Oct 21, 2020
Barack Obama Campaign Rally for Joe Biden & Kamala Harris Speech Transcript October 21
Former President Barack Obama held a campaign rally for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in Philadelphia on October 21. Read the transcript of his speech remarks here.
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Barack Obama: (00:18)
Barack Obama: (00:24)
Man, it is good to be back in Pennsylvania. What beautiful weather we got here. Little Indian summer. I know the president spent some time in Erie last night, and apparently he complained about having to travel here. And then he cut the event short, poor guy. I don’t feel that way. I love coming to Pennsylvania. You guys delivered for me twice and I am back here tonight to ask you to deliver the White House for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. I want to thank Mr. Philadelphia, Charlie Mack, his daughter, India Marie. What an outstanding young lady she was. Those of you who are fathers and have daughters you know how that feels when you see your daughters just shining. I know a little bit about that. And it was great to see representatives, Brendan Boyle, Mary Gay Scanlon, Governor Tom Wolf, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, Mayor Jim Kenney. Philadelphia we got 13 days. That’s our lucky number right here. 13 days until the most important election of our lifetimes.
Barack Obama: (01:58)
And you don’t have to wait for November 3rd to cast your ballot. You’ve got two ways to vote right now. Number one, you can vote early in person through next Tuesday. Anybody here voted early already? If you haven’t, just go to iwillvote.com/pa and find out where you can vote early. Number two, you can vote from home with a mail-in ballot. Just go to iwillvote.com/pa to request your ballot right away. And before you send it back, Pennsylvania’s got this thing where you’ve got to use both envelopes. So you’ve got to read the directions carefully to make sure your vote counts. And if you’ve already voted, then you’ve got to help your friends and family make a plan to vote. Take them with you if you vote early, or if you vote in-person on election day, because this election requires every single one of us to do our part. And what we do these next 13 days will matter for decades to come.
Barack Obama: (03:24)
Now, last time I was in Philadelphia, I was at the constitution center and I was delivering a speech for the Democratic National Convention this year. And I said, during that speech, I’ve sat in the Oval Office with both of the men who are running for president. And they are very different people. I explained that I never thought Donald Trump would embrace my vision or continue my policies but I did hope for the sake of the country that he might show some interest in taking the job seriously, but it hasn’t happened. He hasn’t shown any interest in doing the work or helping anybody but himself and his friends or treating the presidency like a reality show that he can use to get attention. And by the way, even then his TV ratings are down. So you know that upsets him.
Barack Obama: (04:36)
But the thing is, this is not a reality show, this is reality. And the rest of us have had to live with the consequences of him proving himself incapable of taking the job seriously. At least 220,000 Americans have died. More than 100,000 small businesses have closed. Millions of jobs are gone. Our proud reputation around the world is in tatters. Presidents up for reelection usually ask if the country is better off than it was four years ago. I’ll tell you one thing, four years ago you’d be tailgating here at the Lincoln instead of watching a speech from your cars. The only people truly better off than they were four years ago are the billionaires who got his tax cuts. Right now as we speak, Trump won’t even extend relief to the millions of families who are having trouble paying the rent or putting food on the table because of this pandemic. But he’s been doing all right by himself. As it turns out, this was just reported in the last 48 hours.
Barack Obama: (06:01)
We know that he continues to do business with China because he’s got a secret Chinese bank account. How is that possible? How is that possible? A secret Chinese bank account. Listen, can you imagine if I had had a secret Chinese bank account when I was running for reelection. You think Fox News might have been a little concerned about that? They would’ve called me Beijing Berry. It is not a great idea to have a president who owes a bunch of money to people overseas. That’s not a good idea. I mean, of the taxes Donald Trump pays, he may be sending more to foreign governments than he pays in the United States. His first year in the White House he only paid $750 in federal income tax. Listen, my first job was at a Baskin Robbins when I was 15 years old. I think I’m might have paid more taxes that year working at a dispensing ice cream. How is that possible? How many people here pay less than that? It’s just possible now that if you are living high on the hog and you only pay $750 in taxes that maybe, just maybe he might not know what working people are going through here in Pennsylvania. We cannot afford four more years of this, Philadelphia. But the good news is right now you can choose change. Right now you can vote for my friend Joe Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris as the next president and vice president of the United States of America. Now, Joe’s no stranger to here. He’s a native son. Scrappy kid from scratch. You know him and he knows you. But let me, let me tell you how I came to Norman and how I came to love him. 12 years ago, when I chose Joe Biden as my vice presidential running mate, I didn’t know Joe all that well. We had served in the Senate together, but we weren’t super close. He and I came from different places. We came from different generations.
Barack Obama: (08:58)
But I came to admire Joe as a man who has learned early on to treat everybody he meets with dignity and respect, living by the words his parents taught him, no one’s better than you Joe, but you’re better than nobody. And that empathy, that decency, that belief that everybody counts, that’s who Joe is. That’s who he’ll be. And I can tell you the presidency doesn’t change who you are, it reveals who you are. And Joe has shown himself to be a friend of working people. For eight years, Joe was the last one in the room when I faced a big decision. He made me a better president and he’s got the character and experience to make us a better country. And he and Kamala-
Barack Obama: (10:03)
A better country. And he and Kamala are going to be in the fight, not for themselves but for every single one of us. Well, I get that this president wants full credit for the economy he inherited and zero blame for the pandemic that he ignored. But you know what? The job doesn’t work that way. Tweeting at the television doesn’t fix things. Making stuff up doesn’t make people’s lives better. You’ve got to have a plan. You’ve got to put in the work. And along with the experience to get things done, Joe Biden has concrete plans and policies that will turn our vision of a better, fairer, stronger country into a reality.
Barack Obama: (10:53)
We literally left this White House a pandemic playbook that would have shown them how to respond before the virus reached our shores. They probably used it to I don’t know, prop up a wobbly table somewhere. We don’t know where that playbook went. Eight months into this pandemic, cases are rising again across this country. Donald Trump isn’t suddenly going to protect all of us. He can’t even take the basic steps to protect himself. Just last night, he complained up in eerie that the pandemic made him go back to work. I’m quoting him. He was upset that the pandemic’s made him go back to work. If he’d actually been working the whole time, it never would’ve gotten this bad.
Barack Obama: (11:53)
So, look, here’s the truth. I want to be honest here. This pandemic would have been challenging for any president but this idea that somehow this White House has done anything but completely screw this up. It’s just not true. I’ll give you a very specific example. Korea identified it’s first case at the same time that the United States did. At the same time, their per capita death toll is just 1.3% of what ours is. In Canada, it’s just 39% of what ours is. Other countries are still struggling with the pandemic but they’re not doing as bad as we are because they’ve got a government that’s actually been paying attention.
Barack Obama: (12:42)
And that means lives lost. And that means an economy that doesn’t work. And just yesterday, when asked if he’d do anything differently, Trump said, “Not much.” Really? Not much? Nothing you can think of that could have helped some people keep their loved ones alive? So, Joe’s not going to screw up testing. He’s not going to call scientists idiots. He’s not going to host a super spreader event at the White House. Joe will get this pandemic under control with a plan to make testing free and widely available, to get a vaccine to every American cost free and to make sure our frontline heroes never ask other countries for their equipment they need.
Barack Obama: (13:38)
His plan will guarantee paid sick leave for workers and parents affected by the pandemic and make sure that the small businesses that hold our communities together and employ millions of Americans can reopen safely. Donald Trump likes to claim he built this economy but America created 1.5 million more jobs in the last three years of the Obama-Biden administration than in the first three years of the Trump-Pence administration. How you figure that? And that was before he could blame the pandemic. Now, he did inherit the longest streak of job growth in American history but just like everything else he inherited, he messed it up. The economic damage he inflicted by botching the pandemic response means he will be the first president since Herbert Hoover to actually lose jobs. Joe’s got a plan to create 10 million good clean energy jobs as part of a historic $2 trillion investment to fight climate change, to secure environmental justice. And he’ll pay for it by rolling back that tax cut for billionaires. And Joe sees this moment not just as a chance to get back to where we were but to finally make long overdue changes so that our economy actually makes life a little easier for everybody, the waitress trying to raise her kid on her own, the student trying to figure out how to pay for next semester’s classes, the shift worker who’s always on the edge of getting laid off, the cancer survivor who’s worried about her preexisting conditions, protections being taken away.
Barack Obama: (15:39)
Let me tell you something Pennsylvania. This I know to be true, Joe and Kamala will protect your healthcare and expand Medicare and make insurance more affordable for everybody. Republicans love to say right before an election that they’ll protect your preexisting conditions. Now, Joe and I actually protected your policies to make sure people with preexisting conditions could get health insurance and have coverage. We did it through something called the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a Obamacare. And Republicans tried to repeal or undermine it more than 60 times.
Barack Obama: (16:35)
And when they’ve been asked about, they keep on promising, “We’re going to have a great replacement.” They said, “It’s coming.” It’s been coming in two weeks for the last 10 years. Where is it? Where is this great plan to replace Obamacare? They’ve had 10 years to do it. There is no plan. They’ve never had one. Instead they’ve attacked the Affordable Care Act at every turn, driving up costs, driving up the uninsured. Now, they’re trying to dismantle your care in the Supreme court as we speak as quickly as they can in the middle of a pandemic with nothing but empty promises to take its place. It’s shameful. The idea that you would take healthcare away from people at the very moment where people need it most, what is the logic of that? There is no logic. Joe knows that the first job of a president is to keep us safe from all threats, foreign, domestic or microscopic. When the daily intelligence briefings flash warning signs about a virus, a president can’t ignore them. He can’t be AWOL. Just like when Russia puts bounties on the heads of our soldiers in Afghanistan, the commander-in-chief can’t be missing in action. I can tell you this, Joe Biden would never call the men and women of our military suckers or losers. Who does that? He knows these heroes are somebody’s children, somebody’s spouse, somebody’s dad or mom. He understands that. And he’s going to restore our standing in the world because he knows that America’s true strength comes from setting an example that the world wants to follow. A nation that stands with democracy, not dictators, a nation that can mobilize and inspire others to overcome threats like climate change and terrorism and poverty and disease. And with Joe and Kamala at the helm, you’re not going to have to think about the crazy things they said every day. And that’s worth a lot. You’re not going to have to argue about them every day.
Barack Obama: (19:12)
It just won’t be so exhausting. You might be able to have a Thanksgiving dinner without having an argument. You’ll be able to go about your lives knowing that the president is not going to retweet conspiracy theories about secret cabals running the world or that maybe seals didn’t actually kill bin Laden. Think about that. The president of the United States retweeted that. Imagine. What? What? We’re not going to have a president that goes out of his way to insult anybody who doesn’t support him or threaten them with jail. That’s not normal presidential behavior.
Barack Obama: (20:02)
That’s not normal presidential behavior. We wouldn’t tolerate it from a high school principal. We wouldn’t tolerate it from a coach. We wouldn’t tolerate it from a co-worker. We wouldn’t tolerate it in our family, except for maybe crazy uncle somewhere. I mean, why would we expect and accept this from the President of the United States? And why are folks making excuses for that? “Oh, well, that’s just him.” No. There are consequences to these actions. They embolden other people to be cruel and divisive and racist, and it frays the fabric of our society, and it affects how our children see things. And it affects the ways that our families get along. It affects how the world looks at America. That behavior matters. Character matters. And by the way, while he’s doing all that, it distracts all of us from the truly destructive actions that his appointees are doing all across the government, actions that affect your lives. The Environmental Protection Agency that’s supposed to protect our air and our water is right now run by an energy lobbyist that gives polluters free reign to dump unlimited poison into our air and water. The Labor Department that’s supposed to protect workers and their rights, right now it’s run by a corporate lobbyist who’s declared war on workers, guts protections to keep essential folks safe during a pandemic, makes it easier for big corporations to shortchange them on their wages. The Interior Department, that’s supposed to protect our public lands and wild spaces, our wildlife and our wilderness. And right now that’s run by an oil lobbyist who’s determined to sell them to the highest bidder.
Barack Obama: (22:39)
You’ve got the Education Department that’s supposed to give every kid a chance, and that’s run by a billionaire who guts rules designed to protect students from getting ripped off by for profit colleges and stiffs arm students looking for loan relief in the middle of an economic collapse. I mean, the person who runs Medicaid right now is doing their best to kick people off of Medicaid instead of sign them up for Medicaid. Come on. When Joe and Kamala are in charge, they’re not going to surround themselves with hacks and lobbyists, but they’re going to appoint qualified public servants who actually care about looking out for you, for your job, for your family, for your health, for your security, for your planet, and that more than anything is what separates them from their opponents. They actually care about every American, including the ones that don’t agree with them.
Barack Obama: (23:45)
And they’re going to fight for you every day. They care about you and they care about this democracy. They believe in a democracy. The right to vote is sacred and that we shouldn’t be making people wait in line for 10 hours to cast their ballot. We should be making it easier for everybody to vote. They believe that no one, especially the President, is above the law. They understand that protest on behalf of social justice isn’t un-American. That’s the most American thing there is. That’s how this country was founded, protesting injustice. They understand we don’t threaten our political opponents threatening to throw them in jail, just because we disagree with them. They understand that our ability to work together to solve big problems like a pandemic depends more than on just photo-ops. It depends on actually learning the facts and following the science and not just making stuff up whenever it’s convenient.
Barack Obama: (25:16)
Our democracy is not going to work if the people who are supposed to be our leaders lie every day and just make things up. And we’ve just become numb to it. We’ve just become immune to it. Every single day, fact checkers can’t keep up. And, look, this notion of truthfulness and democracy and citizenship, and being responsible, these aren’t Republican or democratic principles, they’re American principles. They’re what most of us grew up learning from our parents and our grandparents. They’re not White or Black or Latino or Asian values, they’re American values, human values, and we need to reclaim them. We have to get those values back at the center of our public life. And we can. But to do it, we’ve got to turn out like never before. We cannot leave any doubt in this election, because you know the President’s already said, “If this is even close, I’m going to just make stuff up.” He’s already started to do it.
Barack Obama: (26:51)
So we can’t have any doubt. We can’t be complacent. I don’t care about the polls. There were a whole bunch of polls last time, didn’t work out, because a whole bunch of folks stayed at home and got lazy and complacent. Not this time, not in this election, not this time. Listen, listen. I understand why a lot of Americans can get frustrated by government and can feel like it doesn’t make a difference. Even supporters of mine, during my eight years, there were times where stuff we wanted to get done didn’t get done and people said, “Well, gosh, if Obama didn’t get it done, then maybe it’s just not going to happen.” Look, government is not going to solve every problem, it’s true. Every elected officials going to make some mistakes. This is a big complicated country and the system’s designed so that change happens slowly. It doesn’t happen overnight.
Barack Obama: (28:05)
And believe me, I’ve got firsthand experience with the way Republicans in Congress abused the rules to make it easy for special interest to stop progress. But we can make things better, and we shouldn’t be making things worse. A president by himself can’t solve every challenge in a global economy. But if we’ve got Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the White House at a House and Senate that are focused on working people, it can make a difference and get millions of people the help they need. A president by himself can’t eliminate all racial bias in our criminal justice system. But if we’ve got district attorneys and state’s attorneys and sheriffs and police chiefs focused on equality and justice, it can make things better. In Pennsylvania, you’ve just got to flip nine seats in your State House, just five seats in your State Senate, to give Democrats control and new life for policies that’ll make a real difference to working families right now. It can make things better.
Barack Obama: (29:25)
In the end, Pennsylvania, that’s what voting’s about, making things better, not making things perfect, but putting us on track so that a generation from now we can look back and say, “Things got better starting now.” And that’s what voting’s about. Voting’s about using the power we have and pooling it together to get a government that’s more concerned and more responsive and more focused on you and your lives and your children and your grandchildren and future generations. And the fact that we don’t get 100% of …
Barack Obama: (30:03)
… and future generations. And the fact that we don’t get 100% of what we want right away is not a good reason not to vote. It means we’ve got to vote and then get some change and then vote some more and then get some more change, and then keep on voting until we get it right.
Barack Obama: (30:23)
And we will never come close to seeing what it would be like if everybody voted, when I hear people say, “Well, I don’t know, you’re voting don’t make a difference.” We don’t know because usually no more than half the people who could be voting vote.
Barack Obama: (30:39)
We get 50, 55% of people voting. And then people say, “Well, look, not enough change happened.” Well, imagine what would happen if 60% voted? What about 70%? Imagine January 20th, when we swear in a president and a vice president who have a plan to get us out of this mess, who believe in science, and they have a plan to protect this planet for our kids, and who care about working Americans, and they have a plan to help you start getting ahead.
Barack Obama: (31:15)
And who believe in racial equality and gender equality, and believe in not discriminating against people because of their sexual orientation, and are willing to bring us closer to an America where no matter what we look like and where we come from, who we love and what our last name is, if we go out there and we work, we can make it.
Barack Obama: (31:38)
And we’re part of an American family. All of that is possible. All of that is within our reach, if we vote. Because let me tell you something Pennsylvanians, people ask me sometimes, they say, “Man, how have you been able to take these last four years, just watching all this? How do you keep your spirits up?”
Barack Obama: (32:02)
And I tell him, I say, look for all the times, these last four years that we’ve seen our worst impulses revealed, we’ve also seen what our country can be at its best. We’ve seen folks of every age and background who’ve packed city centers and airports in town squares, just so families wouldn’t be separated.
Barack Obama: (32:26)
So another classroom wouldn’t get shot up, so our kids wouldn’t grow up on an uninhabitable planet. We’ve seen Americans more racist, joining together to declare in the face of injustice that black lives matter, no more, but no less, so that no child in this country feels the continuing sting of racism.
Barack Obama: (32:51)
We’ve seen folks, our essential workers, our healthcare workers risking their lives day in day out to save somebody else’s loved ones. We’ve seen people volunteer and contribute to help those who are having an especially difficult time that right now.
Barack Obama: (33:14)
That’s true in Pennsylvania, that’s true all across the country. America is a good and decent place, but we’ve just seen so much noise and nonsense that sometimes it’s hard for us to remember.
Barack Obama: (33:29)
Philadelphia, I’m asking you to remember what this country can be. What it’s like when we treat each other with respect and dignity, what it’s like when our elected officials actually behave responsibly. I’m asking you to believe in Joe’s ability, in Kamala’s ability to lead this country out of these dark times, and help us build it back better, because we can’t abandon those who are hurting right now. We can’t abandon the children who aren’t getting the education they need right now.
Barack Obama: (34:07)
We can’t abandon those protesters who inspired us. We’ve got to channel their activism into action, we can’t just imagine a better future. We’ve got to fight for it. We’ve got to out hustle the other side, we got to outwork the other side, we’ve got to vote like never before and leave no doubt. So make a plan right now, for how you’re going to get involved and vote. Do it as early as you can. Tell your family, tell your friends how they can vote. Don’t stop with Joe and Kamala, make sure you vote all the way down the ticket.
Barack Obama: (34:47)
And if we pour all our efforts into these 13 days, if we vote up and down the ticket, like never before, then we will not only elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, we will also leave no doubt about what this country that we love stands for. We will not leave any doubt about who we are as a people, and the values and ideals that we embrace.
Barack Obama: (35:17)
What Lincoln called the better angels of our nature, those are still in us. We see them operating every single day. We see them in neighborhoods, we see them in churches and synagogues and mosques and temples. We see them in people helping out a neighbor. We see them them inside our own families. We see that what is best in us is still there, but we’ve got to give it voice, and we’ve got to do it now.
Barack Obama: (35:49)
So let’s get to work people. Let’s bring this home. I love you, Philadelphia. Honk if you’re fired up, honk if you’re ready to go. Are you fired up?
Barack Obama: (36:00)
Are you ready to go? Are you fired up? Are you ready to go?
Barack Obama: (36:07)
Let’s go make it happen. I love you Philadelphia. Thank you. I love you. Come on.