Return to Transcripts main page

CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Democratic National Convention

Aired September 4, 2012 - 22:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


GOV. MARTIN O'MALLEY (D), MARYLAND: We are moving America forward, not back. With 29 months in a row of private sector job growth, President Obama is moving America forward, not back. By making college more affordable for millions of middle class families, President Obama is moving America forward, not back. By securing the guarantee of Medicare for our seniors, President Obama is moving America forward, not back.

By putting forward a concrete plan to cut waste, ask those of us at the top to pay a little more and reduce our deficit, President Obama is moving America forward, not back.

And by adding American manufacturing jobs for the first time since the 1990s, President Obama is moving America forward, not back.

Facts are facts. No president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the Great Depression inherited a worse economy, bigger job losses or deeper problems from his predecessor.

But President Obama is moving America forward, not back.

And yet Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan now say they want to take America back. And we have to ask: Back to what? Back to the failed policies that drove us into this deep recession? Back to the days of record job losses? Back to the days when insurance companies called being a woman a preexisting condition?

No, thank you. I don't want to go back. Do you? Instead of a balanced, achievable plan to create jobs and reduce the deficit, Mitt Romney says -- puts forward a plan that would cut taxes for millionaires while raising them on the middle class.

Instead of improving public safety and public education like President Obama, Mitt Romney says we need less firefighters, teachers and police. Instead of safeguarding our seniors, Romney and Ryan would end the guarantee of Medicare and replace it with a voucher in order to give bigger tax breaks to billionaires.

Instead of investing in America, they hide their money in Swiss bank accounts and ship our jobs to China.

Swiss bank accounts never built an American bridge. Swiss bank accounts never put cops on the beat or teachers in our classrooms. Swiss bank accounts never created American jobs.

Governor Romney, just because you bank against the United States of America doesn't mean the rest of us are willing to sell her out. We are Americans.

We must act like Americans. We must move forward, not back. My parents, Tom and Barbara O'Malley, like so many of yours, were part of that great generation that won the Second World War. Dad flew 33 missions over Japan in a B-24 Liberator. He was able to go to college only because of the G.I. Bill.

Our parents taught us to love God, love our family and love our country. Their own grandparents were immigrants. Their first language may not have been English, but the hopes and dreams they had for their children were purely American.

You see, there is a powerful truth at the heart of the American dream: The stronger we make our country, the more she gives back to us, to our children and our grandchildren.

Our parents and grandparents understood this truth deeply. They believed -- as we do -- that to create jobs, a modern economy requires modern investments, educating, innovating and rebuilding for our children's future, building an economy to last, from the middle class up, not from the billionaires down.

Yes, we live in changing times. The question is: What type of change will we make of it? As we search for common ground and the way forward together, let's ask one another -- let's ask the leaders in the Republican party -- without any anger, meanness or fear: How much less, do you really think, would be good for our country? How much less education would be good for our children? How many hungry American kids can we no longer afford to feed?

Governor Romney, how many fewer college degrees would make us more competitive as a nation?

The future we seek is not a future of less opportunity. It is a future of more opportunity, more opportunity for all Americans.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

O'MALLEY: Close your eyes. See the faces of your parents and your great-grandparents. They did not cross an ocean, settle a continent, do hard, backbreaking work so their children and grandchildren could live in a country of less.

They came here because the United States of America is the greatest job-generating, opportunity-expanding country ever created by a free people in the history of civilization. And she still is.

Let us not be the first generation of Americans to give our children a country of less. Let us return to the urgent work of creating more jobs, more security and more opportunity for our people. And together, let's move forward, not back, by reelecting Barack Obama president of the United States.

God bless you all.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE) ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Listening to one of the many governors we have heard tonight going directly after Mitt Romney's record.

Listening to Governor Deval Patrick -- again we're waiting for the keynote speaker. We're obviously going to bring that to you live, as well as Michelle Obama's speech. Already, there's a lot of fact checkers pointing out unemployment under Governor Romney did drop 4.7 percent. Certainly, not something you heard in Deval Patrick's speech.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, apparently, I think the both losers this election somebody wrote are the fact checkers.

Both campaigns seem to be taking a few liberties. But there's this backwards focus on both campaigns. It's like two guys trying to make the other guy lose and nobody is trying to win this race. Somebody needs to step up and be Moses here and point to the future, say here is where the country can go. Here's what we can be. They're leaving a huge vacuum here, like I think the Republicans did last week.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Wouldn't the president fill that vacuum, though? Isn't that the president's job when he speaks?

(CROSSTALK)

CASTELLANOS: I think just like it was. But so far his campaign hasn't done that. His campaign says don't go back to Bush.

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Which is a very good point that they're making, but you're right, it's a three-act play here. This is act one.

But I got to tell you, you would expect me to say it, but I mean it, this is a pretty impressive act one. The speakers we had out there tonight have been really, really good speakers. And I think this Mayor Castro, who I don't know, I think he is going to tee it up pretty good too.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think this is a much, much better convention first night than what we saw Tampa.

They were hampered in Tampa by the coverage of the storm. It's really much easier to tell your story on television if you don't have the distraction. But the other thing is, I think they have gotten off to a very good start, but there's a disconnect between all of the talk here and 23 million people still looking for work, homes underwater, exploding deficit.

(CROSSTALK)

CASTELLANOS: Sixteen trillion in debt today. COOPER: Joaquin Castro, the brother of Julian Castro, who will give the keynote, is speaking. It's his twin brother. He's going to be introducing his brother. Let's listen to Joaquin Castro.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

JULIAN CASTRO (D), MAYOR OF SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

My fellow Democrats, my fellow Americans, my fellow Texans, I stand before you tonight as a young American, a proud American, of a generation born as the Cold War receded, shaped by the tragedy of 9/11, connected by the digital revolution and determined to reelect the man who will make the 21st century another American century, President Barack Obama.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CASTRO: The unlikely journey that brought me here tonight began many miles from this podium.

My brother Joaquin and I grew up with my mother, Rosie, and my grandmother, Victoria. My grandmother was an orphan. As a young girl, she had to leave her home in Mexico and move to San Antonio, where some relatives had agreed to take her in. She never made it past the fourth grade.

She had to drop out and start working to help her family. My grandmother spent her whole life working as a maid, a cook and a babysitter, barely scraping by, but still working hard to give my mother, her only child, a chance in life, so that my mother could give my brother and me an even better one.

As my grandmother got older, she begged my mother to give her grandchildren. She prayed to God for just one grandbaby before she died. You can imagine her excitement when she found out her prayers would be answered -- twice over.

She was so excited that the day before Joaquin and I were born, she entered a menudo cook-off, and she won $300. That's how she paid our hospital bill.

By the time Joaquin and I came along, this incredible woman had taught herself to read and write in both Spanish and English. I can still see her in the room that Joaquin and I shared with her, reading her Agatha Christie novels late into the night.

And I can still remember her, every morning as Joaquin and I walked out the front door to school, making the sign of the cross behind us, saying, "Que dios los bendiga." "May God bless you."

My grandmother didn't live to see us begin our lives in public service. But she probably would have thought it extraordinary that just two generations after she arrived in San Antonio, one grandson would be the mayor and the other would be on his way -- the good people of San Antonio willing -- to the United States Congress. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CASTRO: My family's story isn't special.

What's special is the America that makes our story possible. Ours is a nation like no other, a place where great journeys can be made in a single generation. No matter who you are or where you come from, the path is always forward.

America didn't become the land of opportunity by accident. My grandmother's generation and generations before always saw beyond the horizons of their own lives and their own circumstances. They believed that opportunity created today would lead to prosperity tomorrow.

That's the country they envisioned, and that's the country they helped build. The roads and bridges they built, the schools and universities they created, the rights they fought for and won -- these opened the doors to a decent job, a secure retirement, the chance for your children to do better than you did.

And that's the middle class -- the engine of our economic growth. With hard work, everybody ought to be able to get there. And with hard work, everybody ought to be able to stay there -- and go beyond. The dream of raising a family in a place where hard work is rewarded is not unique to Americans. It's a human dream, one that calls across oceans and borders. The dream is universal, but America makes it possible. And our investment in opportunity makes it a reality.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CASTRO: Now, in Texas, we believe in the rugged individual. Texas may be the one place where people actually still have bootstraps, and we expect folks to pull themselves up by them.

But we also recognize that there are some things we can't do alone. We have to come together and invest in opportunity today for prosperity tomorrow.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CASTRO: And it starts with education. Twenty years ago, Joaquin and I left home for college and then for law school.

In those classrooms, we met some of the brightest folks in the world. But at the end of our days there, I couldn't help but to think back to my classmates at Thomas Jefferson High School in San Antonio. They had the same talent, the same brains, the same dreams as the folks we sat with at Stanford and Harvard. I realized the difference wasn't one of intelligence or drive. The difference was opportunity.

In my city of San Antonio, we get that. So we're working to ensure that more 4-year-olds have access to pre-K. We opened Cafe College, where students get help with everything from test prep to financial aid paperwork. We know that you can't be pro-business unless you're pro-education. We know that pre-K and student loans aren't charity. They're a smart investment in a work force that can fill and create the jobs of tomorrow. We're investing in our young minds today to be competitive in the global economy tomorrow.

And it's paying off. Last year the Milken Institute ranked San Antonio as the nation's top performing local economy. And we're only getting started. Opportunity today, prosperity tomorrow.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CASTRO: Now, like many of you, I watched last week's Republican Convention. And they told a few stories of individual success. We all celebrate individual success. But the question is, how do we multiply that success? The answer is President Barack Obama.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CASTRO: Mitt Romney, quite simply, doesn't get it.

A few months ago, he visited a university in Ohio and gave the students there a little entrepreneurial advice. "Start a business," he said. But how? "Borrow money if you have to from your parents," he told them.

(LAUGHTER)

CASTRO: Gee, why didn't I think of that?

(LAUGHTER)

CASTRO: Some people are lucky enough to borrow money from their parents, but that shouldn't determine whether you can pursue your dreams, not in America, not here, not here in the 21st century.

I don't think Governor Romney meant any harm. I think he's a good guy. He just has no idea how good he's had it.

We know that in our free market economy, some will prosper more than others. What we don't accept is the idea that some folks won't even get a chance. And the thing is, Mitt Romney and the Republican Party are perfectly comfortable with that America. In fact, that's exactly what they're promising us.

The Romney-Ryan budget doesn't just cut public education, cut Medicare, cut transportation and cut job training.

It doesn't just pummel the middle class -- it dismantles it. It dismantles what generations before have built to ensure that everybody can enter and stay in the middle class. When it comes to getting the middle class back to work, Mitt Romney says, "No."

When it comes to respecting women's rights, Mitt Romney says, "No."

When it comes to letting people love who they love and marry who they love, Mitt Romney says, "No."

When it comes to expanding access to good health care, Mitt Romney...

CROWD: Says, "No."

CASTRO: Actually, actually, actually, actually, Mitt Romney said, "Yes," and now he says, "No."

Governor Romney has undergone an extreme makeover, and it ain't pretty. So here's what we're going to say to Mitt Romney in November. We're going to say, "No."

Of all the fictions we heard last week in Tampa, the one I find most troubling is this: If we all just go our own way, our nation will be stronger for it.

Because if we sever the threads that connect us, the only people who will go far are those who are already ahead. We all understand that freedom isn't free. What Romney and Ryan don't understand is that neither is opportunity. We have to invest in it.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CASTRO: Republicans tell us that if the most prosperous among us do even better, that somehow the rest of us will too.

Folks, we've heard that before. First they called it "trickle- down." Then they called it "supply-side." Now it's "Romney-Ryan." Or is it "Ryan-Romney"? Either way, their theory has been tested. It failed. Our economy failed. The middle class paid the price. Your family paid the price.

Mitt Romney just doesn't get it.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CASTRO: But Barack Obama gets it. He understands that when we invest in people, we're investing in our shared prosperity. And when we neglect that responsibility, we risk our promise as a nation.

Just a few years ago, families that had never asked for anything found themselves at risk of losing everything. And the dream my grandmother held, that work would be rewarded, that the middle class would be there, if not for her, then for her children -- that dream was being crushed.

But then President Obama took office -- and he took action. When Detroit was in trouble, President Obama saved the auto industry and saved a million jobs.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CASTRO: Seven presidents before him -- Republicans and Democrats -- tried to expand health care to all Americans. President Obama got it done. He made a historic investment to lift our nation's public schools and expanded Pell Grants so that more young people can afford college. And because he knows that we don't have an ounce of talent to waste, the president took action to lift the shadow of deportation from a generation of young, law-abiding immigrants called dreamers.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CASTRO: Now it's time for Congress to enshrine in law their right to pursue their dreams in the only place they've ever called home, America.

Four years ago, America stood on the brink of a depression. Despite incredible odds and united Republican opposition, our president took action, and now we've seen 4.5 million new jobs. He knows better than anyone that there's more hard work to do, but we're making progress. And now we need to make a choice.

It's a choice between a country where the middle class pays more so that millionaires can pay less -- or a country where everybody pays their fair share, so we can reduce the deficit and create the jobs of the future. It's a choice between a nation that slashes funding for our schools and guts Pell Grants -- or a nation that invests more in education.

And it's a choice between a politician who rewards companies that ship American jobs overseas or a leader who brings jobs back home.

This is the choice before us. And to me, to my generation and for all the generations to come, our choice is clear. Our choice is a man who's always chosen us, a man who already is our president, Barack Obama.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CASTRO: In the end, the American dream is not a sprint, or even a marathon, but a relay.

Our families don't always cross the finish line in the span of one generation. But each generation passes on to the next the fruits of their labor. My grandmother never owned a house. She cleaned other people's houses so she could afford to rent her own.

But she saw her daughter become the first in her family to graduate from college. And my mother fought hard for civil rights so that instead of a mop, I could hold this microphone.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CASTRO: And while she may be proud of me tonight, I have got to tell you, mom, I'm even more proud of you.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CASTRO: Thank you.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CASTRO: Today -- today, my beautiful wife, Erica, and I are the proud parents of a 3-year-old little girl, Carina Victoria, named after my grandmother.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CASTRO: A couple of Mondays ago was her first day of pre-K. And as we dropped her off, we walked out of the classroom, and I found myself whispering to her, as was once whispered to me, "Que dios te bendiga." "May God bless you."

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CASTRO: She's still young, and her dreams are far off yet, but I hope she'll reach them.

As a dad, I'm going to do my part, and I know she'll do hers. But our responsibility as a nation is to come together and do our part, as one community, one United States of America, to ensure opportunity for all of our children.

The days we live in are not easy ones, but we have seen days like this before, and America prevailed. With the wisdom of our founders and the values of our families, America prevailed. With each generation going further than the last, America prevailed. And with the opportunity we build today for a shared prosperity tomorrow, America will prevail.

It begins with reelecting Barack Obama. It begins with you. It begins now. Que dios los bendiga. May God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

CASTRO: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: The beautiful thing about being first lady is that I have the privilege of meeting folks from different backgrounds and hearing what's going on in their lives.

I know that when our men and women in uniform are called to serve, their families serve right alongside them.

We are trying to end the epidemic of childhood obesity in a generation.

When the world is swirling around you, and you're faced with tough challenges, if your family is good, you're good. If any family in this country struggles, then we cannot be fully content with our own family's good fortune, because that is not what we do in this country. That is not who we are. That is not who we are.

CRAIG ROBINSON, BROTHER OF MICHELLE OBAMA: Our house growing up was extremely modest. I remember our bedroom being formally the living room that my parents had divided using paneling.

M. OBAMA: It basically carved the room out into two small rooms that were small enough for a twin bedroom and a desk. A special treat was that we could sleep out on the back porch when things got hot.

MARIAN ROBINSON, MOTHER OF MICHELLE OBAMA: As far as where we lived, that just wasn't an issue. I was raised to have fun where we were with what we had, and it seemed like it was OK.

C. ROBINSON: Neither one of our parents went to college. But with a lot of love, a lot of caring, we were afforded an opportunity to go to college.

M. ROBINSON: We didn't say, you should be a lawyer or you should be a schoolteacher. It was, you should get an education.

C. ROBINSON: We had to take out student loans in order to pay for those.

M. OBAMA: I know now how much my father had to work and struggle, because he had to take out loans to cover his portion of our tuition.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He understood his responsibilities, that despite this hardship, despite his challenges, he was going to be there for his kids. Always. No matter what.

MARIAN ROBINSON, MICHELLE OBAMA'S MOTHER: My husband did not feel like (UNINTELLIGIBLE). He would bounce out of bed and almost sing his way out of the door to work, on crutches. And that was sort of rip me up. And I'm sure that did the same thing for the kids.

M. OBAMA: We did a lot of laughing in our household, and all of that happened in those few little rooms.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Michelle Obama now stepping into America's most traditional role. The full-time, non-paying, multi-dimensional job of first lady.

VALERIE JARRETT, LONGTIME FRIEND: Part of what makes her extraordinary is that she has been able to continue to be down-to- earth even as the first lady. I mean, she's just Michelle.

DR. JILL BIDEN, SECOND LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Our friendship developed, I think, because we both have an interest in military families. When I met Michelle, she said, "What do you think would be the issue that you're most interested in?"

And I said, "Military families."

M. OBAMA: And I said to Jill, I said, "That's what I'd like to do." And that's where it all began.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've done three tours. It's meant a lot to our family during some difficult times just to know that there are folks in the White House going in the same direction with us. BIDEN: Whether it be helping homeless veterans through employment, trying to incorporate the military culture into the school systems, helping spouses find jobs, let's all come together.

LISA MARIE FAMILA, WIFE OF DEPLOYED AIRBORNE OFFICER: She genuinely seems to care and wants to know what military families are going through so they can make changes on a national level.

M. OBAMA: You all don't even ask for much, you know? So we should be able to step up in whatever way we can.

One percent of the country is serving to protect the freedoms of the other 99 percent of us. So my view is that there's a lot more that we can be doing for them to make that service and sacrifice a little easier.

JARRETT: She's so good with young people and she sees herself in them. She treats the young children just the way she treats her own kids. So they look at her as their mom, because she is a mother.

C. ROBINSON: It's a natural for me to see her getting the nations' kids out there exercising and moving around.

M. OBAMA: The best way to take care of yourself is to own your health. To eat better, exercise more.

KAREN DUNCAN, KABOOM NONPROFIT PLAYGROUND: It's about the whole child. It's about understanding how a child develops and how we can best put a child in a position to be successful. And she wanted it to be fun and to come up with "Let's Move," it has such a great name. "Let's Move" is something we do together.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is a strong woman, physically obviously we all saw. Poor Jimmy Fallon.

ELLEN DEGENERES, TALK SHOW HOST: I was just wondering if you can do more push-ups than I can do. And I thought it wouldn't be good to show off the first lady, so I stopped.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've seen lead by example, get right into it, pull up your sleeves, hula hooping, jump-roping first lady, and I think that's what we need.

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, CBS'S "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Hello Mrs. Obama.

M. OBAMA: Hey, Dave.

LETTERMAN: And the No. 1 fun fact about gardening.

M. OBAMA: With enough care and effort, you can grow your own Barack-oli.

LETTERMAN: Wow, look at this.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We worked hard (ph) on it. And we harvest it. So healthy food.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of carrots.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Peas.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She encouraged us to exercise more and to eat healthier.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You really are a wonderful woman.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you're the perfect wife for Obama.

B. OBAMA: I'm Barack Obama, and this is my wife, Michelle.

M. OBAMA: Hey. I'm his date.

JARRETT: Family is everything. I think there's nothing more important to her than her children and her marriage and her mom and making sure that that all works well together.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She was very clear. Mom in chief. I heard it. You heard it. She came in with a very clear "We're going to make sure our kids are OK."

B. OBAMA: I think every parent thinks their kids are fabulous and remarkable and special. And my kids are fabulous and remarkable and special. And the reason they are is because of Michelle. I always say that in our household, she's the conductor and I'm second fiddle.

M. OBAMA: You know, Barack always gives me so much credit for who our girls have become, but our girls wouldn't be who they are without a man in their life who loves them deeply.

B. OBAMA: What I love about my wife is that she knows what's important. She knows that the best and most important legacy of anybody's life is making sure that your kids turn out all right. They have good values, they're kind, they're caring. And what's very gratifying to me is that I know the girls at this point are going to be fine, because they've got the best mom in the world.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Please welcome Elaine Brye from Winona, Ohio.

ELAINE BRYE, MILITARY MOM: Wow. What's a mom like me doing in a place like this? I'm not even a political person. But what I am is a military mom. My husband and I are so proud of our five kids. One each in the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Marines. Our youngest is still in high school and yes, we are hoping he will join the Coast Guard.

They are Mom's most precious treasures. And I don't know when I'm going to get them together again, because one of them is always deploying. But because of Dr. Biden and the first lady, our lives are a little bit easier. Along with President Obama, they have made helping military families a top priority. They've brought together the American people, including thousands of businesses, to become part of a nationwide support network. It is honor and respect in action. And it warms this mother's heart.

Last December I wrote Michelle Obama a Christmas card, just a mom-to-mom note to say thank you for caring. The first lady not only read my letter; she invited my husband and I to the White House. It was an amazing experience.

But what's even more amazing is knowing that our commander in chief and first lady are thinking about families like mine every single day.

So, like I said, I'm not a political person, but I'm a mom. And if someone is there for my family and families like mine, then I'll be there for them. That's why I am so proud to introduce my fellow mom and our first lady, Michelle Obama.

(MUSIC: "SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED")

M. OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you so much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

M. OBAMA: With your help -- with your help. Let me start -- I want to start by thanking Elaine. Elaine, thank you so much. We are so grateful for your family's service and sacrifice, and we will always have your back.

Over the past few years as first lady, I have had the extraordinary privilege of traveling all across this country. And everywhere I've gone and the people I've met and the stories I've heard, I have seen the very best of the American spirit.

I have seen it in the incredible kindness and warmth that people have shown me and my family, especially our girls. I've seen it in teachers in a near-bankrupt school district who vowed to keep teaching without pay. I've seen it in people who become heroes at a moment's notice, diving into harm's way to save others, flying across the country to put out a fire, driving for hours to bail out a flooded town.

And I've seen it in our men and woman in uniform and our proud military families. In wounded warriors who tell me they're not just going to walk again, they're going to run, and they're going to run marathons. In the young man blinded by a bomb in Afghanistan who said simply, "I'd give my eyes 100 times again to have the chance to do what I have done and what I can still do."

Every day, the people I meet inspire me. Every day they make me proud. Every day they remind me how blessed we are to live in the greatest nation on earth.

Serving as your first lady is an honor and a privilege. But back when we first came together four years ago, I still had some concerns about this journey we'd begun. While I believed deeply in my husband's vision for this country and I was certain he would make an extraordinary president, like any mother, I was worried about what it would mean for our girls if he got that chance. How would we keep them grounded under the glare of the national spotlight? How would they feel being uprooted from their school, their friends and the only home they'd ever known?

See, our life before moving to Washington was filled with simple joys. Saturdays at soccer games, Sundays at Grandma's house, and a date night for Barack and me was either dinner or a movie, because as an exhausted mom, I couldn't stay awake for both. And the truth is, I loved the life we had built for our girls. And I deeply love the man I had built that life with, and I didn't want that to change if he became president. I loved Barack just the way he was.

You see, even back then, when Barack was a senator and a presidential candidate, to me he was still the guy who picked me up for our dates in a car that was so rusted out, I could actually see the pavement going by in a hole in the passenger side door. He was the guy whose proudest possession was a coffee table he found in a Dumpster. And whose only pair of decent shoes was a half size too small.

But when Barack started telling me about his family, see, now, that's when I knew I'd found a kindred spirit, someone whose values and upbringing were so much like mine. You see, Barack and I were both raised by families who didn't have much in the ways of money or material possessions but who had given us something far more valuable. Their unconditional love, their unflinching sacrifice and the chance to go places they had never imagined for themselves.

My father was a pump operator at the city water plant, and he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when my brother and I were young. And even as a kid, I knew there were plenty of days when he was in pain, and I knew there were plenty of mornings when it was a struggle for him to simply get out of bed.

But every morning, I watched my father wake up with a smile, grab his walker, prop himself up against the bathroom sink and showily shave and button his uniform. And when he returned home after a long day's work, my brother and I would -- would stand at the top of the stairs of our little apartment, patiently waiting to greet him, watching as he reached down to lift one leg and then the other to slowly climb his way into our arms. But despite these challenges, my dad hardly ever missed a day of work.

He and my mom were determined to give me and my brother the kind of education they could only dream of. And when my brother and I finally made it to college, nearly all of our tuition came from student loans and grants, but my dad still had to pay a tiny portion of that tuition himself. And every semester he was determined to pay that bill right on time, even taking out loans when he fell short. He was so proud to be sending his kids to college. And he made sure we never missed a registration deadline, because his check was late.

You see, for my dad, that's what it meant to be a man. Like so many of us, that was the measure of his success in life. Being able to earn a decent living that allowed him to support his family.

And as I got to know Barack, I realized that, even though he had grown up all the way across the country, he'd been brought up just like me. Barack was raised by a single mom who struggled to pay the bills and by grandparents who stepped in when she needed help.

Barack's grandmother started out as a secretary at a community bank, and she moved quickly up the ranks. But like so many women, she hit a glass ceiling. And for years, men no more qualified than she was, men she had actually trained, were promoted up the ladder ahead of her, earning more and more money while Barack's family continued to scrape by.

But day after day, she kept on waking up at dawn to catch the bus, arriving at work before anyone else, giving her best without complaint or regret. And she would often tell Barack, "So long as you kids do well, Bear, that's all that really matters."

Like so many American families, our families weren't asking for much. They didn't begrudge anyone else's success or care that anyone else had much more than they did. In fact, they admired it. They simply believed in that fundamental American promise. That even if you don't start with much, if you work hard and do what you're supposed to do, you should be able to build a decent life for yourself and an even better life for your kids and grandkids. That's how they raised us.

That's what we learned from their example. We learned about dignity and decency. That how hard you work matters more than how much you make. We learned about honesty and integrity. That the truth matters. That you don't take shortcuts. Or play by your own set of rules. And success doesn't count, unless you earn it fair and square. We learned about gratitude and humility. That so many people had a hand in our success: from the teachers who inspired us to the janitors who kept our school clean. And we were taught to value everyone's contribution and treat everyone with respect.

Those are the values that Barack and I and so many of you are trying to pass on to our own children. That's who we are. And standing before you four years ago, I knew that I didn't want any of that to change if Barack became president.

Well, today, after so many struggles and triumphs and moments that have tested my husband in ways I never could have imagined, I have seen firsthand that being president doesn't change who you are. No. It reveals who you are. You see, I've gotten to see up close and personal what being president really looks like. And I've seen how the issues that come across a president's desk are always the hard ones. You know, the problems where no amount of data or numbers will get you to the right answer. The judgment calls where the stakes are so high and there is no margin for error.

And as president, you're going to get all kinds of advice from all kinds of people. But at the end of the day when it comes time to make that decision as president, all you have to guide you are your values and your vision and the life experiences that make you who you are.

So when it comes to rebuilding our economy, Barack is thinking about folks like my dad and his grandmother. He's thinking about the pride that comes from a hard day's work. That's why he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to help women get equal pay for equal work. That's why he cut taxes for working families and small businesses and fought to get the auto industry back on its feet. That's how he brought our economy from the brink of collapse to creating jobs again, jobs you can raise a family on, good jobs, right here in the United States of America.

When it comes to the health of our families, Barack refused to listen to all those folks who told him to leave health reform for another day, another president. He didn't care whether it was the easy thing to do politically. No, that's not how he was raised. He cared that it was the right thing to do.

He did it because he believes that, here in America, our grandparents should be able to afford their medicine. Our kids should be able to see a doctor when they're sick, and no one in this country should ever go broke because of an accident or an illness. And he believes that women are more than capable of making our own choices about our bodies and our health care. That's what my husband stands for.

When it comes to giving our kids the education they deserve, Barack knows that, like me and like so many of you, he never could have attended college without financial aid. And believe it or not, when we were first married, our combined monthly student loan bill was actually higher than our mortgage. Yes, we were so young, so in love and so in debt.

And that's why Barack has fought so hard to increase student aid and keep interest rates down. Because he wants every young person to fulfill their promise and be able to attend college without a mountain of debt.

So in the end, for Barack, these issues aren't political. They're personal. Because Barack knows what it means when a family struggles. He knows what it means to want something more for your kids and grandkids. Barack knows the American dream because he's lived it. And he wants everyone in this country, everyone to have the same opportunity, no matter who we are or where we're from or what we look like or who we love. And he believes that, when you've worked hard and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. No. You reach back, and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.

So when people ask me whether being in the White House has changed my husband, I can honestly say that, when it comes to his character and his convictions and his heart, Barack Obama is still the same man I fell in love with all those years ago. Yes. He's the same man who started his career by turning down high-paying jobs and instead working in struggling neighborhoods where a steel plant had shut down, fighting to rebuild those communities and get folks back to work. Because for Barack, success isn't about how much money you make. It's about the difference you make in people's lives.

He's the same man -- he's the same man, when our girls were first born, would anxiously check their cribs every few minutes to ensure that they were still breathing, proudly showing them off to everyone we knew.

You see, that's the man who sits down with me and our girls for dinner nearly every night, patiently answering questions about issues in the news, strategizing about middle-school friendships.

That's the man I see in these quiet moments late at night, hunched over his desk, poring over the letters people have sent him. The letter from the father struggling to pay his bills. From the woman dying of cancer whose insurance company won't cover her care. From the young people with so much promise but so few opportunities.

And I see the concern in his eyes. And I hear the determination in his voice as he tells me, "You won't believe what these folks are going through, Michelle. It's not right. We've got to keep working to fix this. We've got so much more to do."

I see -- I see how those stories...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!

M. OBAMA: I see how those stories, our collections of struggles and hopes and dreams, I see how that's what drives Barack Obama every single day.

And I didn't think that it was possible, but let me tell you today I love my husband even more than I did four years ago, even more than I did 23 years ago when we first met. Let me tell you why.

See, I love that he has never forgotten how he started. I love that we can trust Barack to do what he says he's going to do, even when it's hard. Especially when it's hard. I love that for Barack there is no such thing as us and them. He doesn't care whether you're a Democrat or Republican or none of the above. He knows that we all love our country, and he is always ready to listen to good ideas. He's always looking for the very best in everyone he meets.

And I love that, even in the toughest moments when we're all sweating it, when we're worried that the bill won't pass and it seems like all is lost, see, Barack, never lets himself get distracted by the chatter and the noise. No. Just like his grandmother, he just keeps getting up and moving forward with patience and wisdom and courage and grace.

And he reminds me -- he reminds me that we are playing a long game here. And that change is hard. And change is slow, and it never happens all at once, but eventually we get there. We always do. We get there because of folks like my dad. Folks like Barack's grandmother. Men and woman who said to themselves, "I may not have a chance to fulfill my dreams, but maybe my children will. Maybe my grandchildren will."

See, so many of us stand here tonight because of their sacrifice and longing and steadfast love because time and again they swallowed their fears and doubts and did what was hard.

So today, when the challenges we face start to seem overwhelming or even impossible, let us never forget that doing the impossible is the history of this nation.

OBAMA: It is who we are as Americans. It is how this country was built.

(APPLAUSE)

And -- and if -- if our parents and grandparents could toil -- and -- and struggle for us, you know if they could raise beams of steel to the sky, send a man to the moon, connect the world with a touch of a button, then surely, we can keep on sacrificing and building for our own kids and grandkids, right?

AUDIENCE: Yes.

OBAMA: And if so many brave men and women could sacrifice their lives for our most fundamental rights, then surely we can do our parts as citizens of this great democracy to exercise those rights. Surely we can get to the polls on a election day and make our voices heard.

(APPLAUSE)

If -- if farmers and -- and blacksmiths could win an independence from an empire, if -- if immigrants could leave behind every, if women can be dragged to jail for seeking to vote, if a generation could defeat a depression and define greatness for all time, if a young preacher could lift us to the mountain top with his righteous dream, and if proud Americans can be who they are and boldly stand at the altar with who they love, then surely, surely, we can give everyone in this country a fair chance at that great American dream. (APPLAUSE)

Because in the end -- in the end, more than anything else, that is the story of this country. The story of unwavering hope grounded in unyielding struggle. That is what has made my story and Barack's story and -- and so many American stories possible. And let me tell you something, I say all of this tonight, not just as a first lady, no, not just as a wife. You see, at the end of the day, my most important title is still mom-in-chief.

(APPLAUSE)

My -- my -- my daughters are -- are still at the heart of my heart and the center of my world. But, let me tell you, today, I have none of those worries from four years ago, no. Not about whether Barack and I were doing what was best for our girls. Because today, I know from experience that if I truly want to leave a better world for my daughters, and for all of our sons and daughters, if -- if we want to give all of our children a foundation for their dreams, and opportunities worthy of their promise, if we want to give them a sense of that limitless possibility, their belief that here in America, there is always something better out there if you are willing to work for it, then we must work like never before, and we must once again come together, and stand together for the man we can trust to keep moving this great country forward.

(APPLAUSE)

My husband, our president, Barack Obama.

Thank you. God bless you, and God bless America.

(APPLAUSE)