I want to thank a few people -- not sure who else is still here, but I want to make sure that I recognize Governor Perdue, who's been with me this entire day. She's been terrific. (Applause.) As well as Senator Kay Hagan -- we got to run around with some kids -- (applause) -- this afternoon at the CIAA. We were playing some -- we weren't playing basketball, we were encouraging basketball. (Laughter.)
And also Congressmen G.K. Butterfield -- I don't know if he's still here, but he's been hanging out. There he is. He's been handing out with me. (Applause.) Thank you for your leadership and for hanging out with me as well.
And of course, again, I want to give a special shoutout to the legendary James Taylor as well as his wife, Kim, who will be performing here just a little bit later. (Applause.) They have been fabulous to us and for us throughout this journey, both James and Kim. And it will be just a tremendous night, and I'm a little bit jealous. (Laughter.) Because I got to get home after this. (Laughter.) So you guys enjoy for me.
And finally, I want to thank all of you -- truly, I want to thank you. Thank you for being here tonight. Thank you for your commitment to this city and this state. And most of all, thank you for supporting the convention that we’ll be holding here in September. It's going to be good! It's going to be so good! (Applause.)
Now, I don’t know about you, but I cannot believe that 2012 is here already. (Laughter.) I mean, the convention is six months away. So it is coming. It seems like just yesterday when Barack and I were beginning this journey. It seems like just yesterday.
And I have to be honest with you, when Barack first started talking about running for President, I was a little hesitant about the idea. (Laughter.) The girls were very young at the time, and I know they are growing before your very eyes but they were little babies. You remember at the inauguration? They were so cute. (Laughter.) Malia is here now, looking me in the eye; it's very scary.
But they were very young, and I was worried about the toll that this process would take on our family. And a lot of folks -- like a lot of folks, I had a little cynicism about politics. So to say that it took some convincing on Barack’s part would be an understatement. (Laughter.) It took a lot of convincing. And even as I began to travel around the country, I was still a little uneasy about the whole “President thing” -- that's what Malia would call it when she was little. She was like, "Is Dad still doing that President thing?" (Laughter.) It was like, "Yep, he's still doing that President thing." (Laughter.)
But something happened during those first few months out there on the campaign that changed me. I realized from the beginning that this whole process wasn’t just about handshakes and photo ops and stump speeches. I realized that it was more about those one-on-one kind of conversations that you get to have with people when you're out there going from state to state, when you're going into people's communities and into their homes. And people welcome you in just some incredible ways. People who don't even know you before Barack Obama -- people were letting us come in their house and talk to them. And that was beautiful. Those conversations in living rooms and on back porches, where you could really get to know people. And I would always say that every American should have the opportunity to do that, to just spend some time traveling around talking to folks.
And as I traveled the country, I would get to hear people's stories. I would get to hear about their hopes and their dreams -- and their worries. Folks would tell me about the businesses they were trying to keep afloat; they would talk to me about the home they loved but could no longer afford; about their child who was so smart, who could be anything she wanted, if they could only come up with the tuition.
And truly, these stories moved me in ways that were very unexpected. And more than anything else, the stories were familiar to me. And that's what we have to understand -- our stories are ones we all share. They were familiar to me. They reminded me of my own family’s stories. They reminded me of Barack’s family’s stories.
And the folks that I met weren’t just content to talk about the challenges that they were facing. They wanted to act. They wanted to do their part. They wanted to get involved in our democratic process. Many of them were doing it for the very first time ever. And that was so positive to see. Many were doing it for the first time in years.
And that’s why, truly, I’m so proud to be here today. Because that spirit of engagement, that belief that everyone has a role to play -- that is truly what is driving this convention. For instance, I know that the convention team has been reaching out to people online, they've been asking folks to share their ideas about how we can make this process the most open and the most accessible convention yet. I know that there are plans to engage as many as 10,000 volunteers, many of whom will come from the Charlotte community, right here. And like Mayor Foxx said, the funding for all of these efforts is going to come only through the support of people like all of you. So there’s a lot happening to make sure that everyone feels welcomed and included in Charlotte this September.
And luckily all of you here in Charlotte have shown again and again that you know how to get people engaged. I know that you’re already making long-term plans to use this convention as a way to build a stronger city, and that’s a good thing. You’re connecting those plans and centering them on sustainability, on economic inclusion, and you're centering them on two issues very near and dear to me -- that's youth engagement as well as healthy families. You’re leading civic efforts to strengthen your schools and provide affordable housing. You are a national leader in charitable giving and workplace donations.
And of course, you all know a thing or two about welcoming folks into this city and this state. You know a little bit about that, and my family and I have experienced that firsthand. It is no accident that we are here in North Carolina. (Applause.) Your President loves this state, and so do I. Absolutely. (Applause.) Over the past five years, we have spent a lot of time here -- from the Atlantic coast to the research triangle to the smoky mountains, we've been a little bit of everywhere, and it's been a lot of fun. In fact, we chose to spend a family vacation here in Asheville a couple years ago. Yes, beautiful area. (Applause.) Asheville, yes! (Applause.) Barack is still talking about those two little days. (Laughter.) He is so happy to be here. (Laughter.)
And I have to tell you that every time we visit, from the minute we set foot in this state, you all make us feel right at home. And we're the First Family and all, but this isn't just us. You do this everywhere. But you've particularly done it to us. You all truly embody the idea of southern hospitality. You have opened your homes to us. More importantly, you have been so kind to my girls, and as a mom that -- you're nice to my girls, I'll do anything for you, right? (Laughter.) We all understand that, right? (Applause.) And everywhere we’ve gone, we have met so many bighearted people who are eager to help others and give back to their communities -- and more importantly, to their country. And that’s one of the many things that makes this city and this state -- and this country -- so great.
And that was never more clear to me than back in March of 2009, when I took my very first trip outside of Washington, D.C., as First Lady. I came here. I chose to come here, to North Carolina, to visit with military families at Fort Bragg, right? Yes, indeed. (Applause.) And it was a wonderful day, as is any time that anyone can spend with our military and their families. I met with troops, and military spouses, and some of the cutest, most adorable, well-mannered kids you’ll ever want to meet.
And I have to tell you, I say this everywhere I go, this is one of the reasons why military families support is one of my big initiatives -- these individuals are incredible. They're incredible men and women. They are military spouses who run their households. They raise their kids. They juggle full-time jobs all through long and multiple deployments. They are our wounded warriors who have undergone surgery after surgery, enduring pain that most of us couldn’t even imagine. Yet they tell me that they’re not just going to walk again, but they’re going to run, and they’re going to run marathons. It's that spirit that we all want a little piece of. (Applause.) They are brave men and women from every background and every walk of life, who have signed up to serve this country in a time of war.
They and their families are making all kinds of sacrifices every day, without complaint, and without ever asking for anything much in return. And they are the very best this country has to offer. And every day, they make us so proud. (Applause.) Every day, these men and women in North Carolina and other states, but particularly here, they are doing their part -- they are fighting for everything we hold dear, everything that makes us who we are as Americans.
And in the end, that’s really what this convention is all about. It’s honoring that kind of spirit of America that we see in our military families, but we see it in communities all across this state and all across this country. This convention gives us all a chance to connect with each other around our shared values. It's a chance to give even more people an opportunity to become involved in our democracy. And it’s a chance to write another chapter in the beautiful story that is America -– the story of folks who come together, year after year, each of us doing our part to perfect this union.
So it's going to be fun. We are looking forward to it. It’s going to be exciting. You will be sick of us after a while. (Laughter.)
AUDIENCE MEMBER: No!
MRS. OBAMA: Well, wait until the traffic starts. (Laughter.) Wait until you got the President's motorcade, First Lady's motorcade, First Children's motorcade -- (laughter.) You've got grandma here, the Vice President -- you'll be like, "Is it over yet?"
AUDIENCE MEMBER: No, we like it. (Laughter.)
MRS. OBAMA: But it is going to be fun. And we are thrilled -- thrilled beyond belief to be here in North Carolina.
So I want to once again thank all of you for making this possible. Thank you so much. Thank you for your support of Charlotte in 2012. Thank you for welcoming us to this great American city. We are so excited to be coming here, and we can't wait until September. We will see you then. (Applause.)
Thank you all so much. (Applause.)