Excerpted from Michelle's depressing 'Moving The Bar' stump speech. May 2nd, 2008 . Read the , if you dare...
It was freezing cold, North Carolina, like 10 below? And the announcement was outside. I know you all don't understand that, but yes, people came out and stood to watch what they believed would be a historic journey. And it has been all of that and more, and we were very excited. We took that crowd to be an omen, sort of a sign, that even before anybody knew Barack, 16,000 people showed up. So we were excited.
But then right after that happened, as things started building up, everyone said this race is over. They said there was no way that Barack Obama could win. They said there was an inevitable candidate. And right now, I know people are talking about how Barack is the frontrunner. That's a new title for us, because if you recall, Barack has been the underdog, and as far as I'm concerned, will continue to be the underdog until he is sitting in the Oval Office.
But once he raised all that money, then all of a sudden, money didn't matter. It didn't count. His opponents said well, we're all going to raise money. So the next test was whether or not Barack could build the kind of political organization that can compete, because against again, the inevitable candidate, had been building relationships and an organization for decades. And they said there was no way that in such a short period of time, this guy nobody every knew could build a political organization that could compete. But then, Barack tried something different. He started relying on regular folks
But after it was built, then all of a sudden, organization didn't matter. But we're all going to build a political organization, was what they said. The true test, they said, was now Iowa. Iowa was going to be the measure, because you remember Iowa, remember, remember Iowa?
But see, after that happened, then what happened? Iowa wasn't important. All of a sudden, they said well, Iowa's not important because it's just a caucus. It wasn't a primary was the argument, and that was different. So I'm scratching my head, I'm like okay, so, here we go. So now what was important was the national numbers.
So then we go into South Carolina. We were excited about South Carolina. But then they said don't be so excited about South Carolina, because South Carolina doesn't count. They said it doesn't count for Barack Obama, because Barack Obama was supposed to win South Carolina.
So then, we roll into Super Tuesday. Again, the race was supposed to be over on Super Tuesday. It was. But what happened on that day? Barack racked up so many victories. And since that time, he's continued to build on his victories. When was the last time we've seen a candidate who was able to win states like Utah and Georgia, Missouri and Illinois, Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, Wisconsin? And yes, Barack won the Texas caucuses.
Raise the money? Not enough. Build an organization? Not enough. Win a whole bunch of states? Not the right states. You got to win certain states. So the bar has been shifting and moving in this race, but the irony is, the sad irony is that that's exactly what's happening to most Americans in this country. The bar is shifting and moving on people all the time. And folks are struggling like never before, working harder than ever, believing that their hard work will lead to some reward, some payoff. But what they find is that they get there and the bar has changed, things are different, wasn't enough. So you have to work even harder.
And see what happens when you live in a nation where the vast majority of Americans are struggling every day to reach an ever-shifting and moving bar, then what happens in that nation is that people do become isolated. They do live in a level of division, because see, when you're that busy struggling all the time, which most people that you know and I know are, that you don't have time to get to know your neighbor. You don't have time to reach out and have conversations, to share stories. In fact, you feel very alone in your struggle, because you feel that somehow, it must be your fault that you're struggling so hard. Everybody else must be doing okay. I must be doing something wrong, so you hide.
And when you live in a nation where people are struggling every day to reach an ever-shifting and moving bar, then what happens in that kind of nation is that people are afraid, because when your world's not right, no matter how hard you work, then you become afraid of everyone and everything, because you don't know who's fault it is, why you can't get a handle on life, why you can't secure a better future for your kids. And the problem with fear is that it cuts us off. Fear is the worst enemy. It cuts us off from one another and our own families, and our communities, and it has certainly cut us off from the rest of the world. It's like fear creates this veil of impossibility, and it is hanging over all of our heads, and we spend more time now in this nation talking about what we can't do, what won't work, what can't change.
But we're not where we need to be. And that, we know. We can disagree on a whole bunch of things, but we're not where we need to be for our future. And a lot of that has to do with that struggle we talked about. See, because when you're struggling, you don't have time to look at the future. You don't really have time to think this thing through.
As you already know, I'm the product of a working-class background. My father was a city worker all of his life.
We went to the public schools around the corner, the neighborhood public schools. And I also say that because I want people, when they see me, to see what an investment in public education can look like, because I think sometimes we forget just how critical public education can be, and what an investment is required...
But the truth is, right now, that little nugget of a dream that was my life is getting further and further out of reach for most Americans because of that bar constantly moving. You know, jobs like my father had those blue collar jobs where you got pensions, vacation, all that, they're dwindling. They're drying up. They're disappearing, going overseas. And if you're lucky enough to have a job, nine times out of ten, your salary's not keeping up with the cost of living.
The bar is moving and shifting on them, and it's moving and it's shifting with regard to education, because we all know that No Child Left Behind is not doing what it needs to do for children in this country. So now on top of all the other worries that families have...
And then you've got the other half of young people who were like me and Barack, who too, out loans to pay for our college. So yeah, we have Ivy League degrees, but they cost us a whole lot of money to get. And see, what we did was what we thought we were supposed to do. We got those fancy degrees, and then we left corporate America, and went to work in the community. And with every job we took, we made less money. My mother told us we were crazy, but we thought we were doing the right thing. And I do believe we were. But where we found ourselves, in a position like most young couples, with our PhD's and JD's and MPh's and WLMOP's, all those wonderful degrees, all mired in debt.