Oct 24, 2021
Barack Obama Speech for Virginia Gov. Candidate Terry McAuliffe Transcript
Former President Barack Obama campaigned for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe on October 24, 2021. Read the transcript of his speech remarks here.
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President Obama: (00:00)
Ah, hello, Richmond. It is good to be back in Virginia. Although I have to say that unlike some other states, I’m in Virginia all the time, because it’s pretty close by to where I live. It is good to see you on this beautiful day. I am so grateful to the Young Democrats at VCU for hosting us today. It’s good to see some young idealism at work, young activists getting out and doing the work. I could not be prouder of you. It’s thanks to extraordinary young people like you that I was able to get elected to the US Senate. You helped deliver Virginia twice for me. I’ll always love you for it. You delivered for Terry McAuliffe, and now I’m asking you to do it one more time by electing Terry the next governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
President Obama: (01:23)
In fact, I love you too. I do. Over the years, actually, you guys have come through for a lot of great leaders, many of whom are here today. Your outstanding governor, Ralph Northam, your next lieutenant governor, Hala Ayala, your current and future attorney general, Mark Herring. My dear friend, first person outside Illinois to endorse me for president of the United States, your great senator, Tim Kaine. Congressman Donald McEachin is here. Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, Eileen Filler-Corn. The great mayor of Richmond, Levar Stoney.
President Obama: (02:28)
These are leaders that you’ve come through for multiple times. And in 10 days, you’ve got a chance to do it again. You’ve got a chance to elect Terry and Hala and Mark and to keep Virginia moving forward. And before we start anything else, I want to remind you and everybody who’s watching: You don’t have to wait until November 2nd to cast your ballot. You can vote early right now, either by mail or in person. If you don’t… Don’t be [inaudible 00:03:14]. Don’t be sitting on the couch saying, “I’ll get to it later.” You can out early right now. If you’ve got a ballot at home, you can return it by mail, or you can hand it in at your local registrar’s office, or you can take it to a drop- off location today.
President Obama: (03:31)
Don’t leave it on your desk. If you’re like me, your desk is cluttered. You end up spilling stuff. You’re like, “Oh man, I got to start all over again, get another ballot.” Do it now. You’ll feel good. You’ll feel good about exercising the franchise. Or, you can vote early in person today. Just go to iwillvote.com/va to make your plans. Millions of Virginians voted early last year. Let’s do it again this year. Don’t wait. You agree, don’t you? Yes, you do. All right. Now that we’ve got that very important piece of business out of the way, let me tell you a little bit about Terry and why I know he will be a fantastic governor again. First thing to know about Terry is, as you just witnessed, he’s very persuasive. Let me tell you, if I told Michelle I wanted to run for the same office after a few years away, she would’ve said something I cannot repeat. The rough translation would’ve been “No.”
President Obama: (04:58)
Now, I don’t know the conversation that Terry had with Dorothy, but Dorothy, thank you, because I could not be happier that Terry is back on the ticket. He’s persuasive. And the reason I couldn’t be happier is because I know he will make you proud as governor, because he’s already done it. He did it the last time. There are times where you don’t know. Let’s face it, when you elected Barack Obama, you were like, “I don’t know.” Maybe you knew, but I have to say, I look at some of that old footage, I’m like, “Man, he looks really young. I can’t believe they trusted him to do all that stuff. He looks like he’s 25 years old.” That was before the gray hair. Some of you who are very young don’t remember, but I used to have black hair.
President Obama: (05:54)
But with Terry, you know. He’s done it. And you know this about Terry: He knows how to work hard. This guy is the Energizer bunny. He does not sleep. He does not stop. He started his own business at the age of 14, paving driveways to help pay for college. Now, I don’t remember exactly what I was doing at 14, but I will tell you, I was not starting my own business. And ever since, Terry has brought the same grit and determination to everything he’s done, from public service, to business, to being a husband, to being a father of five amazing children.
President Obama: (06:43)
So the guy knows how to work hard, and he’s persuasive, and Terry knows what it means to lead. A lot of times, you see candidates say one thing to one group of people, and then they act a little bit different with another group of people. They don’t seem sincere. They don’t want you to know what they’re really all about. But with Terry, you don’t have to wonder what he’s going to be like as governor, because you’ve seen it. He walked the walk, didn’t just talk the talk. As your governor, Terry kept Virginia on the right track after the great recession. He helped create 200,000 jobs, drove unemployment down in every city and county in Virginia, not just in the sections of Northern Virginia that were getting tech jobs, et cetera. Every county, every city in Virginia, he was working to make sure the people got opportunity, every single one.
President Obama: (07:47)
So when Terry tells you he’s going to help Virginia rebuild a stronger economy that creates good jobs, when he says that he’s going to invest in education and workers, when he says he’s going to help families from every everywhere get ahead, South and North, you can believe it, because he’s done it before. And that kind of experience matters, because the work we need to do is too important to just leave to chance. This pandemic has made the last couple years incredibly hard for a lot of Virginians. But thanks to leaders like Governor Northam and President Biden, we’ve been making progress. The national unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been since the pandemic started. In Virginia, it’s even lower. Schools have reopened. Jobs are coming back. Businesses are starting to recover. We’re moving forward. Now we’ve got a choice. We can go backwards, we can plunge right back into the misguided policies and the divisiveness and the negligence that made this pandemic so much worse than it ever had to be-
President Obama: (09:02)
… Pandemic so much worse than it ever had to be. Or, we can build an economy that works for everybody, not just the few. Where kids have a shot at a great education, and workers can get the skills they need for good new jobs. Where we follow the science when it comes to the pandemic. Where we work together, and we listen to each other, and we move this country forward. That’s what Terry’s running on. That’s why he wants to be your Governor. That’s why you’ve got to get out there and vote. To make Virginia a magnet for good jobs. To make sure our kids can go to school safely.
President Obama: (09:40)
Terry talked about it. He’s got a plan to boost the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024. Help give young people like the ones in this audience the education they deserve. Make healthcare more affordable for everybody. We’ve got half a million Virginia’s getting help on the Affordable Care Act. We can be doing more, and Terry is going to do it. He talked about protecting a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions. To keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. And Terry talked about wanting to work in a bi-partisan way with reasonable Republicans. He’s not just saying that for the campaign. He did it when he was Governor. He’s walked the walk. And by the way, Terry is not alone. All across the country, Democrats are working to make sure that the wealthiest Americans, and largest corporations pay their fair share in taxes so we can do things like make childcare more affordable, so we can make real progress in the fight against climate change.
President Obama: (10:59)
All across the country, Democrats are trying to make it easier to vote, not make it harder to vote, and push back on Republicans who are trying to systematically prevent ordinary citizens from making their voices heard. Just this past week, some of you probably saw, every Democrat in the Senate supported a bill that would protect the right to vote, and ban partisan gerrymandering, and reduce the influence of dark money in our politics. Every Democrat voted for it, every Republican voted against it. Which by the way, there’s a little bit of an [inaudible 00:11:35], but you have to ask yourself, why is it Republicans don’t want you to vote? What is it that they’re afraid of? I would assume, Terry, if they think they’ve got better ideas, why don’t they just go make the case?
President Obama: (11:55)
Tell us your ideas. Tell us why you think they’re going to be better. Tell us how it’s going to help that man get a job, or help that young person go to college, or help that person get a trade. Just explain it. And if you’ve got good ideas, people will flock to your ideas, but that’s not what they try to do. Instead, you’re trying to rig elections. Because the truth is people disagree with your ideas. And when that doesn’t work, you start fabricating lies, and conspiracy theories about the last election. The one you didn’t win. That’s not how democracy is supposed to work.
President Obama: (12:40)
Our democracy is what makes America great. It’s what makes us the shining city on the hill. This extraordinary experiment in self-government, and protecting that, and preserving that, that shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It didn’t use to be. That’s what Terry, and Democrats everywhere are focused on. Let’s shift for a moment to what Terry’s opponent is running on. Don’t boo. Vote. Booing doesn’t do nothing. Booing might make you feel better, but it’s not going to get Terry elected. Vote. Don’t boo. I want you to get fired up inside and then go vote. Terry’s opponent, he’s thinking Virginia’s either aren’t paying attention, or he thinks that they’re gullible. This is someone who has been very successful, made hundreds of millions of dollars, and you know what, that’s great. We don’t begrudge success. We want everyone in America to have a chance to pursue their dreams.
President Obama: (14:06)
That’s what Terry did as a successful business person himself. But you notice that having achieved success, Terry then decided I need to give back. I need to lift people up. I need to create more ladders of opportunity for everybody else. Because somebody did that for me, I’m going to do it for the next group of people coming along. That’s why he got into public service. His opponent, ah, not so much. His opponent doesn’t want people like him to pay a dime more in taxes to support education, or job training, or childcare, or all the other things that might help the next generation get ahead.
President Obama: (14:58)
Although now, suddenly he wants you to believe that he’s discovered the middle-class. Terry’s opponent, he supported a policy that would cut education and public safety, and put more than 40,000 teaching jobs at risk right here in Virginia. And now he’s telling you, he’s very concerned about our kids, and our streets. He told some voters in private that he can’t talk about a woman’s right to choose while he’s running. But he said that if he wins, he’ll restrict the right across Virginia. Don’t boo. How could he claim to be the candidate for women? I don’t either. As far as I can tell the big message of Terry’s opponent is that he’s a regular guy because he wears fleece, and he’s accusing schools of brainwashing our kids. He’s also said he wanted to audit the voting machines used in the last Presidential election again. Really? Encouraging the lies and conspiracy theories that we’ve had to live through all this time. And yet we’re supposed to believe he’s going to stand up for our democracy? Listen, I want to emphasize this. I’m glad that the guy can play basketball. Many of you know, I’m a big hooper, that’s a good thing. The guy can hoop. That’s great. I’m less convinced that the co CEO of one largest private equity firms in the world spends his time washing dishes and going grocery shopping, but who knows? Maybe. But, you do notice that whenever a wealthy person runs for office, they always want to show you what a regular guy they are. But that’s okay. But when your supporters hold a rally where they pledge allegiance to a flag that was flown at the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6th, the biggest threat to our democracy in my lifetime. When you don’t separate yourselves from them, when you don’t think that’s a problem, well, you know what? That’s a problem. You can’t run ads telling me you’re a regular old hoops playing, dish washing, fleece wearing guy…
President Obama: (18:02)
… old hoops-playing, dishwashing, fleece-wearing, guy, but quietly cultivate support from those who seek to tear down our democracy. Either he actually believes in the same conspiracy theories that resulted in a mob, or he doesn’t believe it, but he’s willing to go along with it to say, or do anything to get elected. And maybe that’s worse, because that says something about character. And character will end up showing when you actually are in office. What are you willing to stand up for? When are you willing to say no to your own supporters? When are you willing to say there’s some things that are more important than getting elected and maybe American democracy is one of those things.
President Obama: (19:15)
Virginia, we’ve got too much to get done, to be dealing with the okey doke. Here we are trying to recover from a global pandemic that has killed more than 700,000 Americans, that shut down thousands of small businesses and put millions out of work. We don’t have time to be wasting on these phony, trumped-up culture wars, this fake outrage that right wing media’s pedals to juice their ratings. And the fact that he’s willing to go along with it, instead of talking about serious problems that actually affect serious people. That’s a shame. That’s not what this election’s about. That’s not out what you need, Virginia.
President Obama: (20:06)
Instead of forcing our communities to cut back at a time when we’re just starting to recover, we should be doing more to support people who are educating our kids and keeping our neighborhoods safe. Instead of spreading misinformation and disinformation about the last election, we should be trying to strengthen our democracy and make it easier for more people to vote in future elections. Instead of stoking anger, aimed at school boards and administrators who are just trying to keep our kids safe, who are just doing their jobs. So get angered to the point where some of them are actually getting death threats. We should be making it easier for teachers and schools to give our kids the world class education they deserve and to do so safely while they’re in the classroom.
President Obama: (21:13)
So we’re at a turning point right now, both here in America and around the world, because there’s a mood out there. We see it. There’s a politics of meanness and division and conflict, of tribalism and cynicism. And that’s one path. But the good news is there’s another path, where we pull together and we solve big problems and we rebuild our society in a way that gives more and more people, a better life. And that’s the choice we face. It’s a choice I believe will define not just the next few years, but the next few decades of human history. Maybe longer than that.
President Obama: (22:09)
I look out at some of these young people who were two, when I was elected, not born yet. You were born. Thank you. I’m glad you were at least born. He’s only a few months old, but he was born.
President Obama: (22:36)
But I look at them because I see in these young people, I see my own daughters. And I think about the world we’re giving to them. The thing about being a parent is that you hear it’s a cliche and then it happens. And two of those cliches are true. One cliche is that boy, they grow up fast. But the other cliche is you will do anything, anything to make sure their lives are better. You will sacrifice anything for them.
President Obama: (23:19)
And so right now, we’re helping to determine what kind of democracy are they going to inherit, what kind of planet they’re going to inherit, What kind of economy we’re going to inherit. What are we leaving for them? And it’s our choice. And I’m here today because I believe Virginia will make the right choice. I believe America ultimately will make the right choice. I believe you right in Virginia are going to show the rest of the country and the world that we’re not going to indulge in our worst instincts. We’re not going to go back to the chaos that did so much damage. We’re going to move forward with people like Terry leading the way.
President Obama: (24:18)
And here’s the thing. In order for that to happen, we need your help. We need you to vote. Look, I know a lot of people are tired of politics right now. Listen, I’ll make a confession. I never watch political shows. Michelle and I, when we’re at home, I’m reading, she’s watching HGTV, maybe the Food Channel. So I understand why people might be tired of politics and the arguments and the tweets and the back and the fourth. And some of you’re just plain tired, because this has been hard. I understand why people are frustrated. We thought that the pandemic was just about done and then suddenly the Delta comes up and it kind of throws us for a loop and people are just tired. They feel cooped up. They’re not sure what’s safe. All this arguments going on, on TV all the time, folks wearing masks. Look, I believe that wearing masks is the right thing to do for people that we care about.
President Obama: (25:38)
We do it for people who are vulnerable, not just for ourselves. But let’s face it. I mean, I think it’s important to acknowledge, sometimes I lose my mask. I’m like, “Oh, man, where is it?” You I mean, I understand why people just feel kind of like, “Oh, when’s this going to end?” And sometimes politics in Washington feels that way. Right? It’s like, oh, are we still arguing about gay marriage? Really? I thought that ship had sailed. I thought that was pretty clearly the right thing to do. We got Republicans across the country who said, of course. And that we’re going to reopen that can up. What? So I understand why sometimes folks get tired. But here’s the thing. We can’t afford to be tired, because of these young people right here, and the young people that are coming. And it’s hard. Terry doesn’t claim that by being governor suddenly every problem is going to be solved. I didn’t solve every …
President Obama: (27:03)
I didn’t solve every problem when I was President. I mean, the fact is that it’s hard to undo the legacy of discrimination that goes back centuries. It’s hard to deal with special interests who want to keep the status quo when you’re trying to make the economy more fair and more just. It’s hard in a big country like this, where people disagree a lot, to get everybody moving in the same direction. But here’s the thing. We can make it better.
President Obama: (27:37)
When you got the right person in the job, we might not get every single person to get a job, but more people will get jobs. We may not get every child the best education in the world, but we can get a lot more kids a better education. I didn’t get everybody healthcare in America, but we got a whole lot more people healthcare in America. It makes a difference when we decide to make things better.
President Obama: (28:09)
And when you’ve got somebody in your corner who has shown that they will work for you, who has a track record of accomplishment, then you’ve got to go out there and work for him, not because everything’s suddenly going to be perfect, but because it’s going to be better. When you got somebody like Terry, who’s responsible and serious, he’s worth fighting for. So you got to go out there and show the cynics that you’re willing to knock on doors for Terry, to make the calls for Terry, to tell your friends and neighbors what’s at stake.
President Obama: (28:53)
We ain’t got time to be tired. We don’t have time to be tired. What is required is sustained effort. I was thinking about it, because I haven’t campaigned for a while, I, I went back to my first campaign and I remember in my first Presidential election, I spoke in Grant Park about a woman, 106 years old, who had voted for me, African American, Miss Cooper, 106. And I tried to imagine everything that she had gone through in her life. Born in the shadow of slavery, deep in the midst of Jim Crow, a time where women, when she was born, didn’t have the right to vote, much less black folks. And yet she described how she, the minute she had a chance to vote, had never missed, including up to the time where the first African American nominee of a major party had the chance to become President of the United States. She had witnessed all that.
President Obama: (30:18)
And I thought, “Now, if she’s not tired, I can’t be tired.”
President Obama: (30:28)
If John Lewis wasn’t tired, we can’t be tired. If the folks who had to fight for union rights across the country weren’t tired, we sure can’t be tired. If the suffragists weren’t tired, we can’t be tired.
President Obama: (30:49)
So go out there and fight and work because you’re going to decide this election and the direction of Virginia and the direction of this country for generations to come. Don’t sit this one out. And make sure you vote for Democrats up and down the ballot, including for state legislature, where a lot of important work actually gets done. I used to be a state legislator. Don’t forget them because there’s what’s going to help Terry be able to deliver for you. And if you do these things, if you’re not tired, if you work, if you vote up and down the ballot, if you get your friends and neighbors and your cousins to vote, if you do all that, we will elect Terry McAuliffe. We will elect Hala Ayala. We will elect Mark Herring. We’ll build on our majorities in the state legislature. We’ll keep Virginia on the path to a better future. I have faith in you. Have faith in yourselves. Get out there, get to work. Yes, we can. God bless you, Virginia.