Full Text Obama Presidency July 25, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the National Urban League Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana Focused on the Economy, Education & Gun Control Laws




President Obama Speaks to the National Urban League

Source: WH, 7-25-12

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Urban League Convention President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Urban League Convention at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, La., July 25, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) 

President Obama Speaks at the National Urban League Convention

President Obama Speaks at the National Urban League Convention

Remarks by the President at the National Urban League Convention

Source: WH, 7-25-12

Ernest N. Morial Convention Center
New Orleans, Louisiana

7:00 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Urban League!  (Applause.)  Thank you.  It is good to be with the Urban League.  (Applause.)  And it’s good to be in the Big Easy.  (Applause.)

Now, I don’t know if the fact that this is called the Morial Convention Center had anything to do with folks coming down to New Orleans — (laughter) — but it is good to be with all of you.  And I’m glad I caught you at the beginning of the conference, before Bourbon Street has a chance to take a toll on you.  (Laughter.)  All right.  You all stay out of trouble now.  (Laughter.)

Everybody please have a seat.  Have a seat.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Four more years!  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  A couple of people that I want to acknowledge.  Obviously, first of all, I want to acknowledge your outstanding president and CEO who has shown such extraordinary leadership for so many years — Marc Morial.  (Applause.)  Just like we’ve got an outstanding former mayor of New Orleans, we’ve also got the outstanding current mayor of New Orleans — Mitch Landrieu is in the house.  (Applause.)  Fine young congressman from this area — Cedric Richmond, is here.  (Applause.)  And one of the best mayors in the country — we’re glad he came down from his hometown of Philadelphia — Mayor Michael Nutter is in the house.  (Applause.)

And all of you are here, and I am grateful for it.  (Applause.)  And we love the young people who are in the house.  (Applause.)  Mitch, don’t you — I wasn’t referring to you, man, I was talking to those folks over there.  (Laughter.)  Mitch is all waving, “thank you.”  (Laughter.)

For nearly a century, the National Urban League has been inspiring people of every race and every religion and every walk of life to reach for the dream that lies at the heart of our founding — the promise that no matter who you are, no matter what you look like, no matter where you came from, no matter how modest your beginnings, no matter what the circumstances of your birth, here in America, you can make it if you try.  (Applause.)

Of course, this dream has never come easy.  That’s why the Urban League was formed.  In the aftermath of the Civil War, with the South in the grips of Jim Crow, the waves of men and women who traveled north to urban centers discovered that even in their new homes, opportunity was not guaranteed.  It was something you had to work for, something you had to fight for –- not just on your own, but side-by-side with people who believed in that same dream.

And so the white widow of a railroad tycoon and a black social worker from Arkansas founded what would become the Urban League, to strengthen our cities and our communities brick by brick, and block by block, and neighborhood by neighborhood, life by life.

Decades later, I arrived in one of those cities my hometown of Chicago.  (Applause.)  South Side!  (Applause.)  And I was driven by this same cause.  Like many of my classmates, I felt, I understood, the pull of a hefty paycheck that might come from a more conventional job.  But ultimately the pull to serve was even stronger.

So I moved to the South Side of Chicago, and I took a job with a group of churches, mostly Catholic parishes, working to help families who had no place to turn when the local steel plants shut down, and when panic-peddling had led to enormous turnover in these communities.  And we worked with laypeople and local leaders to rebuild neighborhoods and improve schools, and most of all, to broaden opportunity for young people, too many who were at risk.

And I confess that progress didn’t come quickly and it did not come easily.  Sometimes, it didn’t come at all.  There were times where I thought about giving up and moving on.  But what kept me going, day in and day out, was the same thing that has sustained the Urban League all these years, the same thing that sustains all of you, and that is the belief that in America, change is always possible; that our union may not be perfect, but it is perfectible; that we can strive over time through effort and sweat and blood and tears until it is the place we imagine.

It may come in fits and starts, at a pace that can be slow and frustrating.  But if we are willing to push through all the doubt and the cynicism and the weariness, then, yes, we can form that more perfect union.  (Applause.)

Now, the people I worked with in those early days in Chicago, they were looking for the same thing that Americans everyplace aspire to.  We’re not a nation of people who are looking for handouts.  We certainly don’t like bailouts.  (Laughter.)  We don’t believe government should be in the business of helping people who refuse to help themselves, and we recognize not every government program works.  But we do expect hard work to pay off.  We do expect responsibility to be rewarded.  We do expect that if you put in enough effort, you should be able to find a job that pays the bills.  (Applause.)  You should be able to own a home you call your own.  You should be able to retire in dignity and respect.  You should be able to afford the security of health care and you should be able to give your kids the best possible education.  (Applause.)

That idea that everybody should have a fair shot, not just some — that this country is special because it has grown this magnificent middle class and has provided ladders of access for those striving to get into the middle class — that’s the idea that drove me.  That’s the idea that has driven the Urban League, That idea that everyone should have equal opportunity — that’s what brought me to Chicago.  That belief that this country works best when we are growing a strong middle class and prosperity is broad-based — that’s what led me into politics.  And it is those values that have guided every decision that I have made as President of the United States.  (Applause.)

Now, today we’re battling our way back from a once-in-a-lifetime economic crisis.  And make no mistake, we’ve made progress in that fight.  When I took office, we were losing hundreds of thousands of jobs a month.  Our auto industry was on the brink of collapse.  Factories were boarding up their windows. We’d gone through almost a decade in which job growth had been sluggish, incomes had declined, costs were going up — all culminating in the financial system coming close to a breakdown.

Today, three and a half years later, we’ve had 28 straight months of private sector job growth.  (Applause.)  Three and a half years later, the auto industry has come roaring back.  (Applause.)  Three and a half years later, companies are beginning to bring thousands of jobs back to American soil.  (Applause.)

We still have much more work to do.  There’s still too many out of work, too many homes underwater, too many Americans struggling to stay afloat.  So the greater challenge that faces us is not just going back to where we were back in 2007, not just settling to get back to where we were before the crisis hit.  Our task is to return to an America that is thriving and growing out from our middle class, where hard work pays off — where you can make it if you try.  (Applause.)

And, Urban League, I want you to know what’s holding us back from meeting these challenges is not a lack of ideas or solutions.  I have no patience with people who say our best days are behind us, because the fact of the matter is we still have the best workers in the world, the best universities in the world, the best research facilities in the world, the most entrepreneurial culture in the world.  (Applause.)  We have all the ingredients to make the 21st century the American Century just like the 20th.

What’s holding us back is a stalemate in Washington — (applause) — between two fundamentally different views about which path we should take as a country.  (Applause.)  And it’s up to the American people to decide what direction we should go.

Let me tell you what I believe.  I believe that strong communities are places that attract the best jobs and the newest businesses.  And you don’t build that kind of community by giving tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs overseas.  (Applause.)  You build it by giving tax breaks to companies that create jobs in Detroit and in Cleveland and in Chicago and right here in New Orleans, right here in America — (applause) — using American workers, making American products that we sell around the world, stamped with three proud words — Made In America.  (Applause.)

You build it by investing in America’s manufacturing base and providing the dollars for research so that we have the most advanced products in the world.  You do it by investing in small businesses — the way we’ve provided 18 tax breaks to small businesses since I’ve been in office.  And if you’re a company that wants to relocate in a community that’s been particularly hard hit when a factory left town, I believe you should get help financing that new plant or equipment, or training for your workers — because we can’t leave anybody behind if we want to grow America the way it can grow.  (Applause.)

We also believe that every entrepreneur should have the chance to start a business –- no matter who you are, no matter what you look like.  (Applause.)  That’s why we’ve supported financing and assistance and exporting to small businesses across the board.  That’s why we’ve helped African American businesses and minority-owned businesses and women-owned businesses gain access to more than $7 billion in contracts and financing — (applause) — that allowed them to grow and create jobs.

That’s why we’ve emphasized helping our veterans create small businesses — because if they fought for us, they shouldn’t have to fight to get financing when they get home.  (Applause.)  They shouldn’t have to fight for a job when they come home.  They shouldn’t have to fight for a roof over their heads when they come home.  We should honor them the way they’ve honored us with their service.  (Applause.)

I believe strong communities are places where people can afford to buy what their local businesses sell.  So I ran for President promising to cut taxes for the middle class -– and regardless of what you hear during silly political season, I have kept that promise.  (Applause.)  Today, taxes are $3,600 lower for the typical family than they were when I came into office.  (Applause.)

Just a few hours ago, the Senate moved forward a bill that we had promoted to keep middle-class tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans next year.  (Applause.)  I will add that we didn’t get a lot of Republican votes — but that’s okay, they’ve got time.  We passed it through the Senate and now is the time for the House to do the same.  They should not be holding middle-class tax cuts hostage just to get more tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires.  (Applause.)  At a time when so many people who have a job can barely keep up with their bills, we don’t need another trillion-dollar tax cut for folks like me.  We need tax cuts for working Americans, not for folks who don’t need it and weren’t even asking for it.  (Applause.)

Millions of Americans — including more than 2 million African American families — are better off thanks to our extension of the child care tax credit and the earned income tax credit — (applause) — because nobody who works hard in America should be poor in America.  That’s how strong communities are built.  (Applause.)  And by the way when working folks have money in their pockets, businesses do well because they’ve got customers, and all of us grow.  That’s been the history of this country.

I believe strong communities are built on strong schools.  (Applause.)  If this country is about anything, it’s about passing on even greater opportunity to the next generation.  And we know that has to start before a child even walks into the classroom.  It starts at home with parents who are willing to read to their children, and spend time with their children — (applause) — and instill a sense of curiosity and love of learning and a belief in excellence that will last a lifetime.

But it also begins with an early childhood education, which is why we’ve invested more in child care, and in programs like Early Head Start and Head Start that help prepare our young people for success.  It’s the right thing to do for America.  (Applause.)

Our education policy hasn’t just been based on more money, we’ve also called for real reform.  So we challenged every state in the country to raise their standards for teaching and for learning.  And three years later, nearly every state has answered the call.  We have seen the biggest transformation in terms of school reform in a generation, and we’ve helped some of the country’s lowest-performing schools make real gains in reading and math, including here in New Orleans.  (Applause.)

We’ve made it our mission to make a higher education more affordable for every American who wants to go to school.  That’s why we fought to extend our college tuition tax credit for working families — (applause) — saving millions of families thousands of dollars.

That’s why we’ve fought to make college more affordable for an additional 200,000 African American students by increasing Pell grants.  (Applause.)  That’s why we’ve strengthened this nation’s commitment to our community colleges, and to our HBCUs. (Applause.)

That’s why, tomorrow, I’m establishing the first-ever White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans –- (applause) — so that every child has greater access to a complete and competitive education from the time they’re born all through the time they get a career.

And that’s why we’re pushing all colleges and universities to cut their costs — (applause) — because we can’t keep asking taxpayers to subsidize skyrocketing tuition.  A higher education in the 21st century cannot be a luxury.  It is a vital necessity that every American should be able to afford.  (Applause.)  I want all these young people to be getting a higher education, and I don’t want them loaded up with tens of thousands of dollars of debt just to get an education.  That’s how we make America great. (Applause.)

Of course, that means all of you all have got to hit the books.  (Laughter.)  I’m just saying.  Don’t cheer and then you didn’t do your homework.  (Laughter and applause.)  Because that’s part of the bargain, that’s part of the bargain — America says we will give you opportunity, but you’ve got to earn your success.  (Applause.)

You’re competing against young people in Beijing and Bangalore.  They’re not hanging out.  (Laughter.)  They’re not getting over.  They’re not playing video games.  They’re not watching “Real Housewives.”  (Laughter.)  I’m just saying.  It’s a two-way street.  You’ve got to earn success.  (Applause.)

That wasn’t in my prepared remarks.  (Laughter.)  But I’m just saying.  (Applause.)

I believe strong communities are places where you and your family can work and save and buy your home.  That’s why we’ve helped more than a million responsible homeowners — these are folks who were making their payments — refinance their mortgages at these historically low rates, saving thousands of dollars every year.  Because people who did everything right shouldn’t pay the price for somebody else’s irresponsibility.  (Applause.)
So now we want to expand that refinancing opportunity to every homeowner who’s making their payments on time.

And while we’re at it, let’s put construction workers back on the job — because they’ve been hit by the housing bubble bursting.  Let’s put them back on the job not only rebuilding roads and bridges and ports, but also rehabilitating homes in communities that have been hit by foreclosures, businesses that have been hit hardest by the housing crisis.  (Applause.)  That creates jobs.  It raises property values, and it strengthens the economy of the entire nation.

Strong communities are healthy communities.  Because we believe that in the richest nation on Earth, you shouldn’t go broke when you get sick.  (Applause.)  And after a century of trying, and a decision now from the highest court in the land, health care reform is here to stay.  (Applause.)  We’re moving forward.

Insurance companies will no longer be able to discriminate against those who are sick.  Prescription drug prices will be lower for our seniors.  We’re going to close that doughnut hole. Young people will be able to stay on their parent’s insurance until they’re 26 years old.  (Applause.)  Thirty million Americans without health insurance will finally know the security of affordable care.  (Applause.)

We’ll improve any aspect of this law, and any recommendations and suggestions that those who actually know the health care system and aren’t just playing politics put forward. But we’re going to implement this law and America is going to be better for it.  (Applause.)

Now, I’ve got to say that I recognize we are in political season.  But the Urban League understands that your mission transcends politics.  Good jobs, quality schools, affordable health care, affordable housing — these are all the pillars upon which communities are built.  And yet, we’ve been reminded recently that all this matters little if these young people can’t walk the streets of their neighborhood safely; if we can’t send our kids to school without worrying they might get shot; if they can’t go to the movies without fear of violence lurking in the shadows.  (Applause.)

Our hearts break for the victims of the massacre in Aurora.  (Applause.)  We pray for those who were lost and we pray for those who loved them.  We pray for those who are recovering with courage and with hope.  And we also pray for those who succumb to the less-publicized acts of violence that plague our communities in so many cities across the country every single day.  (Applause.)  We can’t forget about that.

Every day — in fact, every day and a half, the number of young people we lose to violence is about the same as the number of people we lost in that movie theater.  For every Columbine or Virginia Tech, there are dozens gunned down on the streets of Chicago and Atlanta, and here in New Orleans.  For every Tucson or Aurora, there is daily heartbreak over young Americans shot in Milwaukee or Cleveland.  Violence plagues the biggest cities, but it also plagues the smallest towns.  It claims the lives of Americans of different ages and different races, and it’s tied together by the fact that these young people had dreams and had futures that were cut tragically short.

And when there is an extraordinarily heartbreaking tragedy like the one we saw, there’s always an outcry immediately after for action.  And there’s talk of new reforms, and there’s talk of new legislation.  And too often, those efforts are defeated by politics and by lobbying and eventually by the pull of our collective attention elsewhere.

But what I said in the wake of Tucson was we were going to stay on this, persistently.  So we’ve been able to take some actions on our own, recognizing that it’s not always easy to get things through Congress these days.  The background checks conducted on those looking to purchase firearms are now more thorough and more complete.  Instead of just throwing more money at the problem of violence, the federal government is now in the trenches with communities and schools and law enforcement and faith-based institutions, with outstanding mayors like Mayor Nutter and Mayor Landrieu — recognizing that we are stronger when we work together.

So in cities like New Orleans, we’re partnering with local officials to reduce crime, using best practices.  And in places like Boston and Chicago, we’ve been able to help connect more young people to summer jobs so that they spend less time on the streets.  In cities like Detroit and Salinas, we’re helping communities set up youth prevention and intervention programs that steer young people away from a life of gang violence, and towards the safety and promise of a classroom.

But even though we’ve taken these actions, they’re not enough.  Other steps to reduce violence have been met with opposition in Congress.  This has been true for some time — particularly when it touches on the issues of guns.  And I, like most Americans, believe that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual the right to bear arms.  And we recognize the traditions of gun ownership that passed on from generation to generation -– that hunting and shooting are part of a cherished national heritage.

But I also believe that a lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals — (applause) — that they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities.  I believe the majority of gun owners would agree that we should do everything possible to prevent criminals and fugitives from purchasing weapons; that we should check someone’s criminal record before they can check out a gun seller; that a mentally unbalanced individual should not be able to get his hands on a gun so easily.  (Applause.)  These steps shouldn’t be controversial.  They should be common sense.

So I’m going to continue to work with members of both parties, and with religious groups and with civic organizations, to arrive at a consensus around violence reduction — not just of gun violence, but violence at every level, on every step, looking at everything we can do to reduce violence and keep our children safe -– from improving mental health services for troubled youth  — (applause) — to instituting more effective community policing strategies.  We should leave no stone unturned, and recognize that we have no greater mission as a country than keeping our young people safe.  (Applause.)

And as we do so, as we convene these conversations, let’s be clear:  Even as we debate government’s role, we have to understand that when a child opens fire on another child, there’s a hole in that child’s heart that government alone can’t fill.  (Applause.)  It’s up to us, as parents and as neighbors and as teachers and as mentors, to make sure our young people don’t have that void inside them.

It’s up to us to spend more time with them, to pay more attention to them, to show them more love so that they learn to love themselves — (applause) — so that they learn to love one another, so that they grow up knowing what it is to walk a mile in somebody else’s shoes and to view the world through somebody else’s eyes.  It’s up to us to provide the path toward a life worth living; toward a future that holds greater possibility than taking offense because somebody stepped on your sneakers.

That’s the difference that we can make in our children’s lives and in the lives of our communities.  That’s the legacy we must leave for the next generation.  (Applause.)

Now, this will not be easy.  Even though it’s called the Big Easy, this proud city and those who call it home, they know something about hardship.  They’ve been battered again and again in this new century:  One of the worst natural disasters in our history, the worst environmental disaster in our history, the worst economic crisis most of us have ever known.  So sometimes being from the Big Easy means knowing hardship and heartbreak.  (Applause.)

But what this city also knows is resilience, and determination, and heroism.  (Applause.)  That’s one of the reasons it is one of America’s jewels.  It’s quintessentially American because of its resilience.

There is no shortage of citizens in this city who’s stepped up in the darkest of times.  And one person I want to end with is somebody that many of you know — the superintendent of schools in St. Bernard’s Parish, Doris Voitier.  Now, when Katrina’s waters rose, Doris and the faculty and staff of Chalmette High School saved the lives of hundreds of their neighbors, many of them old and sick, by moving them to shelter in the school’s second floor.

Two days later, they led 1,200 people to safety.  (Applause.)  The day after that, with her community in ruins, the superintendent was on her way to Baton Rouge to make sure her schools would open that fall.  “Failure is not an option” became her motto.  When some government officials gave her the runaround, she plowed ahead on her own — secured loans, finding portable classrooms and books, and doing everything it took to make sure her kids -– our kids -– could return to some semblance of normalcy.

When an official told her a gas line wouldn’t be repaired in time for school to reopen, and that her kids might have to eat MREs, she hired a local restaurant owner to cook hot lunches on a barge and sent FEMA the bill.  (Applause.)  On the first day of school, less than three months after Katrina swept ashore, she heard a young child, who’d endured nearly three months of suffering and hardship, yell out loud, “Real food!  Real food!”

Of that first night she said, “There were no riots; there were no disruptions; there were just hundreds of people just like you and the person sitting next to you, in the blink of an eye, having lost everything they had worked for over their entire lifetimes, who now looked to us for rescue.  And we accepted that responsibility because that’s what school people do.”  (Applause.)

Now, obviously, the superintendent is an exceptional educator and an exceptional citizen.  But as I’ve traveled around the country, what I’ve discovered is that’s not just what school people do.  That’s not — that’s what Americans do.  (Applause.) That’s what Americans, at their best, do.  When I traveled to Joplin, Missouri, that’s what folks in Joplin do.  When I go to Aurora, that’s what people in Colorado do.  (Applause.)  In urban communities all across America, that’s what you do.

For more than two centuries, our journey has never been easy, and our victories have never come quickly.  And we have faced our share of struggles and setbacks and climbs that have seemed too steep -– just like we do today.  But we know what we’re fighting for.  We can see the America we believe in –- a country where everybody gets a fair shot and everybody is doing their fair share, where everybody is playing by the same set of rules.  And if we don’t keep fighting as hard as we know how for that America, if we don’t keep fighting for better jobs and better schools and a better future, who will?  (Applause.)

That’s our challenge.  We don’t quit.  Folks in New Orleans didn’t quit.  Americans don’t quit.  (Applause.)  We accept responsibility.  We keep on going.  We keep marching.  We keep moving forward.  Failure is not an option.  (Applause.)  This is not a time for cynics.  It is not a time for doubters.  It is time for believers.  It is time for folks who have faith in the future.

I still believe in you.  And if you still believe in me, I ask you to stand with me, march with me, fight with me.  (Applause.)  And as I do, I promise we will finish what we started, turn this economy around, seize our future, and remind the world why the United States of America is the greatest nation on Earth.  (Applause.)

Thank you, Urban League.  God bless you.  (Applause.)  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

7:40 P.M. CDT

Full Text Campaign Buzz July 25, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech at a Campaign Event at a Private Residence in Hunts Point, Washington




Remarks by the President at a Campaign Event

Source: WH, 7-25-12 

Private Residence
Hunts Point, WA

8:24 P.M. PDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Thank you so much.  Everybody, have a seat.  It is great to be back in the Pacific Northwest.  And I couldn’t ask for somebody I admire more to introduce me than Jim Sinegal.  And for him and Jan, they have just been extraordinary friends.  They are unbelievably gracious.

And the story of Costco and everything that you guys have done I think is representative of what America is all about — (applause) — entrepreneurship, vision, value for your money — (laughter) — treating your workers right — (applause) — doing well and doing good at the same time, and being part of a broader community that takes your responsibilities for this city, this state, and this country really seriously.

I am so grateful for your support.  I do want to just correct one thing, though.  When I called Jim, I said congratulations.  I was confident about the hot dog.  (Laughter.)  You don’t mess with something if it ain’t broke.  (Laughter.)  But what I did say was — Jan is probably going to be driven crazy if you’re just sitting around the house all day; you need to get involved in the campaign — (laughter) — because you’re a little too young to just be puttering around.  And for the two of them to take up this effort with such energy is something that I will always be grateful for.

There are a couple of other people I want to acknowledge.  Your outstanding Governor, Christine Gregoire is here.  (Applause.)  We love her.  And an outstanding member of Congress, who, like another guy of similar name, knows something about how to get the economy growing and cares about working people — Adam Smith is here.  (Applause.)  He was — there he is — somewhere.  He’s here somewhere, I know he is.  And all of you are here.

So because this is not like a huge rally, what I want to do instead of giving a long speech is spend some time answering some questions and taking some comments from all of you.  But let me try to just, at the top, frame I think the choice that the country is going to be confronting and the debate that we’re going to be having over the next three to four months.

As Jim mentioned, when I came into office, we were going through the worst recession, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.  Lost 800,000 jobs the month I was sworn into office.  And because of some timely — and not always popular — steps that we took in that first year, we were able to save an auto industry, get the economy growing within six to eight months of me taking office; started adding jobs shortly thereafter.

We’ve now seen almost two and a half years of private sector job growth — about 4.5 million jobs created; about half a million in the manufacturing sector, the fastest growth we’ve seen in the manufacturing sector since the 1990s.  Saved an auto industry, stabilized the financial system.  And we have started to see — even in some sectors that were hardest hit, like housing — some modest improvement.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that there are still millions of folks who are out of work but desperately want to work.  There are still folks whose homes are underwater.

And most importantly, when I ran in 2008, the goal wasn’t to get back to where we were right before the crisis struck.  The goal was to restore a sense that in this country, if you work hard — no matter what you look like or where you come from — you can get ahead.  That you can afford to own a home.  That won’t go bankrupt when you get sick.  That your kids can get a good education and go to college, and aspire to things that you never dreamed of.  That you can retire with dignity and respect.  That core middle-class dream that some of us may have exceeded when it comes to our bank accounts, but that really is the glue that made us the envy of the world — this idea that if you work hard, you can make it; and if you act responsibly, you will be rewarded.

And the challenge was that, for a decade, that really wasn’t the case.  People were working harder and making less.  Costs were going up for things like college and health care.  A lot of jobs seemed as if they were being shipped overseas.  And the middle class was feeling less secure, and those who wanted to work hard to get into the middle class saw fewer and fewer ladders — fewer rungs on the ladder into opportunity.

So it hasn’t been enough.  Even though job one was to get us back on a path of recovery, the broader mission is how do we make sure that everybody has got a fair shot in this society, everybody is doing their fair share, and everybody is playing by the same set of rules — which is why health care reform was important, because that’s part of security for middle-class families.  That’s why Wall Street reform was important, because we’ve got to make sure that people have confidence in our financial system, and that it’s not being gamed, or reckless bets don’t potentially bring down the entire financial system.

That’s why education reform has been so important.  So the initiatives through things like Race to the Top, where we’ve gotten 46 states to initiate serious reforms — not with a lot of money, but with enough to incentivize best practices; and then, at the higher education level, work that we’ve done to expand Pell grants to make sure that there is a tuition tax credit for middle-class families to help them send their kids to college; initiatives that we’re now moving forward to create more engineers and more scientists and more mathematicians, so that we can keep our competitive edge — all those steps aren’t just going to pay short-term dividends, they’re also laying the foundation for long-term success.

Now, the debate in this campaign is going to be whether we continue down that road to progress or whether we take a sharp turn back to the policies that I believe got us into this mess in the first place.

My opponent’s basic vision can be described pretty simply.  You take the Bush tax cuts, you add on top of it an additional $5 trillion worth of tax cuts that would disproportionately benefit folks like us that don’t need them.  To the extent that there’s even an attempt to reduce the deficit, it’s done by slashing investments in education, voucherizing critical safety net programs like Medicare, reducing our investment in basic research and science.  And along with stripping away regulations that we’ve put in place through the health care bill or Wall Street reform or the enforcement that we think is important to make sure that our air is clean and our water is clean, that somehow, the market is going to be unleashed and prosperity will rain down on everybody.  Now, that’s their theory.

I disagree with that theory.  I think it’s wrong, partly because empirically we tried it.  We tried it for a decade and it didn’t work.  And the approach that I’m talking about in terms of balanced deficit reduction and investments in science and education and infrastructure — we’ve tried that, too, the last time there was a Democratic President.  And we created 23 million new jobs and went from deficit to surplus.  And, by the way, business people, large and small, did really well — because one of the lessons of our economic history is, is that when we’ve got a strong middle class, then businesses have customers and everybody does well, everybody grows.

So that’s what’s at stake in this election.  There are obviously a lot of other things at stake.  On foreign policy, I think it was the right thing to do to end the war in Iraq and refocus attention on al Qaeda, and now transition out of Afghanistan.  (Applause.)  I think it was the right thing to do for us to end torture and make sure that we applied rule of law to how we deal with a terrorist threat.

On issues like women’s health — making sure that women control their own health care choices I think is important.  (Applause.)  It’s the right thing to do.

Ending “don’t ask, don’t tell” — (applause) — and making sure that we are treating our brothers and sisters in the LGBT community with equality and fairness I think is the right thing to do.  So there are a bunch of other issues as stake here.  Supreme Court appointments — you name it.

But the central question is going to be how do we create an economy that works for everybody.  And I have to tell you, I generally have patience with what the other side says about me.  That’s the requirement of this job.  (Laughter.)  And if you don’t like folks talking about you, you probably shouldn’t run for President.

The one thing I do have no patience for is this argument that somehow what I’m criticizing is success.  That’s an argument you hear from the other side — oh, he wants to punish success.  I want to promote success.

But what I know is that Jim’s story, my story, the story of so many of you — our success was made possible in this country because our parents, our grandparents, our great-grandparents — stretching all the way back to the Founders — they had a vision that says, you know what, we’re going to insist on hard work and individual initiative, and we’re going to reward risk and entrepreneurship, and people are going to have to sweat and sacrifice for their success.  But there are some things we’re also going to do together to make sure that everybody has a chance.  Not everybody is going to succeed, but everybody is going to have a shot at success.

That’s why we set up a public school system that works.  That’s how we built extraordinary colleges and universities.  That’s how we created this amazing infrastructure that allows businesses to move goods and services, not just throughout this nation, but eventually throughout the world.  That’s how we sent a man to the moon.  That’s how we made the investments that helped to create the Internet.

So we want success.  We just want to make sure that everybody has a shot.  That’s what we’re fighting for.  That’s what’s at stake in this election.  And I hope you guys are willing to work as hard as I am over the next 106 days — not that I’m counting — (laughter) — and then you’re willing to work with me over another four years to make sure that we are moving towards that goal that I think the vast majority of Americans, regardless of whether they’re Democrats or Republicans or independents, all share.

Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

8:37 P.M. PDT

Full Text Campaign Buzz July 25, 2012: President Barack Obama Speech at Campaign Event at the House of Blues, New Orleans, Louisiana




Remarks by the President at Campaign Event — House of Blues, New Orleans, LA

Source: WH, 7-25-12

House of Blues
New Orleans, Louisiana

5:49 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  How’s it going, Big Easy?  It is good to be in New Orleans.  Now, I’ve got to admit I was thinking about just blowing everything off and going and getting something to eat.  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Where we going?

THE PRESIDENT:  Say where we’re going, huh?  (Laughter.)  I don’t know — you tell me, this is your town.  (Laughter.)  (People start yelling out places to go.)  All right.  Well, let me tell you, the next time I come down, drinks are on me.  We’ll all go party.  (Applause.)  But until then we’ve got a little work to do.  (Laughter.)

A couple of folks I want to acknowledge.  First of all, your outstanding Mayor, Mitch Landrieu in the house.  (Applause.)  Congressman Cedric Richmond is in the house.  (Applause.)  State Senator Karen Carter Peterson is in the house.  (Applause.)  One of my favorite actors, a great friend, and a big booster of New Orleans — Wendell Pierce is here.  (Applause.)  Give it up for Terence Blanchard and his band.  (Applause.)  And I’m not the only out-of-town visitor here today — we also have the outstanding Mayor of Philadelphia, Mayor Michael Nutter is here.  Give him a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE:  And your volunteers!

THE PRESIDENT:  And your volunteers — my volunteers are all here.  (Applause.)  And you are all here.  (Applause.)  We’re happy about that.  Thank you.

Now, this is my last political campaign.  You know I’m term limited — you only get two of these.  (Laughter.)  But it has made me a little nostalgic.  It makes me think about some of my first political campaigns.

AUDIENCE:  Fired up!  Ready to go!

THE PRESIDENT:  You know, when I first started in politics, I was a law professor, I was practicing civil rights law, and then I decided to run for the state senate in my area.  And I didn’t have a lot of backup so we’d have to go to Kinko’s and print up fliers.  (Laughter.)  And Michelle and me and some friends, we’d just go knocking on doors.  And then when I ran for the United States Senate — Illinois is a big state so we had to drive around all over the place.  But I didn’t have Marine One or Air Force One or a motorcade.  We had me — (laughter) — in my car.

I’d usually have a staff person with me — and the young people, you wouldn’t understand this, but back then we had to use these things called maps.  (Laughter.)  So they’re pieces of paper and you had to unfold them and try to figure out where you were going, and then you’d have to try to figure out how to fold them back.  (Laughter.)

And we would travel all across the state and I’d go to inner-cities and farm towns and suburban areas, and you’d meet people from all walks of life, all income levels.  And what was interesting, what inspired me, what made me realize that this might be a worthy pursuit was the sense that wherever I went, no matter how different people looked on the surface, there was a common thread to their story.  And it connected with my story.

So if I saw an elderly couple, they’d remind me of my grandparents.  And I’d about my grandfather, who fought in World War II, and then came home.  My grandmother, during the war, worked on a bomber assembly line, like Rosie the Riveter.  But when my grandfather came back he was able to get a college education because of the GI Bill, and they were able to buy their first home with the help of an FHA loan.  And I’d think about the journey they had traveled and everything that that generation had done for America, but also what America had done for them.

And sometimes I’d meet a single mom and I’d think about my mom.  My dad left and I didn’t know him.  So my mother didn’t have a lot of money — she had to work, put herself through school, but with the help of scholarships and grants, she was able to get ahead and then she was able to pass on a great education to me and my sister.  And I’d think about how in America, unlike a lot of other countries, she could make something out of herself even in those circumstances.

And then I’d meet a working couple and I’d think about Michelle’s parents.  Her dad, by the time I met him, could barely walk — he had multiple sclerosis.  So he had to use two cains, and he had to wake up an hour early — earlier than everybody else because that’s how long it took him just to get dressed and get ready and get to the job.  But he didn’t miss a day of work, because he believed in his responsibilities and looking after his family.  And Michelle’s mom worked as a secretary at a bank.  And so they never had a lot of money, but they had a lot of love, and they understood the concept of hard work and responsibility, and so they were able to pass on an extraordinary life to Michelle and her brother.

And as I traveled around the state of Illinois, it was clear to me that my story wasn’t unique and the stories of people I was meeting weren’t unique — it was the American story.  It was this idea that here in this country, we don’t believe in handouts, we don’t believe in bailouts, we believe in people earning what they get.  We believe in people working hard, we believe in people looking after their own families and taking responsibility and taking initiative.  But we also believe that in this country, hard work should pay off, that responsibility should be rewarded.  (Applause.)  And we believe that in this country, no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from, you should be able to make it if you try.  (Applause.)

That has been the central notion that built this country.  That has been our hallmark.  That’s been the core idea that drove America — this idea that in this country, you can get a fair shot, and everybody does their fair share, and everybody is playing by the same set of rules, and so, if you work hard, you can get ahead.  And that’s what created this economic superpower, and that’s what created the greatest and largest middle class in the history of the world.  (Applause.)

Now, in 2008, when I was first running for President, we came together and a lot of you supported me in that race because we believed in those values and we believed in those ideas, and we had seen that, for almost a decade, that idea that built America’s middle class seemed as if it was slipping away.

We had gone through a decade in which hard work wasn’t always rewarded.  Middle-class folks saw their incomes actually going down.  So while their paychecks are shrinking, the cost of everything from health care to a college education kept on going up.  A few people were doing really well, but the vast majority was struggling.  Meanwhile, in Washington, we financed two wars on a credit card, turning a surplus into a deficit.  And because nobody was making sure that folks on Wall Street were doing what they were supposed to be doing, all this culminated in the worst financial crisis and the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes.
We didn’t know all that when I started to run.  But what we understood was what we were fighting for was the kind of change that would once again make real this idea that if you work hard you’ll be rewarded and you can get ahead.  We were fighting for policies that would grow the middle class and provide them with that sense of security.

And, by the way, it’s not just a matter of how much money you have in your bank account when we talk about being middle class, it’s the idea that if you work hard you can find a job that supports your family, and you can maybe get a home you call your own, and you’re not going to go bankrupt if you get sick.  You’re going to be able to retire with dignity and respect —  (applause) — and, most importantly, that your kids and your grandkids can do even better than you did, that they can achieve what you didn’t even imagine.

For the last three and a half years, everything I have done as President has been focused on that principle.  And, obviously, as we saw this economic crisis unfold, we understood that the change we believed in would take more than one year, more than one term and probably take more than one President.  But over the last three and a half years, we’ve started to steer things in the right direction.  (Applause.)

We were losing 800,000 jobs a month when I was sworn in.  Now, we’ve seen more than two years of job growth every single month.  We’re at 4.5 million new jobs.  (Applause.)  An auto industry on the brink of collapse — we made sure that we bet on American workers and American manufacturing.  And it’s come roaring back.  (Applause.)  We moved to make sure that college was more affordable for young people, and that more Americans had access to health care. (Applause.)

And so, over the last three and a half years, everything we’ve done has been focused on how do we create an economy that is built to last — is not built on speculation, that doesn’t just benefit the few, but that consistently builds the middle class so that they can achieve their dreams.

Now, for all the work that we’ve done, we know we got more work to do, because there are still millions of people out there out of work.  Too many people still have homes whose values have dropped because of this housing bubble bursting.  So we understand that we’ve got more work to do.  But sometimes, particularly during political season, when I hear cynics who say that our best days are behind us, I tell them, you don’t know the American people.  You don’t know their grit and you don’t know their determination.  (Applause.)

You haven’t met the small business owners who decide to keep everybody on payroll, even if they couldn’t pay themselves, because they believed in doing the right thing.  (Applause.)  You haven’t talked to some of these autoworkers in these plants that folks thought would never build another car again and now can’t build them fast enough.  (Applause.)  You haven’t met folks who at the age of 50 or 55, went back to community college, sitting next to a bunch of 20-year-olds, because they believed in retraining themselves, and now are finding jobs in biotechnology or clean energy.  (Applause.)

When you travel around this country, you understand that the American people are tougher than any tough times.  And although there are no quick fixes or easy solutions, there’s no doubt that we can solve every challenge that we face.  What’s holding us back right now is not the lack of solutions.  What’s holding us back is a stalemate in Washington.  (Applause.)  What’s holding us back is a few folks who say, we are going to take the uncompromising view that the only path forward is to go back to what we were doing that got us into this mess in the first place — the same top-down economics that we are now debating in this campaign.

Now, let me be specific here.  Now, this afternoon the Senate passed a bill that says if you earn $250,000 or less your taxes should not go up next year.  This is something I deeply believe in, because the middle class is still struggling, recovering from this recession.  You don’t need your taxes to go up and we could give you certainty right now.  But, of course, we’re dealing with Washington.  So Republicans in the House, they’ve said, we’re going to hold the middle-class tax cut hostage unless they get another trillion dollars’ worth of tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.


THE PRESIDENT:  Now, I’ve got to tell you this makes no sense.  If Congress doesn’t act, the typical middle-class family is going to see their tax bill go up about $2,200.  Small businesses will also see their taxes go up.  So I’ve called on the House Republicans to drop their demands for another trillion-dollar giveaway for millionaires and billionaires so that we can make sure that middle-class families and small businesses have the financial security and certainty that they need.

But so far they don’t see it that way.  Governor Romney doesn’t see it that way.  Because they’ve got a fundamentally different vision about how we move this country forward.  They believe in top-down economics.  Their plan is to cut more taxes for the wealthy, cut more regulations on banks and corporations, cut more investments in things like education, job training, science, research — all with the thought that somehow that’s going to help us create jobs.  That’s what Mitt Romney believes. That’s what Washington Republicans believe.

I think they’re wrong.  That’s not what I believe.  That’s not what you believe.  That’s not what most Americans believe.  We believe not in top-down economics; we believe in middle-class-out economics.  We believe in bottom-up economics.  That’s what we’re fighting for.  That’s what I have fought for, for three and a half years.  That’s why I’m running for a second terms as President of the United States of America.  (Applause.)

So the good thing is you’ve got the power to break this stalemate.  But you need to understand there are two fundamentally different visions about how we move forward.  There’s a real choice.  I believe that hard work should be rewarded, and I believe that although all of us have to take individual initiative, there are also some things that we have to do together as a country to make sure that we grow.

I don’t believe that tax cuts for folks like me who don’t need them and weren’t even asking for them is going to grow the economy.  But I do think that if we invest in outstanding education for every child in New Orleans and every child across America, that will help grow the economy.  (Applause.)

So what I’ve said is let’s help local school districts hire the best teachers, especially in math and science.  Let’s help folks go to — 2 million more people go to community colleges so that they can retrain for the jobs that businesses are hiring for right now.  (Applause.)  Let’s make sure, building off the work we’ve already done, to expand Pell grants and to provide tuition tax credits for middle-class families.

Let’s make sure that college tuition goes down instead of up — because in the 21st century, a higher education is not a luxury, it’s an economic necessity that everybody should have access to.  That’s one of the reasons I’m running for a second term as President of the United States — to make sure everybody gets a great education.  (Applause.)

Here’s another difference:  I don’t believe in giving tax breaks to companies that ship jobs overseas.


THE PRESIDENT:  I want to give tax breaks to companies that invest right here in New Orleans, right here in Louisiana, right here in the United States of America, hiring American workers to make American products to sell around the world, stamped with three proud words:  Made in America.  (Applause.)  That’s a difference in this campaign.  (Applause.)

My opponent has got different ideas.  He says he’s qualified to turn around the economy because of all his private sector experience.  Turns out that experience is investing in companies that have been called “pioneers” of outsourcing.  I don’t believe in being a “pioneer” in outsourcing.  (Laughter.)  I want some insourcing.  I want to bring jobs back to the United States, not send them someplace else.  (Applause.)  That’s a choice in this election.

Back in 2008, I said I would end the war in Iraq — and I did.  (Applause.)   Thanks to the extraordinary service of our men and women in uniform — (applause) — not only have we given Iraqis an opportunity to determine their own destiny, but we were able to refocus our attention on al Qaeda, the folks who actually carried out the 9/11 attacks.  (Applause.)  So we’ve got them on their heels and decimated their leadership, including Osama bin Laden.  (Applause.)  And now in Afghanistan we’re starting to transition and bring our troops home so that Afghans can take a lead for securing their own country.

So after almost a decade of war, I think it’s time to do some nation-building here at home.  (Applause.  I want to take half the money that we are saving and put people back to work rebuilding roads and bridges and ports and new schools.  That’s good for the construction industry, it’s good for the construction workers, but it also means that those folks have some money in their pockets and they can come down to New Orleans and spend some of that money, and help this local economy.  (Applause.)  And it lays the foundation for economic growth for decades to come.

Mr. Romney has got different ideas.  And we tried those ideas, and they didn’t work.  I believe that we did the right thing in providing health care to every American.  (Applause.)  I don’t think you should go bankrupt because you got sick.  I don’t believe that children should not be able to get health insurance because of a preexisting condition.  I think we did the right thing to make sure that young people could stay on their parent’s plan until they’re 26.  I think we did the right thing to make sure that seniors have lower prescription drug costs.

The Supreme Court has spoken.  We are going to implement this law.  We’re not going backwards, we’re going forward.  That’s the choice in this election.  That’s why I’m running for a second term as President.  (Applause.)

We’re not going back to the day when you had to scramble and try to figure out how you were going to care for your loved ones if they got sick.  We’re not going to go back to the day when whether you could serve the country you loved depended on who you love.  We ended “don’t ask, don’t tell.”  That was the right thing to do.  We’re not going back.  (Applause.)

We passed the Lilly Ledbetter Act to make sure that women got equal pay for equal work — because I’ve got two daughters and think that they should be treated just like somebody else’s sons.  (Applause.)  And we’re not going to go back to the days when women did not have control of their health care choices.  (Applause.)  We are moving forward, we’re not going backwards.  (Applause.)

On almost every issue there is a choice.  And you see it in terms of how we deal with the deficit.  The deficit is a real problem — we have to reduce it.  I inherited a big deficit, and we’ve got to now bring it down.  But we can’t bring it down just on the backs of the poor.  We can’t bring it down on the backs of the middle class.  (Applause.)  We can’t bring it down in a way that prevents us from making investments in the future.

So what I’ve said is, look, we’ve already cut a trillion dollars in programs that we don’t need, and I’m willing to do a little bit more but I’m not going to do more if we’re not asking folks who have been most blessed by this country — like me — to just pay a little bit more in taxes, to go back to the rates that existed under Bill Clinton.  And by the way, we’ve tried that and that worked — (applause) — 23 million new jobs; surplus instead of deficits.  (Applause.)

And here’s the thing, New Orleans — here’s the thing.  We created a lot of millionaires then, too.  Because what happens is when people in the middle and at the bottom have a chance and are doing well, then lo and behold, folks at the top got more customers.  Everybody does better.  Everybody benefits.  We all grow.

So those are the choices that we have in this election, and you’re going to be the tiebreaker.  You will break the stalemate.
I’ve got to tell you, over the next four months you are going to hear a lot of stuff.  (Laughter.)  That’s what it is — stuff.  (Laughter.)  And sometimes, they will play around with things I say.  They’ll take out whole sentences.  (Laughter.)  They’ve got an ad right now where they just spliced it and diced it, make it seem like I don’t appreciate the incredible work of small business people.  And I say, look, everything I’ve done over the least three and a half years has been focused on how do we create greater opportunity for entrepreneurs and small business people
— cutting their taxes 18 times.

I understand the sacrifice and the sweat and the tears that they put in.  But that’s not going to be how it’s presented because that’s the nature of politics these days.  We’re going to see more money spent on negative ads than we’ve ever seen before. You’ve got folks writing $10 million checks.  And the message in all these ads is going to be the same.  There will be variations on it, but it’s all going to be the same message, which basically is:  The economy is still struggling, and it’s Obama’s fault.  It’s a very succinct message.

And the reason that that’s their message is because they know that their actual ideas won’t sell, that their approach is not one that’s going to work and the American people have rejected in the past.  So all they can do is try to argue that just by getting rid of me somehow everything is going to be solved.

And, look, when folks who are writing $10 million checks are going after you, you think about it.  (Laughter.)  You think about it.  But here’s the thing.  The reason I stand before you feeling good and feeling confident about America’s future, not just about this election, is because I’ve been the underdog before, I’ve been counted out before, I’ve been outspent before  — but what I learned in those very first campaigns, and has been confirmed for me ever since, is that when the American people really started focusing and paying attention, when they started cutting through the nonsense, when they start listening to what folks actually have to say, and when the American people start reflecting on their own lives — they think about their parents and their grandparents and their great-grandparents, and the story of how some of them maybe came to this country as immigrants, some came in chains, but all of those forebears of ours understood there was something about this country where we could make it.

It might be hard sometimes.  There might be times where we have setbacks.  But if we applied ourselves, we could pass on a better America to the next generation.  (Applause.)  That idea — that idea that led me into politics, that idea that is true for all of our families — when we focus on that idea, when we remember that we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, when that idea comes to the fore, the American people can’t be stopped.  (Applause.)  It doesn’t matter how many negative ads are out there.  It doesn’t matter how much money is spent.  Change happens when the American people are focusing on those things that are best in us.

And so, over these next four months, I will be carrying your stories with me, and it will give me confidence and it will give me inspiration, just like it did in 2008.  (Applause.)

And I have to tell you, New Orleans, back in 2008, I tried to not make promises that I couldn’t keep.  So I promised to end the war in Iraq — I kept that promise.  I said I’d cut taxes for middle-class families, average families — taxes are $3,600 lower than when I came into office — kept that promise.

One of the other promises I kept was I said, you know I’m not a perfect man — Michelle will tell you that — (laughter) — and I won’t be a perfect President, but what I can promise is that I’ll always tell you what I think and I’ll always tell you where I stand, and most importantly, I will wake up every morning and fight as hard as I know how for you.  (Applause.)

Because I see myself in you.  In your grandparents, I see my grandparents.  In your children, I see Malia and Sasha.  I see my own story in your story.  And so I’ve kept that promise, New Orleans.  I’ve been fighting for you.  I believe in you.

And if you still believe in me — (applause) — and you’re willing to stand with me, and fight with me, and organize with me, and make phone calls with me, and knock on doors with me, if you see what I see — a bold, generous, optimistic America where all people have a fair shot at success and everybody is doing their fair share — I promise you, we will finish what we started and we will remind the world just why it is that the United States of America is the greatest nation on Earth.  (Applause.)

God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

6:20 P.M. CDT

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