeous city, and it’s good to be outside of Washington. I’m thrilled to be here with all of you. I’ve even come here during a Bears-Packers game. (Laughter.) And that tells you how much I need your help. I’ve come because I need you to help finish what we started in 2008.
Back then, we started this campaign not because we thought it would be a cakewalk. After all, you supported a candidate named Barack Hussein Obama. (Laughter and applause.) You didn’t need a poll to know that that was not going to be easy. Lately there’s been some revisionist history — people talk about, oh, what an incredible, smooth campaign that was. And I’m thinking, that’s not how it felt to me. (Laughter.) But as daunting as it was, as many setbacks as we had, we forged ahead because we had an idea about what this country is. We had an idea about what this country can be.
Many of you, many of our parents, our grandparents, we grew up with faith in an America where, if you work hard, if you’re responsible, then it pays off. (Applause.) If you stepped up and you did your job and were loyal to your company, that loyalty would be rewarded with a decent salary and decent benefits and a raise once in a while and some security. And you had some belief that the American Dream could be yours, and that your kids could dream even bigger.
And over the last decade, that faith has been profoundly shaken. The rules changed. The deck kept on getting stacked against middle-class Americans and those aspiring to be in the middle class. Nobody in Washington seemed willing or able to do anything about it.
So in 2007, all of this culminated in a once-in-a-lifetime economic crisis — a crisis that’s been much worse and much longer than your average recession. You know, historians have looked, and typically a recession that comes about because of a financial crisis is much deeper and much longer. It takes a long time to work its way through. And so, from the time I took office, we knew, because this crisis had been building for years, it was going to take us years to get back to where we wanted to be.
The question now is not whether people are still hurting; they are. Every night I read letters from constituents all across the country, and the stories are heartbreaking. I talk to people out on the road, and men and women who’ve had to close a business that’s been in their family for generations, or folks who’ve had to cross items off the grocery store list to save money so they can fill up the gas tank to get to work, parents having to postpone retirement because they’re committed to sending their kids to college. A lot of folks out there are hurting.
The question is not whether this country has been going through tough times. The question is where are we going next. We can either go back to the same ideas that the other sides is peddling — old worn-out ideas that were tried throughout the last decade, where corporations get to write their own rules, and those of us who’ve been most fortunate get to keep all our tax breaks, and we abandon our commitment to caring for the vulnerable, and we abandon our commitment to investing in the future and investing in infrastructure and investing in education and basic research — or we can build an America that we talked about in 2008. An America where everybody gets a fair shake and everybody does their fair share. And that’s what this election is about. And that’s what we’ve been fighting for for the last two and a half years.
Think about it. When we wanted to save the auto industry from not just bankruptcy, but liquidation, there were a whole bunch of folks on the other side who fought us tooth and nail. And that was not easy. They said it was going to be a waste of time and a waste of money. You know what? We did it anyway. And we saved thousands of American jobs as a consequence, and we made sure that America is still making cars that we’re selling around the world. (Applause.)
And by the way, contrary to the naysayers, the taxpayers are getting their money back. And today the American auto industry is stronger than ever, and they’re making fuel-efficient cars that are stamped with three proud words: Made in America. (Applause.)
When we wanted to pass Wall Street reform to make sure that a crisis like this never happens again, we had lobbyists and special interest spend millions of dollars to make sure we didn’t succeed. And you know what — with the help of some of these folks sitting at this table, we did it anyway, and passed the toughest reforms in our history, reforms that prevent consumers from getting ripped off by mortgage lenders or credit companies. (Applause.) Today there are no more hidden credit card fees; there are no more unfair rate hikes; no more deception from banks. That is not an accident. That is because we fought for it and we got it done. (Applause.)
Most Republicans voted against it, but we were able to cut $60 billion — that’s with a “B” — $60 billion in taxpayers subsidies that were going to big banks through the student loan program — we took that money and now that’s going to millions of kids all across the country in increased Pell Grants and cheaper student loans, so they have got access to college. (Applause.)
Instead of giving more tax breaks to the largest corporations, we cut taxes for small business and for middle-class families. The first law I signed into — the first bill I signed into law made sure that women earn equal pay for an equal day’s work, because I want our daughters to have the same opportunities as our sons. (Applause.)
We repealed “don’t ask, don’t tell” so that never again will gay and lesbian Americans need to hide in order to serve the country they love. (Applause.) And while we’re at it, we passed health care reform to make sure that nobody goes bankrupt because they get sick. (Applause.)
And every one of these issues were tough. Every one of them we had to fight for. And yet, despite all the good that we’ve done over the last two and half years, we’ve still got so much more work to do. We’ve got so much more work to do to make sure that everyone in this country gets a fair shake; to make sure that every American has a chance to get ahead. And that’s why I need your help.
About two weeks ago, I sent to Congress a bill called the American jobs bill. Some of you might have heard about this. (Applause.) Everything in it is the kind of proposal that’s been supported by Democrats and Republicans in the past. Everything in it will be paid for. It will put people back to work. It will put more money into the pockets of working people. Congress should pass this bill right away. (Applause.)
We’ve got millions of construction workers who don’t have jobs right now. This bill says, let’s put these men and women to work rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our highways. (Applause.) I don’t want the newest airports in Singapore and the fastest railroads in China. I want them built right here in the United States of America. (Applause.) There’s work to be done; there are workers to do it. Let tell Congress to pass this jobs bill and make it happen right now. (Applause.)
It shouldn’t be a partisan issue. What happened? Republicans used to like roads. (Laughter.) Do you remember that? Mr. Mayor, you remember, don’t you? Suddenly they don’t like roads because Democrats are proposing it? That doesn’t make any sense.
In places like South Korea, they can’t hire teachers fast enough. I had lunch with the President of Korea — I asked him, what’s your biggest problem. He said, oh, the parents — they’re too demanding. They’re telling me I’ve got to hire all these teachers and so we can barely keep pace. We’re importing them from abroad. They think that their kids should learn English when they’re in kindergarten. Because they know that educating their children is the key to success in this 21st century economy. (Applause.)
Now, that shouldn’t be a partisan idea. But here we are, we’re laying off teachers in droves — here in America. There’s schools around the country where they’ve eliminated music, art; they’ve got one science teacher running around 15 different classrooms because they don’t have enough staff; kids learning in trailers. That’s unfair to our kids. It undermines our future.
But if we pass this jobs bill we will put thousands of teachers in every state back in the classroom where they belong. Tell Congress to pass this jobs bill and put our teachers back to work. (Applause.)
Tell Congress to pass this jobs bill, we’ll put — we’ll give companies tax credits for hiring American veterans. (Applause.) These folks serve — serve us, to keep us free and to keep us safe. They interrupt their careers; they leave their families; they put themselves in harm’s way. They shouldn’t have to fight for a job when they come home. That’s not who we are as Americans. Pass this jobs bill and give veterans more opportunity. (Applause.)
The American Jobs Act will cut taxes for virtually every worker in America; cut taxes for every small business owner in America; gives an extra tax cut to every small business that hires more workers or raises their wages. (Applause.) So don’t just talk about helping America’s job creators; how about actually helping them. Get this bill passed right away. (Applause.)
A lot of folks in Congress have said, well, maybe in the past we might have supported these things but we’re not going to support any new spending that’s not paid for. Well, I think that’s important. So I also laid out a plan to pay for the American Jobs Act — and not only pays for the jobs act, but brings our debt down to manageable levels over time. It adds to the $1 trillion in spending cuts I already signed this summer, which, when you add it all together, will be one of the biggest spending cuts in history. But it’s not all done right now; it’s spread out over time so it doesn’t endanger our recovery.
Now, it’s also a plan that says, if we want to close the deficit and pay for this jobs plan, we can’t just cut our way out of the problem. We’ve got to also ask those of us who are most fortunate — the wealthiest Americans, the biggest, most profitable corporations — to pay their fair share. (Applause.)
It’s time to reform the tax code based on a very simple principle: Warren Buffett’s secretary shouldn’t be paying a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett. (Applause.) A teacher or a nurse or a construction worker making $50,000 a year shouldn’t pay a higher tax rate than somebody pulling in $50 million. It’s not fair. It’s not right. It has to change. (Applause.)
Now, you’re already hearing the other side saying, well, hold on, that’s class warfare. Let me say this. In America, we believe in success. That’s what’s great about this country. You have a good idea, you start a new business, you’re 6’10” and a perennial all-star — (laughter) — and you’re willing to put in the work and the effort and the drive, and you’ve got an idea that creates a new product or service, we want you to be successful. That’s what America is about, the idea that any one of us can make it if we try. Anybody can open a business. Anybody can have an idea that makes us into a millionaire or billionaire — that’s great. This is the land of opportunity.
But, you know what, if we want to make sure that this is the land of opportunity not just for ourselves but for our kids and our grandkids, then we’ve got to make sure that those of us who are doing well should pay our fair share in taxes, to contribute to the nation’s success — the nation that made our own success possible. (Applause.) And that means investing back in schools. And that means making sure we’re building decent roads.
You know, I was just with a group of folks that included some Microsoft executives. The fact is, if we hadn’t investing in DARPA and the infrastructure for the Internet, there would be no Microsoft. And most wealthy Americans would agree that we’ve got to make sure that we are reinvesting to make this a land of opportunity for everybody — to make investments that will help us grow our economy and deal with the debt that threatens our future.
So, yes, the Republicans are dusting off their old talking points and calling this tax — this class warfare. But you know what, if asking a billionaire to pay the same tax rate as a plumber makes me a warrior for the middle class I’ll wear that charge — I’ll wear that as a badge of honor. (Applause.) I’ll wear that as a badge of honor. Because the only class warfare I’ve seen is the battle being waged against the middle class in this country for decades. (Applause.)
Look, this is about priorities. It’s about choices. If we want to pay for this jobs plan, if we want to close this deficit, if we want to invest in our future, if we want to put teachers back in the classroom, if we want to make sure that we’ve got the best roads and bridges and airports, if we want to lay broadband lines and wireless service for everybody, the money has got to come from somewhere.
So would you rather keep tax loopholes for oil companies? Or would you rather put construction workers and teachers back on the job? (Applause.) Would you rather keep tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires — or do you want to invest in medical research and new technology? (Applause.) Should we ask our seniors to pay thousands of dollars more for their Medicare — or should we ask the most profitable corporations to pay their fair share?
That’s what this debate is about. That’s what’s at stake right now. This notion that the only thing to do to restore our prosperity is to eliminate environmental rules, and bust unions, and make sure that we’re giving tax breaks to the folks who are most fortunate and tell everybody else that they’re on their own — that’s not who we are. That’s not the story of America. Yes, we are rugged individuals. Yes, we are strong and self-reliant; we don’t like being told what to do by the government or anybody else. But it has always been the drive and initiative of our workers and entrepreneurs combined with our ability to work together as a society that cares for one another and gives everybody a chance — that’s what’s made this economy the engine and the envy of the world.
It hasn’t just been about “me first.” There’s always been a running thread that says we’re all connected, and that there are some things that we can only do together as a nation. It’s obvious when we think of our collective defense, and we think about the fire service, or when we think about the military. But it’s also true when it comes to our schools. It’s also true when it comes to protecting our natural resources. That’s why Presidents like Lincoln and Eisenhower — two Republicans — invested in railroads and highways and science and technology. It’s why this country gave millions of returning heroes — including my grandfather — the chance to study through the G.I. Bill. It’s the reason that Michelle and I had the chance to succeed beyond our wildest dreams — because not only did we have great parents and grandparents, but we also had the ability to get student loans. We also had this opportunity that the country gave us.
So don’t be confused. No single individual built America on their own, and no single individual makes it on their own. We’ve built it together. We have been and always will be one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all — but also a nation with responsibilities to ourselves and responsibilities to one another. (Applause.) And it’s time for us to meet those responsibilities right now. (Applause.) it’s time for us to meet our responsibilities to each other right now. (Applause.)
And maybe some in Congress would rather settle those differences at the ballot box in November, but I’ve got news for them. The next election is 14 months away and the American people cannot wait. They do not have the luxury of us squabbling for another 14 months. (Applause.) A lot of folks are living week to week, paycheck to paycheck, day to day. They need action and they need it now.
Which brings me to you. I’m asking all of you to lift up your voices. You need to help us out. I want you to put pressure on Congress. The folks here, they’re already voting for it. So you’ve got to go find some people who aren’t. (Applause.) And I’m asking you to join me in finishing what we started in 2008.
Now, these have been tough — tough times for everybody, these last two and a half years. I know there are times, there are moments when folks feel discouraged. You may still have the old “hope” poster in the back somewhere. (Laughter.) But you’re thinking, man, we’re struggling and the unemployment rate is still high and the politics is Washington seem just as polarized as ever. So you feel frustrated. And there’s a natural tendency to sink back into cynicism; to say, you know what, this can’t be fixed. But I tell you what, if we had that attitude back in 2008, we never would have won. And more importantly, if we had that attitude throughout our history, then America wouldn’t be what it is today.
Every bit of progress that’s been worth making has been a struggle — whether it was civil rights, or women’s rights, the movement to expand educational opportunities to all, the institution of our basic safety net like Social Security and Medicare — always been a struggle. And there have been points at every juncture where it’s been discouraging. People have felt like, well, maybe things can’t happen. Maybe we’re stuck. Maybe America’s best days are behind us. And what’s prevented that from happening has been the American people — that sense not only of innate decency and sense of fairness that is just in the DNA of America, but also that sense, you know what, we’re not somebody who — we’re not a people who sit back and give up. We don’t just let things happen “to” us; we make things happen.
And that spirit, which we captured in 2008, we need that spirit now more than ever. So I need you guys to shake off any doldrums. I need you to decide right here and right now — and I need you to talk to your friends and your neighbors and your coworkers — you need to tell them, you know what, we’re not finished yet. We’ve got more work to do. (Applause.) We are going to build an America that we believe in, a place where everybody has a fair shot, everybody does their fair share; a generous, big, tolerant America; an optimistic America.
We are tougher than the times that we live in. We are bigger than the small politics that we’ve been witnessing. We are a people who write our own destiny, and it is fully within our power to write it once more. So let’s meet this moment. Let’s get to work. Let’s show once again why the United States of America is the greatest country on Earth.
God bless you. God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
END 3:08 P.M. PDT
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT DNC EVENT
San Jose, California
September 25, 2011
6:56 P.M. PDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody. (Applause.) It is good to be back in Silicon Valley. It is good to be back at the Thompson residence. (Applause.) I try to make this a regular stop. (Laughter.) Once every year or two, I figure, well, I need a little dose of John and Sandi and their friends. So thank you all for being here. Thanks for arranging wonderful weather.
A couple of other people I want to acknowledge. First of all, I hope they’re still here, because I love them and they do a great job every single day — Congressman Mike Honda in the house. (Applause.) And Congresswoman Anna Eshoo. We’ve also got Jean Quan, mayor of Oakland, in the house. (Applause.) And I want to thank Bruce Hornsbee — (applause) — and Chris Cornell
— (applause) — for their outstanding entertainment.
Now, as I was in the photo line, it turned out there are at least three birthdays here. Where are the birthday boys? There’s one of them. There’s another one. And then — (laughter) — four, five, six, seven. (Laughter.) So this obviously a propitious day, with so many birthdays. Happy birthday to all of you. It is wonderful to help celebrate. But don’t — for the kids, don’t let your parents say, this is what you’re getting for your birthday. (Laughter.) I mean, I know that trick and — (laughter.)
As Sandi said, these folks have been great friends for a long time. Many of you were here when I was still running for President.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Senate!
THE PRESIDENT: For Senate, even better. (Applause.) And I think, at the time, we understood there were enormous challenges that the country was facing, that there were problems that we had been putting off for decades. But I don’t think we fully grasped, at least in 2007, the full magnitude of the challenges we were going to be facing. We’ve now gone through the worst financial crisis and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. So for most of our lifetimes, we’ve never seen anything like what we’ve seen over the last two and a half years.
And I think you may remember that, on Inauguration Day, when it was already becoming apparent, we could see the clouds on the horizon — Lehman’s had already happened — I warned people my election was not the end. It wasn’t the end of the journey; it was the beginning of a journey. And it was going to be a tough journey. Because not only did we have to stabilize the financial system and get the banking system working once again, not only did we have to make sure that we yanked ourselves out of the great depression that could have happened had we not intervened, and not only did we have to take emergency measures like save the U.S. auto industry, but even after we did all that, we were going to have to tackle some fundamental structural problems that were preventing ordinary people, were preventing middle-class families from thriving and prospering and achieving the American Dream.
And we talked, when I was running, about what some of those challenges were. We knew that we were going to have to create an energy policy that would not only free ourselves from dependence on foreign oil, but also start changing how we think about the planet and how we think about climate. We knew that we were going to have to make sure that we changed our health care system that was broken, leaving millions of people without health insurance and leaving folks who did have health insurance less secure than they needed to be. We knew that we were going to have to get control of our federal budget, but do so in a way that ensured that we could still make the core investments in infrastructure and basic research and education that are so vital for us winning the future. We knew that we were going to have to not only put more money into our education system, but we were going to have to revamp it so that not just a few of our kids are prepared for the 21st century, but all of our kids are prepared for the 21st century.
So we knew that we had all these incredible challenges domestically. And then, overseas, we knew that it was unsustainable for us to continue two wars and to think that the only way that we were going to be able to project American power around the world was through our military. And we had to remind ourselves that diplomacy — (applause) — the power of our example and the power of our values ultimately was going to make more of a difference in terms of how influential we are around the world.
But I’m back to report to you, my stockholders — (laughter) — in the last two and a half years, we’ve stabilized the economy. We’ve ended the war in Iraq. We are on a pathway to bringing our troops home from Afghanistan. We have decimated al Qaeda and killed bin Laden. (Applause.) We have made sure that, by 2013 — as long as I get a second term — that we are implementing a health care reform package that will provide 30 million people with health insurance, and make the entire system more efficient and more effective. (Applause.) We have signed into law everything from making sure that every woman and every young girl who is thinking about a career is going to make sure that she gets paid equally for an equal day’s work. (Applause.) We ended “don’t ask, don’t tell” because we don’t believe that anybody — (applause) —
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Good job, Mr. President!
THE PRESIDENT: — that anybody who wants to serve this country should be prohibited because of who they love. (Applause.) We passed some of the toughest financial regulations in our history, including making sure that consumers are finally getting the protection they deserve. We made sure that, despite constant battles with Congress that we continue to make progress on the environmental front. And some of it we did administratively. So we made sure, for example, that for the first time in 30 years we are doubling fuel efficiency standards on cars and trucks and heavy trucks — (applause) — which will reduce carbon in our atmosphere and actually save folks money over the course of their lifetimes.
So we’ve done a lot. But here is the challenge I have for all of you. We’ve got so much more work to do. Yes, we stabilized the economy, but at a level where the unemployment rate was way, way too high. And we still have all sorts of international challenges that we’re facing, from Europe to Asia. So we’re still going to have to do a lot to restructure our economy to meet the competitive challenges of the 21st century. And that means we’ve got to continue to invest in cutting-edge research that enables the kind of explosion of technology that’s taken place here in Silicon Valley. It means that we’ve continually got to revamp our education system. It means that we’ve got to make sure that we’re rebuilding the best infrastructure in the world.
And we’ve got to think short term about how do we put people back to work, as well as long term, how do we make sure that a middle class can thrive in this country again.
And that’s why I need your help. (Applause.) That’s why I need your help. Because the fact of the matter is, is that too many people are hurting out there right now, and we’ve got to take some steps right now. So before I even talk to you about the campaign, I need your help to make sure that we get this jobs bill passed that puts people back to work. (Applause.)
Every idea that we have in this jobs bill has, in the past, been supported by Democrats and Republicans. Rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our airports and our schools — that’s not a partisan idea, that’s part of what made America an economic superpower. We’ve got all kinds of workers out there who are unemployed because of the housing bubble burst. We could put them to work right now rebuilding America. It will be good for the economy now, but it will also be good for our economic future.
We need to put teachers back in the classroom. (Applause.) We have — even in the midst of this economic crisis, we’ve actually created 2 million jobs over the last couple of years. The problem is we’ve also lost half a million jobs, mostly in state and local government, and a huge proportion of those are teachers that should be in our classrooms right now. We’ve got to change that, and the jobs bill would put people back in the classroom where they belong.
At a time when — I had lunch with the President of South Korea, and I asked him, what’s your biggest challenge. And he says, just keeping pace with the huge demand for education. He said, our parents are too demanding. (Laughter.) He says, they want kindergarteners to learn English. I’m having to ship teachers in from foreign countries to meet the demand, because we understand that whoever wins the education battle, they’re going to win the economic battle of the future. (Applause.) And at the same time as that’s happening, we’re laying off teachers in this country? That makes absolutely no sense. We’ve got to put them back in the classroom. (Applause.)
This jobs bill provides a tax cut not only to every working family in America, which will put more money in their pockets and allows them to make sure that they can buy all the great products that are created here in Silicon Valley — (applause) — but it also cuts taxes for small businesses and entrepreneurs. It cuts taxes for companies that are hiring new workers or who are providing their workers raises. And it provides a tax credit for those who are hiring veterans.
So we’ve got an opportunity to put people back to work right now. And by the way, it is paid for. Every dime. Now, this has caused some controversy — well, how do you pay for it? Keep in mind that it is absolutely true that we’ve got to have a government that lives within its means. And we weren’t living within our means over the last decade: two wars we didn’t pay for, a prescription drug plan we didn’t pay for, tax cuts we did not pay for. So we’ve already made $1 trillion worth of cuts over the course of this summer. We’ve slated another half million dollars in cuts, including making some modest modifications to entitlements.
So we’re doing our part. But what we’ve said is the only way we actually close the gap if we want to have long-term fiscal sustainability is we’ve also got to make sure that everybody is doing their fair share — everybody — and that includes the people in this audience. We’ve got to do our fair share. (Applause.)
Now — and I want to be very clear about this. I mean, there are just some basic principles. Warren Buffett’s secretary should not be paying a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett. It’s a pretty straightforward principle. (Applause.) A teacher making $50,000 a year shouldn’t be paying a higher tax rate than somebody who’s pulling in $50 million.
Contrary to what the Republicans claim, that’s not class warfare. This is not about leveling down. The people in this audience, some of you have been extraordinarily successful, and that’s what America is all about. We want everybody to thrive. We want everybody to succeed. God bless you. If you’re starting a business, you’ve got a good idea, you’ve got a new product, a new service, put that out onto the market. Create jobs. Create opportunity for others. That’s great. But we have to remind ourselves that the reason we’re successful is because somebody else made an investment in us. Somewhere along the line, somebody made an investment in us either directly — people like myself getting college scholarships — indirectly, because somebody invested in DARPA a few years back.
The fact of the matter is we’re not — we didn’t do all this on our own, and we’ve got an obligation to make sure that the folks coming behind us are going to have the same opportunities that we did. (Applause.) That’s not class warfare. That is common sense. That’s what America is all about. That’s our values. Those are our ideals.
Now, I need all of you to be vocal about trying to get this jobs bill passed over the next 14 months. That’s going to be absolutely critical. But I’ll be honest with you, we’re not — I don’t know if you’ve noticed, we’re not getting a lot of cooperation from members of Congress. (Laughter.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Party of no —
THE PRESIDENT: I like that. We might have to use that. (Laughter.) And for those — some of you here may be folks who actually used to be Republican, but are puzzled by what’s happened to that party. (Laughter.) Are puzzled by what’s happened to that party. I mean, has anybody been watching the debates lately? (Laughter.)
You’ve got a governor whose state is on fire denying climate change. (Laughter and applause.) No, no, it’s true. You’ve got audiences cheering at the prospect of somebody dying because they don’t have health care, and booing a service member in Iraq because they’re gay. That’s not reflective of who we are. (Applause.) We’ve had differences in the past, but at some level we’ve always believed, you know what, that we’re not defined by our differences. We’re bound together.
And so the reason I bring this up is we’re going to get everything we can out of this Congress over the next 14 months, because the American people can’t wait. But let’s face it, we’re also going to need changes in Washington if we are going to be able to achieve the kind of vision that we talked about back in 2008. We’re going to have to fight for this.
And this is a choice about the fundamental direction of our country — 2008 was an important election; 2012 is a more important election. (Applause.) Now, in order for us to be successful in this 2012 election, I’m going to need all of you.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: You got it!
THE PRESIDENT: I’m going to need you to be out there talking to your friends, talking to your neighbors, talking to your co-workers. And I’m going to need you to be advocates for what we believe in. It’s not enough just to support me. I need you to go out there, and if other folks have been reading the Wall Street Journal editorial page or watching FOX News, and they’re full of inadequate information — (laughter) — I need you to push back. I need you to push back.
You have to make an argument that, yes, the President wants to close this deficit, but we can’t do it just on the backs of the poor and the middle class and our seniors, and that we’ve got to all do our part.
Yes, what’s driven our success historically has been a free market, but we’ve always been successful because we also made sure that that market operated fairly and that there were basic consumer protections, and people who were providing good products and good services were rewarded, not people who were trying to game the system.
I need you to be out there making arguments that the notion the only way we succeed in international competition is by stripping away laws against polluting our planet. That’s a short-sided approach to economic development and it’s not going to work. We’re never going to be able to compete on having the dirtiest air or the cheapest labor. We’ll never compete that way. (Applause.)
And, in some cases, I may need you to have some arguments with our progressive friends. Because, let’s face it, the fact of the matter is, is that over the last two and a half years, even as we’ve gotten a huge amount done, there’s a lot of folks on our side who get dispirited because we didn’t get it all done in two and a half years.
That’s not how America works. This is a big, messy, tough democracy. And we’re not going to get a hundred percent. So if we get a health care bill passed that provides health insurance for 80 million — 30 million people, and has the strongest patient bill of rights in history, and young people can now stay on their folks’ insurance so we actually know that a million young people have health insurance right now because of the bill that we put in place — your kids and grandkids — (applause) — the notion that somebody is out of joint because we didn’t get a public option — come on.
No, we haven’t gotten everything done on the environmental front because we’re in the midst of a very tough economic time and people naturally are more hesitant about big changes at a time when they’re worried about their jobs. But that doesn’t mean all the good work that we have done and are doing can be ignored. And the other thing that everybody has got to keep in mind — my friend, Joe Biden, he has a quote he likes to use. He says, “Don’t compare me to the Almighty; compare me to the alternative.” (Laughter and applause.)
So the fact of the matter is we’re going to have a stark choice in this election. But I have to make sure that our side is as passionate and as motivated and is working just as hard as the folks on the other side, because this is a contest of values. This is a choice about who we are and what we stand for. And whoever wins this next election is going to set the template for this country for a long time to come.
So I expect all of you, again, not just to be supporting me; you have to be out there, active, engaged — just as engaged as you were in 2008.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We’re with you.
THE PRESIDENT: And if you do that, here and all across the country — if people of like mind, people who believe in a big and generous and a tolerant and ambitious and fact-based America — (applause) — an America that believes in science and an America that believes in education; an America that believes that investing in our children is an investment in all of us — if you believe in those things, then I need you out there knocking on doors and making phone calls.
If you guys are working like that, then not only am I optimistic about the election, I’ll be optimistic about the future.
Thank you so much, everybody. God bless you. God bless America. (Applause.)
END 7:19 P.M. PDT
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT DNC EVENT
San Jose, California
September 25, 2011
8:09 P.M. PDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, everybody. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. I’m just letting Zuckerberg know, I’m taking her on the road. (Laughter.) So somebody else is going to have to manage things while she’s gone.
Thank you so much, Sheryl and David and the kids, for opening up this beautiful home. Thank you all for being here tonight.
I don’t want to spend too much time just in monologue. I want to — I know that one of the hallmarks of Silicon Valley and the Internet is that it’s a two-way thing, it’s not just one-way. So I want to make sure that we have a good conversation. But let me just say a couple of things off the top.
First of all, many of you have been involved in my campaign, dating back to 2008. Some of you I’m meeting for the first time. But all of you have a commitment to a particular vision of what America should be. Everybody here believes that the reason America is so special is because everybody can make it if they try — at least that’s the ideal that we cling to. We all believe that education has to be not just the province of a few, but a gift for the many, because that’s not only good for our kids but that’s good for our economic future. We’re all committed to innovation and science, and a belief that if you unleash the skills and the talents of people, that it’s possible for us to create an economy that is doing well but where prosperity is also broadly shared. We all believe in an America where it shouldn’t matter where you come from, or what you look like, or who you love, but rather do you have values and gifts and talents that you’re sharing with other Americans as citizens.
And those values are going to be tested in this election — the values of shared prosperity, being good stewards of the environment, making sure that we are investing in our kids, making sure that everybody has a shot. Those values are going to be tested. And so if 2008 was an important election, let me tell you 2012 is an even more important election — because of all the reasons that Sheryl noted.
The American people are going through a very tough time. This is a big transition — and by the way, it’s not unique to America. This is a global shift that’s taking place. We’ve got a world that has shrunk and is interconnected and is more competitive than ever. And every country out there is trying to adjust and trying to figure out, how do we make sure we’ve got the best educated citizens, and how do we make sure we’ve got the most dynamic, innovative economy, and how are we making sure that we’re investing in industries of the future, like clean energy, and how do we make certain that in our international affairs we’re projecting power not just based on our military but also based on our diplomacy and the power of our ideas.
And those changes that are taking place are scary. And given that we’ve just gone through the worst financial crisis in our lifetimes — I’m looking around the room and I don’t think too many folks were around back in the 1930s. Just a guess. (Laughter.) Given that so many Americans are still out there hurting each and every day, and although we’ve been able to stabilize the economy from what could have been a worse catastrophe — we’ve got 9 percent unemployment. And I get letters every single day from folks who are losing their homes and seeing their businesses shut down, not being able to work enough hours to pay the bills at the end of the month, or having to defer their retirement in order to make sure their kids go to college.
Given all the stresses and strains that ordinary folks are feeling, and given the fact that some of the challenges we faced had been building up even before this financial crisis hit — and so the imperatives of having an energy policy that actually works for America and frees ourselves from dependence on foreign oil, and improves our economy, and makes sure that our planet doesn’t reach a tipping point in terms of climate change; a health care system that is still hugely inefficient; an education system that’s not educating enough of our kids; under-investment in infrastructure and basic research — those challenges, those existed even before this crisis.
Given all that’s happening, if we don’t make good decisions now, then we may be making a set of decisions that have dire consequences for not just this generation but for many generations to come. Most of the people under this tent will be fine, but America won’t reflect the same ideals and values and possibilities that we grew up with.
And I don’t know about you, but I believe in a big, generous, optimistic, tolerant, vibrant, diverse America — not a cramped vision of what America can be. But we’re going to have to fight for that vision. It’s not going to be easy. And the only way that we’re going to be successful in 2012 is if people feel as much passion and understand what’s at stake and are willing to fight for the kind of America they believe in as we did back in 2008.
I still remember — you were mentioning Inauguration Day. What I remember is the night of the election. And we were in Chicago, and it was a really beautiful night. Everybody has fond memories of the “hope” poster and Oprah crying. (Laughter.) But I hope people also remember I said, this is not the end, this is the beginning. This is just the start. And we didn’t get into this fix overnight and we’re not going to get out of it overnight. We’ve got a steep hill to climb.
And Sheryl is right, we’ve made enormous progress over the last two and a half years — everything from making sure 30 million people have health care who didn’t have it before to making sure that we doubled fuel efficiency standards on cars, to making sure that we ended “don’t ask, don’t tell,” to making sure that we signed into law the basic notion that there should be equal pay for equal work, to getting 100,000 troops out of Iraq. We’ve made enormous progress, but we’ve got a lot more work to do. And I’m ready to do it, but I can only do it if I’ve got your help.
So I appreciate you being here tonight. But understand, just as we were just starting on Election Night, I’ll tell you what, we’re not even halfway through our journey yet. We’ve got a lot more work to do and I’m going to need all of you to be willing to join me.
All right, thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 8:19 P.M. PDT