Charlotte, North Carolina
7:56 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Charlotte! (Applause.) Are you fired up? (Applause.) Fired up!
AUDIENCE: Ready to go!
THE PRESIDENT: Fired up!
AUDIENCE: Ready to go! (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, let me tell you something — Dennis got me fired up! (Applause.) Can everybody please give him a big round of applause? (Applause.) I feel a little bit like the guest pastor coming into church. (Laughter.) He got me fired up backstage. (Applause.)
There’s some people I want to thank. First of all, outstanding Congresswoman Alma Adams is here. (Applause.) Your next state treasurer, Dan Blue, III is here. (Applause.) Your next governor, Roy Cooper, is in the house. (Applause.) Your outstanding mayor of Charlotte, Jennifer Roberts, is here. (Applause.) And all of you are here. (Applause.)
This is a pretty good crowd right here. (Applause.) So I just want to say to you: Four days. Four days, North Carolina. Four days to decide the future of this country that we love. Now, the good news is you don’t have to wait four days, because here in North Carolina, you can vote early. (Applause.) If you are not registered to vote, you have until tomorrow to register and vote at any of the One-Stop locations in your county. There are two within a few miles from here — UNC-Charlotte — (applause) — at the Cone Center. These guys right here will show you where to go if you need to. (Applause.) Or University City Regional Library.
And if those don't work for you, then you can go to IWillVote.com, and they’ll show you where to vote. But when I see something that says “Carolina Votes” up there, I just want to make sure that whoever put up that sign isn't telling a lie. I need you to vote. The country needs you to vote. (Applause.) Because, I don't know about you, but I like to finish what I start. (Applause.) I like finishing what I start. And we need to finish what we started eight years ago. (Applause.)
Now, I realize I'm kind of gray now. You say I still look good, though, right? (Applause.) Okay. Michelle says that, too. (Applause.) But it makes me realize that back in 2008, some of you were 10. (Laughter.) Some of you who are acting like you're grown now and you're in college, but back then you were watching the Disney Channel. So let me refresh your memory about where we were when I visited Charlotte in the final days of the 2008 campaign.
We were living through two long and painful wars. We were about to enter into the worst economic crisis in our lifetimes. But because of you, because of the American people, we battled back from what might have been a Great Depression. Last year, we saw incomes rise at the fastest pace in four decades. (Applause.) We saw poverty fall at the fastest pace since 1968. (Applause.)
We've created fifteen and a half million new jobs. The unemployment rate down to 4.9 percent — near its nine-year low. (Applause.) Twenty million people have health insurance that didn’t have it before. (Applause.) We’ve kicked our addiction to foreign oil. We doubled our production of renewable energy, including right here in Carolina — you’ve been a leader. (Applause.) America became a world leader in fighting climate change.
And, by the way, we did all that — and gas is two bucks a gallon. (Applause.) Back in 2008, they said if you elect Obama, it's going to be six bucks a gallon. It's two bucks a gallon. (Applause.) Thanks, Obama. (Applause.)
We brought home more of our men and women in uniform who had sacrificed so much for our security. (Applause.) We took out Osama bin Laden. (Applause.) We've got ISIL on the run.
Here at home, we’ve seen the highest high school graduation rates on record. (Applause.) Highest college attendance and graduation rates. (Applause.) Provided Pell grants to millions more young people who didn’t have them before. And, by the way, we made sure that in all 50 states you can marry the person you love. (Applause.)
Now, the reason this happened wasn’t just luck. It had to do with some policies that were thought through. But it, most of all, had to do with our greatest asset, and that is you, the American people. People of every party, people of every faith, people of every color, creed, background, who understand we are stronger together — (applause) — that it shouldn’t matter the circumstances in which we're born, we should be able to live out our dreams. (Applause.) That it shouldn’t matter whether you're young or old, black or white, Latino, Asian, Native American — (applause) — whether you got a disability, whether you're gay or straight — we all pledge allegiance to the red, white, and blue. We all love this country. We all want to move it forward. That's the America I know. (Applause.)
And there is only one candidate in this race who understands that what that means, and she has devoted her life to creating a better America — and that’s the next President of the United States, Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Applause.)
Now, this should not be a close race, but it’s going to be a close race. It’s going to be especially close here in North Carolina. And I want everybody to understand, all the progress we’ve made, everything we’ve fought for, everything we aspire to — all of that goes out the window if we don’t win this election. So we’ve got to work our hearts out over the next four days. We got to work like our future depends on it. Because you know what? Our future depends on it. (Applause.)
And that also means we’ve got to block out the noise. I know here in North Carolina, you are tired of all those ads on TV. They just get you depressed, and there’s so much noise and so much distraction. So much stuff that has nothing to do with your lives. So much stuff that’s made up and fabricated. And so there’s a temptation to want to just tune it out. But I want you to focus on the choice that we face in this election, because if you block out the noise and the distraction, the okie-doke, the nonsense, the hype, the misinformation — if you block all of that out, the choice could not be simpler, it could not be clearer.
I mean, there is a reason why, in an unprecedented fashion, you have Republicans and conservatives, who aren’t running for office so they feel it’s safe to do so, to denounce Donald Trump. And the reason is, is because Hillary’s opponent, Donald Trump, is uniquely unqualified to be President; is temperamentally unfit to be Commander-in-Chief. (Applause.) And the fact that he has gotten this far tells me the degree to which our politics has become like a bad reality TV show.
Listen, if you want to keep our military the greatest fighting force in the world, if you want America to stay strong and respected around the world — you can’t have a Commander-in -Chief who says it’s okay to torture people. You can’t have somebody who suggests that we can ban entire religions from our country.
AUDIENCE: Booo –
THE PRESIDENT: Don’t boo –
THE PRESIDENT: Vote! (Applause.) He can’t hear your boos, but he can hear your votes. (Applause.) A boo don’t get you nowhere. Voting gets you someplace.
We can’t afford a Commander-in-Chief who insults POWs, attacks a Gold Star mom, says he’s going to be his own foreign policy advisor because he says he’s got a “good brain.” (Laughter.) Who says that? (Laughter.)
No, listen, I’m serious. If, like, you just knew somebody – some guy in your office or somebody at school, and they’re all like, no, I’ve got a good brain — what would you think? You would not put that guy in charge of nothing. Come on, man. You can’t do that. (Applause.) Listen –
You know, you can’t have somebody as your Commander-in-Chief who doesn’t know the difference between Iraq and Iran; who doesn’t know the difference between Lithuania and Latvia. Even a Republican senator said we can’t afford to give the nuclear codes to somebody that erratic. Now, think about that. We are talking about somebody being responsible for the nuclear codes. Right after you get sworn in, somebody comes and says, okay, Mr. President, here is what you got to know. It’s serious. You sit there and you go, oh, okay — this is serious.
So you can’t have that person, as he is getting briefed, thinking Saturday Night Live insulted me, I’m going to send a tweet. You can’t have that. You got to have somebody who’s focused, because this is serious business.
If you think that America is stronger when everybody does their part, and everybody does their fair share — you can’t elect a candidate, the first in decades who refuses to release any tax returns. (Applause.) We don’t know who he does business with. We don’t know who he owes favors to. We have no idea.
And what we do know is, because he’s bragged about the fact that he’s a really smart businessman, from his perspective that mean he doesn’t pay federal income taxes, and stiffs small businesses that did work for him, and stiffs workers what he owes them, and puts him name on a phony university that tricks people into paying up money and getting nothing for it.
The idea that this guy claims to be the voice for working people; someone who exploits working people, who probably doesn’t know any working people — except the guy who’s cleaning up in his hotel and the guy who’s mowing the lawn in his fairway. Come on. I know a lot of successful businesspeople. They don’t go around cheating people to be successful.
If you cherish our Constitution, how can we elect a President who threatens seriously to shut down press that reports things he doesn’t like? Or suggests that he might throw his opponent in jail in a presidential debate? Or feels comfortable suggesting we discriminate against people of different faiths? Our Constitution does not allow that. You don’t have to go to law school to know that. You’ve just got to read one of those pocket Constitutions that Mr. Khan was handing out. It’s right there under the Bill of Rights. (Applause.)
There are places in the world where that might be acceptable, but this isn’t one of them. This is the United States of America. We’ve got laws. We’ve got rights. (Applause.)
How could we possibly elect a President who feels comfortable — no, let me change that — who, for political purposes, deliberately vilifies minorities? Thinks it’s funny to mock Americans with disabilities? Has no compunction in suggesting that women be treated as objects? Who brags about how being famous allows him to get away with something that is the definition of sexual assault, that we’re trying to fight on college campuses right now — (applause) — that we’re trying to get rid of in those instances where it happens in our armed forces?
You’re the Commander-in-Chief. You’re supposed to be setting an example. (Applause.) And you’ve got somebody who wants to be elected President who calls women “pigs,” or “slobs,” or “dogs,” or grades them on a scale of one to ten.
Listen, I have two magnificent daughters — (applause) — because I have a magnificent wife. (Applause.) And they are strong, and they are smart, and they are full of character, and they are kind. And there is nothing they cannot do. (Applause.) And we have taught them not just to respect others, but to respect themselves. (Applause.) The idea that we would put in place in the most prominent, most powerful office in the land somebody who undermines that?
And the worst part about it, Charlotte, is we have begun to treat this as if it’s normal. Every day, this is a candidate who has said things that just four years ago, just eight years ago, twelve, we would have considered completely disqualifying. I mean, imagine if in 2008 I had said any of the things that this man said. Just imagine it. Imagine if I had behaved in the way this man behaved. Imagine what Republicans would have said. Imagine what the press would have said.
But now we act like I guess this is normal.
THE PRESIDENT: As if it’s some parody. You can’t tell the difference between “Saturday Night Live” and what’s actually happening on the news. (Applause.)
And then we hear people who are voting for him justifying it. They say, well, he doesn’t really mean it. Or they say, well, that’s just locker room talk. Although I’ve been in a lot of locker rooms; I never heard that. Or they say, well, you know what, we really don’t like that, we really don’t like this, but as long as he helps us potentially get tax cuts for the wealthy passed, or as long as he’s willing to roll back Obamacare so 20 million people don’t have health insurance anymore, as long as he’s willing to do the things we want to do, then it’s okay, we can ignore these elements of his character.
But I want all of you to understand something. I’ve been in this office now eight years. (Applause.) No, no, no, hold on. Hold on. I want you to pay attention here, because it’s been interesting to watch the evolution and the realization that I arrived at during the course of this campaign and then the presidency. Who you are, what you are does not change after you become President. It magnifies it. It shines a spotlight on it. You may be tested, and you may see who you are, but it doesn’t fundamentally change who you are.
So if you disrespected women before you were President, you’ll disrespect women after you’re President. If, as Dennis said, you accept the support of Klan sympathizers before you were President, are kind of slow in disowning it, saying, well, I don’t know — that’s how you’ll be when you’re President. If you disrespect the Constitution when you’re running for President, you’ll disrespect the Constitution even after you’ve sworn an oath to uphold and protect it.
And the reason that’s important to understand is because I’m a proud Democrat. (Applause.) No, hold on. I can honestly say to myself that if we as Democrats had nominated somebody who said the things Mr. Trump said, then I’d have to say, I’m sorry, yes, I’m a Democrat, but I’m an American first. (Applause.) I’m a human being first. I’m a father first. I’m a husband first. (Applause.)
And you know, there are Republicans who have done that. I have Republican friends who don’t think or act the way Donald Trump does, and they don’t intend to vote for him because they understand this is somebody different who is uniquely unqualified to hold this job.
And the good news, though, North Carolina, is that you are uniquely qualified to make sure he doesn’t get the job. (Applause.) But you’ve got to vote. (Applause.) You can’t just sit on the sidelines. You’ve got to vote. You can’t just complain. You’ve got to vote. (Applause.) You can’t just get depressed and crawl up in the fetal position, and look at the online polling and go, oh, what’s going to — no, you’ve just got to vote! (Applause.)
And the good news is you don’t have to just vote against somebody. You can vote for somebody. (Applause.) Because there’s a candidate who’s actually worthy of your vote. A candidate who is smart and is steady and is tested. Probably the most qualified person ever to run for this office — our next President, Hillary Clinton! (Applause.)
You know, I will tell you, as I’ve been watching this thing unfold, it has been a source of some frustration to me to see the degree to which Hillary’s reality diverges from what you see in the media and on the news and on the blogs and all that, because this is somebody who has devoted her life to making this country better. (Applause.) This is somebody who has always fought on behalf of working people, has always fought on behalf of the vulnerable. Somebody who has worked tirelessly for civil rights.
Think about how she got her start. When Donald Trump and his dad were being sued by the Justice Department for denying housing to African American families, Hillary was going undercover from school to school to make sure minority kids were getting an equal shot at a good education. (Applause.) That’s at the start of her career. And she didn’t stop — working with the Children’s Defense Fund, working as First Lady, working as a U.S. senator, working as a Secretary of State.
Her heart has always been in the right place. She works hard every single day. I know, because I ran against her. I got worn out. (Laughter.) And I said, she’s so smart and hardworking, let’s — come on, work with me. And she made me a better President. (Applause.) She was in the Situation Room when we made the decision to go after bin Laden. She circled the globe tirelessly, earning the respect of world leaders. She did her homework. She was well prepared. She wasn’t flashy. She was loyal. She had my back. She had the American people's back. She understands the world. She understands the challenges that we face. And when things don’t go her way, she doesn’t whine, she doesn’t complain, she doesn’t say the game is rigged.
You know what — you know, Malia and Sasha, they used to have, like, soccer when they were kids — real kids — seven, eight — they'd be running around, just all circling around the ball. They don’t know how to spread out; they're just like running around. (Laughter.) And sometimes they'd lose, sometimes they'd win. But the one thing that I always taught Malia and Sasha, and I'm sure the parents here who have kids in sports teach you is you don’t complain when things aren’t going your way. You don’t whine. There's no crying in baseball. (Laughter and applause.) You just come back and you work harder, and you do better. And that's what Hillary Clinton does. If she gets knocked down, she gets back up. She dusts herself off. She gets back to work. (Applause.) She'll be a great President as long as, Carolina, you vote for Hillary Clinton for President! (Applause.)
And, by the way, Deborah Ross will be the same kind of senator if you give her a shot. (Applause.) I've gotten a chance to know Deborah. This is an outstanding woman. She has heard your stories. She's going to fight to give working families a fair shot, our kids a great education, our seniors a secure retirement. And unlike her opponent, she does not support Donald Trump. So you can't just stop voting. You can’t just stop by voting for Hillary. You got to go down the ballot. You got to vote for Roy Cooper. You got to vote for Deborah Ross. (Applause.)
You know, Senator Richard Burr, who Deborah is running against –
AUDIENCE: Booo –
THE PRESIDENT: Don't boo. What are we going to do?
THE PRESIDENT: Vote!
He said just a while back, “There’s not a separation between me and Donald Trump.” Now, you think about that.
THE PRESIDENT: What?
THE PRESIDENT: What? (Laughter.)
Not a separation. Two things that are possible there. Either he really does think like Donald Trump, in which case you don’t want him in the United States Senate representing Carolina. Or he's just saying he agrees with Donald Trump because he thinks it will help him get elected, in which case you don’t want him representing North Carolina in the United States Senate. (Applause.)
The other day, he joked about violence against Hillary. He went on to apologize. And, you know, I know Richard Burr, and I suspect he didn’t actually mean it. But the problem is, is that they've become so accustomed to saying these things in the rallies and in their town halls and on the Internet, it becomes an applause line. And it's become normalized, the idea of making a joke about violence against somebody who is running for President or is President. There's a reason why we got Secret Service. There's nothing normal about that. And that's not what North Carolina is about. That’s not what America is about.
So if you want Hillary Clinton to continue the progress we’ve made, then you got to give her allies like Deborah Ross. You can’t just elect Hillary and stick her with a Republican Congress that's been behaving the way they’ve been behaving. (Applause.) They have not been willing to work with me, even when we were trying to prevent a Great Depression. They wouldn’t do stuff even when it originally was their idea. I'd, like, go through their list of things they wanted to do, and I'd say, okay, I want to do this, too — let's do it. They'd say, oh, well, now that you're for it, we can't be for it.
Now they're promising even more dysfunction in Washington. That is hard to do. They're promising “years” of hearings and investigations. They're promising more shutdowns, more obstruction, more repeal votes. Deborah’s opponent just said, if Hillary wins, he'll do everything he can to block all Supreme Court nominations. Never in history have we seen that attitude. Eleven years ago, the same guy said a Supreme Court could not function without nine justices. So what changed all of a sudden? The reason they say they're not confirming my nominee, Merrick Garland — who everybody acknowledges is an outstanding jurist — is they said we're going to let the American people decide — it's too close to the election. Now we're getting close to the election, and they're saying, well, if Hillary wins, we might not nominate him anyway. What happened? Only Republican Presidents get to nominate judges now?
You've got some Republicans who are actually suggesting they will impeach Hillary. She's not elected yet. They can't even tell you what it is they'll impeach her for. They just decided, that's how we're going to roll, that's what we're going to do; we are good at saying no because we can't say yes to anything; we can't pass our own stuff; we don’t know what we stand for, but we do know if we block everything from happening, no matter how much it damages the American people, it might advantage us in an election.
Listen, gridlock — gridlock is not some mysterious fog that descends on Washington. Gridlock is not the result of Democrats and Republicans being equally unreasonable. Gridlock has happened because Republicans, like Richard Burr, have decided they're going to oppose anything, no matter how good it is for the country, because a Democrat proposes it or because they're worried about their Republican voters not liking them. So if you think a vote for gridlock is good, you should vote Republican.
But if you think America can do better than that, if you care about creating jobs for families in your neighborhoods, if you care about childcare for single moms who are trying to get to work, if you care about equal pay for equal work and raising the minimum wage, if you care about making sure that we're rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our airports, rebuilding America — then you need to vote for Democrats up and down the ticket. (Applause.) You need to vote for Hillary Clinton and vote for Deborah Ross; vote for Roy Cooper — people who will put you ahead of politics. People who are ready to roll up their sleeves and move this country forward.
So let me just say this: If you are not yet persuaded, I want you to understand, there is something more fundamental at stake in this election than just policies and programs. What's at stake right now is the character of our country. Hillary Clinton says her mom taught her the Methodist creed: Do all you can, for all the people you can, in all the ways you can, as long as you can. That is her idea of America. Those are the values she wants to summon for all of us to make this country better. That's what this country is all about. (Applause.)
We are a nation like no other — not because we're the largest or the richest, or we've got the biggest military. We are exceptional because this country was founded for the sake of an idea: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That we're endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. You don’t have to be born into wealth or privilege to make a difference in this country. (Applause.) You don’t have to practice a certain faith or have a certain last name in order to be successful in this country. (Applause.)
That idea is what drove patriots to choose revolution over tyranny. It's what led our GIs to defeat fascism an ocean away. It's what gave women the courage to reach for the ballot. Gave marchers the courage to cross the bridge in Selma. Gave workers the courage to organize for collective bargaining and better wages. That’s what's made America exceptional. That’s what's made America great. (Applause.)
And the thing about it is, North Carolina, it doesn’t depend on somebody up on high. It doesn’t depend on somebody doing it for us. It’s what we do for ourselves. It's what we do for each other. It's achieved by us, together, through the hard and sometimes frustrating, but ultimately necessary work of self-government.
When I ran in ’08, I didn’t say, “Yes, I can.” I said, “Yes, we can.” (Applause.) You and me. All of us. As Justice Louis Brandeis once said, the most important office in a democracy is not President or senator or mayor — it's the office of citizen. That’s what this has always been about — what can we do together. And so the question right now is, what are we going to do together? (Applause.) Because if you vote — if you vote, we will win North Carolina. (Applause.)
But we're going to have to do it together. You can't just depend on somebody else to do it. That's what Hillary understands. She understands this is a big, diverse country; a big, diverse democracy. We only succeed when citizens are involved and paying attention. And that's why it's so important that we understand, even when we disagree with somebody, that we can engage with them. We don't demonize other people. We're willing to compromise even when we think we're right. We don't try to burn the house down when we don't get our way. (Applause.) She understands that.
But she needs help. She needs your help. You can't sit on the sidelines on this one — especially here in North Carolina. (Applause.) Because some of you may be aware there was a time when African Americans couldn't vote here in North Carolina. You had to figure out how many jelly beans were in a jar. You had to figure out how many bubbles there were on a bar of soap. You may also know that just recently, this governor who is currently in place signed a law that a federal judge said with “surgical precision” was trying to discriminate and prevent people from voting.
Now, that law has been suspended — which is why it matters that we have an independent judiciary. It matters that we have a Constitution. But can you imagine, after all the battles that have been waged, after all the blood, sweat and tears to give us the right to a voice in our democracy, after all the hardship, all the struggle, that some of us would choose to give away our birthright, give away our power, give away our voice because we couldn't go across the street and spend 15 minutes to determine who it was that was going to make fundamental decisions about our lives? (Applause.)
If that idea doesn’t upset you, I want to tell you about a woman named Grace Bell Hardison. She sent me a letter. You might be interested in it. She’s 100 years old. Says: “Dear Mr. President, at 100 years old, you can believe I’ve seen it all. It’s by God’s grace that I’m still able to be here with my family…I lived through the Civil Rights Era. I know the blood that was shed in the name of the right to vote. I remember how hard Dr. King and many civil rights lawyers fought for the right to vote. I remember the victories they won for me and generations after me…I can assure you, Mr. President, I will keep fighting on…If I haven’t stopped fighting at 100 years old, then neither can you.” (Applause.) Neither can you.
The authorities were trying to strike her off the voter registration rolls a few weeks ago. Somebody caught them and said, uh-uh. She got her voter registration reinstated. You can bet she’s going to vote. (Applause.)
If Miss Grace Bell Hardison, 100 years old — if she’s not tired, then I'm not tired. (Applause.) If I'm not tired, you can't be tired. (Applause.) My name won't be on the ballot this time. But everything we've worked for is on the ballot. Twenty million people having health care is on the ballot. Treating the LGBT community with respect and equality is on the ballot. Good jobs and good wages is on the ballot. Early childhood education is on the ballot. Women’s rights is on the ballot. Workers’ rights is on the ballot. Justice is on the ballot. Fairness is on the ballot. Decency is on the ballot. Our very democracy is on ballot. (Applause.)
And Hillary Clinton will advance these things if you give her a chance. Deborah Ross will fight for these things if you give her a chance. But you got to go out and vote. You got to get your friends to vote, and your cousins to vote, your uncles, and neighbors, and coworkers to vote. Tell them this is the moment where we take a stand. Tell them this is the moment where our character is tested. Tell them, don’t succumb to fear. Tell them to lift up hope. Tell them to choose hope. Choose hope. Carolina, choose hope. Carolina, choose what’s best in us. Choose hope. Get out there and vote. (Applause.)
Let’s work for four more days. Let’s win North Carolina. Let’s win the presidency for Hillary Clinton. Let’s put Deborah Ross in the Senate. Let’s make Roy Cooper our governor. Let’s finish what we started and remind the world why this is the greatest nation on Earth.
God bless you, North Carolina. God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
8:42 P.M. EDT