2012 Democratic Convention: Michelle Obama Follows DNC Speech With Human Rights Campaign Luncheon
The first lady was joined by Los Angeles Mayor and convention chairman Antonio Villaraigosa at the Wednesday event, where she encouraged attendees to "get to a battleground state" and help young people register to vote.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Following her high-profile Tuesday night speech at the Democratic National Convention, first lady Michelle Obama made an appearance at the Human Rights Campaign luncheon Wednesday, where she was joined by Los Angeles Mayor and DNC chairman Antonio Villaraigosa.
Held at the Marriott City Center Hotel in Charlotte, N.C., Obama was introduced at the event by the HRC president Chad Griffin, who praised her remarks -- and her outfit -- from the previous evening. "Her clear and much-needed message to policymakers and youth alike is that bullying is not something that we have to accept in this country," he said, adding: "Did you see that dress she was wearing? Where do I get those arms?"
The first lady received high marks for her speech at the DNC as well as for her sleeveless pink Tracy Reese dress.
Taking the podium just after 1 p.m., Obama lightheartedly joked that she would keep her remarks short because "I think you might be a little sick of me."
She used the platform to emphasize the importance of voter registration, encouraging those in attendance to "get to a battleground state" and to encourage young people to register.
"This election, more than any other in history, is about how we want our democracy to function for decades to come," she said. "It’s about the lessons that we want to teach our kids and our grandkids as they watch these campaigns and they see those results on Election Night."
Referencing statistics from the 2008 election, Obama reminded listeners that the Democrats won Florida by about 236,000 votes (or 36 per precinct) and North Carolina by just 14,000 votes (or five per precinct).
"In the end, this election, like many, could come down to that last few thousand votes in a single battleground state," she emphasized.
Read Obama's full remarks on the next page.
1:06 P.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you all so much. (Applause.) Oh, my
goodness! You all, rest yourselves if you’re anything like me. I’m a
little tired after last night. (Laughter.)
But I am beyond thrilled and proud to be with all of you today.
Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you!
MRS. OBAMA: Oh, my gosh. (Applause.)
I’m not going to talk long because I think you might be a little
sick of me. (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: Thank you so much.
I want to start by thanking Chad for that very kind introduction
and for his terrific leadership. I love him dearly. I think he’s a
terrific individual and he is doing a great job here at the HRC. So
let’s give him another round of applause. (Applause.)
And I also want to thank Mayor Villaraigosa for joining us today and
for his outstanding service. He is doing a phenomenal job as Chairman
of this convention, but he’s also been a terrific advocate with me as
we stand together to fight the issue of childhood obesity. So he’s
been a terrific leader there as well.
And I also want to recognize a Congresswoman who has been a great
leader in the House of Representatives, and who I know will make an
outstanding senator for the state of Wisconsin -- Congresswoman Tammy
Baldwin. Tammy, where are you? (Applause.) Yes, Tammy! That’s my
girl. We got to hang out at one of our rallies in Wisconsin. People
were fired up. Fired up. (Laughter.) It’s good to see you, Tammy.
So how about that opening night last night? Yes. (Applause.) The
energy and the enthusiasm that we saw last night made it clear that
folks are pretty fired up, right? (Applause.) I didn’t see any
enthusiasm gap, right? Everybody was pretty excited. But more
importantly, last night truly set the stage for what’s at stake in
this election and it set the stage for what we need to guide us
forward for these next four years, because we have so much more work
The evening reflected Barack’s broad and inclusive vision for this
country as a place where every single one of us has something unique
and special to contribute. That’s the beauty of this party and last
night. And we should all have a chance to make a place in this
country, to have a stake in this if we’re willing to work hard.
And today, I want to thank all of you, truly, for playing a critical
role in making that vision a reality. We wouldn’t be here if it
weren’t for the hard work of the people in this room and around the
country. I want to thank you for doing everything that you do every
single day to lift up our communities and move this country forward,
and ensure that all Americans are treated fairly no matter who they
are or who they love.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I love Barack!
MRS. OBAMA: Yes, I do, too. (Applause.) We have something in
But whether it’s passing hate crimes legislation or refusing to defend
DOMA; whether it’s ending “don’t ask, don’t tell” or ensuring that --
yes, yes -- (applause) -- or ensuring that people can be at their
loved one’s hospital bedside -- (applause) -- or speaking out for the
rights of all Americans to be able to do what Barack and I did and
marry the love of our lives -- (applause) -- as President, my husband
has stood strong for the basic values of freedom, justice and equality
that make this country great. And he always will.
And that’s why all of you are here today, because you know that all of
that and so much more is at stake in this election. We can’t take
anything for granted because it’s all still on the line. And I know
you’re here today because you believe, like I believe, that our
President, my husband, he’s done an extraordinary job. Truly, I am so
proud of him. (Applause.) And as I said last night, he has done it
with vision, with character, with wisdom, with grace, with the
experience that we need to keep moving this country forward for four
But the one thing I want to point out here today is that we don’t want
to make any mistake about it -- this election is about even more than
the issues that are at stake right now. It’s about even more than the
candidates that are on the ballot this year. This election, more than
any other in history, is about how we want our democracy to function
for decades to come. (Applause.) It’s about the lessons that we want
to teach our kids and our grandkids as they watch these campaigns and
they see those results on election night.
And we have to ask ourselves, do we want to give a few individuals in
this country a far bigger say in our democracy than anybody else?
MRS. OBAMA: Do we want our elections to be about who buys the most ads on TV?
MRS. OBAMA: Do we want our kids and grandkids to walk away from this
election feeling like regular folks can no longer be heard?
MRS. OBAMA: Or are we going to show them that here in America, we all
have an equal voice in the voting booth, and we all have a say in our
country’s future, and a bottom-up, grassroots movement of people who
love this country can always come together to move this country
And what I want you all to focus on, because we can be fired up, which
we are -- (laughter) -- and we can be ready to go, but you know it’s
the work on the ground that makes the difference. So with every call
that you make -- and I hope you are out there making calls; with every
door you knock on -- this is an active campaign; with every voter you
register -- because there are so many young people who are not
registered, that are not focused, that are not paying attention, you
all are providing the answers to those questions. You all are making
a powerful statement about how we want our democracy to work. And by
taking part in the democratic process that, for more than two
centuries, has made this country one of the greatest countries on
Earth, you all are helping to preserve that legacy for generations to
So what I want to say here today is that we don’t have a single minute
to waste. We really don’t. Time is of the essence. And we need you
all to be fired up, but we need you to work like never before. I
mean, truly work like never before. We need you out there every
single day between now and November the 6th. You see my face? I’m
serious. (Laughter and applause.) It’s my serious-First-Lady face.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Your mom face.
MRS. OBAMA: My mom face, that’s right. (Laughter.) That’s it. You
heard me, Sasha. (Laughter.) Yes, that’s how it works. (Laughter
But I’ve been out there, and I’ve been traveling. I will be out
there. I’m going to be working as hard as I can and going every place
I can go. (Applause.) And let me tell you what I have seen out
there: We have a first-rate campaign. I am so proud of the campaign
that we are building, because it is a truly grassroots foundation.
We’ve got thousands of offices all across this country. People who
have been out there, you know our offices, our volunteers, our team
leaders -- we have millions of people who are taking time out of their
lives, who don’t have time or money to spare, but they’re going into
these campaign offices, they’re making calls, they’re knocking on
doors -- millions of people.
And we also have millions of ways for people to get involved and
volunteer. That is never the excuse. People can go to
barackobama.com today and find out how they can sign up to get
involved. So we have the resources to really handle all of this
energy in this room and beyond.
So here’s what I want you to think about: If you do not live in a
battleground state, get to one. (Laughter.) Get your suitcase, pack
it up, get a car, do something, find that neighbor -- get to a
battleground state. If you can afford it, write a check -– and if you
haven’t maxed out, max out. Max out. (Laughter and applause.)
But the more powerful thing that you can do is that you can make sure
that every single person that you know -- truly, leave no stone
unturned; those friends, those neighbors, that nephew or niece who is
kind of wayward and maybe you haven’t seen them since Christmas --
(laughter) -- that college roommate you haven’t spoken to in a while
-- yes, see, you’re looking. You know that guy, don’t you?
(Laughter.) Call him. Make sure that every single one of them gets
to the poll and casts their votes.
Because, as Barack has said, this election is going to be even closer
than the last one. And quite frankly, all of these elections are
close. Since I have been an adult paying attention to this stuff,
they’re always close. But in the end, this election, like many, could
come down to that last few thousand votes in a single battleground
state. And what I’ve been doing is just sort of trying to put that in
perspective, because when I see the numbers it’s pretty telling about
how much power individuals have.
But if you think back to what happened in 2008, Barack then -- back
then we won Florida by about 236,000 votes, okay? (Applause.) And
while that might sound like a lot, when we break that down, that’s
just 36 votes per precinct. Think about that -- just 36 votes in a
precinct. So where you live, that means -- if where you live, you are
pulling out 36, 40, 50 new people, you might be the person that
carries the day in the state of Florida. And if you think that’s
close, don’t forget that we won North Carolina by just 14,000 votes,
which means just five votes per precinct. Five votes per precinct!
That’s what makes the difference.
So no one here can sit back and say, “I can’t possibly have an impact
in this election,” because that is absolutely not true. Everyone here
can really, truly make a difference. So starting the minute that you
get up out of these chairs -- whenever that’s going to be, because you
still have food -- (laughter) -- you may finish lunch -- (laughter and
applause) -- but after that, I want you all to get out there and think
about who your 36 votes are going to be. Get out there. Find out who
are your five votes. Then when you get that 36 or you get that five,
then get five more, and then get five more, and again and again, and
don’t stop until the polls close on November the 6th.
Because what we all do every day for the next 62 days, that is going
to be the difference between us waking up on November the 7th and
looking at each other wondering, “Could I have done more?”, or feeling
the promise of four more years and all that can be accomplished in
four more years. (Applause.)
So that’s a direct action item, right? That’s clear, it’s consistent,
it’s something that everybody can do. Everybody has somebody in their
lives that they can influence, whether it’s just getting them to
register to vote, really challenging them on the issues if they’re on
the fence, pulling somebody in who is not engaged, finding that person
who hasn’t written a check yet “just because.” We all know those
people. So we need you to be fired up and ready to go and ready to
really roll up your sleeves and make this happen. Because, as Barack
and I say time and time again, we have come so far, but we have so
much more to do. And we can’t afford to turn back now. Not now. All
our kids are watching this. They are counting on us to step up and,
as I said last night, to do what was hard, like our parents and
grandparents did for us.
So let’s make this happen. Let’s make this happen. We need your help.
Thank you all so much. God bless you. Love you all. (Applause.)