Remarks of Senator Barack Obama (Daytona Beach, FL)
Daytona Beach, FL | September 20, 2008
Here in Florida, less than two months before election day, I know you've all been hearing a lot about politics. And we all know how important women will be in determining the outcome of this election. But as I stand here with all of you, I know this isn't just about politics for me. This is personal. Because I come here today not just as a candidate for President - but as a son, a grandson, a husband and a father who's seen firsthand, throughout my life, the challenges so many women face every day in this country.
Growing up, I saw my mother struggle to put herself through school and raise me and my sister on her own. She once had to turn to food stamps, but thanks to student loans, scholarships and a lot of hard work, her kids could attend some of the best schools in the country. I think women like her who work hard and pour everything they've got into their kids should be able to pay the bills and get ahead for a change - that's why I'm running for President.
I saw my grandmother, who helped raise me, work her way up from the secretarial pool to middle management at a bank. But I also saw her hit a glass ceiling, as men no more qualified than she was moved up the corporate ladder ahead of her. I think women like her should be paid fairly and have the same chance to succeed as everyone else - that's why I'm running for President.
I've seen my wife, Michelle, the rock of the Obama family, juggling work and parenting with more skill and grace than anyone I know. But I've seen how it's torn at her. How sometimes, when she's with the girls, she's worrying about work - and when she's at work, she's worrying about the girls. It's a feeling I share every day - especially these days, when I'm away so much, out on the campaign trail. And I think it should be a little easier for parents in this country to raise their kids and do their jobs - that's why I'm running for President.
I know how hard the women of this country are working. I know the anxiety so many of you are feeling right now, as we stand in the midst of the most serious financial crisis of our time. We've seen three of America's five largest investment banks fail or be sold off in distress. Our housing market is in shambles, and Monday brought the worst losses on Wall Street since the day after September 11th.
Everywhere you look, the economic news is troubling. But for so many of you, it isn't really news at all. You've seen your home values falling, gas prices rising, and bills piling up month after month. So you're working longer hours, or working more than one job just to get by. And then there are the jobs you do once the workday ends. Jobs like paying the bills, buying the groceries, making the dinner, doing the laundry, enforcing the bedtimes - the jobs you don't get paid for, but that hold our families together. Jobs that still, even in the year 2008, too often fall to women.
So I know these are difficult days. But here's what I also know. I know we can steer ourselves out of this economic crisis. That's who we are. That's what we've always done as Americans. Our nation has faced difficult times before. And at each of those moments, we've risen to meet the challenge because we've never forgotten that fundamental truth - that here in America, our destiny is not written for us, but by us.
But another thing I know is that we can't steer ourselves out of this crisis by heading in the same, disastrous direction. We can't change direction with a new driver who wants to follow the same old map. And that's what this election is all about.
Yesterday, my opponent, Senator McCain, gave a speech in which his big solution to this worldwide economic crisis was to blame me for it. This is a guy who's spent a quarter century in Washington. And after spending the entire campaign saying I haven't been in Washington long enough, he apparently now is willing to assign me responsibility for all of Washington's failures. I think it's pretty clear that Senator McCain is a little panicked, and that at this point, he is willing to say anything, do anything, change any position, violate any principle to try and win this election. And that is sad to see. That's not the politics we need.
So let's be clear.
There's only one candidate who - just this week - said a line he's repeated 16 times on this campaign - quote - "the fundamentals of our economy are strong."
There's only one candidate who's called himself "fundamentally a deregulator" when deregulation is part of the problem. My opponent actually wrote in the current issue of a health care magazine - the current issue - quote - "Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation."
So let me get this straight - he wants to run health care like they've been running Wall Street. Well, Senator, I know some folks on Main Street who aren't going to think that's a good idea.
There's only one candidate whose choice for Treasury Secretary is a man who thinks we're in a "mental recession" and has called the United States of America a - quote - "nation of whiners."
There's only one candidate whose campaign is being run by seven of Washington's most powerful lobbyists.
And folks, it isn't me.
I don't take a dime from Washington lobbyists and special interests. They do not run my campaign. They will not run my White House. And they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I'm President of the United States.
So when John McCain says that lobbyists "won't even get past the front gate" at his White House, my question is - who's going to stop them?
Those seven lobbyists?
His campaign manager?
The economic advisor, who got a $40 million golden parachute when she was fired as a CEO?
Or maybe the 26 advisors and fundraisers who lobbied for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?
I mean, give me a break.
The same day my opponent attacked me for being associated with a Fannie Mae guy I've talked to for maybe 5 minutes in my entire life - the same day he did that - the head of the lobbying shop at Fannie Mae turned around and said wait a minute - "when I see photographs of Senator McCain's staff, it looks to me like the team of lobbyists who used to report to me."
Folks, you can't make this stuff up.
So when you hear John McCain talk about taking on the ol' boy network in Washington - know this, on the McCain campaign, that's called a staff meeting.
At this defining moment, when the stakes could not be higher, we need real change - change that's more than just a slogan, change that actually makes a difference in people's lives. And that's the kind of change I'll bring to Washington when I'm President of the United States of America.
The other day, I laid out a few principals for a plan that would establish a real and permanent solution to our economic crisis. First, we have to make sure that whatever plan our government comes up with works not just for Wall Street, but for Main Street. We have to make sure it helps folks cope with rising prices, and sparks job creation, and helps homeowners stay in their homes. That's the kind of help folks need right now.
We also have to make sure that any plan we come up with is temporary and restores tough oversight and accountability on Wall Street. Third, I want to make sure that we're not rewarding some of the very CEOs who helped cause this mess. We're not going to stand for that.
But if we're serious about putting our economy on a firmer footing and lifting up our hardworking families, there are some additional changes we're going to have to make, as well.
Because it's an outrage that women are still making 77 cents for every dollar that men make in this country. Now, my opponent actually opposed legislation to help women get equal pay. Because, in his view, the reason women aren't being paid fairly isn't discrimination on the job - it's because they need more education and training.
That isn't change.
Change is finally closing that pay gap. It's unacceptable that women in this country are losing thousands of dollars each year - money you could use for gas or groceries or college tuition. This isn't just an economic issue for millions of American families - it's about our most fundamental values as a nation: that we treat people fairly, that we reward hard work, and there are no second class citizens in our workplaces. That's why I helped pass a law in Illinois to give 330,000 more women protection from paycheck discrimination. That's why I co-sponsored legislation in the U.S. Senate to make it easier for women to challenge pay discrimination. And that's why I won't give up until women in this country are paid what they've earned, and not a penny less. That's what change is.
Change isn't a President who thinks Roe vs. Wade is a flawed decision and whose party platform outlaws abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. Change is a President who will stand up for choice - who understands that five men on the Supreme Court don't know better than women and their doctors what's best for a woman's health. That's why I fought so hard in Illinois and in Washington to stop laws that would've restricted choice. That's why I'm committed to appointing judges who understand how law operates in our daily lives, judges who will uphold the values at the core of our Constitution. And that's why I will never back down in defending a woman's right to choose.
Change means refusing to accept an America where staying home with a new baby is treated as an unpaid vacation, and taking time off to take a sick parent to the hospital is a fireable offense. Change means making sure people have paid sick days and tax credits to help with childcare, and expanding the Family and Medical Leave Act to help millions of people care for their kids and their parents and participate in school activities like parent-teacher conferences and assemblies. Because no matter what you do for a living, we can all agree that raising our kids and taking care of our families is the most important job we have.
Change means keeping the promise of affordable, accessible health care for every single American. Under my plan, if you have health insurance, nothing changes for you, except that my plan will lower your health care costs. If you don't, you'll be able to get the same kind of coverage that members of Congress give themselves.
And I'll stop insurance companies from discriminating against those who are sick and need care the most. This is personal to me. My mother died of ovarian cancer at the age of 53. And I will never forget her lying in a hospital bed, in her final months, fighting with the insurance company over whether they'd cover her treatments because they claimed cancer was a pre-existing condition. That's wrong, it's not who we are, and we're going to put an end to it.
Change means having a Vice President who's spent his career working to improve women's lives. Joe Biden wrote the Violence Against Women Act so we'd finally treat domestic violence like the heinous crime that it is. And in case you were wondering, John McCain voted against that legislation. As someone who raised small kids on his own, and took the train home every night from Washington to Delaware to tuck those kids into bed, Joe Biden also knows firsthand what it means to juggle work and family. And you won't find a stronger champion for a woman's right to choose than Joe Biden. So I'm proud to have him by my side in this campaign.
Finally, change means building an economy that rewards work, creates jobs you can raise a family on, and gives each of us the chance to get ahead. And let me tell you, when it comes to the economic policies we'll pursue, Senator McCain and I couldn't be more different.
John McCain voted nineteen times against raising the minimum wage - I'll raise it.
He voted against Head Start, against hiring new teachers, against Pell Grants. I'll invest in early childhood education, and recruit an army of new teachers to our schools, and provide a $4,000 tuition tax credit to help make college affordable for any middle class student who's willing to serve their community or their country. You invest in America, America invests in you, and together, we'll move this country forward.
He wants to give tax breaks to oil companies and companies that ship jobs overseas - I want to give a tax break to 95% of all working families and create jobs here at home by investing in renewable energy. And don't be fooled by the tired old attacks my opponent is launching. He doesn't want you to know this, but under my plan, tax rates will actually be lower than they were under Ronald Reagan. If you make less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increase one single dime. Not one dime. In fact, I offer three times the tax relief for middle-class families as Senator McCain does - because in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle-class.
And I'll protect Social Security, while John McCain wants to privatize it. Without Social Security half of elderly women would be living in poverty - half. But if my opponent had his way, the millions of Floridians who rely on it would've had their Social Security tied up in the stock market this week. Millions would've watched as the market tumbled and their nest egg disappeared before their eyes. Millions of families would've been scrambling to figure out how to give their mothers and fathers, their grandmothers and grandfathers, the secure retirement that every American deserves. So I know Senator McCain is talking about a "casino culture" on Wall Street - but the fact is, he's the one who wants to gamble with your life savings.
So let's be clear, when I'm President, we're not going to gamble with Social Security. We're not going to gamble with your ability to retire with dignity after a lifetime of hard work. We're going to strengthen and protect Social Security so it's a safety net our families can count on -- today, tomorrow and always.
Florida, the stakes couldn't be higher. The choice couldn't be clearer. But still, we know that bringing the change we need won't be easy. We know we're up against a powerful, entrenched status quo in Washington that will say anything and do anything and fight with everything they've got to keep things just the way they are.
But I think we're up for the challenge. We always have been. That's why I'm standing here today. Because of what my mother and grandmother did for me - because of their hard work and sacrifice and unflagging love. That's why all of us are here today - because of the women who came before us. Women who reached for the ballot and raised families and traveled those lonely roads to be the first ones in those boardrooms and courtrooms and battlefields and factory floors. Women like my friend Hillary Clinton who put those 18 million cracks in that glass ceiling so that my daughters - and all our sons and daughters - could dream a little bigger and reach a little higher.
Now it's our turn. It's our turn to make those sacrifices so the next generation doesn't have to. Our turn to open the doors of opportunity that our daughters and granddaughters will one day walk through. Our turn to fulfill the promise of this great nation that each of us - no matter what our background or where we come from - each of us has the chance to make it if we try.
That's what I think about whenever I get the chance to tuck my girls in at night. How I want them - and all our daughters - to have no limits on their dreams, no obstacles to their achievement, no goals beyond their reach. How I want them to have opportunities their mothers and grandmothers never could've imagined.
And I hope you'll join me. I hope you'll walk with me so that we can turn the page on the failed policies of the past. And if you'll make that commitment - if you'll knock on doors and make those calls and talk to your neighbors and give me your vote on November 4th, then together, we won't just win an election, we will transform this nation.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.