Full text of Michelle Obama’s ‘closing argument’ speech where she makes a final argument for Americans to support Joe Biden. The speech was premiered on October 6, 2020.
Michelle Obama – Former First Lady of the United States
Believe it or not, the election is right around the corner. Votes are already being cast. And if you’re still deciding who to vote for or whether to vote at all, I wanted to take a moment to remind you what’s at stake and to urge you to make a plan to vote today.
Because let’s be honest, right now our country is in chaos because of a president who isn’t up to the job. If we want to regain any kind of stability, we’ve got to ensure that every eligible voter is informed and engaged in this election.
Because the stakes are on display every day, not just in the headlines, but in our families. If you’re a parent like me, you’re feeling the consequences of this president’s failure to take this pandemic seriously. From his constant downplaying of the importance of masks and social distancing, to his relentless pressure on schools to open without offering a clear plan or meaningful support to keep students and teachers safe.
Look, our daughters are in college now, and luckily, they’re taking classes from home this semester. But in just a few weeks since schools have resumed, many of their friends who returned to campus have either tested positive or are living with someone who has.
Yes, it’s anecdotal, of course, and everybody wants their kids back in school as soon as it’s safe. But as a mom, it is frightening thinking about all these young people who were just our babies yesterday, quarantined alone in dorms or apartments with little or no support as the disease continues to spread, unable to come home if their symptoms get worse.
Just imagine the toll that worry is taking on families across this country. Yes, thankfully there’s some relief in knowing that most cases in young people are mild and I pray every day that no one faces longer-term consequences to this disease.
But the truth is we just don’t know yet, and we simply cannot trust this president to tell us the truth about anything.
Meanwhile, parents with younger kids are dealing with another set of stresses, from grade-schoolers who want to learn but struggle to connect with their teacher through a screen, to schools that open and close with little advance notice, leaving everyone in an endless cycle of uncertainty.
Too many parents are still juggling two jobs and multiple kids without any support, not to mention the millions of families anxious about making rent or getting internet access or affording childcare.
It’s painful to think that months into this crisis, this is still where we are with no clear plan, no peace of mind. And the worst part is it didn’t have to be like this.
Look around the world. So many other countries aren’t experiencing this level of extended suffering and uncertainty. These countries were hit by the same viruses we were. They have the same kind of resources to contain it as we did, but what they didn’t have to contend with was this president. A man who had every resource at his disposal, the finest medical experts, our best intelligence, and yet ignored all the advice and failed to produce a plan to provide enough tests for worried families or protective equipment for our healthcare workers.
A man who knew how deadly this virus is, but who lied to us and told us it would just disappear. Who in the greatest crisis of our lifetimes doubled down on division and resentment, railed against measures that could have mitigated the damage and continues to hold massive events without requiring masks or social distancing, knowingly exposing his own supporters to a dangerous virus.
Today, more Americans have died from this virus than died in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam and Korea combined. Take all those lives bravely sacrificed and double it. That is roughly the scale of this tragedy and our Commander-in-Chief, sadly, has been missing in action and his willful mismanagement of the COVID crisis is just one example of his negligence.
When wildfires rage out west, he says nothing for weeks. When Americans of all backgrounds peacefully protest racism and police violence, he disparages them, yet eggs on heavily armed militias. When our heroic young men and women answer the call and give their lives for our country, he calls them suckers and losers and publicly mocks Gold Star families and prisoners of war. All this from someone who, as a wealthy, connected young man avoided military service.
With millions and millions of Americans left reeling from the worst job losses in recent history, with small businesses closing their doors for good, he and his party dragged their feet to provide necessary relief for people whose lives have been decimated under his watch.
Seven months later, he still doesn’t have a plan for this virus. Seven months later, he still won’t wear a mask consistently and encourage others to do the same, even when those simple actions could save countless lives. Instead, he continues to gaslight the American people by acting like this pandemic is not a real threat.
And yet, even in the face of all this incompetence, Americans keep digging deeper, finding new reserves of strength, doing whatever it takes to get through this. That’s one of the beautiful things that has given me hope over the past four years, our country’s resilience. From the essential workers keeping us safe, to the doctors and nurses caring for our loved ones, to the teachers and childcare workers doing everything they can for our kids.
Americans have stepped up to answer the call. It’s not too much to ask our leaders to rise to the occasion as well.
Thankfully, we have the chance to elect a president who can meet this moment, a leader who has the character and the experience to put an end to this chaos, start solving these problems and help lighten the load for families all across the country, and that leader is Joe Biden.
After seeing the presidency up close for eight years, maybe the most important thing I’ve learned about the job is this: how a president focuses their time and energy in office is a direct reflection of the life they’ve lived before entering the White House.
A president’s policies are a direct reflection of their values and we’re seeing that truth on display with our current president who has devoted his life to enriching himself, his family and other wealthy people he truly understands, cutting taxes for the rich and big corporations, cutting regulations that protect regular families from getting taken advantage of by people like him, cutting his friends loose from prison time.
He boasts about gains in the stock market, but when you look at the lives of regular folks, whether it’s creating blue-collar jobs, making healthcare more affordable, protecting the environment, keeping our family safe from gun violence, let alone the coronavirus, there’s nothing much to brag about.
By contrast, Joe Biden has lived his life guided by values and principles that mirror ones that most Americans can recognize. I know Joe. He is a good man who understands the struggles of everyday folks. When he was a kid, his dad lost his job. His family had to move to find work.
As a young man, he quit his job at a lucrative law firm to serve as a public defender protecting the rights of those who couldn’t defend themselves. He continued to serve this country, even in the face of unimaginable tragedy, losing his wife and baby daughter, later in his life, his eldest son. Relying on his deep faith in God to carry him through, never growing cynical and always willing to see the humanity in us all.
It is that spirit, that determination that will make Joe the kind of president we need right now, one who will continue to put the needs of the country before his own to ensure that all families can get back on their feet and our economy can get back on track.
And he’ll start by getting this virus under control, working with a broad coalition of leaders to develop a national strategy that will include mandatory mask wearing and free testing. He’ll get schools the resources they need to sort through this confusion. He will listen to doctors and scientists to make sure that any vaccine will be safe, effective and available to everyone.
And Joe Biden will also get back to work solving problems that this president has ignored or made worse these past four years. Joe will give working families a tax credit for childcare. He’ll roll back those tax cuts for the rich and instead help small businesses and working families. He’ll lower the cost of prescription drugs and give every American access to affordable health coverage.
He’ll work to restore trust between police and communities of color and address the racial discrimination that has plagued us for far too long. He will protect our planet. He will invest in our schools and bring people together to get something done, even across our differences.
We can trust Joe Biden to name Supreme Court justices who follow in the footsteps of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Judges who understand that justice and equality aren’t theoretical ideas, but concrete matters that affect our healthcare, our livelihoods and our bodies.
This is the kind of leader our nation deserves, a leader who is tested and ready to dive right in, a leader who will lock arms with his terrific running mate, Kamala Harris, and bring us out of this downward spiral. A leader who will help heal this nation, and instead of tearing people apart, he will bring people together. It’s a simple choice, really. A chance for a fresh start or four more years of this.
But let’s be very real, America is divided right now and a lot of people are being sold lies from those who want to get rich or stay in power or sometimes both.
And as I’ve said before, we must all empathize with those who might not look like us or vote like us. We have got to put ourselves in one another’s shoes.
Look, think about it. You’ve worked hard all your life and for too long you’ve watched the rich get richer. You’ve lost your farms and your livelihoods to corporate greed. You’ve seen your beloved towns shattered by joblessness. You’ve watched families destroyed by drug addiction and mental health challenges, all of this long before this virus hit.
And it is frustrating to hear some folks say that you’ve been the beneficiary of privilege, that the color of your skin gives you a headstart. That is the reality for far too many hardworking decent Americans.
But right now, the President and his allies are trying to tap into that frustration and distract from his breathtaking failures by giving folks someone to blame other than them. They’re stoking fears about Black and Brown Americans, lying about how minorities will destroy the suburbs, whipping up violence and intimidation and they’re pinning it all on what’s been an overwhelmingly peaceful movement for racial solidarity. It’s true, research backs it up. Only a tiny fraction of demonstrations have had any violence at all.
So, what the president is doing is, once again, patently false. It’s morally wrong and yes, it is racist, but that doesn’t mean it won’t work. Because this is a difficult time, a confusing time and when people hear these lies and crazy conspiracies repeated over and over and over again, they don’t know what to think.
With everything going on in their lives, they don’t have time to fact-check falsehoods being spread throughout the internet and even reasonable people might get scared. And the one thing this president is really, really good at is using fear and confusion and spreading lies to win.
Look, I get it, but I also feel it. As a black woman who has, like the overwhelming majority of people of color in this nation, done everything in my power to live a life of dignity and service and honesty. The knowledge that any of my fellow Americans is more afraid of me than the chaos we are living through right now, well, that hurts. It hurts us all. It is a heaviness that sits on our hearts.
So, I want to appeal for some empathy here too. I want everyone who is still undecided to think about all those folks like me and my ancestors, the moms and dads who worked their fingers to the bone to raise their kids right, the teenagers who wear hoodies while working hard to get their diplomas, the millions of folks who look like me and fought and died and toiled as slaves and soldiers and laborers to help build this country.
Put yourselves in our shoes for just a moment. Imagine how it feels to wake up every day and do your very best to uphold the values that this country claims to hold dear: truth, honor, decency, only to have those efforts met by scorn, not just by your fellow citizens, but by a sitting president.
Imagine how it feels to have suspicion cast on you from the day you were born, simply because of the hue of your skin, to walk around your own country scared that someone’s unjustified fear of you could put you in harm’s way, terrified of what four more years of this kind of division might mean for the safety of you and those you love.
Living with the knowledge that no matter how hard we try, how much good we do in the world, there will be far too many who will never see our humanity, who will project on us their own fears of retribution for centuries of injustice and thus only see us as a threat to be restrained.
We know what happens next, a racial slur from a passing car, a job promotion that never comes, a routine traffic stop gone wrong, maybe a knee to the neck. Racism, fear, division, these are powerful weapons and they can destroy this nation if we don’t deal with them head on.
So, I want to ask every single American, no matter what party you normally vote for, to please take a moment to pause. Click off the news. Think about how you felt over these last four years, how quickly things have turned and then think about what next four years could mean for our country’s future, the message we will send to our children about who we are and what we truly value.
Think about what would possibly compel you to accept this level of chaos, violence, and confusion under this president and be willing to watch our country continue to spiral out of control. Because we can no longer pretend that we don’t know exactly who and what this president stands for.
Search your hearts and your conscience and then vote for Joe Biden like your lives depend on it. Look, you all know that politics has never been my thing, but to all the young people out there, to all the Black and Brown folks, to anyone who feels frustrated and alienated by this whole system, I get it. I really do.
But in the face of all of the frustration and alienation I’ve experienced throughout my life, never once have I considered not voting as a viable option. Not once have I thought about foregoing a right and privilege that so many before me fought and died for. Not once have I let someone else’s ignorance and hatred keep me from doing my duty as a citizen, because I know we don’t have the luxury to assume that things are going to turn out okay.
We cannot afford to withhold our votes or waste them on a protest candidate.
One of these two men will be president and only if we vote for Joe Biden with power and with passion, will our voices even have a chance at being heard. Because folks who are perfectly content with the status quo, who are quite happy with what’s been going on these past four years, trust me, whether they say it out loud or not, they will vote too.
So, we can expect that this election will be won by the slimmest of margins, just like four years ago. A handful of votes per precinct in Pennsylvania, or Arizona, or Wisconsin, or Florida, or anywhere else will make all the difference. So, we have got to make our plan to vote this instant.
We’ve got to vote early so we have the peace of mind to know that our vote for Joe Biden is in the bank. We’ve got to go to IWillVote.com right now to request our absentee ballots and send them back immediately or take them to a drop-box or an election office.
If we choose not to vote by mail, we’ve got to find out where and when we can vote early in-person and show up the minute they open their doors. We’ve got to set aside time to vote on Election Day so that we don’t get too busy and we’ve got to reach out to others, starting in our own backyard.
As I like to say, we got to tend our own gardens. That means reaching out to all those folks who we might not be able to count on voting. You know who they are, the folks who might not be as tuned in as we are. Make sure they request their ballots too, make sure they know where their polling location is. Take them with you to vote if you need to and make sure you text BELIEVE to 30330 to get involved today.
Work like this may not feel as impactful as attending a protest, but trust me, it is absolutely the most important thing that we can do right now to save our democracy. It’s simply what needs to be done and that’s what we’ve been doing for months, just getting the job done, no matter the stress, no matter if something feels out of our control. Because that’s who we are as Americans. That is what we do.
And right now, we’ve got a chance to start getting things back under control, to restore some stability and integrity and soul in this country. It is within our grasp. And that’s what keeps me going, thinking about a time not all that far off, with a new president in the Oval Office, a trustworthy, honest, stable leader with a clear plan for controlling this virus and getting our economy back on track. With meaningful support for families and schools, with competence and maturity instead of chaos and confusion.
It is possible. It really is, but only if we vote for Joe Biden in this election. We have all been working so hard to keep ourselves and our families afloat and we deserve a president who will do the same.
Thank you for listening. God bless.