President Barack Obama
Remarks at Campaign
Maine Community College
March 30, 2012
[WHITE HOUSE TRANSCRIPT]
5:08 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Maine!
(Applause.) Thank you! (Applause.) Thank you very
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years!
THE PRESIDENT: Well, it is good to be in South Portland,
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I love you?
THE PRESIDENT: I love you! (Applause.) Thank
you. It is wonderful to be here.
First of all, can everybody please give Richard a big round of applause
for that great introduction. (Applause.) A couple other
people I want to acknowledge -- first of all, your outstanding
Congresswoman, Chellie Pingree, is here. (Applause.) One of
the great statesmen of our time, Senator George Mitchell, in the
house. (Applause.) From nearby Portland, Mayor Michael
Brennan is here. (Applause.) And the Maine Finance
Committee and everybody who helped put this together -- what a
wonderful event. And whoever arranged for the great weather, good
job. (Laughter.) You know, the last time I was in Maine it
was snowing -- (laughter) -- not surprisingly, and I love snow but this
is good, too.
Now, let me say this, Maine. I am here today not just because I
need your help. I’m here because the country needs your
help. (Applause.) A lot of you worked really hard in 2008
in our campaign. And the reason you worked so hard wasn’t because
you thought it was going to be a cakewalk. When you decide to
support a presidential candidate named Barack Hussein Obama --
(laughter) -- then you know that this is not a sure thing.
The reason you guys worked so hard wasn’t just because of me. It
was because you shared a vision about what America is all about.
You shared a vision about who we are as a people.
(Applause.) And that vision -- that vision said that we don’t
just leave people to fend for themselves. We don’t just let the
powerful play by their own rules. It was a vision of America
where we’re all in it together. Where everybody who works hard
has the chance to get ahead -- no matter what they look like, no matter
where they come from, not just those at the very top, but everybody --
that that was the recipe for American success.
That was the vision that we shared. That was the change we
believed in. We knew it wouldn’t come easy. We knew it
wouldn’t be quick. But when you think back over the last three
years, I want you to know that because of what you did in 2008, we’ve
begun to see what change looks like. We’ve begun to see it.
(Applause.) We've begun to see it.
Change is the first bill I signed into law -- a law that says a woman
deserves an equal day’s pay for an equal day’s work.
(Applause.) That’s the kind of change we believed in.
Change is the decision that we made to rescue the American auto
industry. There were a million jobs at stake. There were
those who said let Detroit go bankrupt. We didn’t do it, and
today GM is back on top as the world’s number-one automaker.
(Applause.) And Detroit has never made better cars than it does
today. (Applause.) With more than 200,000 new jobs over the
last two and a half years, the American auto industry is back. And
they’re making better cars, and more fuel-efficient cars than ever
before. (Applause.) That’s what change is.
Change is the decision that we made to stop waiting for Congress to do
something about our oil addiction and finally raise fuel-efficiency
standards on cars. And by the middle of the next decade, we’re
going to be driving American-made cars that get almost 55 miles a
gallon, and that will save the typical family $8,000 at the pump over
time. (Applause.) That’s what change is.
(Applause.) That happened because of you.
Change is the fight that we won to have $60 billion stop going to banks
and instead go to lower interest rates for student loans and more help
on Pell grants, so that our young people can get the college education
that they need to compete in the 21st century. (Applause.)
That’s what change is.
And, yes, Maine, change is the health care reform that we passed after
a century of trying -- (applause) -- because we believe that in
America, in this great country of ours, nobody should go bankrupt just
because they get sick. And as a consequence of what you did, 2.5
million young people have health insurance now that didn’t have it
before because they’re staying on their parent's plans.
(Applause.) Millions of seniors are now paying less for
prescription drugs. Insurance companies can’t deny you coverage
right at the time when you need it. (Applause.) People are
getting preventive care that they weren’t getting before.
(Applause.) We’re going to make sure the people with preexisting
conditions are finally able to get coverage. That’s what change
is. That happened because of what you guys did in 2008.
Change is the fact that for the first time in history, you don’t have
to hide who you love in order to serve the country that you love.
We ended “don’t ask, don’t tell." Ended it. (Applause.)
And change is keeping another promise I made in 2008 -- for the first
time in nine years, we don’t have any Americans fighting in Iraq.
(Applause.) We refocused our efforts on the terrorists who
actually attacked us on 9/11. And thanks to our brave men and
women in uniform, al Qaeda is weaker than ever before and and Osama bin
Laden is no more. We’ve begun to transition in Afghanistan to put
them into the lead. We are starting to bring our troops
home. That’s what change is. That happened because of
Now, Maine, none of this has been easy. And if you notice, we
haven’t gotten a lot of help from the other side.
(Laughter.) We’ve still got more work to do. I was
listening to Richard tell his story and he’s absolutely right -- that
determination, that willingness to do whatever it takes, understanding
that a job is not just a matter of money, it’s also a matter of dignity
and purpose and contributing to this country -- that spirit of
Richard’s, that exists all across America.
But there are still a lot of folks who are still looking for
work. We went through the worst financial crisis and the worst
economic crisis in our lifetimes. And although we’re starting to
make progress, we still have too many families that are having trouble
making the bills, too many folks still out of work. We’re still
recovering from this incredible storm.
But here’s the good news. Over the last two years, businesses
have added nearly 4 million new jobs. (Applause.) Our
manufacturers are creating jobs for the first time since the
‘90s. Our economy is getting stronger. The recovery is
accelerating. And that means the last thing we can afford to do
right now is to go back to the very same policies that got us into this
mess in the first place. (Applause.) Right?
But, of course, that’s exactly what the other side -- all those folks
who are running for this office -- that’s exactly what they’re
proposing. They don’t make any secret about it. They want
to go back to the days when Wall Street played by its own rules.
They want to roll back health care so that insurance companies can jack
up your rates or whatever they want. They want to continue to
spend trillions of dollars more on tax breaks for the wealthiest
individuals, even if it means adding to the deficit, even if it means
gutting things like education, and basic research, and clean energy and
Medicare -- all those things that help this economy grow.
Their philosophy is simple: You’re on your own. That’s
their view -- that the only way the economy can grow is if -- if you’re
out of a job, tough luck, figure it out on your own. If you don’t
have health care, too bad, you’re on your own. If you’re a senior
having trouble paying your prescription drugs that’s not our
problem. If you’re a young person coming out of poverty, pull
yourself up by your own bootstraps, even if you don’t have boots.
(Laughter.) That’s their vision.
And by the way, if you look at their budget that the Republicans in the
House of Representatives just passed, it’s no exaggeration -- they
would gut things that we’ve always believed were the core of making
America great: education, basic research in science, caring for
the most vulnerable.
They are wrong. They are wrong in their vision of America.
(Applause.) In the United States of America, we are greater on
our own -- we are great together than we are on our own.
(Applause.) In the United States of America, we believe in the
basic promise that if you work hard, you can do well enough to raise
your family and own a home, and send your kids to college and put a
little away for retirement.
That’s the choice in this election -- different visions of
America. This is not just about another political debate.
This is the defining issue of our time at a make-or-break moment for
the middle class in this country. Who is going to be fighting for
you -- that’s what this is about. (Applause.)
We can't go back --
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more
THE PRESIDENT: We can go back to what they’re offering -- an
economy built on outsourcing and phony debt and phony financial
THE PRESIDENT: Or we can fight for an economy that works for
everybody -- an economy that’s built to last, an economy built on
American manufacturing and American science and American energy and
American education that makes sure our kids have the skills they
need. And the values that have always made this country
great: Hard work. Everybody having a fair shot.
Everybody doing their fair share. Everybody operating under the
same set of rules. Shared responsibility. That’s what we’re
fighting for. That’s the kind of America we need to build.
I don’t know about you, but I think we need to make sure the next
generation of manufacturing, for example, takes root not in Asia, not
in Europe. I want it to take place right here in Maine.
(Applause.) I want it to take place in factories in Detroit and
Pittsburgh and Cleveland. I don’t want this nation to be known
just for buying and consuming things. I want it to be known for
producing and inventing and selling stuff. That’s how America was
built. That’s the kind of economy we’ve got to get back to.
And that’s why it’s time to stop rewarding businesses that ship jobs
overseas. Let’s start rewarding companies that create jobs right
here in America. Let’s give them tax breaks. (Applause.)
I want to make our schools the envy of the world. And we start to
do that -- not only are we putting more money into education, but we’re
also insisting on reform. And that starts with the man or woman
at the front of the classroom. A good teacher can increase the
lifetime earnings of a classroom by $250,000. (Applause.) A
great teacher can inspire a kid who's trapped in poverty, trapped in
their own circumstances, to shoot for something higher, to dream
So I don’t want to hear folks in Washington just bashing
teachers. I don’t want them defending the status quo. Let’s
give schools the resources they need to hire good teachers and reward
great teachers. (Applause.) Let’s give schools the
flexibility they need to teach with creativity and passion. We
can stop teaching to the test. Replace teachers who aren’t doing
the job, but let’s give them the power they need to inspire their
When kids do graduate, right now they’re having trouble financing their
college educations. When Americans owe more in tuition debt than
credit card debt, you know that’s a problem. And that’s why --
coming up in July, by the way, if Congress doesn’t do anything, the
interest rates on student loans are going to go up, they’re going to
THE PRESIDENT: That’s a bad idea, which is why I’ve said,
Congress, let’s get moving. Now, they haven’t done it yet.
So you guys need to make sure that everybody understands how important
this is. And colleges and universities, they’ve got to do their
part keeping tuition down. Because higher education can’t be a
luxury -- it is an economic imperative that every family in America
should be able to afford. (Applause.)
An economy built to last is one where we support scientists and
research and science. (Applause.) Whether it’s stem cell
research or climate change, we want to make sure that the great medical
breakthroughs happen here in the United States and that happens because
we finance research. We want to make sure that the next
breakthroughs in clean energy happen here in the United States.
That happens because we support clean energy.
We have -- we’ve subsidized oil companies for 100 years. And I
think they’re doing pretty good, last I checked. Every time you
fill up a tank, they’re doing just fine. So I think it’s time to
end 100 years of taxpayer giveaways to an industry that’s never been
more profitable. (Applause.) Let’s double down on the clean
energy industry that’s never been more promising -- solar power and
wind power, biofuels. (Applause.)
And let’s rebuild America. We’re a nation of builders. You
go to other countries, they’ve got newer airports, better rail
lines. That’s not who -- America always had the best stuff.
(Laughter.) I want to make sure that our businesses have access
to the newest roads and airports, and the fastest railroads and
Internet access for everybody. It’s time for us to stop -- look,
let’s take the money that we’re no longer spending at war, use half of
it to pay down our debt, use the other half to do some nation-building
here at home. What do you think, Maine? I think it’s
And when it comes to our deficit, when it comes to our fiscal
situation, let’s have a tax system that reflects everybody doing their
fair share. (Applause.) Doing their fair share. Some
of you know I’ve proposed something called the Buffett Rule. It’s
a pretty simple rule that Warren Buffett happens to endorse: If
you make more than $1 million a year -- I don’t mean that you have $1
million, I mean every year you’re making more than $1 million -- you
should not pay a tax rate that’s lower than your secretary’s, which is
what is happening for too many folks right now. (Applause.)
What I’ve said is, if you make $250,000 a year or less -- like 98
percent of American families, then your taxes don’t need to go
up. Folks are still struggling. But if you’re doing really
well, you can do a little bit more. (Applause.) And when I
say this, look, this is not class warfare, it’s not class envy.
This is just basic math. (Laughter.) Because if somebody
like me gets a tax break that I don’t need and the country can’t
afford, then one of two things is going to happen. Either it adds
to our deficit, or it takes something away from somebody else –- that
veteran who needs services for his PTSD after he served our country;
that student that’s trying to afford getting their college degree; that
senior who's already having a tough time paying for their prescription
Why would we set up a system where I don’t do anything and somebody
who's in a tougher position has to bear the entire burden? That’s
not right. That’s not who we are.
You know, I hear some of these other folks, some of these politicians
talking about values during an election year. Well, let me tell
you about values. Hard work is a value. Personal
responsibility is a value. Looking out for one another is a
value. (Applause.) The idea that I’m my brother’s keeper,
my sister’s keeper -- that’s a value. (Applause.)
You and me, all of us, we’re here just because somebody, somewhere, at
some point, felt a responsibility not just to themselves, not even just
to their own families, but they felt a responsibility to our fellow
citizens, to our country’s future.
I think about my own background. Somebody had the foresight to
say, let’s help people finance their college educations, and that’s why
my mother, a single mom, was able to get her degree even after she had
I think about -- when you listen to Michelle talk about growing up, her
and her brother -- her dad, a blue-collar worker; her mom stayed at
home and then went to work as a secretary; neither of them had a
college degree. But Michelle talks about how there were always
like after-school programs and sports programs and activities for kids
-- because somebody thought, you know what, let’s make an investment in
these kids so that they might have that ladder to opportunity --
because that’s how all of America grows.
Everybody here has a story like that. If it’s not you, then it’s
your grandparents or your great-grandparents. We all have
benefited because we didn’t just think narrowly about the here and now
and me; we thought about the future and us. (Applause.)
This is about what we can do together. We won’t win the race for
new jobs and new businesses and middle-class security if we cling to
this same old, worn-out, tired, you’re-on-your-own economics that the
other side is peddling. I mean, they act like we haven’t tried
it. We tried it. (Laughter.) It was tried in the
decades before the Great Depression -- it didn’t work then. It
was tried in the last decade -- it didn’t work.
The idea that you would keep on doing the same thing over and over
again, even though it's been proven not to work -- that’s a sign of
madness. (Laughter and applause.) We’ve got to take this in a
different direction. (Applause.)
And we know that from our own experience. Look, if we attract an
outstanding young person to go into teaching because we’re paying them
well, we’re giving them support, professional development, and they go
on to teach the next Steve Jobs, that’s good for all of us. If we
provide faster Internet service to some rural part of Maine and there’s
some small business out there that suddenly has access to a worldwide
market, that’s good for the entire economy. If we build a new
bridge that saves a shipping company time and money, well, workers and
customers all over the country, they benefit.
And by the way, this has never been a Democratic or a Republican
idea. The first Republican President, Lincoln, during -- in the
middle of a civil war, he made investments in helping to forge the
Transcontinental Railroad, and started the American Academy of
Sciences, and land-grant colleges -- because he wasn’t just thinking
about now, he was thinking about the greatness of this country in the
future. Teddy Roosevelt called for a progressive income tax -- a
Republican. Dwight Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway
System. There were Republicans who helped FDR in Congress give
millions of returning heroes, including my grandfather, the chance to
go college on the G.I. Bill.
So this is not a partisan idea. This is an American idea.
(Applause.) And that same sense of common purpose exists
today. It’s alive and well -- maybe not in Washington --
(laughter) -- but here in Maine, all across America, on Main Streets
and town halls, when you talk to our men and women in uniform, and you
go to folks’ places of worship, they understand this.
Our politics may be divided. But most Americans still understand
that we’ve got a stake in each other. We’re greater
together. It doesn’t matter what you look like, where you come
from, we rise or fall as one nation, and one people. And that’s
what’s at stake right now. That’s what this election is
I know it has been a tough few years. And for all the changes
we’ve made, there are times where folks have gotten frustrated or
discouraged -- say, things are so tough in Washington, so
dysfunctional. Things just aren’t happening as fast as they need
to. And so it’s understandable, it’s tempting for some folks to
just say, you know what, maybe the change we believed in is
impossible. But I want to remind you, during the campaign I
warned you this was going to be hard. Big change is hard.
It takes time. It takes more than a year. It takes more
than a single term. It takes more than a single President.
What it really requires is a committed citizenry who are willing to
keep fighting and pushing, inching this closer -- inching this country
closer and closer to its highest ideals. (Applause.)
Michelle will tell you I’m not a perfect man.
(Laughter.) And I said that I wouldn’t be a perfect
President. But I made a promise in 2008 -- I said I’d always tell
you what I think, I’d always tell you where I stood. And I said
that I’d wake up every single day, fighting as hard as I know how for
you. And I have kept that promise. (Applause.) I’ve
kept that promise.
I have kept that promise.
And so if you’re willing to keep pushing with me and keep fighting with
me, keep reaching for that vision that we believed in, then I promise
you we won’t just win another election, but we will finish what we
started in 2008. (Applause.) And this country will be
better for it. And we will remind the world just why it is that
the United States of America is the greatest nation on Earth.
Thank you, everybody. God bless you. God bless the United
States of America. (Applause.)