September 18th, 2008
10:35 AM ET
11 years ago

HAPPENING NOW: Michelle Obama targeting North Carolina

Watch Michelle Obama's event on CNN.com/live.

Watch Michelle Obama's event on CNN.com/live.

(CNN) - Michelle Obama is campaigning on behalf of her husband in Charlotte, North Carolina this hour - a state that hasn't voted Democrat in more than 30 years but one that polls show could be up for grabs this election.

She is holding an economic round-table with working women in Charlotte, and will speak at a rally in Greensboro later Thursday.

Read Michelle Obama's remarks after the jump

UPDATE: This event has ended, but stay with CNN.com/live for the day's latest campaign events.

Remarks of Michelle Obama

North Carolina Economic Roundtable with Working Women

Thursday, September 18

Charlotte, North Carolina

As Prepared for Delivery

I want to thank Elaine Marshall for joining us today. Over 10 years ago, you broke barriers here in North Carolina, by becoming the first woman elected to a statewide executive office. And during your time as secretary of state, you’ve been such a strong advocate for women and children. Thank you for bringing your experiences to our conversation today.

I’m also joined by four women from right here in Charlotte. Today, we’re talking about issues that they know very well, because they live these issues every day. They are Essie Reynolds, Stacy Branning, Betsy Olinger, and Deanna Boskovich. Thank you for joining us to share your stories.

It’s great to be here, to have this chance to talk about the issues that are always on my mind, and that I know are on your minds… the issues that matter most to women and families.

Like many of you, and like women I’ve met all across the country, I juggle several different roles in my life. I’m a wife, I’m a working woman, I’m a daughter, a sister and a friend.

But most importantly, I’m a mom. My girls are the first thing I think about when I wake up in the morning and the last thing I think about when I go to bed at night. No matter where I am—at work, on the campaign trail, you name it—they’re always on my mind.

So for me, policies that support working women and families aren’t just political issues. They’re personal. They’re the causes I carry in my heart every single day.

I’m always amazed at how different things are for working families today than when I was growing up. When I was a kid, my father, a blue-collar city worker, could earn enough from his job to support our whole family, while my mother stayed home to take care of my brother and me. But today, one income—especially a shift worker’s income like my dad’s—just doesn’t cut it. In most families, both parents have to work.

And it’s even harder for single parents. Here in North Carolina, roughly one in eight households are run by single women—folks who often have to work more than one job to make ends meet. And that’s not counting the jobs you do when the workday is done and the kids are in bed – jobs like doing the laundry, and packing those lunches, and fixing the house. And when the bills keep piling up, and that list of chores seems endless, many of us find ourselves doing yet another job – worrying late into the night.

Now, I know that if you ask anyone here, they’d agree that caring for their families is the greatest joy of their lives. They wouldn’t trade it for anything. We all know that being a parent is the best job in the world – most days, at least.

But as Barack and I have traveled this country over the past year and a half, we’ve heard from so many parents who are working as hard as they can to do it all, but just can’t seem to get ahead.

Each of the women up on this stage has a unique story. But all of their stories point to a common trend. Working women and families are shouldering an enormous burden, and they carry it with pride and without complaint. But that load shouldn’t be so heavy – and they shouldn’t have to bear it all by themselves.

That’s what this election is about for Barack and for me…the families who are doing everything asked of them and more.

And they’re not asking for the government to solve all their problems. They’re just asking for Washington to understand what’s happening to their families and to be on their side for a change.

This is something that Barack understands very well, because he’s been there.

Barack was raised by a young single mom who put herself through school. She was determined to show him that there are no barriers to your success if you’re willing to work for it. But he also saw her struggle to make ends meet, at times worrying about how she would pay the bills.

Barack and I both were lucky enough to go to college and law school. But our education came at a cost. We just finished paying off our student loans a few years ago. So we know how it feels to carry debt.

And Barack has seen firsthand how people are impacted when the economy suffers. He spent years working in neighborhoods in Chicago that were devastated when steel plants shut down and jobs dried up. That’s why he’s worked hard to create new jobs and reform our schools, to give our young people the skills they need to succeed in this economy.

Barack gets it. He understands that people aren’t asking for much. They just want policies that help them in their everyday lives. Policies that give them a chance to work hard and get ahead. They’re looking for a Washington that doesn’t stand in their way.

So on Election Day, we have a choice to make. And when I look at the two candidates and their plans for America’s future, and when I think about all the families I’ve met across the country, and the kind of help they could use right now, the choice is clear.

Barack is the only candidate in this election who has built his economic plan around the middle class, by giving a tax cut to 95 percent of all working Americans, rewarding companies that create jobs here in America, and ensuring that women are paid fairly for our work. In North Carolina, women make just 82 cents for every dollar that a man earns. Over the course of a lifetime, that adds up to tens of thousands of dollars – money people could be spending on gas and groceries and saving for college. Barack is determined to close that pay gap once and for all.

He’s the only candidate with a health plan that will cover all Americans and save families up to $2,500, and require insurance companies to cover preventive care and stop turning their backs on people with pre-existing conditions.

Barack is the only candidate who has a long-term energy plan that looks beyond quick fixes and makes real investments in renewable energy, to end our dependence on foreign oil and protect our planet for our kids and grandkids.

He’s the only candidate with a comprehensive plan to invest in our schools, by strengthening early childhood education, recruiting an army of new teachers, and making college affordable for students from all different backgrounds.

He’s the only candidate who will expand the Family and Medical Leave Act and require employers to provide workers with at least seven paid sick days a year. Because he believes, like you and I believe, that it’s unacceptable that twenty-two million working women don’t have a single paid sick day. People shouldn’t be fired for getting sick or staying home to care for a sick child or parent. That’s not who we are.

And Barack is the only candidate who has a timeline for bringing our troops home from Iraq responsibly, so that we can rebuild our military and start investing the $10 billion we’re spending each month in Iraq right here at home.

This is the choice we face. These policies – Barack’s policies – are the change we need. In the end, Barack is determined to change Washington, so that instead of just talking about family values, we actually have policies that value families.

That’s why I’m here today. I’m here for my daughters’ future—and all our children’s future. They’re my stake in this election. I’m here today because I want to leave them a better world—a world where they’ll have opportunities that we and our mothers and grandmothers could only dream of.

That’s the choice we face in this election: whether we’ll start building that better world right now, or have another four years that look just like the last eight.

And making that choice begins with understanding what’s really happening with America’s families.

So I’d like to turn the conversation to our guests here, to learn more about what’s going on with their lives, their kids, their jobs, what’s working, what’s not working, and where they could use some extra help in getting it all done.


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