President Obama gave these remarks at a campaign event in Ames, Iowa on August 28, 2012.
[Editor's Note: Click here for more CFR 2012 campaign resources, which examine the foreign policy and national security dimensions of the presidential race.]
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Cyclones! Thank you. (Applause.) It is good to be back in Iowa. Please give Mischa a big round of applause for the great introduction. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We love you!
THE PRESIDENT: I love you back, and I'm glad to be here. (Applause.) You guys look pretty cheerful being back at school. That's good to know. (Applause.) Yes, sort of? (Laughter.)
Well, listen, before I begin, I think it's important to say that our thoughts are with our fellow Americans down on the Gulf. They're preparing for -- the New Orleans guy right here. (Laughter.) They're obviously preparing for a big storm, Hurricane Isaac.
And we've been getting ready for this storm for days. We've got response teams and supplies in place. America will be there to help folks recover no matter what this storm brings, because when disaster strikes we're not Democrats or Republicans first, we are Americans first. (Applause.) We are one family. We're one family and we help our neighbors in need.
It is great to be back in Ames. (Applause.) Class is in session. (Laughter.) I didn't hear as many cheers – come on. (Laughter.) Whew! (Laughter.) Cyclones football kicks off at home this Saturday. (Applause.)
I won't pretend I can give a speech like Coach Rhoads can, but I'm going to try -- (applause) -- because just over two months from now, for the first time in most of your lives, you will get a chance to pick a President. (Applause.) And the truth is you've got more at stake in this election than just about anybody. When you step into that voting booth, the choice you make in that one instant is going to shape your country and your world for decades to come.
And I know that's a pretty heavy idea to lay on you on a Tuesday. (Laughter.) But it's true. The decisions we make as a country on big issues like the economy and jobs and taxes and education and energy and war and climate change -- all these decisions will directly affect your life in very personal ways. And I've got to say, this is something I'm acutely aware of when I make these decisions, because they're decisions that are going to affect Malia and Sasha, my daughters, as well.
It's the way it's always been -- one generation makes decisions on behalf of the next. But here's the thing, Cyclones -- your generation chooses which path we take as a country. Your vote decides where we go from here. (Applause.) Will we make sure that more good jobs and opportunity take root not in China or India or Germany, but right here in Iowa and all across America, so you don't have to leave home to get those good-paying jobs? (Applause.)
Are we going to reward an honest day's work with the chance to buy a home of your own, with health care that's there for you when you get sick, with the ability to put a little away for your retirement?
Are we going to make it easier for you to afford your degree and pay off your student loan debt? (Applause.) Are we going to build more good schools and hire more good teachers, so that our kids are prepared to attend colleges like Iowa State, and prepared for the 21st century workforce? (Applause.)
Will this be a country that keeps moving away from foreign oil and towards renewable sources of energy like wind and solar and biofuels -- (applause) -- energy that makes our economy more secure, but also makes our planet more secure? (Applause.)
Will this be a country that leads not just by the strength of our military, but the power of our diplomacy and the power of our example? (Applause.)
Will this be an America where no matter who you are, no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from, no matter who you love, you can pursue your own happiness and you can make it here in America if you try? (Applause.)
That's the question. (Applause.) That's what the last four years have been about. That's what this campaign is about. And that's why I'm running for a second term as President of the United States of America. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
THE PRESIDENT: Now, listen, I know it's easy to get fed up with campaigns and politics. Sometimes it seems it's meaner and smaller and more gridlocked than ever. And every day, there's a steady stream of cynics who will tell you nothing really changes; you can't make a difference; you won't be able to close the gap between life as it is and life as you want it to be. Old folks will always tell you that -- and I'm in that category now. (Laughter.)
And, frankly, some folks, they make it their political strategy to try to make you feel discouraged. They'll tell you over and over again how bad everything is, and then, of course, they'll add that it's all Obama's fault. (Laughter.) And they'll tell you that if you believed in change four years ago, your faith was foolish and you were being naÔve. Last week, my opponent's campaign went so far as to write you off as a "lost generation" -- that's you according to them.
AUDIENCE: Booo --
THE PRESIDENT: And what they hope is that by telling you these things, you'll get discouraged and you'll just stay home this time.
THE PRESIDENT: But you can't believe it. I don't believe it. We knew that solving our biggest problems were going to take more than one year, or one term, or even one President. But we went ahead and we got started. (Applause.) We know we've still got a lot of work to do to get to where we need to be. But we are going to get there. (Applause.)
I believe that because I believe in you. (Applause.) As tough as times have been, you're tougher. I've seen your passion. I've seen your service. I've seen your generation eager and impatient to make a difference. And already, you've proved that you can.
Think about it, four years ago, you believed we could put a college education within the reach of all who were willing to work for it. So we created a college tax credit that's saving families up to $10,000 for college tuition over four years. (Applause.) We took on a student loan system that was giving billions of taxpayer dollars to big banks, and we said let's give the money directly to students, and we doubled grant aid for millions of students. (Applause.)
We just won the fight to keep federal student loans from doubling for more than 7 million students. That would not have happened in Washington except for you. Your vote did that. You made that change. You helped millions of young people and maybe yourself get the kind of college education you deserve. (Applause.) Don't believe them when they tell you, you can't make a difference.
You believed four years ago that we could use less foreign oil and reduce the carbon pollution that threatens our planet. And in just four years, we've doubled -- doubled -- the generation of clean, renewable energy like wind and solar. (Applause.)
We developed new fuel standards so that your car will get nearly 55 miles per gallon by the middle of the next decade. (Applause.) That's going to save you money at the pump. That will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a level roughly equivalent to a year's worth of emissions from all the cars in the world. (Applause.)
Today, America is less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in nearly 20 years. We're on track to emit fewer greenhouse gases this year than we have in nearly 20 years. You can keep those trends going. You believed in America, and that's what's brought about change.
You believed that nobody should go broke in America just because they get sick. I believe that, too. (Applause.) What the other side calls Obamacare -- I've kind of grown to like the term Obamacare. (Laughter.) I do care. I care about folks with preexisting conditions. (Applause.) I care about kids who don't have insurance. And so today, because of the new health care law, nearly 7 million young people, including some of you in this audience, have been able to stay on your parent's plan. (Applause.)
Your grandparents are saving money on their medicine. Women have gained access to free preventive care like mammograms and contraception. (Applause.) Your vote made that happen. You made that change. (Applause.)
It was young people like you that said we could end the war in Iraq. Today that war is over -- as promised. (Applause.) More troops are home with their families, earning their educations through the Post-9/11 GI Bill, starting new businesses. And no one will ever again have to hide who they love in order to serve the country they love, because your vote ended "don't ask, don't tell" once and for all. You made that change. (Applause.)
So the point is, Ames, your vote matters. Your vote made a difference. Change was possible because of you. And now we've more work to do –- to grow this economy, create good jobs, to strengthen the middle class. And in November, your voice will matter more than it ever has before.
This week in Tampa, my opponents will offer you their agenda. It should be a pretty entertaining show. (Laughter.) It will be. And I'm sure they'll have some wonderful things to say about me. (Laughter.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: We do. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: But what you won't hear from them is a path forward that meets the challenges of our time. Instead, it will be an economic plan that says if you just give folks making $3 million or more a year another $250,000 tax cut, then jobs and prosperity will magically rain down on everybody else.
AUDIENCE: Booo --
THE PRESIDENT: Some of you guys are a little young, so you may not remember it, but we tried this for 10 years before I was elected. It didn't work out so well. It didn't work out then; it won't work now.
I don't want to pay for another millionaire's tax cut by raising taxes on the middle class. I don't want to pay for that tax cut by cutting financial aid on 10 million students. Our economic strength doesn't come from the top down; it comes from students and workers, and a growing, thriving middle class. That's how we grow an economy. (Applause.)
So in just over two months, you will make a choice about which path we take, and it's going to be a stark choice. You can choose whether we give massive new tax cuts to folks who've already made it, or whether we're going to keep taxes low for every American who's still trying to make it. (Applause.)
I've cut taxes for the middle class, and for families, and for students. And I want to make sure that taxes aren't raised a dime on your family's first $250,000 of income. That means that 98 percent of Americans and 97 percent of small businesses wouldn't see an income tax increase. (Applause.) You can choose.
You can choose whether we're going to give up new jobs and new industries to China and India, or whether we're going to fight for those jobs by investing in the research of our scientists and the drive of our students and the innovation that harnesses new sources of energy, and brings the next generation of manufacturing to places like Ames and Milwaukee and Detroit and Pittsburgh. That's your choice. (Applause.)
You can decide whether the best way to make college affordable is to -- as my opponent put it -- hope your parents can just lend you the money. (Laughter.) Or you can say, let's help more Americans earn the kind of education you receive here at Iowa State. Let's help more Americans go to community colleges to get the skills and trainings that employers are looking for right now. (Applause.)
Let's help more Iowans learn to be leaders at the Harkin Public Policy Institute that a Cyclone alum and your great Senator, Tom Harkin, is setting up. (Applause.) He's working along with your new president, Steven Leath -- doing a great job. (Applause.)
And as Mischa mentioned, although I am getting gray, I still remember what it was like for you guys -- because Michelle and I finished paying off our loans just eight years ago. We know what it's like. We shouldn't make it harder. We should make it easier. We shouldn't end the college tax credit we created; we should extend it. Because in America, higher education isn't a luxury -- it's an economic necessity that every family should be able to afford. That's the choice in this election. (Applause.)
You can choose an energy plan written by and for big oil companies.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: No!
THE PRESIDENT: That's what my opponent is offering. Or you can choose an all-of-the-above energy strategy for America -- renewable sources of energy. (Applause.) Governor Romney called those "imaginary." Congressman Ryan said they're a "fad."
AUDIENCE: Booo --
THE PRESIDENT: Let me tell you something -- they need to come to Iowa because they're the future. They're worth fighting for. (Applause.)
Nearly 7,000 good Iowa jobs depend on the wind industry. It's time to stop giving $4 billion of taxpayer subsidies to oil companies that are making a profit every time you pump gas. Let's give it to homegrown energy sources that have never been more promising. (Applause.) That's good for jobs. It's good for the economy. It's good for the environment. That's the direction we need to go in. (Applause.)
But it's all up to you. It's up to you whether we go back to a health care system that let insurance companies decide who to cover and when. I think it might make sense for you to choose to keep moving forward with the new health care law that's already cutting costs and covering more people and saving lives.
Governor Romney promised that sometime between taking the Oval Office and going to the Inaugural Ball, he'd sit right down, grab a pen, and kick 7 million young people off their parent's plan by repealing health reform. Day one, that's what he says he's going to do.
AUDIENCE: Booo --
THE PRESIDENT: Maybe we should call his plan "Romney Doesn't Care" -- (laughter) -- because I do care. (Applause.) I do care. And this law is here to stay. Now is not the time to refight the battles of the last four years. Now is the time for us to go ahead and move forward.
And I'll work with anybody who wants to make our health care system better, but I'm not going to stand by and let folks talk about how we should go back to the days when ordinary folks who are working really hard suddenly find themselves losing their home, losing their savings just because they get sick.
They can choose to refight the battles that were settled 10 years ago or 20 years ago or sometimes in the last century. I think women should be trusted to make their own health care decisions. (Applause.) That's a choice that you've got to make.
I think that students who are brought here by their parents as babies shouldn't be kicked out of the only country they know just because their parents were undocumented workers. That's my view. It's your choice. (Applause.)
I don't think we should write -- rewrite the Constitution to prevent gay Americans from being able to marry the person they love. That's my view. It's your choice. (Applause.)
The strength of our character doesn't come from shoving anybody to the sidelines. It comes from hearing every voice, harnessing every talent, realizing that here in America we are greater together than we are on our own.
And this November, you get to decide -- you get to decide the future of this war in Afghanistan. Governor Romney said ending the war was "tragic." He doesn't have a plan to bring home the 33,000 troops who will come home from Afghanistan next month. (Applause.)
I said we'd end the Iraq war. We did. I said we'd get bin Laden. We did. (Applause.) Today all of our troops are out of Iraq. We're bringing them home from Afghanistan. And as long as I'm Commander-in-Chief, we're going to make sure that we serve our veterans as well as they've served us -- because nobody who fights for America should have to fight for a job when they come home. (Applause.) But these are your choices.
Governor Romney wants to pass a new $5 trillion tax cut targeted towards the wealthiest Americans. That's not going to cut our debt. Ignoring inequality doesn't make it go away. Denying climate change won't make it stop. These things won't make for a brighter future. They won't make your future stronger.
And so, in two months, you get to choose the path that will actually lead to a better future. You have the chance to prove the cynics wrong one more time.
And the other side is going to spend these next two months -- they are going to spend more money than you've ever seen in your life. They will have an avalanche of attack ads and insults and distractions. And sometimes, they'll just -- how do I put it -- they will fib. (Laughter.)
And they've got $10-million checks from wealthy donors who like things just the way they are. They're counting on you young people to just accept their version of the way things ought to be, to just kind of leave the questions that affect your lives up to big oil and insurance companies; up to politicians that decide what a woman can or can't do when it comes to her own health. That's what they're counting on. That's their strategy.
I'm counting on something different. I'm counting on you. (Applause.) I'm counting on you. Those who oppose change, those who benefit from the status quo, they've always bet on cynicism. They always bet on complacency. But throughout America's history, they have lost that bet, and they're going to lose it this time, too. And that's because of you.
It depends on you registering to vote. It depends on you showing up to vote. It depends on you refusing to wait for the next person, or the person next to you in class, or the person in the next town, or the person in another state. It's going to depend on you to close that gap between what America is and what we know it can be. (Applause.)
Because let me tell you, everybody else is waiting on you. (Applause.) When they see you register, they'll register. When they see you vote, they'll vote. (Applause.)
And I'm asking you one more time to do what we did -- what young people all across the state of Iowa did four years ago. I'm asking you to believe. I'm asking you to believe. (Applause.) Not in my ability to bring about the changes you want to see; I'm asking you to believe in your abilities. I'm asking you to believe in what you can accomplish.
We've come too far to turn back now. We've got more work to do. We've got more young people to send to college. We've got more good jobs to create. We've got more homegrown energy to generate. We've got more good teachers to hire and more good schools to build. We've got more troops we've got to bring home. We've got more veterans we've got to take care of. We've got more doors of opportunity that we have to open up to every single person who's willing to work hard and walk through those doors. (Applause.)
That's why I'm asking you for a second term. And if you're willing to stand with me and work with me, and knock on some doors with me -- (applause) -- and make some phone calls with me -- and if you're willing to vote for me in November, we will win Iowa. We will win this election. We will finish what we started. And we'll remind the world why the United States of America is the greatest nation on Earth. (Applause.)
Thank you, everybody. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)