President Obama tried to fire up college students for the November elections during a rally at the University of Wisconsin. What did he say? Instead of telling you, I’ll let you read his speech. If you are a Democrat, or an Independent, would his themes motivate you to vote for Democratic candidates this November?
The text was provided by the White House.
6:07 P.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello,
Wisconsin! (Applause.) Hello! Hello, Wisconsin! Thank
you. Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you, everybody.
I am — I don’t know about you, but I’m fired
up. (Applause.) And I’m ready to go. (Applause.)
A couple of people I want to acknowledge —
first of all, a great mayor, somebody who’s fighting for working families each
and every day, Tom Barrett. Please give him a big round of
Somebody who is one of the consciences of the
Senate who’s always independent, doesn’t always agree with me but always agrees
with the people of his state and looking out for them, Senator Russ
One of the most courageous members of
Congress that we have, Tammy Baldwin, in the house. (Applause.)
I want to thank Madison mayor Dave Cieslewicz
— doing a great job. (Applause.)
University of Wisconsin System President
Kevin Reilly is here. (Applause.) University of Wisconsin-Madison
Chancellor Biddy Martin is in the house. (Applause.)
And I want to thank our terrific musical
guests, Ben Harper, The National, and Mama Digdown’s Brass Band.
It is good to be back in the state of
Wisconsin. I was mentioning that when I first moved to Chicago —
(applause) — I know we’ve got some Chicago folks in the house — (applause) —
you know, every once in a while I had some friends who were going to school up
here, and I’d drive up to Madison. (Applause.) And I had some fun
times up here in Madison. (Applause.) I can’t give you all the
details — (laughter) — but I have good memories here.
And may I say that you Badgers are looking
pretty good this year. (Applause.) You delivered quite a beating on
Saturday. (Applause.) Almost wasn’t fair. (Laughter.)
Now, I’m not going to say a word about the
Bears and the Packers. I’m not going to say anything about it.
(Applause and boos.) My lips are sealed. I’m not going to say a
word about it. Why spoil this great mood? (Laughter.) Because
it’s just nice to see that you’re as fired up today as you were on
Saturday. So don’t think about Sunday. (Laughter.)
I need you, though, fired up, Badgers.
I need you fired up. We need you to stay fired up because there is an
election on November 2nd that’s going to say a lot about the future — your
future and the future of our country.
Now, two years ago, you defied the
conventional wisdom in Washington. The message out there was, no, you
can’t. No, you can’t overcome the cynicism of our politics. No, you
can’t overcome the power of special interests in Washington. No, you
can’t make real progress on the big challenges of our time. No, you can’t
elect a skinny guy with a funny name, Barack Hussein Obama.
(Applause.) They said, no, you can’t. But what did you say,
AUDIENCE: Yes, we can!
PRESIDENT: You proved that the power of everyday people going door to
door, neighbor to neighbor, friend to friend, was stronger than the forces of
the status quo. It made more difference than PAC money. It made
more difference than all the TV advertising. You tapped into something
that this country hadn’t seen in a very long time. You did that.
And every single one of you is a shareholder in that mission of rebuilding our
country and reclaiming our future. And I’m back here today because on
November 2nd, we face another test. And the stakes could not be higher.
Think about it, when I arrived in
Washington 20 months ago, my hope and my expectation was that we could pull
together, all of us as Americans — Democrats and Republicans and independents
— to confront the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. I
hoped and expected that we could get beyond some of the old political divides
between Democrats and Republicans, blue states and red states, that had
prevented us from making progress for so long because although we are proud to
be Democrats, we are prouder to be Americans. (Applause.)
And this country was confronting a
crisis. Instead, what we found when we arrived in Washington was the
rawest kind of politics. What we confronted was an opposition party that
was still stuck on the same failed policies of the past, whose leaders in
Congress were determined from the start to let us deal with the mess that they
had done so much to create.
Because their calculation was as simple
as it was cynical — they knew that it was going to take a long time to solve
the economic challenges we face. They saw the data. They were
talking to the economists. They realized that Obama was walking in and we
had just lost 4 million jobs in the six months before I was sworn in; 750,000
jobs the month I was sworn in; 600,000 jobs the month after that; 600,000 jobs
that month after that. So before our economic policies could even be put
into place, we’d already lost most of the 8 million jobs we would lose.
And they knew that people would be
frustrated. And they figured, if we just sit on the sidelines and just
say no and just throw bombs and let Obama and the Democrats deal with
everything, they figured they might be able to prosper at the polls.
And that’s what they’ve done for the last 20
months. They have said no to just about every idea and policy I’ve
proposed — even ideas that historically, traditionally, they agreed
with. So now the pundits are saying that the base of the Republican Party
is mobilized. The prediction among the pundits is this is going to be a
bloodletting for Democrats. That’s what they’re saying in Washington.
THE PRESIDENT: And what they’re saying
is — and the basis of their prediction is that all of you who worked so hard
in 2008 aren’t going to be as energized, aren’t going to be as engaged.
They say there is an enthusiasm gap and that the same Republicans and the same
policies that left our economy in a shambles and the middle class struggling
might ride right back into power.
THE PRESIDENT: Now, that’s what they’re
saying. I’m not making this up. You guys read the papers. You
guys are watching the television. They’re basically saying that you’re
apathetic, you’re disappointed, you’re “oh, well, we’re not sure that we’re
going to turn out.”
Wisconsin, we can’t let that happen. We
cannot sit this one out. We can’t let this country fall backwards because
the rest of us didn’t care enough to fight. (Applause.) The stakes
are too high for our country and for your future, and I am going to get out
there and fight as hard as I can — and I know you are, too — to make sure we
keep moving forward. (Applause.)
The other side would have you believe
this election is a referendum on me or a referendum on the economy, a
referendum on anything except them. But make no mistake. This
election is a choice. And the choice could not be clearer.
Understand, for the last decade, the
Republicans in Washington subscribed to a very simple philosophy — and I want
to be clear, this is the Republican leadership in Washington. A whole
bunch of Republicans out all across America are feeling pretty disaffected,
too, by what they saw when the Republicans were in charge. But the basic
theory of the Republican leadership was, you cut taxes mostly for millionaires
THE PRESIDENT: You cut regulations for
special interests, whether it’s the banks or the oil companies or health
insurance companies. Let them write their own rules. You cut back
on investments in education and clean energy and research and technology.
So basically the idea was if you just put
blind faith in the market, if we let corporations play by their own rules, if
we leave everybody else to fend for themselves, then America would
automatically grow and prosper.
But that philosophy failed. Because in
the period when they were in power — understand this, from 2001 to 2009 — job
growth was slower than it had been in any decade since World War II.
Between 2001 and 2009, middle-class incomes fell by 5 percent. The cost
of everything from health care to college tuition just kept going up. And
a free-for-all on Wall Street led to the very crisis that right now we’re
digging ourselves out of.
So it’s not like we don’t have a
controlled experiment here. (Laughter.) We have — they were in
charge. We saw what happened. (Applause.) So I’ve got — I’ve
had two main jobs since becoming President: to rescue the economy from
this crisis, to clean up after their mess, and to rebuild our economy stronger
than it was before. That’s been my job. (Applause.)
And over the last 20 months — over the
last 20 months, we’ve made progress on both these fronts. We’re no longer
facing the possibility of a second depression — and I have to say, Wisconsin,
that was a very real possibility when I was sworn in. We had about six
months where the economy was teetering on the edge, and we could have plunged
into a second depression.
Now the economy is growing again.
(Applause.) Now the private sector has created jobs for the last eight
months in a row. (Applause.) There are about 3 million Americans who
wouldn’t be working today if not for the economic plan that we put into
place. Those are facts. (Applause.)
By the way, I emphasize those are facts
because the other side isn’t always interested in facts.
THE PRESIDENT: To rebuild this
economy on a stronger foundation, we passed Wall Street reform to make sure
that a crisis like this never happens again, so that these reforms are going to
end the era of taxpayer-funded bailouts forever –reforms that will stop mortgage
lenders from taking advantage of homeowners, reforms that’ll stop credit card
companies from hitting you with hidden fees or jacking up your rates without
any reason. (Applause.)
But we didn’t stop there. We
started investing again in American research and American technology and
homegrown American clean energy because I don’t want solar panels and wind
turbines and electric cars of the future built in Europe or Asia. I want
them built right here in the United States of America with American workers.
To help middle-class families get
ahead, we passed a tax cut for 95 percent of working families. I want to
repeat that: We cut taxes for 95 percent of working families, because if
you were listening to the other side, you’d think we raised taxes.
But, again, we deal in facts. And
the fact is, we cut taxes for 95 percent of working families. We passed
16 different tax cuts for America’s small business owners, who create the
majority of jobs in this country. We passed health care reform that will
stop insurance companies from denying you coverage or dropping your coverage
because you’re sick. (Applause.)
And by the way, Madison, let me just
see a show of hands, how many people are under the age of 26 in this crowd?
(Applause.) Every single one of you, when you get out of college, if you
have not found a job that offers you health care, you’re going to be able to
stay on your parents’ health care until you’re 26 years old, so you don’t end
up taking the risk of getting sick and being bankrupt. (Applause.)
We finally fixed the student loan
system so that tens of billions of dollars — tens of billions of dollars of
taxpayer subsidies that were going to big banks, they were acting as middlemen,
and the student loan programs were going through these financial
intermediaries. They were taking billions of dollars of profits. We
said, well, let’s cut out the middleman. We’ll give the loans directly to
students and that means million more students are going to be able to take
advantage of grants and student loans. (Applause.)
And by the way, we also kept a promise
I made on the day that I announced my candidacy. We have removed combat
troops from Iraq and we have ended our combat mission in Iraq. (Applause.)
Now, that’s just some of what we’ve
done. I haven’t even mentioned the fact that we signed into law laws
making sure that we enforce equal pay for equal work, because I think my
daughters should be treated just like somebody else’s sons. I haven’t
mentioned the fact that we had the largest expansion of national service so
that young people can tap into their idealism and start working here in this
country and around the world to make people’s lives better. I haven’t
talked about the fact that we made sure that tobacco companies can’t market
their products to children. (Applause.)
We have made progress over the last 20
months. And that is the progress that you worked so hard for in
2008. Now, we didn’t get everything done. Sometimes people say,
well, you know, this item is not done and that idea — well, I’ve only been
here two years, guys. (Laughter.) If you look at the checklist,
we’ve already covered about 70 percent, so I figured I needed to have something
to do for the next couple of years. (Applause.)
And look, here’s the fact. Here’s
the fact, is that we’re not where we need to be — not even close. The
hole that we’re climbing out of is a deep one. People, I want you to
understand the magnitude of what we’ve gone through. This is deeper than
the last three recessions combined. Most of the jobs we lost took place
before any of our economic policies had a chance to take effect. And on
top of that, the middle class had been struggling for more than a decade and jobs
had been getting shipped overseas and millions of families were still treading
water. Millions are still barely able to make their bills or make the
mortgage. I hear their stories every day. I read them in just
heartbreaking letters that I receive each night.
So I understand that people are
frustrated. I understand people are impatient with the pace of
change. Of course they are. Look, I’m impatient, but I also know
this: Now is not the time to lose heart. Now is not the time to
give up. We do not quit. And we cannot forget that this nation has
been through far worse and we have come out stronger from war to depression to
the great struggle for equal rights and civil rights. (Applause.)
We do not quit.
In every instance, progress took
time. In every instance, progress took sacrifice. Progress took
faith. You know, the slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs,
they weren’t sure when slavery would end but they understood it was going to
end. When women were out there marching for the right to vote, they
weren’t sure when it was going to happen but they kept on going.
(Applause.) When workers were organizing for the right to organize and
were being intimidated, they weren’t sure when change was going to come but
they knew it was going to come. And I am telling you, Wisconsin, we are
bringing about change and progress is going to come — but you’ve got to stick
with me. You can’t lose heart. (Applause.)
Change is going to come. (Applause.)
Change is going to come for this generation — if we work for it, if we fight
for it, if we believe in it. The biggest mistake we could make right now
is to let disappointment or frustration lead to apathy and indifference.
That is how the other side wins. And I want everybody to be clear, make
no mistake: If the other side does win, they will spend the next two
years fighting for the very same policies that led to this recession in the
first place. The same policies that left the middle class behind for more
than a decade. The same policies that we fought so hard for to change in
Just look at the agenda the other leaders —
that the leaders of the other party unveiled last week. They call this
“Pledge to America.” That’s what they called it. And in case you’re
wondering how serious they are about changing Washington, this pledge was
actually written with the help of a former lobbyist for AIG and a former
lobbyist for Exxon-Mobil.
THE PRESIDENT: You can’t make this
stuff up. (Laughter.) This is the truth.
Now, the centerpiece of their pledge, their
central economic idea — this is it, this is their main idea for growing the
economy and dealing with the $8 million jobs that were lost as a consequence of
their earlier policies — their main idea is a $700 billion tax cut for the
wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. Right?
THE PRESIDENT: So 98 percent of
Americans would never see a dime of the $700 billion. Now, keep in mind
we don’t have $700 billion. (Laughter.) So we’d have to borrow
it. And the party that lectures us on fiscal responsibility wants to
borrow another $700 billion to give a tax cut worth an average of $100,000 to
every millionaire and billionaire in America.
THE PRESIDENT: And when you ask
them, well, where do they plan to find the $700 billion, where is this
money? Is it laying around? You didn’t tell us about this.
Where is it? They don’t have an answer. But to pay for just a tiny
fraction of this tax cut, they want to cut education by 20 percent.
THE PRESIDENT: They want to
eliminate 200,000 children from an early childhood education program like Head
THE PRESIDENT: They want to cut
financial aid for 8 million college students, including some of the people who
are out here today.
THE PRESIDENT: This for a tax cut
for folks who don’t need it and weren’t even asking for it. At a time
when the education of a country’s citizens is the biggest predictor of its
economic success, they think it’s more important to give another tax break to
people who made the Forbes 400 list. Now, I have to ask my Republican
friends a question here: Do you think that China is cutting back on
THE PRESIDENT: Do you think that
South Korea is making it harder for their citizens to get a college education?
THE PRESIDENT: These countries
aren’t playing for second place. And let me tell you something, the
United States of America doesn’t play for second place, either. We play
for first place, Wisconsin. We play for first place. (Applause.)
This is an economic issue of our
generation. And I will not allow politicians in Washington to sacrifice
your future on another round of tax cuts that aren’t paid for, that we don’t
need and you can’t afford. And that’s the choice in this election.
That’s why you need to be involved. Your future is at stake here.
Look, we have a different idea about
what the next two years should look like. And it’s an idea rooted in our
belief about how this country was built. We know that government doesn’t
have all the answers to our problems. We don’t believe that government’s
main role is to create jobs or prosperity.
One of the things that the other side
has been able to do is to hoodwink a whole bunch of folks all across the
country, after we had to take emergency measures to clean up their mess, to say,
look, he’s for big government. The steps we took to make sure that the
auto industry didn’t go down the tubes, or the financial system didn’t go down
the tubes, was because they weren’t minding the store when they were in
It’s not because I came in with a big
government agenda. I believe government should be lean and
efficient. And that’s why I’ve proposed a three-year spending
freeze. That’s why I set up a bipartisan fiscal commission to deal with
our deficit, but in the words of the first Republican President, Abraham
Lincoln, I also believe that government should do for the people what they
can’t do better for themselves. (Applause.) I believe in a country
that rewards hard work and responsibility; a country where we look after one
another; a country where I say I’m my brother’s keeper, I’m my sister’s
I believe in an America that gave my
grandfather the chance to go to college because of the GI Bill.
(Applause.) I believe in an America that gave my grandparents the chance
to buy a home because of the Federal Housing Authority. (Applause.)
I believe in an America that gave their children and grandchildren the chance
to fulfill our dreams thanks to scholarships and student loans like some of you
are on. (Applause.) That’s the America I know. That’s the
choice in this election.
Instead of $700 billion tax breaks for
millionaires and billionaires, we want to make permanent the tax cuts for
middle-class Americans. (Applause.) You deserve a break.
Instead of cutting education and student aid, we want to make permanent our new
college tax credit that’s worth $10,000 of tuition relief for each young person
going to four years of college. (Applause.) We want to make clear
that in good times and in bad times, no young American should have to sacrifice
the dream of a college education just because they can’t afford it.
That’s what we believe. That’s the choice in this election.
If we let the other side take control
of Congress, they’ll spend the next two years fighting to preserve tax breaks
for companies that create jobs and profits overseas — billions of dollars in
taxpayer subsidies that we lose each year. Over the last 20 months, we’ve
had — we’ve taken the step of closing a lot of these tax loopholes. And
over the next two years, we’re going to fight to give tax breaks to companies
that are actually creating jobs here in the United States of America.
(Applause.) To small businesses. To clean energy companies.
To American manufacturers. To entrepreneurs who are researching and
investing and innovating right here in the United States. That’s who we
want to help. And that’s the choice in this election.
If the other side takes back Congress, they’ve
promised to give back power to the same special interests we’ve been fighting
for the last 20 months. In every state, including right here in
Wisconsin, you’ve got millions of dollars pouring in from special
interests. I refuse to let that happen. I refuse to go back to the
days when insurance companies could deny you coverage or drop your coverage
just because you’re sick.
Just the other day I was talking to a woman
who did not have health insurance, even though she was working at a
school. Contracted cancer; was not sure whether she was going to have to
use the entire college fund that she had saved for her kids in order to get
treatment. Fortunately, because of the health reform we signed, she now
has coverage. (Applause.) But they would want to roll it
back. They don’t think that makes sense.
I refuse to go back to the days when credit
card companies can jack up your rates without reason. I refuse to go back
to the days where taxpayer-funded Wall Street bailouts end up being
necessary. We can’t allow the special interests to take the reins
again. We’ve got to keep on fighting. There’s too much at stake
So Madison, it comes down to this. And
I’m not just talking to Madison, by the way, because there are 200 campuses
across the country who are plugged in through web cams and house parties —
(laughter) — so I’m speaking to everybody out there. (Applause.)
Many of the folks in the other party who are running today are the exact same
people who spent the last decade driving our economy into the ditch.
So me and Russ Feingold and
Tammy Baldwin, we all went down into the ditch. And we put on our boots,
and it was muddy down there and dirty and dusty and we were sweating and we’re
pushing the car out of the ditch. And every so often, we’d look up and
see the Republicans standing there. They’re just standing there sipping
on a Slurpee — (laughter) — and waving at us. And we’d say, “Well, come
on down and help.” They’d say, “No, no, no, but you should push
harder. You’re not pushing the right way.”
But we understood we had to get the car
out of the ditch so we’re pushing and we’re pushing. Finally — finally
— we get it up on level ground. Finally we get it up on level
ground. And look, let’s face it, it’s a little dented and a little busted
and it needs a tune-up and the fenders all need to be hammered out a little
bit, new paint job. But we’re finally on level ground, we’re
moving. Suddenly we get a tap on the shoulder and we look behind us and
who is it? It’s the Republicans. And they’re asking for the keys
And we’ve got to tell them, you can’t
have the keys back. You don’t know how to drive. You don’t know how
to drive. (Applause.) You don’t know how to drive. You can’t
have them back.
I mean, I hope everybody has noticed
when you want to go forward in your car, what do you do? You put it in
“D.” When you want to go backwards, you put it in “R.”
(Applause.) Don’t go back into the ditch. That’s not a
coincidence. (Applause.) That’s not a coincidence, people.
So ultimately, whether they get the
keys back is up to you. Look, there is no question the other side is
excited. They have been pumped up to think that Obama is a socialist, and
he’s this and he is that, and he’s for big government, and he’s responsible for
all the — look, they have been fed a lot of information.
And there’s some well-meaning people
out there who are understandably scared of debt and deficits, and they see
what’s going on. They see jobs being shipped overseas, and they’re not
sure what’s happening. And we are in charge. And they’re saying,
well, why hasn’t change happened faster?
And so you can persuade them maybe to
give the Republicans the keys back if they’re not hearing the other side of the
argument. So a lot of them are fired up. And thanks to a recent
Supreme Court decision, they are being helped along this year, as I said, by
special interest groups that are allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money on
attack ads. They don’t even have to disclose who’s behind the ads.
You’ve all seen the ads. Every one of these groups is run by Republican
operatives. Every single one of them — even though they’re posing as
nonprofit groups with names like Americans for Prosperity, or the Committee for
Truth in Politics, or Americans for Apple Pie. (Laughter.) I made
that last one up. (Laughter.)
But this is why — look, this is why we’ve
got to work even harder in this election. This is why we’ve got to fight
their millions of dollars with millions of our voices, voices who are ready to
finish what we started in 2008. (Applause.)
Because if everybody who fought for
change in 2008 shows up to vote in 2010, we will win. (Applause.)
We will win. (Applause.) The polls say the same thing. We
will win. (Applause.)
So what the other side — you know what
the other side is counting on this time around? They’re counting on you
staying home. They’re counting on your silence. They’re counting on
amnesia. They’re betting on your apathy, especially because a lot of you
are young folks.
So Madison, you’ve got to prove them
wrong. (Applause.) Let’s show Washington one more time, change
doesn’t come from the top. It doesn’t come from millions of dollars of special
interest-funded attack ads. Change happens from the bottom up.
Change happens because of you. (Applause.) Change happens because
of you. Change happens because of you. (Applause.)
I know times are tough right now.
I know times are tough. I know a lot of folks are anxious about the
future. And I know that during the campaign, especially after we had
already started winning, the feeling was, well, this is just exciting.
You got those nice Hope posters, and then there was the inauguration, and you
got BeyoncÃ© singing and Bono. (Laughter.)
And I know sometimes it feels a long way from
the hope and excitement that we felt on Election Day or the day of the
inauguration. But I’ve got to say, we always knew this was going to take
time. We always knew this was going to be hard. I said it was going
to be hard, remember? I said I was going to tell you some things you
didn’t want to hear. I said that we were going to have to make some
difficult choices. I said not everybody was going to be happy with every
single decision I made.
You did not elect me to do what was
easy. You didn’t just elect me to read the polls and figure out how to
keep myself in office. Whenever you read the media in Washington, all
they’re concerned about is, boy, his polls numbers are down, so that must mean
that he didn’t do the right thing. Just because your poll numbers are
down. That’s how everything is measured.
But you didn’t elect me to look at the
polls. You elected me to do what was right. You elected me to do
what was right. (Applause.) That was change you could believe in —
that I was going to do what was right, not what was expedient, not what was
And you got involved. What was
different about this campaign was because you believed this was the moment to
solve the challenges that the country had ignored for far too long.
That involvement can’t end with the vote that
you cast in 2008. That election was not just about putting me in the
White House. It was about building a movement for change that went beyond
any one campaign or any one candidate. It was about remembering that in
the United States of America, our destiny is not written for us — it is
written by us. That is the blessing of this country. (Applause.)
The power to shape our future lies in our hands — but only if we’re willing to
keep working for it and fighting for it and keep believing that change is
So that’s what’s
being tested right now. That’s what’s being tested. We are being
tested here. The question is, are we going to have the courage to keep
moving forward even in the face of difficulty, even in the face of
uncertainty? This election is not about what we’ve done; it’s about the
work we have left to do. It’s what — it’s about what you want this
country to look like over the next two years. It’s about your
So, Madison, get
out there and shape it. Get out there and fight for it.
(Applause.) I need your help, Madison. We need you to commit to
vote. We need you to pledge to vote. We need you to knock on
doors. We need you to talk to neighbors. We need you to make phone
calls. We need you to bring energy and passion and commitment.
(Applause.) Because if we do, if you’re willing to step up to the plate
and realize that change is not a spectator sport, we will not just win this
election — we are going to restore our economy, we are going to rebuild the
middle class. We will reclaim the American Dream for this generation.
Thank you. God bless you.
God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
END 6:45 P.M. CDT