Georgia: Let’s Do This One More Time and Re-Elect Senator Warnock
President Obama’s Remarks as Delivered at Georgia Rally in Support of Senator Raphael Warnock
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Hello, Atlanta! I’m back! I am back.
AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Si, se puede! Si, se puede!
PRES. BARACK OBAMA: I know — I know — Si, se puede! I am back. Yes, we can.
You know, I know it feels like we just did this, and that’s because we did. You did a buy one, get one free deal on elections this year. But I’m here today for the same reason that I was here the last time, to ask you to vote one more time for my friend and your outstanding senator, Raphael Warnock.
Now, I know a lot of folks have been voting early over the last few days. That is a good thing. That is an encouraging thing. But — you knew there was a “but” –plenty of folks haven’t voted yet. Tomorrow is the last day for early voting. And then we need to get people out to the polls on Tuesday. Which means we still got work to do. And you know what? I’m counting on you to do it.
A lot of you may be feeling pretty good, because a few weeks ago, people turned out to vote. And as a result, Democrats still have control of the Senate. And, because of some really concerted efforts in a lot of important states, many of the most egregious, potentially dangerous, and let’s face it, somewhat crazy folks, election deniers got beat.
That’s the good news. It turns out that most Americans prefer leaders who want to bring people together to solve real problems, as opposed to conspiracy theorists and fearmongers. That makes me somewhat optimistic. It’s good to know that folks would prefer normal to Looney Tunes. That’s a good thing.
But — and you knew there was a “but” — I’m here to tell you that we can’t let up. I’m here to tell you we can’t tune out. We can’t be complacent. We have to run through the tape. And that means all of us doing our part to make sure that Raphael Warnock goes back to being the United States Senator from the great state of Georgia.
And I know you can do it because you’ve done it before. Last year, you didn’t just send one, you sent two Democrats to the Senate, John Ossoff, Reverend Warnock. And because of what you did, you made all this progress possible.
CHILD: Don’t let up!
PRES. BARACK OBAMA: Don’t let up. You’ve been listening. She’s been paying attention. How old are you? You’re four years old. Four years old and she understands, you can’t let up. She could have just summarize my entire talk. Out of the mouths of babes.
If voters here in Georgia had stayed home two years ago, Republicans would have kept control of the Senate. And they would have blocked every single piece of legislation that President Biden and the Democrats ended up passing. It would have been their top priority. In fact, it probably would have been their only priority.
But that’s not what happened, because of you, because you did not get weary. Because you did not act like everything was over. Democrats took back the Senate and were eventually able to translate that into people’s lives being better in concrete ways. Because of you, President Biden and the Democrats, they didn’t just rebuild the economy and keep unemployment low during the pandemic; they passed a law that would lower health care costs and prescription drug prices. They passed an infrastructure bill that will put people back to work. They passed the first major gun safety legislation in 30 years. They made the biggest investment in clean energy in our history.
That happened because of you, Georgia. And now we need you to do it again. Because for all the progress we’ve made, we all know we’ve got a lot of work to do. Right now, too many folks in Georgia, and all across the country, they’re still hurting, they’re still struggling to pay the bills. Parents are still worried about their kids’ safety. Too many Americans are wondering if their freedoms could be taken away.
And the question is, who’s going to actually do something about it? Who’s going to fight for you? Is it the party whose main agenda is cutting taxes for the rich and big corporations?
PRES. BARACK OBAMA: The party that wants to gut Social Security and Medicare?
PRES. BARACK OBAMA: Flood our streets with more guns.
PRES. BARACK OBAMA: Decide who you love, when you should start a family?
PRES. BARACK OBAMA: Or is it the party that’s trying to put people back to work and lower costs, and make healthcare more affordable, and keep our community safe, and save our planet, and give every woman the ability to make her own decisions about her own body?
That’s the choice in this election. That’s what’s at stake.
And, you know, the other side knows this. You heard what Reverend Warnock was talking about. They’ve spent millions of dollars here in Georgia over the past few weeks trying to get their folks to show up and get you to stay home. Because they know they don’t have winning ideas, their strategy is to scare you and confuse you and bamboozle you, run the okeydokey on you, and make you believe that your vote does not matter. Am I right, ma’am? I am right.
Here’s the thing. That only works if you let it. You have the power to decide this election. You have the power to determine the course of this country. And if you work hard between now and Tuesday, if you get out to vote, but just as importantly, you get everybody that you know out to vote, then nobody’s going to stop you.
CHILD: You’ve got the power!
PRES. BARACK OBAMA: Go ahead. What’s your name? [Koran]. And you said, we’ve got the power? That’s that four-year old again. She’s still paying attention. Oh, it’s a boy. It’s a boy. He’s just got long hair.
You got the power. He’s only four and he’s making sense.
Now, there are just couple of more things I got to clear up here. [Koran] may already know this, but the rest of you may not. Some folks are asking, well, if Democrats already have control of the Senate, why does this matter? What’s the difference between 50 and 51?
The answer is a lot.
Let me break it down for you. An extra Senator gives Democrats more breathing room on important bills. It prevents one person from holding up everything. And it also puts us in a better position a couple of years from now when you’ve got another election, but the senate map is going to be tilted in the favor of Republicans. And it will help prevent Republicans from getting a filibuster proof majority that could allow them to do things like passing a federal abortion ban. So that one vote in the Senate could make all the difference.
But you know what, there’s one more reason, and it’s the biggest reason. 51 is better than 50 because it means Reverend Warnock will keep representing you in Washington. That’s the best reason. That’s the number one reason. He was wondering if I was going to get to that. Come on, Reverend. You know I got your back.
Let me talk about Warnock just a second. Let me say good things about Warnock. Let me testify. As your senator, Reverend Warnock hasn’t been off chasing wacky conspiracy theories. He has not been drumming up fear and division. In Washington, they talk about some folks being show horses and some folks being workhorses. And you got a workhorse here.
He’s been working to lower prescription drug costs. He’s been working to boost manufacturing jobs. He’s been working to make sure that our veterans who served this country honorably had the care that they need. He’s been standing up for democracy. He’s been protecting a woman’s right to determine her own destiny. Reverend Warnock is a workhorse.
And he also is a class act. You just like the man. Because you sense his integrity when you talk to him. He’s not just hard working; he’s god-fearing. He’s a community serving person. He tells the truth, sticks to his word. treats everybody with decency and respect, no matter how high or how low. He deals honorably even with those who oppose him.
CHILD: Vote for Warnock!
PRES. BARACK OBAMA: Vote for Warnock.
Kiran also once again summarized, said “Vote for Warnock.” I’m telling you, this young man, he’s getting A’s, straight A’s in this class.
Now, on the other side, you got Mr. Walker. (Audience boos.)
Wait. Don’t boo now. Vote! I told you all that. I told you the last time. Can’t nobody hear you boo. But they can hear you vote.
All right, all right, so you got Mr. Walker. Look, I was here last time. I think I made clear my thoughts on Mr. Walker. I had to acknowledge and, you know, some of you — everybody here has pretty good home training, right. And so, you know, you’re always reticent. If you don’t have something nice to say about somebody, you don’t say it.
So I talked about what a good football player he is then. But I also had to acknowledge that I did not think he had either the competence, the character, the track record of service that would justify him representing Georgia in the United States Senate.
Now, if you had forgotten what I said the last time, it’s okay, because you just have to wait a minute; he reminds you every time he opens his mouth. Every day. Every day, he comes up with something. Every day. Since the last time I was here, Mr. Walker has been talking about issues that are of great importance to the people of Georgia. Like whether it’s better to be a vampire or a werewolf.
This is a debate that I must confess I once had myself. When I was seven. Then I grew up.
In case you’re wondering, by the way, Mr. Walker decided he wanted to be a werewolf. Which is great. As far as I’m concerned, he can be anything he wants to be, except for a United States Senator.
Since the last time I was here, apparently he also claimed that he used to let me beat him at basketball. But then he admitted that we’ve never actually met. So I guess this was more of an imaginary whooping that I laid on him.
Now, listen, this would be funny if he weren’t running for the Senate. We all know some folks in our lives, who we don’t wish them ill will; they say crazy stuff. We’re all like, well, you know, Uncle Joe, you know what happened to him. You know, it’s okay. They’re part of the family, but you don’t give them serious responsibilities.
When you spend more time thinking about horror movie fantasies than you do thinking about the people you want to represent, that says something about your priorities. When again and again you serve up bald-faced lies, just make stuff up, that says something about the kind of person you are and the kind of leader you would be if you were in the United States Senate.
So Georgia, look, I’m not telling you something you don’t know. You deserve a senator you can be proud of, somebody who will talk straight to you, somebody who will fight for you, somebody who will garner respect in Washington, somebody like Reverend Warnock, who’s been doing it responsibly and conscientiously and effectively, not just in the Senate, not just in the last few years, but his entire adult life.
So that’s why you need to get out and vote. That’s why you can’t let up. Because change doesn’t happen in one election. It doesn’t even happen in two elections. It doesn’t even happen in five elections. Change only happens if you keep organizing, keep voting, keep mobilizing, keep educating, keep speaking up, keep working hard to make change happen.
Imagine looking back in history, right after the Emancipation Proclamation. Imagine if all the abolitionists and the civil rights activist had said, oh, everything’s going to be okay now, let’s go home. Imagine if, after some women, not all women but some women got the right to vote, organizers said, oh, all right, I got mine, we’re all equal now, our work is done here. Imagine where we would be.
If we want real progress, if we want lasting progress, we can’t be satisfied with one victory because victories are always incomplete. History doesn’t just move in a straight line. It moves sideways. Sometimes it moves backwards when we’re not vigilant, when we’re not working.
So we can’t allow ourselves to get tired. We need sustained effort. And by the way, not just on election day, but every day in between.
And when I think about that vigilance, when I think about that stick-to-it-ness, when I think about finishing the job, there are a couple people that come to mind. The first is Georgia’s own, my friend John Lewis. He and other workers were my inspiration for going into public service. I was two years old when they mobilized. I was on the other side of the world. But they were my inspiration. Because armed with nothing more than a backpack and the truth, John Lewis helped lead a long march towards freedom at the age of 23.
And so, I had a chance to meet my hero when I was in law school. I was at that point 26, 27. And when I met him, he was everything I had hoped he would be. He was humble and he was kind, and he was generous. And he took a long moment to talk to me and encourage me. Despite all that he had accomplished, he had no airs about it.
But what struck me most about John was not his incredible heroism as a young man, but it’s how he kept on marching and protesting. Even after he was elected to Congress, he’s getting arrested in front of the South African embassy. He kept standing up for what was right. One decade, two decades, three, just kept on going, even when his cause was unpopular, even when the spotlight had moved off him.
In fact, the last time I saw John was at a virtual town hall that our foundation had organized in the wake of the George Floyd murder. And it was about a month before he passed. He was already ailing. You could tell he did not feel well. But he considered it his duty to stand with a new generation of activists and help guide them in a principled and inclusive way and remind them that although wrongs needed to be righted, that they need to be righted with nonviolence and with love and empathy and compassion. Here he was a month before he was about to die, and he kept on going. So that’s one person.
The other person who comes to mind when I think about persistence is a woman named Ann Nixon Cooper. I talked about her in my first presidential election. You remember, we had Grant Park and I talked about Miss Cooper, who had contacted us to tell us to let us know that she had voted for me at 106 years old. She had figured out, no, I’m going to cast this vote.
And I spoke about just trying to imagine everything she had gone through, everything she had witnessed in her life. Here’s a woman who was born in the shadow of slavery, deep in the midst of Jim Crow, born before really there were planes in this sky. If there were cars, you were cranking them up. A time when black folks didn’t have the right to vote, and women weren’t voting.
And yet, here she was casting her ballot for the first African American nominee of a major party for President of the United States. She had witnessed that arc of history bend in the direction of justice.
Now, John Lewis and Miss Cooper lived very different lives. One became a civil rights icon. The other wasn’t famous. One became an elected official, serving a congressional district in Georgia with great honor. The other, most people wouldn’t know her on the street.
But their spirits were linked. Because I promise you, when John Lewis was growing up, he knew a whole bunch of Miss Coopers out there, regular folk, who even as they worked, even as they raised families, even as they contributed to their communities, despite unspeakable barriers and discrimination and disappointment, despite everything they were going through, just to make ends meet, kept at it.
Because of Miss Cooper’s generation, a foundation was laid. Her generation passed on the grace and the courage that allowed John Lewis to do what he was able to do. That was the foundation of the modern Civil Rights Movement, all those folks who didn’t get tired. Maids, and pullman porters, and sharecroppers working every single day with the possibility that things might get better.
That was John’s inheritance. And then he set an example that I would follow, and Reverend Warnock would follow.
And I always thought to myself, if Miss Cooper didn’t get tired, then I can’t be tired. If John Lewis, even in his 70s wasn’t tired, I got no excuses; I can’t be tired. And if I’m not tired, you can’t be tired.
If the men and women who had to endure the sting of discrimination, the smack of billy clubs weren’t tired, if the folks who had to fight those early fights, those were the tough fights for union rights, and voting rights, and gay rights and women’s rights; if they didn’t get tired, you can’t be tired.
So you got to go out there and keep working. You have to stay focused. Because if you do, if you put everything you’ve got into the next few days, if you vote, if you get your friends to vote, and your neighbors to vote, if you do all that, not only will we reelect Raphael Warnock, not only while we keep Georgia and America on a path to a better future, but we will be setting an example for a four-year-old right here and laying a foundation for him to build on, and that one-year-old over there. And I know I saw a three-month-old here. They’re watching right now to see if we’re going to get tired, and I’m going to tell them right now, we’re not going to be tired. We’re going to bring it on home. Let’s make this happen. Georgia. I love you. God bless you. Let’s finish the job.