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President Obama's Remarks at North Carolina Democratic Party Rally
White Oak Amphitheatre Greensboro, North Carolina
President Obama: Hey, North Carolina! Oh, this is a good-looking crowd! I think I’ve got to take off my jacket, we’ve got some work to do. How you all been? It’s good to be in North Carolina.
Let me begin by saying what an honor it was to have Judge Frye introduce me here today. The extraordinary work that he has done --
Audience Member: We love you!
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President Obama: I love you back. I do. I love North Carolina. I do. I always used to say, in North Carolina, people are so nice in North Carolina even the folks who didn’t vote for me are still nice to me. I mean, just some good people in North Carolina.
We’ve also got a number of outstanding elected officials who are proud to work for you each and every day -- your representatives in Congress. Alma Adams is here. G.K. Butterfield is in the house. David Price is here. And your next United States senator, Deborah Ross, is here. And although he couldn’t be here this evening, I just want to
mention your outstanding candidate for governor, Roy Cooper. He is a good man, and he deserves your support. He is outstanding.
Now, those of you who have seats, feel free to sit down. If you don’t have a seat don’t sit, you’ll fall. But you don’t have to. I’m just saying, your feet might get tired. I’m going to talk for a little bit.
I want to begin by thanking everybody in North Carolina for looking out for one another these past few days. As all of you know, a lot of communities are dealing with terrible flooding. Lives have been lost. And so the entire country has been thinking about North Carolina. Thoughts and prayers are with folks who are still dealing with rivers that are overflowing, homes that are being flooded. We made sure that FEMA was on the ground early. We’ve been making sure that the governor, local and state officials all have what North Carolina needs to recover and rebuild.
And it is a reminder of what we do here in America, which is we have to look out for one another no matter what. When it comes to making sure that people are safe and cared for, there are no politics. Everybody has to look out for one another.
Now, this will probably be one of the last times I get to visit as President.
Audience: Nooo --
President Obama: It’s okay. I’m going to come back more when I’m not President. Now I’m just allowed to come on business. I’m coming for fun to North Carolina next time I come.
But our term is coming to an end. Michelle and I, our lease was only for eight years. and we’re already looking around making sure we haven’t broken any china or messed anything up, Bo and Sunny haven’t ruined any of the carpets. Because we want to get our security deposit back. You’ve been through that, right? Sometimes these landlords, they’ll look. They’ll be like, oh
Audience: Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!
President Obama: This is the great thing about politics in America. It just -- it takes all kinds. Folks will just do all kinds of stuff.
Now, where was I? See, those are some folks who were -- they were auditioning for a reality show.
All right, all right. Hold on a second. Settle down, everybody. Settle down. Goodness gracious. I’m just trying to make a simple point here.
I wanted to say thank you for all the support that you’ve given us over the years. And I remember campaigning here in Greensboro eight years ago. It was in the closing days of another hard-fought campaign. We were still mired in two wars, living through the early days of what would end of being the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes. We were tackling challenges like health care and climate change that we had been putting off for a long time and we had just been kicking the can down the road for way, way too long.
And when we look back, eight years later -- we fought back from the recession. Our auto industry is setting new records. Our businesses have turned job losses into 15 million new jobs -- cut our unemployment rate in half. Slashed our dependence on foreign oil. Doubled our production of clean energy. Incomes are rising. Poverty is falling. Uninsured rate at an all-time low.
Across America, you can marry whoever you love. (Applause.) Brought our brave troops home to their families. Delivered justice to Osama Bin Laden. (Applause.) Shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Opened a new chapter with the people of Cuba. Brought nearly 200 nations together around a climate agreement that might save this beautiful planet for future generations. America viewed more positively around the world. Setting the global agenda on the challenges of our time.
No wonder I’ve gone gray, because we’ve been busy. We’ve been busy. That’s why I got all this gray hair. I’ve been busy. But Michelle says I still look good. That's what she says. Now, my daughters, on the other hand, they -- what they’d say? They said, well, you’re “dad cute.” You’re like cute for a dad. Which is -- that’s the best you’re going to do. So that’s all right.
But I am telling you, Greensboro, all that progress goes out the window if we don’t make the right choice just four weeks from today. The closer we get, the clearer the choice becomes. It’s a choice between -- is somebody hollering again? You know what. Here’s the deal -- try to get your own rally. Try to get you own rally. You got to get your own rally. See, if you can’t get your own rally, don’t come mess up somebody else’s rally. We got work to do here.
We’ve got a choice right now between somebody who is as qualified as has ever run for the office of President and somebody who, over and over again, has proven himself unfit to represent this country.
Look, Democrats and Republicans, we’ve always had our differences. That’s the nature of a democracy. There is nothing wrong with that. When I was running against John McCain, when I was running against Mitt Romney, we had serious disagreements on the economy and on foreign policy and on social issues. And those elections were close and contested. And we had debates. But the truth is, although, obviously, I believed that the agenda that we set was the better agenda for America, I never thought that those people were not honorable. I did not think that if they were in the Oval Office that America would spin out of control. I didn’t think that they couldn’t represent us on the world stage. I just thought they represented a different political party and a different philosophy.
But, look -- and I’m being honest here -- that is not the case with the current Republican nominee. He doesn’t have the temperament, or the judgment, or the knowledge, -- or, apparently, the desire to obtain the knowledge -- or the basic honesty that a President needs to have.
And that was true even before we heard about his attitudes towards women. Now, of course, it was true when we heard what he thought about minorities, and what he thought about people of the Muslim faith, and when he made fun of disabled persons, or when he insulted Gold Star families.
But you don’t have to be a husband or a father to hear what we heard just a few days ago and say, that’s not right. You just have to be a decent human being to say, that’s not right. And if it makes you mad, if you say that’s not somebody I want representing the United States of America, you can do something about it, North Carolina. Go to IWillVote.com. Register to vote right away, and make your voice be heard. Early voting starts next Thursday.
And you can reject a dark and pessimistic vision of a country where we turn against each other, and turn away from our role as leaders in the world. You can reject fear and resentment and blame and anger and hate, and choose the America we know -- an America that’s full of courage and optimism and generosity and ingenuity.
You know what, we’ve got real challenges. Families are still struggling to pay the bills, for all the progress we’ve made. Young people are still worried about paying off student loans or starting a career. Even with Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, there are still folks who don’t have health care. There are still kids who are worried about their safety. And everybody is frustrated with political gridlock, and people are worried about racial division. There are pockets of America that still haven’t recovered from factory closures. There are still young people who wonder whether they’ll have the same opportunities that we had.
But I tell you, I’ve traveled to every state in this union over these last eight years, and I’ve talked to tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of people. And what I’ve seen consistently, and what I see right here in North Carolina, is what’s right about America.
I see people working hard. And I see people starting businesses. And I see people teaching kids. And I see people serving our country. And I see folks who are inventing new products and services, and doctors coming up with new cures. And I see young people all across this country of every color and every background and every faith who are full of energy and ideas, and are not going to be held back by what is because they want to seize what could be, what ought to be. And I see Americans of every background and every faith who believe that we are stronger together -- young, old, black white, Latino, Asian, Native American, folks with disabilities, men and women -- all pledging allegiance to that same proud flag.
That’s the America I know. And there’s only one candidate in this race who shares those beliefs and who has devoted her life to it -- a mom and a grandma, who will do anything to make sure our children thrive; a leader with real plans to blast down barriers and break through glass ceilings and widen the circle of opportunity for every single American. And that is the next President of the United States of America, Hillary Clinton -- who needs to succeed me in this office.
Now, if there’s one thing I can tell you, Greensboro -- and I said this at the convention -- nobody fully understands, including me, the demands of this job until you’ve actually sat behind the desk. I thought I knew, but once -- when you’re there, suddenly it’s like, oh! Oh, the buck stops here.
And so, like, tweeting doesn’t qualify you. Sound bites don’t qualify you. Insults certainly don’t qualify you. Nobody can fully know what it’s like to manage a global crisis, or know the feeling of sending a young person into war. But I tell you, nobody has been closer to those decisions than Hillary.
As a First Lady, as a senator, as my Secretary of State, she knows what it means. She knows what it takes. I’ve seen her intelligence and judgment and temperament and her discipline. I saw her in the Situation Room, where she argued for the bin Laden mission. I saw it in capitals around the world, where she was tirelessly pursuing diplomacy that led to new partnerships; that opened up new democracies.
She understands that the decisions you make in this job mean life or death; affect soldiers and veterans, and workers who need a good job or a raise or a decent retirement. She understands that it counts for families who are trying to climb into the middle class or stay in the middle class, and kids who are looking for getting a decent education. And she listens to people, and she keeps her cool and treats everybody with respect.
And no matter how daunting the odds, or how many times she gets knocked down, she doesn’t point fingers or complain that everything is rigged if it doesn’t work out the way you want it to. She doesn’t check her mic. She just worries about getting up, and working harder. And she doesn’t quit. That’s the Hillary I know. That’s the Hillary admire. That’s why I believe that she is more qualified to be President of the United States of America.
And she’s got real plans to address the real concerns that she has heard on the campaign trail. You watch these debates, and everybody is all like, well -- the commentators afterwards, they are all like, well, she was really maybe explaining some stuff in great detail in contrast to the other candidate. That’s because she actually knows what she’s talking about. Which is helpful, when you’re President of the United States, to know what you’re talking about.
Come on, people. Come on. This isn’t an audition for like some show. (Laughter.) This ain’t a show. She’s got specific ideas to invest in jobs, to help workers share in their company’s profits, to put more young people and children and toddlers in preschool, to make sure that students get through college without taking on a ton of debt. She actually is sweating the details. She cares about this stuff.
I remember five years ago, I asked every Cabinet Secretary to give me new ideas for ways to get our economy creating jobs faster -- because at that point, Republicans were in charge of Congress and they weren’t passing a lot of legislation. So we were trying to think creatively, what we can do without Congress doing anything. And Hillary sent a 12-page, single-spaced memo -- had footnotes. I was like, lord, let me -- I had to do my homework.
But that’s who she is. That’s what she has spent her spent her life doing -- fighting for every child and every family. Not just popping off, but working to actually do stuff. Golly.
And by the way, Deborah Ross will do the same thing when you elect her to be your next senator. She is a worker. She’s heard you stories. She’s going to fight to make sure working families have a fair shot, that our kids have a world-class education, that seniors have the secure retirement they have earned. And unlike, her opponent, she’s certainly not going to keep standing with Donald Trump.
Let me just make a comment on this. Let me -- hey, can I say something.Uh-oh, somebody is yelling at me again.
Audience: Booo --
President Obama: All right. Thank you. Thank you. He was okay. He’s okay. You know what. This is our democracy at work. This is great. Hold up, hold up a second. I heard some people booing. What have I said before? Don’t boo --
President Obama: Don’t boo --
President Obama: Don’t boo --
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. Because it doesn’t really matter if some young man just runs across here and gets his five seconds of fame. What matters is who is voting.
But I’ll get back to that later. I have another thing I want to talk about. Let me just say this. I do not believe that every Republican elected official thinks the way Donald Trump does. I think many of them do not. Hold on a second, let me make my point now. It’s good having a hype man or woman, but you got to wait until I make my point before you hype it.
So the overwhelming majority of Republicans, they love their families, they love this country. They’re good and decent people doing all kinds of good things. But what is true is, is that over the last eight, 10, depending on however long you want to say, if you’ve been only about obstruction, if in order to score political points, you tell your voter base crazy stuff -- like I wasn’t born here, or that I’m a Muslim, or that -- well, it’s just a long list -- and you just repeat it over and over again, and so that your only agenda is negative, and you just make up facts -- so if 99 percent of scientists say the planet is getting warmer and this is something you should worry about, and then you bring a snowball into the Senate chambers and say it was snowing outside so you must be wrong -- using that as evidence to dispute scientists, that over time what happens is that you produce a nominee who is all about obstruction and insults, and makes up his own facts.
Now, I don’t think that’s how the majority of Republicans think, but this is the habits that you get into that create this kind of nominee. And now you find a situation in which the guys says stuff that nobody would find tolerable if they were applying for a job at 7-11 -- I mean, I don’t know what job -- if you were kind of vetting somebody for a job, and then you heard what somebody said on tape about women, set aside what they were saying about other stuff, that you would hire that person for that job.
Audience: Nooo --
President Obama: And the fact that now you’ve got people saying, well, we strongly disapprove, we really disagree, we find those comments disgusting, but we’re still endorsing him, we still think he should be President -- that doesn’t make sense to me.
Audience: Nooo --
President Obama: Now, I hear, then, some people saying, well, I’m a Christian and so I’m all about forgiveness because nobody is perfect. Well, that is true. I am certainly not perfect. Nobody is perfect. And I, too, believe in forgiveness and redemption. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to elect the person President.
You know, if somebody does something terrible or shows themselves to be unqualified for office, I can forgive them, I suppose, if they’re sincere about it. But I don’t want them necessarily leading the country, right? So you can’t have it both ways here. You can’t repeatedly denounce what is said by someone, and then say, but I’m still going to endorse them to be the most powerful person on the planet, and to put them in charge.
So I just wanted to make that point, because there are still a number of Republican elected officials, some of whom I know and I’m sure are embarrassed and say, wow, that was a really terrible thing he said, but they can’t bring themselves to say I can’t endorse this guy. And, by the way, why did it take so long for some of them to finally do walk away? I mean, we saw this coming. He’s been saying really bad stuff for a while now. What did you think? He was just going to transform himself? I mean, I’m 55 and it’s hard for me to change. I know at 70 it’s going to be harder.
Anyway, I wanted to make that point. Let me get back on script here. So setting aside character issues and what he said, he calls himself the best business guy who ever lived. But we’ve got a lot of businessmen and women around the country who succeeded without hiding their tax returns. Warren Buffett is a pretty good businessman. He just put out his tax returns.
I also don’t know a lot of casino operators who manage to lose almost a billion dollars in a year. They say the house always wins -- I don’t know what happened. I don’t know folks who use that failure, then, to avoid paying federal income taxes for our troops and our vets and our roads and our schools. You don’t brag about not paying your taxes. You don’t say that makes you smart. No, that means you are not a responsible citizen, because those taxes are used to make sure that our veterans get the care they need, or our roads get rebuilt, or our students are able to get the support that they need to get an education.
When I hear somebody say they were rooting for the housing crisis because, hey, that’s called business, or filed bankruptcy six times, which let him get out of paying for what he owed small businesses and their workers, when your concern isn’t for the family facing the hardship of foreclosure, or the small businesses and communities that depend on them, but rather how you might get over and make a buck off it -- then, okay, you know what, maybe that’s your kind of business, but that’s not the spirit you bring to the highest office in the land. You shouldn’t be President of the United States.
And a guy who has spent 70 years on this Earth showing no regard for working people is not going to suddenly be the champion of working people.
If you want a leader who actually values hard work and values working Americans; if you want higher wages and better benefits and a fairer tax code, and equal pay for equal work for woman, and stronger regulations on Wall Street -- then you’ve got to vote for Hillary, and you’ve got to vote for Deborah. That’s what I’m talking about.
And if you’re concerned about who’s going to keep you or your family safe in a dangerous world, the choice is even clearer. Hillary has worked closely with our intelligence teams and our diplomats and our military. She’ll see to it that our troops finish the job defeating ISIL. And she’ll do it without resorting to torture, or banning entire religions from our country. She’s got the chops, she’s got the temperament, she’s got the knowledge to be the next Commander-in-Chief.
And then you’ve got the guy who insults POWs, and attacks a Gold Star mom, and calls our troops and our veterans weak. He doesn’t know, apparently, the men and women in uniform who make us strong. And then brags -- cozies up to dictators. Tells our allies we might not be on their side unless they pay up first.
Look, he may not make good on his promises, but the United States of America has to make good on ours. And he might be up, I guess, at 3 a.m., but that’s because he’s tweeting insults at somebody who got under his skin, instead of getting a decent night’s sleep so he can be ready in the morning to do the job of being President of the United States.
Come on! He is not fit to be Commander-in-Chief. And he’s certainly not fit to lead the world’s greatest democracy.
Let me say this -- and this has been remarked on and this is serious business. When in the middle of a debate you threaten to put your political opponent in jail -- no trial, no indictment, no lawyers, no -- when you welcome Russian meddling in our electoral process, then you’re disregarding not just things like facts or evidence or a free press, but you’re chipping away at basic values like tolerance, and due process, and mutual respect. And our democracy doesn’t work that way.
There are other nations around the world who operate like that. Their political systems operate like that. And those nations break down. We have stood in contrast and in opposition to those kinds of ideas. And I, frankly, never thought I’d see the day when we had a major-party candidate who would be promoting those kinds of notions.
Look, Greensboro, one thing I’ve learned these past eight years is that progress is hard. It is a grind. You’ve got to battle it out. Even when we get victories like Obamacare, they’re never perfect, and then you’ve got to keep on working to make them better. And when you take two steps forward on something like climate change, there are going to be folks who push back. And it’s okay, because that’s what -- that’s the price of a democracy, is you don’t get 100 percent of what you want 100 percent of the time.
Democracy is not easy, especially not in a big, diverse country like this. You’ve got to work at it. And there’s only one candidate in this race who understands that democracy in a big, diverse country doesn’t work if you constantly demonize each other -- and I mean that literally, by the way. I was reading the other day, there’s a guy on the radio who -- apparently Trump is on his show frequently -- he said me and Hillary are demons. Said we “smell like sulfur.” Ain’t that something?
Audience: Booo --
President Obama: Now, I mean, come on, people. Democracy does not work if you just say stuff like that, or -- and, apparently, there are people who believe that stuff, and they’re listening to it constantly. And you can’t have leaders who are promoting that. Because what happens, then, is we get so divided and people are so angry at each other that nothing gets done.
And Hillary understands that. She understands that on most big issues, it’s not always simple black and white. Things getting done requires compromise. Even when you’re 100-percent right, you think. She knows that for progress to happen, we have to listen to each other and we have to see each other. We have to fight for our principles, but we have to also fight to find common ground.
President Obama: And she believes that we can and should conduct ourselves better. And you know, that’s not always flashy. It doesn’t always attract headlines. And our politics doesn’t always make that easy. We want progress right away, our way, and if somebody is getting in our way then we start calling them names. And the press finds it attractive to promote conflict, and that’s the flashy headline.
But I promise -- here’s the thing. If we just -- if we’re willing to work at it, progress does happen. And if you don’t believe that, ask the 20 million more Americans who have health care today that didn’t have it before. Ask the Marine who proudly serves his country without having to hide the husband he loves. Ask the young people who got more Pell grants and help to get a college education.
Change takes time, but change is possible.
And here’s the last thing, Greensboro. It doesn’t just depend on one person, it depends on all of us. And I especially want to talk to the young people here for a minute. You’ve been through a lot in your young lives. You’ve grown up through war, and you’ve grown up through recession, and you’ve grown up through all kinds of incredible changes. I mean, it was just a little bit ago that there was no such thing as a smartphone -- which I know seems insane to you. But it’s true. We survived without them. So things have just been happening fast.
But what I’ve seen from young people is that you care about looking out for each other, not turning on each other. The young people I meet, they are more tolerant, and they are more sophisticated, and they are more interested in the world. And you want to be active and engaged in the work of creating a vibrant, and innovative, and inclusive, and mobile society, and a democracy that works. And when I meet young people, as strange as this seems, I see the values that my mom and my grandparents tried to instill in me -- decent, honest, hardworking, civil, courteous, polite, yes ma’am, no ma’am, how can I help you, ma’am. I see those values in this next generation. Those values aren’t old-fashioned.
When I see people who say they’re conservative, well, you know what, my grandparents were kind of conservative. But to them, that meant that you acted right. It meant you had good home training. It meant you didn’t say crude things just to get attention. And I think most young people understand that. They understand those values that are timeless. They’re not even Democrat or Republican -- they’re American values that bind us together as a country.
And so, yeah, there are a lot of things about our politics that can sometimes seem cheap and trivial and frustrating. I know, I’ve seen it. But here’s a chance to reject a divisive, mean-spirited politics that would just take us backwards. And you know there’s nothing cheap or trivial about that -- about making that statement. The chance to elect a woman who has spent her entire life trying to make this country better -- that’s real. That is true.
And young people, you have a chance to do that. So don’t fall for the easy cynicism that says my vote doesn’t matter, or all politicians are the same, because that’s exactly what Hillary’s opponent wants you to think so you don’t vote.
I promise you, your vote matters. Read up on your history. You just heard from Judge Frye. There was a time, right here in North Carolina -- and look, that judge, he looks good. I mean, he was right there before you, young people, and he couldn’t vote. There was a time when folks had to guess the number of jelly beans in a jar. The number of bubbles on a bar of soap. It wasn’t that long ago where folks were beaten to register voters in Mississippi. It wasn’t that long ago that a man like Justice Frye, who had already graduated college, was denied the right to vote because he failed the so-called literacy test. That just happened. And the reason it changed was because young people said it’s going to change. And folks risked everything so we could pull that lever. Freedom Riders came down so that people could have the right to vote.
Whatever the issue you are about, the choice could not be clearer. If you care about inequality, if you supported Bernie in the primaries, you’ve got a choice. You can vote for somebody whose economic policies are driven solely by greed and self-interest, or you can vote for somebody who is going to make sure our economy works for everybody, not just folks at the top. Who will fight like heck to make sure minimum wage workers get a raise, and women get paid the same as men for doing the same job.
If you care about criminal justice reform, you can vote for somebody who has fought against civil rights and equality his entire career, or you can vote for somebody who started her career going undercover from school to school to make sure minority kids were getting an equal shot at a good education, and who has not stopped fighting for justice and equality ever since.
If you care about the environment and climate change, you can vote for somebody who says it’s a Chinese plot, and puts a climate denier in charge of hiring folks at the EPA, or you can vote for somebody who believes in science and will keep America a world leader in fighting to protect our planet.
If you care about immigration reform, you can vote for somebody who apparently only see immigrants as criminals and rapists to be rounded up or kicked out -- even though, by the way, they’ve already paid more taxes, probably, than he has -- or you can vote for a granddaughter of an immigrant who believes everybody deserves a chance to contribute to this country we love.
If you care about transparency, you can vote for a candidate who’s released decades’ worth of her tax returns, or the only candidate in decades who refused to release any at all.
One candidate has foundation that saved countless lives around the world. The other took money that people gave his charity to buy a six-foot-tall painting of himself. I’m not kidding.
One candidate traveled more countries than any Secretary of State before. The other is Donald Trump.
So when he asks you, what do you have to lose, the answer is, you’ve got everything to lose. All the progress we’ve made these last eight years is on the ballot. Civility is on the ballot. Respect for women is on the ballot. Tolerance is on the ballot. Justice is on the ballot. Equality is on the ballot. Democracy is on the ballot. If you want to send a message in this election, make it a resounding message.
Turn back the forces of racism and misogyny, and send a message for progress. Send a message for facts. Send a message for reason. Send a message for hope. Send a message by voting for Hillary Clinton. Send a message for Deborah Ross. Send a message about who we are as the American people and make our kids proud.