House Negro Alert: TAVIS SMILEY: ‘IF YOU’RE BLACK OR BROWN,’ NOT A LOT OF ‘GOOD REASONS’ TO TURN OUT TO VOTE.


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On Sunday’s broadcast of ABC’s “This Week,” PBS host Tavis Smiley acknowledged the Democratic Party has not given some minority voters the inspiration to turn out to vote in this election cycle.

 

“If you’re black or brown, if you’re — let’s be frank about this — if you’re black or brown other than helping to save the Democrats’ hide, give me three good reasons that you turn out to vote this time. Now, I’ll catch hell for saying that,” Smiley said.

 

“I’m not suggesting that people ought to stay at home and sit on their hands but what I’m suggesting is neither party has focused clearly on the issues of black and brown voters to inspire them and motivate them to turnout in 2014,” Smiley added. “And we may say the same thing in 2016.”

 

Steve Harvey Calls Tavis Smiley & Cornel West Uncle Toms For Criticizing Obama

 

 

TAVIS SMILEY: That’s a good point. And I think that issue would probably play better. And a lot of the reasons it might not be the top of the agenda is that Democrats respectfully know that they haven’t even done everything they could have done on this issue.

 

The slogan that it could have been worse is not a winning slogan. And I think the economy is certainly better now that we expected it would have been a couple years ago. I think the president gets some credit for helping put what policies that have turned this economy around slowly.

 

Having said that, there’s been no real fight even by Democrats for increasing the minimum wage to a living wage in this country. That measure can only go so far if you don’t have the record to back that up.

 

There’s a front-page story, George, as you know, in “The New York Times” today. They talk about the black vote is what the Democratic Party is relying upon now to save the Senate. News flash: if you’re relying on the black vote, in a midterm election — and I’m not suggesting that black voters don’t care about this — but if you’re relying on that vote, then I think it’s uninspired because we have double- and triple-digit unemployment in the African American community.

 

And again, if the message is something other than employment and what we’re going to do for you, then what’s the reason to go vote?

 

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SMILEY: But if you’re black or brown, let’s be frank about this. If you’re black or brown, other than helping to save the Democrats’ hide, give me three good reasons and you turn out the vote this time.

 

Now I’ll catch hell for saying that…

 

No, I am not suggesting — I’m not suggesting that people ought to stay home and sit on their hands. What I’m suggesting is that neither party has focused clearly enough on the issues of black and brown voters to inspire them and motivate them to turn out in 2014. And we may see the same thing in 2016.

 

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I don’t ever have to say much about Tavis Smiley, his predatory lending scam against HIS OWN BLACK people, the very same Black people he and his partner in stupid, Dr. Cornell West, profess to love, say all that needs to be said. Read from a plethora of reports on his agenda below:

 

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From All Voices:

 

Melissa Harris-Perry compares Tavis Smiley to Tuskegee syphilis study‘s black nurse

 

It is no secret that there has been some very “bad blood” flowing between, on one side, Dr. Harris-Perry, and on the other, Tavis Smiley and Princeton Professor Dr. Cornel West. Indeed, I have written about their ongoing feud in the past. The attention has mainly been focused on Drs. West and Harris-Perry. Today, however, Dr. Harris-Perry exponentially ratcheted up her critique of Smiley by directly comparing his role in the Wells Fargo bank’s now defunct “wealth building” program to nurse Rivers’ function during the TSE.

 

Wells Fargo will pay at least $175 million to settle lawsuits charging that it discriminated against African-American and Hispanic borrowers in violation of fair-lending laws, the Justice Department announced last September.

 

Wells Fargo is this nation-state’s largest residential home mortgage lender. From 2004 to 2009, the bank allegedly engaged in a pattern of discrimination against qualified African-American and Hispanic borrowers. Deputy US Attorney General James Cole said the bank’s discriminatory lending practices resulted in over 34,000 African-American and Hispanic borrowers in 36 states and the District of Columbia paying higher rates for loans solely because of the color of their skin.

 

Wells Fargo also will pay $50 million in direct down-payment assistance to borrowers in cities most targeted by the bank: Washington, DC; Chicago; Philadelphia; Oakland; San Francisco; New York City; Cleveland; Riverside, Calif.; and Baltimore.

 

The problem Dr. Harris-Perry has with Tavis Smiley involves his contracting with Wells Fargo — for a reported $4 million — to organize and orchestrate putative “wealth building” seminars in black neighborhoods nationwide starting in 2005. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan demurred and called these seminars nothing more than sales pitches for high-rate subprime loans through Wells Fargo.

 

Since the settlement, however, Richard Prince has reported in his “Journal-isms” column that Smiley has promised to sever all ties with Wells Fargo. Interestingly, until recently Wells Fargo sponsored Smiley’s radio show on Public Radio International (now canceled), and underwrote the annual C-SPAN-televised “State of the Black Union” conference that Smiley organizes (now defunct). Smiley’s foundation also distributed Wells Fargo materials to young people at foundation events.

 

“I cut everything off with Wells Fargo,” Smiley declared. He said the move cost “a lot of money”; he would not say how much. Smiley said his relationship with Wells Fargo was a “package deal.” In return for the company helping to finance his radio show, he went on the road for Wells Fargo.

 

On her show today, Dr. Harris-Perry argued that the seminars only appeared on the surface as a way to help black borrowers build wealth. They were actually just the opposite. By signing up for subprime mortgages they could not afford, foreclosure was the inevitable result. Often the bank would not even try to help the defaulted lenders, nor would it even attempt to re-sell the foreclosed properties. Instead, it let them sit in once “nice” neighborhoods, essentially abandoned. The run-down and abandoned appearance of these homes spread blight throughout their neighborhoods. In many cases, whole neighborhoods were simply destroyed.

 

In the now settled lawsuit filed by Attorney General Madigan, it was charged that from the outset Wells Fargo’s plan for the “seminars” was to target black borrowers for higher-cost subprime mortgages, not for wealth-building. And the seminars were a part of the bank’s overall illegal and discriminatory practice of steering black and Hispanic borrowers into riskier and more expensive loans, the suit said.

 

Opinion:

Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry is essentially calling Tavis Smiley a traitor to his race for his role in Wells Fargo’s “wealth building” scheme in black communities. Her comparison of him to Nurse Eunice Rivers is telling. She knew that the men she was “treating” for syphilis were not being treated at all, but were, in fact, being destroyed by her and the government’s efforts. It is not clear, however, whether Smiley knew beforehand whether Wells Fargo was simply trying to further feather its own substantial nest at the expense of poor black and Hispanic mortgagees. He says he did not know. That, to me, seems incredible. How could such an otherwise astute businessman and media mogul not know, or at least suspect, that something nefarious was going on here?

 

And then there is his relationship with Walmart. The retail giant has been under fire for years for its reprehensible treatment of its employees. Yet Walmart has been a staunch supporter, advertiser and sponsor of many of Smiley’s business ventures.

 

I once wondered why Melissa Harris-Perry has never deigned to have Tavis Smiley or Cornel West on her show. Now I do not have to wonder any more.

 

Thank you All Voices.

 

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From The American Prospect:

 

When the NAACP filed suit against Wells Fargo for allegedly targeting black people regardless of income or credit history or sub-prime loans, the bank became a symbol of how greed and racism contributed to the outsize effect the foreclosure crisis has had on the black community. In court affidavits, former Wells Fargo employees testified that the bank deliberately targeted the sub-prime loans — or “ghetto loans” as they were referred to internally — at “mud people.” In Baltimore, for example, 71 percent of the homes vacated due to foreclosure on a Wells Fargo loan were in black neighborhoods. Wells Fargo was the eighth largest recipient of bailout money — they received $25 billion.

 

Wells Fargo, however, has also long been a sponsor of the State of the Black Union,Tavis Smiley‘s annual black political symposium. Mary Kane reported that Smiley had been hosting “wealth building seminars” in black communities since 2005 — according to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the seminars were part of Wells Fargo’s attempt to lure black voters into buying sub-prime loans. One employee was even told she was “too white” to speak at one of the seminars — the company wanted a face nervous black folks buying a home for the first time could trust. A black face. Someone well-known and trustworthy. Someone like Tavis Smiley. Wells Fargo maintains they have done nothing wrong and are fighting the suit.

 

Smiley would also hardly be the first important black political figure to have ties to sub-prime lenders. As Stephanie Mercimer reported for Mother Jones last year,Charles Steele Jr. of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference defended sub-prime lenders in the Washington Post last year, Al Sharpton has cut commercials for LoanMax, Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow/PUSH Coalition has worked with Compucredit on “job fairs and economic summits,” and the Urban Leage has worked with the Consumer Financial Services Association to conduct “financial literacy seminars.”

 

Following Kane’s article, Richard Prince reported that Smiley was cutting all ties with the bank.

 

“I cut everything off with Wells Fargo,” Smiley declared. He said the move cost “a lot of money”; he said he did not know how much.

 

I’m not sure how much moving away from Wells Fargo cost Smiley. But if the information in the suits against Wells Fargo are accurate, probably less than the folks who lost their homes because the bank foreclosed on their “ghetto loan.”

 

The revelation of Smiley’s efforts in helping Wells Fargo sell sub-prime loans in the black community is likely to further erode Smiley’s standing among black folks. During the 2008 campaign, Smiley criticized Barack Obama for not attending one of his symposiums, which many felt was somewhat self-serving and unfair. At the time, Smiley said, “Just because Barack Obama is black, doesn’t mean he gets a pass on being held accountable on issues that matter to black people.”

 

Thank you The American Prospect

 

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From Febone 1960.net Blog:

 

Wells Fargo Uses Tavis Smiley For Subprime Loan Trap?

 

 

Did Tavis Smiley help Wells Fargo herd black people into subprime loans? Yes, according to information contained in a lawsuit filed recently by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. The suit alleges that Smiley was the hook used to draw in potential customers for subprime mortgages.

 

You might be familiar with the “Wealth Building” seminars that Wells Fargo conducted beginning in the year 2000. Smiley was the headline speaker at these events, held in Baltimore; Chicago; Richmond, Va.; and San Francisco. The seminars were advertised aggressively in black media and aimed directly at black communities. They were a huge success. Often, standing room only audiences would hear Smiley speak about how he mostly disliked banks while strongly urging attendees to invest in real estate as a sound strategy to build wealth.

 

Turns out that keynote may be responsible for many unsophisticated, would-be home buyers being particularly vulnerable to the subprime loan slop Wells Fargo allegedly intended to push toward them:

 

But what appeared on the surface as a way to help black borrowers build wealth was actually just the opposite, according to a little-noticed explanation of the “Wealth Building” seminar strategy, contained in a lawsuit recently filed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

 

Wells’ plan for the seminars all along was to target black borrowers for higher-cost subprime mortgages, not for wealth-building, the suit charged. And the seminars were a part of the bank’s overall illegal and discriminatory practice of steering black and Hispanic borrowers into riskier and more expensive loans, the suit said.

 

According to a former Wells Fargo Home Mortgage employee, one of these “Wealth Building” seminars held in Maryland was planned for an audience that would be virtually all African American, the suit said. The plan for the seminar was for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage employees to talk about sub-prime mortgages, although they were directed by Wells Fargo Home Mortgage to use the term ‘alternative lending’ when marketing these products.” The former employee, who is white, was scheduled to speak at the seminar, but was told by a manager that she was “too white,” and that only black employees could make presentations, the suit said.

 

Wells Fargo, one of the nation’s largest mortgage lenders and a recipient of $25 billion in government bailout money, has denied all the charges in the Illinois suit, as well as other allegations of unfair lending. The bank did not respond to requests for comment on the seminars. Smiley, an author and advocate who hosts the late-night talk show, ‘Tavis Smiley,’ and who organizes the State of the Black Union symposiums each year, also declined comment. Source: Suit Alleges Trusted Black Figures Drew Minorities to High Rate Loans, Washington Independent

 

These are extremely serious allegations that will play out in the legal arena. But having worked with Smiley during the last “State of the Black Union,” I do not believe he intentionally set out to hurt black people or poor people in general. That would be like me believing that Wall Street intentionally set out to destroy its own money-making schemes.

 

There are at least two glaring takeaways from this. For Smiley, I’m sure he’s learned the hard way to be much more careful about how people use him and his established goodwill to sell stuff. I am skeptical of all corporations. But the other takeaway is the observation that this white company used a black spokesman to instantly gain trust and credibility where it had done little work on the ground in the black community to EARN it themselves.

 

All of us need to be particularly cautious when any company pushes a black person to sell you something they want you to “feel” good about and not understand.

 

Thank you Febone 1960.net Blog.

 

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From CLUTCHMAGAZINEONLINE:

 

In 2007, the NAACP brought a predatory lending suit against banking giant Wells Fargo — and eventually, 14 others like it, including Citibank and HSBC — for lobbing unfair and discriminatory practices against brown folks. Last year, in the first formal enforcement action and largest consumer-enforcement fine ever imposed by the agency, the Federal Reserve strong-armed the Wells Fargo powers-that-be into paying $85 million in restitution for allegedly steering borrowers—again, of the Black and Latino variety—into high-cost, subprime loans, though they never really admitted any guilt.

 

Then, in the beginning of 2012, the company also agreed to a $175 million settlement in a fair-lending case for saddling the same kind of customers with those cursed and dreaded adjustable-rate loans, forcing them to unknowingly pay more than white borrowers. Between 2004 and 2009, Wells Fargo was showered with accusations and findings that pointed to the active pimping of our communities. It’s not a secret, it’s not classified information. It’s all over the news, corporate press releases and the web.

 

So it stands to reason that, even if he didn’t know anything about their underhanded financial debauchery before, Tavis Smiley could’ve, at the very least, performed a simple keyword search online (“Wells Fargo, African-Americans” works quite nicely) before agreeing to galvanize the masses and lead them into “wealth-building seminars.” Hosted by Wells Fargo for five years until 2009, the events, held in Black communities, were introduced as part of the company’s reparations package following its reign of lending tyranny. Tavis was the face of the effort and lent his celebrity and credibility to get attendees involved in the programs. Incidentally, Wells Fargo also helped to finance his radio show.

 

For leading the lambs to slaughter, he was paid a handsome $4 million. All we got was shafted with what Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan called “nothing more than sales pitches for high-rate subprime loans.” Tavis severed his relationship with Wells Fargo and issued a statement about his involvement, throwing in that closing the deal caused him to lose a great deal of money, but the damage was already done. Before you sign up for any endorsement deal or business partnership, it’s your responsibility to know who you’re working with.

 

So on her show last week, Melissa Harris-Perry took Tavis to task, albeit a little late, comparing him to Nurse Rivers, the woman who infamously led some 600 men into deception about the real purpose of the Tuskegee Experiment with syphilis. (Mmmm…ouch.) One consciously allowed the people under her care to be put through agonizing medical trial, the other rallied the troops to jump over the financial cliff.

 

Now, we already know there’s bad blood between her, Tavis and Dr. West. There’s nothing worse than when a group of highly intelligent, highly influential, highly visible Black folks with a heavy dose of media influence and airtime dedicate their energy to volleying digs back and forth at one another. It’s exhausting for the viewer (namely me) who just wants to know the issues without being sucked into the commentator’s personal vendettas. I love me some Melissa Harris-Perry — this video right here is part of the reason why — but it took a little dirt-digging to come up with this one. Still, Tavis deserved to be called out for his double-dealing. That obligates her to stay squeaky clean, though, because best believe he and Dr. West are going to be on the prowl for the next round of retaliation. Scholars gone wild…even better than Real Housewives.

 

Thank you CLUTCHMAGAZINEONLINE.

 

Tavis Smiley and Cornel West

 

From The Wattree Chronicle:

 

A QUESTION FOR BOTH TAVIS SMILEY AND CORNELL WEST

 

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Mr. Smiley, do you intend to return the Millions of dollars to the people who lost their lifesavings and homes that you reportedly made from herding poor Black people and Hispanics into the Wells Fargo “Ghetto Loan” Scam? And Dr. West, in your learned opinion, what is the appropriate course of action for your friend and associate to take, in accordance with the “prophetic tradition,” of course?

 

A discrimination lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice, and several articles, including one seeded on Newsvine entitle, “Tavis Smiley – “Ghetto Loan” Peddler for Wells Fargo,” closely associates PBS talk show host, Tavis Smiley, with the Wells Fargo Bank scam targeting poor and middle-class Black and Hispanic borrowers. The article quotes Kelvin Boston, host of “Moneywise, and Keith Corbett, of the Center for Responsible Lending, as calling Tavis Smiley “the big draw” of the Wells Fargo scam. Specifically, the article states the following:

“Smiley was the keynote speaker, and the big draw, according to Boston [host of “Moneywise”] and Keith Corbett, executive vice president of the Center for Responsible Lending, who attended two of the seminars. Smiley would charge up the audience — and rattle the Wells Fargo executives in attendance — by launching into a story about how he hated banks, and how they used to refuse to lend him money for his real estate projects in Compton, Calif., and elsewhere… But what appeared on the surface as a way to help black borrowers build wealth was actually just the opposite, according to a little-noticed explanation of the “Wealth Building” seminar strategy, contained in a lawsuit recently filed by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

 

“Wells’ plan for the seminars all along was to target black borrowers for higher-cost subprime mortgages, not for wealth-building, the suit charged. And the seminars were a part of the bank’s overall illegal and discriminatory practice of steering black and Hispanic borrowers into riskier and more expensive loans, the suit said.”

 

Subsequent to the law suit, Richard Prince reported in The Washington Independent that Smiley issued a statement indicating that he would sever all ties with Wells Fargo until charges that the company steered minorities into higher-rate loans are resolved. The article went on to say,

 

“Wells Fargo sponsored Smiley’s radio show on Public Radio International, and underwrote the annual C-Span-televised “State of the Black Union” conference that Smiley organizes. Smiley’s foundation also distributed Wells Fargo materials to young people at foundation events, he told Journal-isms.

 

‘“I cut everything off with Wells Fargo,’ Smiley declared. He said the move cost ‘a lot of money’; he said he did not know how much.”

 

On July 12, 2012 Charlie Savage reported in the New York Times that Wells Fargo Bank agreed to pay $175 million to settle the discrimination suit which, according to the Department of Justice, targeted over 30,000 Black and Hispanic borrowers for subprime loans with a higher interest rate than for similarly situated White borrowers between 2004 and 2009.

 

State Of The Black Union

 

What makes it particularly ironic that Tavis Smiley would be associated with this scheme to target poor and middle-class minorities is that Smiley is the primary promoter of what he calls “The Poverty Tour,” along with his friend and associate, former Princeton professor, Cornel West. During the tour, on their joint radio talk show, and on numerous media appearances, Smiley and West have gained a reputation for being President Obama’s harshest critics, indicating that the president is not sufficiently focused, and “accountable,” to the nation’s poor and minority community.

 

In a statement by Wells Fargo put out after the bank agreed to a settlement of $175 Million, they said that while not admitting to any wrong doing, Wells Fargo agreed to a settlement of the law suit because the bank felt that it was the right thing to do.

 

CNNMONEY quoted Mike Held, president of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, as saying, “Wells Fargo is settling this matter because we believe it is in the best interest of our team members, customers, communities and investors to avoid a long and costly legal fight, and to instead devote our resources to continuing to contribute to the country’s housing recovery.”

 

The settlement includes Wells Fargo paying the Black and Hispanic victims of discrimination $125 million in compensation, and an additional $50 million in down-payment assistance to borrowers in the affected communities.

 

So the question that remains is, if Wells Fargo Bank feels that paying compensating to the poor and middle-class victims of this scam is the right thing to do, shouldn’t Tavis Smiley, the most strident advocate of “accountability” and fervent crusader for the interest of the poor, feel obliged to do the same? Certainly, benefiting from the misery of the poor and minority community would run counter to Mr. Smiley’s zeal for the need of the powerful to maintain accountability.

 

We’d also like to put that question to Smiley’s friend and associate, Dr. Cornel West. What do you think your good friend and associate should do, Dr. West? What does the “prophetic tradition” dictate is the proper course of action?

 

We’ll be anxiously awaiting your response.

 

Thank you The Wattree Chronicle.

 

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Fmr Wells Fargo Subprime Loan Officer: Bank Targeted Black Churches for Subprime Loans 1/3

 

Uploaded on Aug 28, 2009

Up until two years ago, Elizabeth Jacobson was the top producing loan officer in the subprime division at Wells Fargo. Today she is speaking out against the practices of her former company. Earlier this summer, she filed a sworn affidavit with a federal court in support of the city of Baltimores lawsuit against Wells Fargo for pushing high-interest, subprime loans onto African Americans in Baltimore and the Maryland suburbs, leading hundreds into foreclosure.

 

 

 

Subprime loans target black churches, at taxpayers expense!!!-2/3

 

 

 

Subprime loans target black churches, at taxpayers expense!!!-3/3

 

 

 

ALL OF THIS WAS GOING ON WHILE CORNEL WEST WAS SAYING THE FOLLOWING ABOUT OBAMA (NOTICE THE WELLS FARGO LOGO):

 

Cornell West on Barack Obama

 

Uploaded on Feb 10, 2007

Princeton professor not pleased about Obama’s snub of Covenant With Black America conference

 

 

 

Cornel West: Obama is ‘Republican in Blackface’

 

 

 

Cornel West Introduces Barack Obama

 

Uploaded on Nov 30, 2007

Cornel West Introduces Barack Obama at the Apollo Theater, Nov. 29, 2007

 

 

 

As evidenced by the above videos, The Dr. Cornell West loved Barack Hussein Obama’s dirty boxers until he imagined Barack snubbed Cornell’s  Covenant With Black America conference. The dislike Cornell has comes from this petty bullshit. Not to mention Barack’s social secretary made the mistake of ignoring a request from Cornell for additional 2009 inauguration tickets…thus was born Dr. Cornell West’s “issues with Barack.”

 

The moronic Tavis Smiley had Barack on his PBS TV show….

 

Barack Obama on Tavis Smiley

 

Uploaded on Oct 20, 2007

Obama 2012: Are you in? http://my.barackobama.com/tavis3vid

Tavis Smiley interviews Barack on October 18, 2007.

 

 

 

The “story” of the split between Barack & Tavis is said to be born from Barack not accepting an invite to a Tavis function shortly after Barack took the Oath Of Office. Barack had a previous commitment and sent 1st Lady Michelle in his place. That made Tavis very unhappy with Barack. Now personally I’d take Michelle over Barack any day…

 

Can you say petty ass Black folks?

 

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President Barack Hussein Obama Speaks On The Economy At Knox College In Galesburg, IL.


By Jueseppi B.

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In my haste to get this video of POTUS Barack Hussein Obama‘s speech, out to those who might have missed it’s original broadcast, I am using an uncut unpolished version released by The White House from it’s live White House feed.

***President Obama’s remarks have concluded. Drag the counter along the timeline below to 48 minutes to replay The President speech.***

Streamed live on Jul 24, 2013

President Obama’s live remarks have concluded. Drag the counter along the timeline below to replay. The full video will be posted on the White House YouTube channel momentarily.

Remarks by the President on the Economy — Knox College, Galesburg, IL

July 24, 2013

Remarks by the President on the Economy — Knox College, Galesburg, IL

Knox College
Galesburg, Illinois

12:13 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Galesburg!  (Applause.)  Well, it’s good to be home in Illinois!  (Applause.)  It is good to be back. It’s good to be back.  Thank you.  Thank you so much, everybody. (Applause.)  Thank you.  Everybody, have a seat, have a seat.  Well, it is good to be back.

I want to, first of all, thank Knox College — (applause) — I want to thank Knox College and your president, Teresa Amott, for having me here today.  Give Teresa a big round of applause.  (Applause.)   I want to thank your Congresswoman, Cheri Bustos, who’s here.  (Applause.)  We’ve got Governor Quinn here.  (Applause.)  I’m told we’ve got your Lieutenant Governor, Sheila Simon, is here.  (Applause.)  There she is.  Attorney General Lisa Madigan is here.  (Applause.)

I see a bunch of my former colleagues, some folks who I haven’t seen in years and I’m looking forward to saying hi to.  One in particular I’ve got to mention, one of my favorites from the Illinois Senate — John Sullivan is in the house.  (Applause.)  John was one of my earliest supporters when I was running for the U.S. Senate, and it came in really handy because he’s got, like, 10 brothers and sisters, and his wife has got 10 brothers and sisters — (laughter) — so they’ve got this entire precinct just in their family.  (Laughter.)  And they all look like John — the brothers do — so he doesn’t have to go to every event.  He can just send one of his brothers out.  (Laughter.)  It is good to see him.

Dick Durbin couldn’t make it today, but he sends his best. And we love Dick.  (Applause.)  He’s doing a great job.  And we’ve got one of my favorite neighbors, the Senator from Missouri, Claire McCaskill, in the house, because we’re going to Missouri later this afternoon.  (Applause.)

And all of you are here, and it’s great to see you.  (Applause.)  And I hope everybody is having a wonderful summer.  The weather is perfect.  Whoever was in charge of that, good job. (Laughter.)

So, eight years ago, I came here to deliver the commencement address for the class of 2005.  Things were a little different back then.  For example, I had no gray hair — (laughter) — or a motorcade.  Didn’t even have a prompter.  In fact, there was a problem in terms of printing out the speech because the printer didn’t work here and we had to drive it in from somewhere.  (Laughter.)  But it was my first big speech as your newest senator.

And on the way here I was telling Cheri and Claire about how important this area was, one of the areas that I spent the most time in outside of Chicago, and how much it represented what’s best in America and folks who were willing to work hard and do right by their families.  And I came here to talk about what a changing economy was doing to the middle class — and what we, as a country, needed to do to give every American a chance to get ahead in the 21st century.

See, I had just spent a year traveling the state and listening to your stories — of proud Maytag workers losing their jobs when the plant moved down to Mexico.  (Applause.)  A lot of folks here remember that.  Of teachers whose salaries weren’t keeping up with the rising cost of groceries.  (Applause.)  Of young people who had the drive and the energy, but not the money to afford a college education.  (Applause.)

So these were stories of families who had worked hard, believed in the American Dream, but they felt like the odds were increasingly stacked against them.  And they were right.  Things had changed.

In the period after World War II, a growing middle class was the engine of our prosperity.  Whether you owned a company, or swept its floors, or worked anywhere in between, this country offered you a basic bargain — a sense that your hard work would be rewarded with fair wages and decent benefits, the chance to buy a home, to save for retirement, and most of all, a chance to hand down a better life for your kids.

But over time, that engine began to stall — and a lot of folks here saw it — that bargain began to fray.  Technology made some jobs obsolete.  Global competition sent a lot of jobs overseas.  It became harder for unions to fight for the middle class.  Washington doled out bigger tax cuts to the very wealthy and smaller minimum wage increases for the working poor.

And so what happened was that the link between higher productivity and people’s wages and salaries was broken.  It used to be that, as companies did better, as profits went higher, workers also got a better deal.  And that started changing.  So the income of the top 1 percent nearly quadrupled from 1979 to 2007, but the typical family’s incomes barely budged.

And towards the end of those three decades, a housing bubble, credit cards, a churning financial sector was keeping the economy artificially juiced up, so sometimes it papered over some of these long-term trends.  But by the time I took office in 2009 as your President, we all know the bubble had burst, and it cost millions of Americans their jobs, and their homes, and their savings.  And I know a lot of folks in this area were hurt pretty bad.  And the decades-long erosion that had been taking place — the erosion of middle-class security — was suddenly laid bare for everybody to see.

Now, today, five years after the start of that Great Recession, America has fought its way back.  (Applause.)  We fought our way back.  Together, we saved the auto industry; took on a broken health care system.  (Applause.)  We invested in new American technologies to reverse our addiction to foreign oil.  We doubled wind and solar power.  (Applause.)  Together, we put in place tough new rules on the big banks, and protections to crack down on the worst practices of mortgage lenders and credit card companies.  (Applause.)  We changed a tax code too skewed in favor of the wealthiest at the expense of working families — so we changed that, and we locked in tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans, and we asked those at the top to pay a little bit more.  (Applause.)

So you add it all up, and over the past 40 months, our businesses have created 7.2 million new jobs.  This year, we’re off to our strongest private sector job growth since 1999.

And because we bet on this country, suddenly foreign companies are, too.  Right now, more of Honda’s cars are made in America than anyplace else on Earth.  (Applause.)  Airbus, the European aircraft company, they’re building new planes in Alabama.  (Applause.)  And American companies like Ford are replacing outsourcing with insourcing — they’re bringing jobs back home.  (Applause.)

We sell more products made in America to the rest of the world than ever before.  We produce more natural gas than any country on Earth.  We’re about to produce more of our own oil than we buy from abroad for the first time in nearly 20 years.  (Applause.)  The cost of health care is growing at its slowest rate in 50 years.  (Applause.)  And our deficits are falling at the fastest rate in 60 years.  (Applause.)

So thanks to the grit and resilience and determination of the American people — of folks like you — we’ve been able to clear away the rubble from the financial crisis.  We started to lay a new foundation for stronger, more durable economic growth. And it’s happening in our own personal lives as well, right?  A lot of us tightened our belts, shed debt, maybe cut up a couple of credit cards, refocused on those things that really matter.

As a country, we’ve recovered faster and gone further than most other advanced nations in the world.  With new American revolutions in energy and technology and manufacturing and health care, we’re actually poised to reverse the forces that battered the middle class for so long, and start building an economy where everyone who works hard can get ahead.

But — and here’s the big “but” — I’m here to tell you today that we’re not there yet.  We all know that.  We’re not there yet.  We’ve got more work to do.  Even though our businesses are creating new jobs and have broken record profits, nearly all the income gains of the past 10 years have continued to flow to the top 1 percent.  The average CEO has gotten a raise of nearly 40 percent since 2009.  The average American earns less than he or she did in 1999.  And companies continue to hold back on hiring those who’ve been out of work for some time.
Today, more students are earning their degree, but soaring costs saddle them with unsustainable debt.  Health care costs are slowing down, but a lot of working families haven’t seen any of those savings yet.  The stock market rebound helped a lot of families get back much of what they had lost in their 401(k)s, but millions of Americans still have no idea how they’re going to be able to retire.

So in many ways, the trends that I spoke about here in 2005 — eight years ago — the trend of a winner-take-all economy where a few are doing better and better and better, while everybody else just treads water — those trends have been made worse by the recession.  And that’s a problem.

This growing inequality not just of result, inequality of opportunity — this growing inequality is not just morally wrong, it’s bad economics.  Because when middle-class families have less to spend, guess what, businesses have fewer consumers.  When wealth concentrates at the very top, it can inflate unstable bubbles that threaten the economy.  When the rungs on the ladder of opportunity grow farther and farther apart, it undermines the very essence of America — that idea that if you work hard you can make it here.

And that’s why reversing these trends has to be Washington’s highest priority.  (Applause.)  It has to be Washington’s highest priority.  (Applause.)  It’s certainly my highest priority.  (Applause.)

Unfortunately, over the past couple of years, in particular, Washington hasn’t just ignored this problem; too often, Washington has made things worse.  (Applause.)

And I have to say that — because I’m looking around the room — I’ve got some friends here not just who are Democrats,  I’ve got some friends here who are Republicans — (applause) — and I worked with in the state legislature and they did great work.  But right now, what we’ve got in Washington, we’ve seen a sizable group of Republican lawmakers suggest that they wouldn’t vote to pay the very bills that Congress rang up.  And that fiasco harmed a fragile recovery in 2011 and we can’t afford to repeat that.

Then, rather than reduce our deficits with a scalpel — by cutting out programs we don’t need, fixing ones that we do need that maybe are in need of reform, making government more efficient — instead of doing that, we’ve got folks who’ve insisted on leaving in place a meat cleaver called the sequester that’s cost jobs.  It’s harmed growth.  It’s hurt our military.  It’s gutted investments in education and science and medical research.  (Applause.)

Almost every credible economist will tell you it’s been a huge drag on this recovery.  And it means that we’re underinvesting in the things that this country needs to make it a magnet for good jobs.

Then, over the last six months, this gridlock has gotten worse.  I didn’t think that was possible.  (Laughter.)  The good news is a growing number of Republican senators are looking to join their Democratic counterparts and try to get things done in the Senate.  So that’s good news.  (Applause.)  For example, they worked together on an immigration bill that economists say will boost our economy by more than a trillion dollars, strengthen border security, make the system work.

But you’ve got a faction of Republicans in the House who won’t even give that bill a vote.  And that same group gutted a farm bill that America’s farmers depend on, but also America’s most vulnerable children depend on.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Booo –

THE PRESIDENT:  And if you ask some of these folks, some of these folks mostly in the House, about their economic agenda how it is that they’ll strengthen the middle class, they’ll shift the topic to “out-of-control government spending” –- despite the fact that we’ve cut the deficit by nearly half as a share of the economy since I took office.  (Applause.)

Or they’ll talk about government assistance for the poor, despite the fact that they’ve already cut early education for vulnerable kids.  They’ve already cut insurance for people who’ve lost their jobs through no fault of their own.  Or they’ll bring up Obamacare — this is tried and true — despite the fact that our businesses have created nearly twice as many jobs in this recovery as businesses had at the same point in the last recovery when there was no Obamacare.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  My daughter has insurance now!

THE PRESIDENT:  I appreciate that.  (Applause.)  That’s what this is about.  That’s what this is about.  (Applause.)  That’s what we’ve been fighting for.

But with this endless parade of distractions and political posturing and phony scandals, Washington has taken its eye off the ball.  And I am here to say this needs to stop.  (Applause.) This needs to stop.

This moment does not require short-term thinking.  It does not require having the same old stale debates.  Our focus has to be on the basic economic issues that matter most to you, the people we represent.  That’s what we have to spend our time on and our energy on and our focus on.  (Applause.)

And as Washington prepares to enter another budget debate, the stakes for our middle class and everybody who is fighting to get into the middle class could not be higher.  The countries that are passive in the face of a global economy, those countries will lose the competition for good jobs.  They will lose the competition for high living standards.  That’s why America has to make the investments necessary to promote long-term growth and shared prosperity — rebuilding our manufacturing base, educating our workforce, upgrading our transportation systems, upgrading our information networks.  (Applause.)  That’s what we need to be talking about.  That’s what Washington needs to be focused on.

And that’s why, over the next several weeks, in towns across this country, I will be engaging the American people in this debate.  (Applause.)  I’ll lay out my ideas for how we build on the cornerstones of what it means to be middle class in America, and what it takes to work your way into the middle class in America:  Job security, with good wages and durable industries.  A good education.   A home to call your own.  Affordable health care when you get sick.  (Applause.)  A secure retirement even if you’re not rich.  Reducing poverty.  Reducing inequality.  Growing opportunity.  That’s what we need.  (Applause.)  That’s what we need.  That’s what we need right now.  That’s what we need to be focused on.  (Applause.)

Now, some of these ideas I’ve talked about before.  Some of the ideas I offer will be new.  Some will require Congress.  Some I will pursue on my own.  (Applause.)  Some ideas will benefit folks right away.  Some will take years to fully implement.  But the key is to break through the tendency in Washington to just bounce from crisis to crisis.  What we need is not a three-month plan, or even a three-year plan; we need a long-term American strategy, based on steady, persistent effort, to reverse the forces that have conspired against the middle class for decades. That has to be our project.  (Applause.)

Now, of course, we’ll keep pressing on other key priorities. I want to get this immigration bill done.  We still need to work on reducing gun violence.  (Applause.)  We’ve got to continue to end the war in Afghanistan, rebalance our fight against al Qaeda. (Applause.)  We need to combat climate change.  We’ve got to standing up for civil rights.  We’ve got to stand up for women’s rights.  (Applause.)

So all those issues are important, and we’ll be fighting on every one of those issues.  But if we don’t have a growing, thriving middle class then we won’t have the resources to solve a lot of these problems.  We won’t have the resolve, the optimism, the sense of unity that we need to solve many of these other issues.

Now, in this effort, I will look to work with Republicans as well as Democrats wherever I can.  And I sincerely believe that there are members of both parties who understand this moment, understand what’s at stake, and I will welcome ideas from anybody across the political spectrum.  But I will not allow gridlock, or inaction, or willful indifference to get in our way.  (Applause.)

That means whatever executive authority I have to help the middle class, I’ll use it.  (Applause.)  Where I can’t act on my own and Congress isn’t cooperating, I’ll pick up the phone — I’ll call CEOs; I’ll call philanthropists; I’ll call college presidents; I’ll call labor leaders.  I’ll call anybody who can help — and enlist them in our efforts.  (Applause.)

Because the choices that we, the people, make right now will determine whether or not every American has a fighting chance in the 21st century.  And it will lay the foundation for our children’s future, our grandchildren’s future, for all Americans.
So let me give you a quick preview of what I’ll be fighting for and why.  The first cornerstone of a strong, growing middle class has to be, as I said before, an economy that generates more good jobs in durable, growing industries.  That’s how this area was built.  That’s how America prospered.  Because anybody who was willing to work, they could go out there and they could find themselves a job, and they could build a life for themselves and their family.

Now, over the past four years, for the first time since the 1990s, the number of American manufacturing jobs has actually gone up instead of down.  That’s the good news.  (Applause.)  But we can do more.  So I’m going to push new initiatives to help more manufacturers bring more jobs back to the United States.  (Applause.)  We’re going to continue to focus on strategies to make sure our tax code rewards companies that are not shipping jobs overseas, but creating jobs right here in the United States of America.  (Applause.)

We want to make sure that — we’re going to create strategies to make sure that good jobs in wind and solar and natural gas that are lowering costs and, at the same time, reducing dangerous carbon pollution happen right here in the United States.  (Applause.)

And something that Cheri and I were talking about on the way over here — I’m going to be pushing to open more manufacturing innovation institutes that turn regions left behind by global competition into global centers of cutting-edge jobs.  So let’s tell the world that America is open for business.  (Applause.)

I know there’s an old site right here in Galesburg, over on Monmouth Boulevard — let’s put some folks to work.  (Applause.)

Tomorrow, I’ll also visit the Port of Jacksonville, Florida to offer new ideas for doing what America has always done best, which is building things.  Pat and I were talking before I came  — backstage — Pat Quinn — he was talking about how I came over the Don Moffitt Bridge.  (Applause.)  But we’ve got work to do all across the country.  We’ve got ports that aren’t ready for the new supertankers that are going to begin passing through the new Panama Canal in two years’ time.  If we don’t get that done, those tankers are going to go someplace else.  We’ve got more than 100,000 bridges that are old enough to qualify for Medicare. (Laughter and applause.)

Businesses depend on our transportation systems, on our power grids, on our communications networks.  And rebuilding them creates good-paying jobs right now that can’t be outsourced.  (Applause.)

And by the way, this isn’t a Democratic idea.  Republicans built a lot of stuff.  This is the Land of Lincoln.  Lincoln was all about building stuff — first Republican President.  (Applause.)  And yet, as a share of our economy, we invest less in our infrastructure than we did two decades ago.  And that’s inefficient at a time when it’s as cheap as it’s been since the 1950s to build things.  It’s inexcusable at a time when so many of the workers who build stuff for a living are sitting at home waiting for a call.

The longer we put this off, the more expensive it will be and the less competitive we will be.  Businesses of tomorrow will not locate near old roads and outdated ports.  They’ll relocate to places with high-speed Internet, and high-tech schools, and systems that move air and auto traffic faster, and not to mention will get parents home quicker from work because we’ll be eliminating some of these traffic jams.  And we can watch all of that happen in other countries, and start falling behind, or we can choose to make it happen right here, in the United States.  (Applause.)

In an age when jobs know no borders, companies are also going to seek out the countries that boast the most talented citizens, and they’ll reward folks who have the skills and the talents they need — they’ll reward those folks with good pay.

The days when the wages for a worker with a high school degree could keep pace with the earnings of somebody who got some sort of higher education — those days are over.  Everybody here knows that.  There are a whole bunch of folks here whose dads or grandpas worked at a plant, didn’t need a high school education. You could just go there.  If you were willing to work hard, you might be able to get two jobs.  And you could support your family, have a vacation, own your home.  But technology and global competition, they’re not going away.  Those old days aren’t coming back.

So we can either throw up our hands and resign ourselves to diminishing living standards, or we can do what America has always done, which is adapt, and pull together, and fight back, and win.  That’s what we have to do.  (Applause.)

And that brings me to the second cornerstone of a strong middle class — and everybody here knows it — an education that prepares our children and our workers for the global competition that they’re going to face.  (Applause.)  And if you think education is expensive, wait until you see how much ignorance costs in the 21st century.  (Laughter and applause.)

If we don’t make this investment, we’re going to put our kids, our workers, and our country at a competitive disadvantage for decades.  So we have to begin in the earliest years.  And that’s why I’m going to keep pushing to make high-quality preschool available for every 4-year-old in America.  (Applause.) Not just because we know it works for our kids, but because it provides a vital support system for working parents.

And I’m going to take action in the education area to spur innovation that don’t require Congress.  (Applause.)  So, today, for example, as we speak, federal agencies are moving on my plan to connect 99 percent of America’s students to high-speed Internet over the next five years.  We’re making that happen right now.  (Applause.)  We’ve already begun meeting with business leaders and tech entrepreneurs and innovative educators to identify the best ideas for redesigning our high schools so that they teach the skills required for a high-tech economy.

And we’re also going to keep pushing new efforts to train workers for changing jobs.  So here in Galesburg, for example, a lot of the workers that were laid off at Maytag chose to enroll in retraining programs like the one at Carl Sandburg College.  (Applause.)  And while it didn’t pay off for everyone, a lot of the folks who were retrained found jobs that suited them even better and paid even more than the ones they had lost.

And that’s why I’ve asked Congress to start a Community College to Career initiative, so that workers can earn the skills that high-tech jobs demand without leaving their hometown.  (Applause.)  And I’m going to challenge CEOs from some of America’s best companies to hire more Americans who’ve got what it takes to fill that job opening but have been laid off for so long that nobody is giving their résumé an honest look.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  More talent!

THE PRESIDENT:  That, too.

I’m also going to use the power of my office over the next few months to highlight a topic that’s straining the budgets of just about every American family — and that’s the soaring cost of higher education.  (Applause.)  Everybody is touched by this, including your President, who had a whole bunch of loans he had to pay off.  (Laughter.)

Three years ago, I worked with Democrats to reform the student loan system so that taxpayer dollars stopped padding the pockets of big banks, and instead helped more kids afford college.  (Applause.)  Then, I capped loan repayments at 10 percent of monthly incomes for responsible borrowers, so that if somebody graduated and they decided to take a teaching job, for example, that didn’t pay a lot of money, they knew that they were never going to have to pay more than 10 percent of their income and they could afford to go into a profession that they loved.  That’s in place right now.  (Applause.)  And this week, we’re working with both parties to reverse the doubling of student loan rates that happened a few weeks ago because of congressional inaction.  (Applause.)

So this is all a good start — but it isn’t enough.  Families and taxpayers can’t just keep paying more and more and more into an undisciplined system where costs just keep on going up and up and up.  We’ll never have enough loan money, we’ll never have enough grant money, to keep up with costs that are going up 5, 6, 7 percent a year.  We’ve got to get more out of what we pay for.

Now, some colleges are testing new approaches to shorten the path to a degree, or blending teaching with online learning to help students master material and earn credits in less time.  In some states, they’re testing new ways to fund college based not just on how many students enroll, but how many of them graduate, how well did they do.

So this afternoon, I’ll visit the University of Central Missouri to highlight their efforts to deliver more bang for the buck to their students.  And in the coming months, I will lay out an aggressive strategy to shake up the system, tackle rising costs, and improve value for middle-class students and their families.  It is critical that we make sure that college is affordable for every single American who’s willing to work for it.  (Applause.)

Now, so you’ve got a good job; you get a good education — those have always been the key stepping stones into the middle class.  But a home of your own has always been the clearest expression of middle-class security.  For most families, that’s your biggest asset.  For most families, that’s where your life’s work has been invested.  And that changed during the crisis, when we saw millions of middle-class families experience their home values plummeting.  The good news is over the past four years, we’ve helped more responsible homeowners stay in their homes.  And today, sales are up and prices are up, and fewer Americans see their homes underwater.

But we’re not done yet.  The key now is to encourage homeownership that isn’t based on unrealistic bubbles, but instead is based on a solid foundation, where buyers and lenders play by the same set of rules, rules that are clear and transparent and fair.

So already, I’ve asked Congress to pass a really good, bipartisan idea — one that was championed, by the way, by Mitt Romney’s economic advisor — and this is the idea to give every homeowner the chance to refinance their mortgage while rates are still low so they can save thousands of dollars a year.  (Applause.)  It will be like a tax cut for families who can refinance.

I’m also acting on my own to cut red tape for responsible families who want to get a mortgage but the bank is saying no.  We’ll work with both parties to turn the page on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and build a housing finance system that’s rock-solid for future generations.

So we’ve got more work to do to strengthen homeownership in this country.  But along with homeownership, the fourth cornerstone of what it means to be middle class in this country is a secure retirement.  (Applause.)  I hear from too many people across the country, face to face or in letters that they send me, that they feel as if retirement is just receding from their grasp.  It’s getting farther and farther away.  They can’t see it.

Now, today, a rising stock market has millions of retirement balances going up, and some of the losses that had taken place during the financial crisis have been recovered.  But we still live with an upside-down system where those at the top, folks like me, get generous tax incentives to save, while tens of millions of hardworking Americans who are struggling, they get none of those breaks at all.  So as we work to reform our tax code, we should find new ways to make it easier for workers to put away money, and free middle-class families from the fear that they won’t be able to retire.  (Applause.)

And if Congress is looking for a bipartisan place to get started, I should just say they don’t have to look far.  We mentioned immigration reform before.  Economists show that immigration reform makes undocumented workers pay their full share of taxes, and that actually shores up the Social Security system for years.  So we should get that done.  (Applause.)

Good job; good education for your kids; home of your own; secure retirement.

Fifth, I’m going to keep focusing on health care — (applause) — because middle-class families and small business owners deserve the security of knowing that neither an accident or an illness is going to threaten the dreams that you’ve worked a lifetime to build.

As we speak, we’re well on our way to fully implementing the Affordable Care Act.  (Applause.)  We’re going to implement it.  Now, if you’re one of the 85 percent of Americans who already have health insurance either through the job or Medicare or Medicaid, you don’t have to do anything, but you do have new benefits and better protections than you did before.  You may not know it, but you do.  Free checkups, mammograms, discounted medicines if you’re on Medicare — that’s what the Affordable Care Act means.  You’re already getting a better deal.  No lifetime limits.

If you don’t have health insurance, then starting on October 1st, private plans will actually compete for your business, and you’ll be able to comparison-shop online.  There will be a marketplace online, just like you’d buy a flat-screen TV or plane tickets or anything else you’re doing online, and you’ll be able to buy an insurance package that fits your budget and is right for you.

And if you’re one of the up to half of all Americans who’ve been sick or have a preexisting condition — if you look at this auditorium, about half of you probably have a preexisting condition that insurance companies could use to not give you insurance if you lost your job or lost your insurance — well, this law means that beginning January 1st, insurance companies will finally have to cover you and charge you the same rates as everybody else, even if you have a preexisting condition.  (Applause.)  That’s what the Affordable Care Act does.  That’s what it does.  (Applause.)

Now, look, I know because I’ve been living it that there are folks out there who are actively working to make this law fail.  And I don’t always understand exactly what their logic is here, why they think giving insurance to folks who don’t have it and making folks with insurance a little more secure, why they think that’s a bad thing.  But despite the politically motivated misinformation campaign, the states that have committed themselves to making this law work are finding that competition and choice are actually pushing costs down.

So just last week, New York announced that premiums for consumers who buy their insurance in these online marketplaces will be at least 50 percent lower than what they’re paying today — 50 percent lower.  (Applause.)  So folks’ premiums in the individual market will drop by 50 percent.  And for them and for the millions of Americans who’ve been able to cover their sick kids for the first time — like this gentlemen who just said his daughter has got health insurance — or have been able to cover their employees more cheaply, or are able to have their kids who are younger than — who are 25 or 26 stay on their parents’ plan — (applause) — for all those folks, you’ll have the security of knowing that everything you’ve worked hard for is no longer one illness away from being wiped out.  (Applause.)

Finally, as we work to strengthen these cornerstones of middle-class security — good job with decent wages and benefits, a good education, home of your own, retirement security, health care security — I’m going to make the case for why we’ve got to rebuild ladders of opportunity for all those Americans who haven’t quite made it yet — who are working hard but are still suffering poverty wages, who are struggling to get full-time work.  (Applause.)

There are a lot of folks who are still struggling out here, too many people in poverty.  Here in America, we’ve never guaranteed success — that’s not what we do.  More than some other countries, we expect people to be self-reliant.  Nobody is going to do something for you.  (Applause.)  We’ve tolerated a little more inequality for the sake of a more dynamic, more adaptable economy.  That’s all for the good.  But that idea has always been combined with a commitment to equality of opportunity to upward mobility — the idea that no matter how poor you started, if you’re willing to work hard and discipline yourself and defer gratification, you can make it, too.  That’s the American idea.  (Applause.)

Unfortunately, opportunities for upward mobility in America have gotten harder to find over the past 30 years.  And that’s a betrayal of the American idea.  And that’s why we have to do a lot more to give every American the chance to work their way into the middle class.

The best defense against all of these forces — global competition, economic polarization — is the strength of the community.  So we need a new push to rebuild rundown neighborhoods.  (Applause.)  We need new partnerships with some of the hardest-hit towns in America to get them back on their feet.  And because no one who works full-time in America should have to live in poverty, I am going to keep making the case that we need to raise the minimum wage — (applause) — because it’s lower right now than it was when Ronald Reagan took office.  It’s time for the minimum wage to go up.  (Applause.)

We’re not a people who allow chance of birth to decide life’s biggest winners or losers.  And after years in which we’ve seen how easy it can be for any of us to fall on hard times — folks in Galesburg, folks in the Quad Cities, you know there are good people who work hard and sometimes they get a bad break.  A plant leaves.  Somebody gets sick.  Somebody loses a home.  We’ve seen it in our family, in our friends and our neighbors.  We’ve seen it happen.  And that means we cannot turn our backs when bad breaks hit any of our fellow citizens.

So good jobs; a better bargain for the middle class and the folks who are working to get into the middle class; an economy that grows from the middle out, not the top down — that’s where I will focus my energies.  (Applause.)  That’s where I will focus my energies not just for the next few months, but for the remainder of my presidency.

These are the plans that I’ll lay out across this country.  But I won’t be able to do it alone, so I’m going to be calling on all of us to take up this cause.  We’ll need our businesses, who are some of the best in the world, to pressure Congress to invest in our future.  And I’ll be asking our businesses to set an example by providing decent wages and salaries to their own employees.  And I’m going to highlight the ones that do just that.

There are companies like Costco, which pays good wages and offers good benefits.  (Applause.)  Companies like — there are companies like the Container Store, that prides itself on training its employees and on employee satisfaction — because these companies prove that it’s not just good for the employees, it’s good for their businesses to treat workers well.  It’s good for America.  (Applause.)

So I’m going to be calling on the private sector to step up. I will be saying to Democrats we’ve got to question some of our old assumptions.  We’ve got to be willing to redesign or get rid of programs that don’t work as well as they should.  (Applause.) We’ve got to be willing to — we’ve got to embrace changes to cherished priorities so that they work better in this new age.  We can’t just — Democrats can’t just stand pat and just defend whatever government is doing.  If we believe that government can give the middle class a fair shot in this new century — and I believe that — we’ve an obligation to prove it.  And that means that we’ve got to be open to new ways of doing things.

And we’ll need Republicans in Congress to set aside short-term politics and work with me to find common ground.  (Applause.)

It’s interesting, in the run-up to this speech, a lot of reporters say that, well, Mr. President, these are all good ideas, but some of you’ve said before; some of them sound great, but you can’t get those through Congress.  Republicans won’t agree with you.  And I say, look, the fact is there are Republicans in Congress right now who privately agree with me on a lot of the ideas I’ll be proposing.  I know because they’ve said so.  But they worry they’ll face swift political retaliation for cooperating with me.

Now, there are others who will dismiss every idea I put forward either because they’re playing to their most strident supporters, or in some cases because, sincerely, they have a fundamentally different vision for America — one that says inequality is both inevitable and just; one that says an unfettered free market without any restraints inevitably produces the best outcomes, regardless of the pain and uncertainty imposed on ordinary families; and government is the problem and we should just shrink it as small as we can.

In either case, I say to these members of Congress:  I’m laying out my ideas to give the middle class a better shot.  So now it’s time for you to lay out your ideas.  (Applause.)  You can’t just be against something.  You got to be for something.  (Applause.)

Even if you think I’ve done everything wrong, the trends I just talked about were happening well before I took office.  So it’s not enough for you just to oppose me.  You got to be for something.  What are your ideas?  If you’re willing to work with me to strengthen American manufacturing and rebuild this country’s infrastructure, let’s go.  If you’ve got better ideas to bring down the cost of college for working families, let’s hear them.  If you think you have a better plan for making sure that every American has the security of quality, affordable health care, then stop taking meaningless repeal votes, and share your concrete ideas with the country.  (Applause.)

Repealing Obamacare and cutting spending is not an economic plan.  It’s not.

If you’re serious about a balanced, long-term fiscal plan that replaces the mindless cuts currently in place, or if you’re interested in tax reform that closes corporate loopholes and gives working families a better deal, I’m ready to work.  (Applause.)  But you should know that I will not accept deals that don’t meet the basic test of strengthening the prospects of hardworking families.  This is the agenda we have to be working on.  (Applause.)

We’ve come a long way since I first took office.  (Applause.)  As a country, we’re older and wiser.  I don’t know if I’m wiser, but I’m certainly older.  (Laughter.)  And as long as Congress doesn’t manufacture another crisis — as long as we don’t shut down the government just because I’m for keeping it open — (laughter) — as long as we don’t risk a U.S. default over paying bills that we’ve already racked up, something that we’ve never done — we can probably muddle along without taking bold action.  If we stand pat and we don’t do any of the things I talked about, our economy will grow, although slower than it should.  New businesses will form.  The unemployment rate will probably tick down a little bit.  Just by virtue of our size and our natural resources and, most of all, because of the talent of our people, America will remain a world power, and the majority of us will figure out how to get by.

But you know what, that’s our choice.  If we just stand by and do nothing in the face of immense change, understand that part of our character will be lost.  Our founding precepts about wide-open opportunity, each generation doing better than the last — that will be a myth, not reality.  The position of the middle class will erode further.  Inequality will continue to increase. Money’s power will distort our politics even more.

Social tensions will rise, as various groups fight to hold on to what they have, or start blaming somebody else for why their position isn’t improving.  And the fundamental optimism that’s always propelled us forward will give way to cynicism or nostalgia.

And that’s not the vision I have for this country.  It’s not the vision you have for this country.  That’s not the America we know.  That’s not the vision we should be settling for.  That’s not a vision we should be passing on to our children.

I have now run my last campaign.  I do not intend to wait until the next campaign or the next President before tackling the issues that matter.  I care about one thing and one thing only, and that’s how to use every minute — (applause) — the only thing I care about is how to use every minute of the remaining 1,276 days of my term — (laughter) — to make this country work for working Americans again.  (Applause.)  That’s all I care about.  I don’t have another election.  (Applause.)

Because I’ll tell you, Galesburg, that’s where I believe America needs to go.  I believe that’s where the American people want to go.  And it may seem hard today, but if we’re willing to take a few bold steps — if Washington will just shake off its complacency and set aside the kind of slash-and-burn partisanship that we’ve just seen for way too long — if we just make some common-sense decisions, our economy will be stronger a year from now.  It will be stronger five years from now.  It will be stronger 10 years from now.  (Applause.)

If we focus on what matters, then more Americans will know the pride of that first paycheck.  More Americans will have the satisfaction of flipping the sign to “Open” on their own business.  More Americans will have the joy of scratching the height of their kid on that door of their brand-new home.  (Applause.)

And in the end, isn’t that what makes us special?  It’s not the ability to generate incredible wealth for the few; it’s our ability to give everybody a chance to pursue their own true measure of happiness.  (Applause.)  We haven’t just wanted success for ourselves — we want it for our neighbors, too.  (Applause.)

When we think about our own communities — we’re not a mean people; we’re not a selfish people; we’re not a people that just looks out for “number one.”  Why should our politics reflect those kinds of values?  That’s why we don’t call it John’s dream or Susie’s dream or Barack’s dream or Pat’s dream — we call it the American Dream.  And that’s what makes this country special  — the idea that no matter who you are or what you look like or where you come from or who you love, you can make it if you try. (Applause.)  That’s what we’re fighting for.

So, yes, Congress is tough right now, but that’s not going to stop me.  We’re going to do everything we can, wherever we can, with or without Congress, to make things happen.  We’re going to go on the road and talk to you, and you’ll have ideas, and we want to see which ones we can implement.  But we’re going to focus on this thing that matters.

One of America’s greatest writers, Carl Sandburg, born right here in Galesburg over a century ago — (applause) — he saw the railroads bring the world to the prairie, and then the prairie sent out its bounty to the world.  And he saw the advent of new industries, new technologies, and he watched populations shift.  He saw fortunes made and lost.  And he saw how change could be painful — how a new age could unsettle long-held customs and ways of life.  But he had that frontier optimism, and so he saw something more on the horizon.  And he wrote, “I speak of new cities and new people.  The past is a bucket of ashes.  Yesterday is a wind gone down, a sun dropped in the west.  There is only an ocean of tomorrows, a sky of tomorrows.”

Well, America, we’ve made it through the worst of yesterday’s winds.  We just have to have the courage to keep moving forward.  We’ve got to set our eyes on the horizon.  We will find an ocean of tomorrows.  We will find a sky of tomorrows for the American people and for this great country that we love.

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

END
1:17 P.M. CDT

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First Lady Michelle LaVaughn Obama: Working Together to Address Youth Violence in Chicago


 

By Jueseppi B.

 

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Remarks by the First Lady at the Joint Luncheon Meeting: Working Together to Address Youth Violence in Chicago

 

Hilton Chicago
Chicago, Illinois

1:54 P.M. CDT

 

MRS. OBAMA: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you. It’s good to be home. It is. Even though it’s freezing cold in April, it’s good to be home.

 

It is certainly a pleasure to be here with all of you today. I want to start by thanking Rahm for that very kind introduction and that very powerful statement of what our kids in this city need, and also for his outstanding leadership here in this city.

 

I also want to acknowledge Attorney General Lisa Madigan, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. Thank you all for being here. It’s good to see you. You’re all looking good. It’s very good.

 

And of course, I want to recognize Jim Reynolds as well as Tom Wilson for taking the lead as co-chairs of the Public Safety Action Committee. Thank you both for your leadership, for your words, for your service. We are so very proud of you.

 

And most of all, I want to thank all of you for coming here today on behalf of this city’s young people. I want to thank you for your commitment to their safety, their wellbeing, and their God-given potential. And I know that many of you aren’t new to this work. For years, you have been sponsoring sports leagues, afterschool programs, summer jobs and more.

 

So you in this room know firsthand the impact that we can have when this city truly invests in our children. And that’s something I know from my own experience, which is why it was so important for me to be here today.

 

I’m here today because Chicago is my home. I was born and raised here. I built my career here. Several of my bosses are here — former bosses are here. I met and married the love of my life here. I raised my children here, who, by the way, still refer to Chicago as home. They believe it gives them a little more credibility.

 

So let me tell you, when it comes to ensuring the health and development and success of young people in this city, for me, this is my passion, it is my mission. And for me, this is personal because my story would not be possible without this city.

 

And that’s where I want to start today -– by talking about our city and the neighborhoods that make us who we are. As you all know, Chicago is truly a city of neighborhoods, separated by parks and boulevards. It’s a city where walking just a few blocks can put you into an entirely different world of experiences. Cut through a park, and you go from English to Spanish, black to white, Puerto Rican to Polish. Cross a few streets, and you go from historic homes and manicured lawns to abandoned buildings and dark street corners.

 

So the opportunities available to a child growing up in one neighborhood in this city might be vastly different than a child growing up just five blocks away. And that difference can shape their lives and their life prospects from the moment they’re born.

 

That was certainly the case for me. As Rahm said, I was born and raised in South Shore. Our neighbors were teachers and secretaries, city workers; also a few professionals, doctors, lawyers, business owners. Most folks weren’t wealthy. A lot of people never went to college. And we generally couldn’t afford things like private music lessons or tutoring.

 

But thanks in part to this city, our lives were still rich with opportunities. We had decent public schools. I am a product of our public schools. We attended the Chicago Park District summer camps. Got a lot of ribbons from those camps I’m quite proud of. Played basketball on city courts. Our churches ran programs to expose us to music and the arts. So we didn’t have to be children of privilege to get the opportunity to enrich ourselves.

 

And back then, our parents knew that if they loved and encouraged us, if they kept us off the streets and out of trouble, then we’d be okay.; They knew that if they did everything right, we’d have a chance.

 

But today, for too many families and children in this city, that’s simply no longer the case. Today, too many kids in this city are living just a few El stops, sometimes even just a few blocks, from shiny skyscrapers and leafy parks and world-class museums and universities, yet all of that might as well be in a different state, even in a different continent.

 

Because many of our children have never been to the Art Institute or Millennium Park. Many of them don’t even know that the University of Chicago exists, let alone dream of attending that university -– or any university for that matter. They haven’t strolled along Navy Pier. Some of them have probably never even seen the lake. Because instead of spending their days enjoying the abundance of riches this city has to offer, they are consumed with watching their backs. They’re afraid to walk alone, because they might get jumped. They’re afraid to walk in groups, because that might identify them as part of a gang and put them at risk.

 

 

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At Harper High School in Englewood, where I’ll be visiting later on today, a newly-hired teacher noticed that when classes ended in the afternoon, kids would leave the building and walk right down the middle of the street. Now, at first, she thought this was just typical adolescent misbehavior. But one student explained that it’s actually safest that way, even with all the cars whizzing by, because it gives them the best view of any fights or shootings, and they have more time to run.

 

Thousands of children in this city live in neighborhoods where a funeral for a teenager is considered unfortunate, but not unusual; where wandering onto the wrong block or even just standing on your own front porch can mean putting yourself at risk.

 

Those are the odds that so many young people are facing in this city –- young people like Hadiya Pendleton, whose funeral I attended back in February. And we all know Hadiya’s story. She was 15 years old, an honor student at King College Prep. And she came from a good family -– two devoted parents, plenty of cousins, solid godparents and grandparents, an adoring little brother. The Pendletons are hardworking people. They’re churchgoing folks. And Hadiya’s mother did everything she could for her daughter. She enrolled her in every activity you could imagine -– cheerleading, majorettes, the praise dance ministry -– anything to keep her off the streets and keep her busy.

 

And as I visited with the Pendleton family at Hadiya’s funeral, I couldn’t get over how familiar they felt to me. Because what I realized was Hadiya’s family was just like my family. Hadiya Pendleton was me, and I was her. But I got to grow up, and go to Princeton and Harvard Law School, and have a career and a family and the most blessed life I could ever imagine.

 

And Hadiya? Oh, we know that story. Just a week after she performed at my husband’s inauguration, she went to a park with some friends and got shot in the back because some kid thought she was in a gang. Hadiya’s family did everything right, but she still didn’t have a chance. And that story -– the story of Hadiya’s life and death –- we read that story day after day, month after month, year after year in this city and around this country.

 

So I’m not talking about something that’s happening in a warzone halfway around the world. I am talking about what’s happening in the city that we call home, the city where we’re raising our kids, the city where your businesses operate.

 

This kind of violence is what so many young people like Hadiyah Pendleton are dealing with every single day. And those two boys charged with her shooting -– this is the violence they were facing as well. And you have to wonder: What if, instead of roaming around with guns, boys like them had access to a computer lab or a community center or some decent basketball courts? Maybe everything would have turned out differently.

 

 

Funeral Held For Teen Girl Killed At Chicago Playground

 

 

Maybe they would be doing their homework, or taking jump shots, or learning a new program instead of looking for trouble. Maybe if these kids saw some kind of decent future for themselves, instead of shootings, there would just be fistfights, some angry words exchanged.; And then maybe — just maybe — today, more of our young people would be in classrooms and at jobs, instead of in custody, facing even worse odds than they started out with.

 

See, at the end of the day, this is the point I want to make -– that resources matter. They matter. That what it takes to build strong, successful young people isn’t genetics, or pedigree, or good luck. It’s opportunity. And I know from my own experience. I started out with exactly the same aptitude -– exactly the same intellectual, emotional capabilities -– as so many of my peers. And the only thing that separated me from them was that I had a few more advantages than some of them did. I had adults who pushed me. I had activities that engaged me, schools that prepared me to succeed. I had a community that supported me and a neighborhood where I felt safe.

 

And in the end, that was the difference between growing up and becoming a lawyer, a mother, and First Lady of the United States, and being shot dead at the age of 15. And that is why this new fund that you’ve created here in Chicago is so important. It is so important.

 

As you’ve heard, this fund will help create those ladders of opportunities for all of our kids. It will give our children mentors who push them and nurture them. It will teach them the life skills they need to succeed. It will give them alternatives to gangs and drugs — safe places where they can learn something and stay out of trouble.

 

Because we know that every single child in this city has boundless promise no matter where they live. And whether we give them the chance to fulfill that promise and grow into productive adults who lead meaningful lives -– see, that’s on us. That’s our job. And our kids know when we’re fulfilling that obligation. They know. They know the difference between lip service and reality. They see it and feel it every single day.

 

 

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So we can host all the luncheons and make all the announcements we want. But at the end of the day, if our kids keep waking up in neighborhoods where they don’t feel safe on their own front porches, if they’re still attending schools with crumbling ceilings and ripped-up textbooks, if there’s nowhere safe for them to go when that afternoon bell rings, then nothing speaks louder than that. Nothing.

 

So let’s be clear. This is going to take a serious and sustained investment over a very long period of time, people. This is forever. And I am here today to join the call to all of you -– Chicago’s most distinguished business and community leaders -– to take up this challenge with fervor. And I hope that communities across America will follow Chicago’s lead to get our young people off the streets and back on track to successful lives.

 

Right now, my husband is fighting as hard as he can, and engaging as many people as he can, to pass common-sense reforms to protect our children from gun violence. And these reforms deserve a vote in Congress.

 

 

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As he has said, we can’t stop all the violence in the world. But if there is even one thing we can do, even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent from the grief that’s visited families like Hadiya’s and so many others here today, then don’t we have an obligation to try?

 

But we all know that these reforms must be just one part of a comprehensive effort to rebuild our neighborhoods and build a better future for our children. And if anyone can make that happen, it’s all of you. You all are some of the most creative, innovative, influential people not just in this city, but in the entire country. You have brought together folks from all across Chicago to do great things for this city, like build Millennium Park, host the NATO Summit — quite well, by the way — make the lakefront the cultural jewel of the Midwest.

 

And today, we need you to dig deep and apply that same passion, determination and civic pride to this city’s most precious asset –- our children. Now, we all take great pride in this city. And I don’t just mean the center of it; I mean every single one of the 77 neighborhoods that make us who we are. Each of these neighborhoods is a vital part of this city, as is every single child.

 

And as business leaders, you all know that this city’s young people are your future workers, your future customers. Their success is critical to the success of your businesses, which is critical to the success of this city.

 

 

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But you all are also here, I know, today because you know that this is about more than just fulfilling a business obligation or a civic obligation. You all know that this is a moral obligation. Because ultimately, this city and this community will be judged not just by the beauty of our parks and lakefront, or the vitality of our businesses, but by our commitment to our next generation.

 

I think my husband put it best when he spoke to the people of Newtown, Connecticut back in December, and he said this is –- and this is a quote: “This is our first task, caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged. And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we’re meeting our obligations?”

 

That is the question my husband asked -– are we truly meeting our obligations to our children? It’s a question we should also be asking in Chicago and in every corner of this country.

 

And it was the question weighing on my heart when I met with Hadiya Pendleton’s classmates on the day of her funeral. Dozens of them later spoke at the service, each referring to her as “my best friend.” And let me tell you, it is hard to know what to say to a room full of teenagers who are about to bury their best friend.

 

But I started by telling them that Hadiya was clearly on her way to doing something truly worthy with her life. I told them that there is a reason that we’re here on this Earth -– that each of us has a mission in this world. And I urged them to use their lives to give meaning to Hadiya’s life. I urged them to dream as big as she did, and work as hard as she did, and live a life that honors every last bit of her God-given promise.

 

So today, I want to say the exact same thing to all of you. I want to urge you to come together and do something worthy of Hadiya Pendleton’s memory and worthy of our children’s future.

 

Join me and Hadiya’s classmates and young people across this city who, by the way, even in the face of so much hardship and such long odds, are still fighting so hard to succeed.

 

We need to show them -– not just with words, but with action -– that they are not alone in this struggle. We need to show them that we believe in them, and we need to give them everything they need to believe in themselves.

 

I would not be here if it weren’t for that kind of belief. And I know that together, we can do this. So let me tell you this: I look forward to the work that you do. I look forward to you hitting this goal and surpassing it. I look forward to this city being the model of what communities can do to wrap their arms around our youth and make them the best they can be, to embrace all of our neighborhoods and every last one of our children.

 

Thank you so much. Good luck, and God bless.

 

 

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Barack Hussein Obama’s Road Trip Thru Chi-Town


By Jueseppi B.

 

 

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The White House    Office of the Press Secretary

 

For Immediate Release    February 15, 2013
 
 
Remarks by President Barack Obama Introduction by: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D)
 
 
Location: Hyde Park Academy, Chicago, Illinois
 
 
 
 
 

President Obama Speaks on Strengthening the Economy for the Middle Class

 

Published on Feb 15, 2013

President Obama discusses the plan he laid out in the State of the Union to strengthen communities and families, and make sure every American and every community willing to do the work has the opportunity to lift themselves up. February 15, 2013.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
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MAYOR RAHM EMANUEL: I know — I know how disappointed you are; don’t worry. (Laughter.)

 

(Chuckles.) It’s an honor to welcome President Obama back home to Chicago.

 

Like every major city in the country, Chicago faces two critical challenges: the strength of our schools and the safety of our streets. Our streets will only be as safe as our schools are strong and our families are sound.

 

After decades of debate, our children now have a full school day and a full school year equal to the measure of their potential. We have created five new high schools, partnered with major tech companies, to educate students all the way to a community college degree and focused on science and technology and math and engineering, just like the one the president mentioned in New York in his State of the Union. New York has one, Chicago has five, but who’s counting? (Laughter.)

 

The reforms we have brought to early childhood education and our community colleges and our College to Career program align with the president’s agenda as he laid it out in the State of the Union. For our children to live up to their potential, we have to live up to our obligations to them, with greater investments in after-school programs, job training as well as mentoring programs like Becoming a Man, a program the president just saw with the kids here. It is programs like these that provide our young people with the moral grounding that they too often are not getting at home.

 

But the real measure for us, after all this, is that when the students in this school and schools across the city of Chicago and across this country walk out and they see the promise of downtown, do they see their future as part of that opportunity, or do they see a different future? And that is how we measure success.

 

The two places where we can bridge that gap between where our kids are today and the promise of this city and the promise that this city holds are in the classroom and in the home. President Obama understands that to connect all Americans to that vision of a promising future requires that we create real ladders of opportunity. I am pleased he has come home to expand on that vision. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s give the president a Chicago welcome. (Cheers, applause.)

 

 

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(“Hail to the Chief” plays.)

 

(Cheers, applause.)

 

 

 

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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Hey, Chicago! (Cheers, applause.) Hello, Chicago! (Cheers, applause.)

 

Hello, everybody. Hello, Hyde Park. (Cheers, applause.) It is good to be home. (Cheers.) It is good to be home. Everybody have a seat, and you all relax. (Laughter.) It’s just me. You all know me. It is good to be back home.

 

 

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Couple people I want to acknowledge. First of all, I want to thank your mayor, my great friend Rahm Emanuel, for his outstanding leadership of the city and his kind introduction. (Cheers, applause.)

 

I want to thank everybody here at Hyde Park Academy for welcoming me here today. (Cheers, applause.) I want to acknowledge your principal and your assistant principal, although they really make me feel old, because when I saw them — (laughter) — where are they? Where are they? Stand up. Stand up. (Cheers, applause.) They — they are doing outstanding work. We’ve very, very proud of them. But you do make me feel old. Sit down. (Laughter, applause.)

 

Couple other people I want to acknowledge. Governor Pat Quinn is here doing great work down in Springfield. (Cheers, applause.) My great friend and senior Senator Dick Durbin is in the house. (Cheers, applause.) Congressman Bobby Rush is here. (Cheers, applause.) We’re in his district. Attorney general and former seatmate of mine when I was in the state Senate: Lisa Madigan.

 

 

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(Cheers, applause.) County Board president — used to be my alderwoman — Toni Preckwinkle in the house. (Cheers, applause.) And I’ve got — I see a lot of reverend clergy here, but I’m not going to mention them because if I miss one, I’m in trouble. (Laughter.) They’re all friends of mine. They’ve been knowing me.

 

You know, some people may not know this, but obviously, this is my old neighborhood. I used to teach right around the corner. This is where Michelle and I met, where we fell in love.

 

AUDIENCE MEMBERS: Aww!

 

PRESIDENT OBAMA: This is where we raised our daughters, in a house just about a mile away from here, less than a mile. And that’s really what I’ve come here to talk about today, raising our kids.

 

AUDIENCE MEMBERS: We love you!

 

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I love you too. (Audience members screaming.) I love you too. (Cheers, applause.)

 

I’m here to make sure that we talk about and then work towards giving every child every chance in life, building stronger communities and new ladders of opportunity that they can climb into the middle class and beyond and, most importantly, keeping them safe from harm.

 

You know, Michelle was born and raised here, a proud daughter of the South Side. (Cheers, applause.) Last weekend she came home, but it was to attend the funeral of Hadiya Pendleton. And Hadiya’s parents, by the way, are here, and I want to just acknowledge them. They are just wonderful, wonderful people. (Cheers, applause.)

 

 

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And as you know, this week, in my State of the Union, I talked about Hadiya on Tuesday night and the fact that unfortunately, what happened to Hadiya is not unique. It’s not unique to Chicago. It’s not unique to this country. Too many of our children are being taken away from us.

 

Two months ago America mourned 26 innocent first-graders and their educators in Newtown. And today I had the high honor of giving the highest civilian award I can give to the parent — or the families of the educators who had been killed in Newtown. And — and there was something profound and uniquely heartbreaking and tragic, obviously, about a group of 6-year-olds being killed.

 

 

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But last year there were 443 murders with a firearm on the streets of this city, and 65 of those victims were 18 and under. So that’s the equivalent of a Newtown every four months.

 

And that’s precisely why the overwhelming majority of Americans are asking for some common-sense proposals to make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun.

 

And as I said on Tuesday night, I recognize not everybody agrees with every issue. There are regional differences. The experience of gun ownership is different in urban areas than it is in rural areas, different from upstate and downstate Illinois.

 

But these proposals deserve a vote in Congress. (Applause.) They deserve a vote. They deserve a vote. And I want to thank those members of Congress who are working together in a serious way to try to address this issue.

 

But I’ve also said, no law or set of laws can prevent every senseless act of violence in this country. When a child opens fire on another child, there is a hole in that child’s heart that government can’t fill. Only community and parents and teachers and clergy can fill that hole.

 

In too many neighborhoods today, whether here in Chicago or the farthest reaches of rural America, it can feel like, for a lot of young people, the future only extends to the next street corner or the outskirts of town, that no matter how much you work or how hard you try, your destiny was determined the moment you were born.

 

There are entire neighborhoods where young people — they don’t see an example of somebody succeeding. For a lot of young boys and young men in particular, they don’t seen an example of fathers or grandfathers, uncles, who are in a position to support families and be held up in respect. And so that means that this is not just a gun issue; it’s also an issue of the kinds of communities that we’re building.

 

And for that, we all share responsibility as citizens to fix it. We all share a responsibility to move this country closer to our founding vision that no matter who you are or where you come from, here in America you can decide your own destiny. You can succeed if you work hard and fulfill your responsibilities. (Applause.)

 

Now, that means we’ve got to grow our economy and create more good jobs. It means we’ve got to equip every American with the skills and the training to fill those jobs. And it means we’ve got to rebuild ladders of opportunity for everybody willing to climb.

 

Now, that starts at home. There’s no more important ingredient for success, nothing that would be more important for us reducing violence than strong, stable families, which means we should do more to promote marriage and encourage fatherhood. (Applause.)

 

You know, I — don’t get me wrong. As the son of a single mom who gave everything she had to raise me, with the help of my grandparents, you know, I turned out OK.

 

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes you did.

 

PRESIDENT OBAMA: But — (applause) — no, no, but — but I think it’s — you know, so we got single moms out here, they’re heroic, what they’re doing, and we are so proud of them. (Applause.) But at the same time, I wish I had had a father who was around and involved.

 

Loving, supportive parents — and by the way, that — that’s all kinds of parents. That includes foster parents, and that includes grandparents and extended families. It includes gay or straight parents. (Applause.) Those parents — (sustained applause) — those parents supporting kids, that’s the single most important thing. Unconditional love for your child — that makes a difference.

 

If a child grows up with parents who have work and have some education and can be role models and can teach integrity and responsibility and discipline and delayed gratification, all those things give a child the kind of foundation that allows them to say, you know, my future, I — I can make it what I want. And we’ve got to make sure that every child has that. And in some cases, we may have to fill the — the gap and the void if children don’t have that.

 

So we should encourage marriage by removing the financial disincentives for couples who love one another but may find it financially disadvantageous if they get married. We should reform our child support laws to get more men working and engaged with their children. (Applause.) And my administration will continue to work with the faith — faith community and the private sector this year on a campaign to encourage strong parenting and fatherhood, because what makes you a man is not the ability to make a child; it’s the courage to raise one. (Applause.)

 

We also know, though, that there’s no surer path to success in the middle class than a good education. And what we now know is that that has to begin in the earliest years. Study after study shows that the earlier a child starts learning, the more likely they are to succeed, the more likely they are to do well at Hyde Park Academy, the more likely they are to graduate, the more likely they are to get a good job, the more they are to form stable families and then be able to raise children themselves who get off to a good start.

 

Now Chicago already has a competition, thanks to what the mayor’s doing, that rewards the best preschools in the city. So Rahm has already prioritized this.

 

But what I’ve also done is say, let’s give every child across America access to high-quality public preschool — every child, not just some. (Applause.)

 

Every dollar we put into early childhood education can save $7 down the road — by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, reducing violent crime, reducing the welfare rolls, making sure that folks who have work — now they’re paying taxes — all this stuff pays back huge dividends if we make the investment. So let’s make this happen. Let’s make sure every child has the chance they deserve. (Applause.)

 

As kids go through school, we’ll recruit new math and science teachers to make sure that they’ve got the skills that the future demands. We’ll help more young people in low-income neighborhoods get summer jobs. We’ll redesign our high schools and encourage our kids to stay in high school, so that the diploma they get leads directly to a good job once they graduate.

 

(Applause.) Right here in Chicago, five new high schools have partnered with companies and community colleges to prepare our kids with the skills that businesses are looking for right now, and your College to Careers program helps community college students get access to the same kinds of real-world experience.

 

So we know what works. Let’s just do it in more places. Let’s reach more young people. Let’s give more kids a chance.

 

So we know how important families are. We know how important education is. We recognize that government alone can’t solve these problems of violence and poverty, that everybody has to be involved.

 

But we also have to remember that the broader economic environment of communities is critical as well. For example, we need to make sure that folks who are working now, often in the hardest jobs, see their work rewarded with wages that allow them to raise a family without falling into poverty. (Applause.) Today a family with two kids that works hard and relies on a minimum wage salary still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong, and we should fix it. We should reward an honest day’s work with honest wages. (Applause.) And that’s why we should raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour and make it a wage you can live on. (Cheers, applause.)

 

And even though some cities have bounced back pretty quickly from the recession, we know that there are communities and neighborhoods within cities or in small towns that haven’t bounced back.

 

Cities like Chicago are ringed with former factory towns that never came back all the way from plants packing up. There are pockets of poverty where young adults are still looking for their first job. And that’s why on Tuesday I announced — and that’s part of what I want to focus on here in Chicago and across the country — is my intention to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit communities in America to get them back in the game — get them back in the game. (Applause.)

 

First of all, we’ll — we’ll work with local leaders to cut through red tape and improve things like public safety and education and housing. And we’ll — and we’ll all the resources to bear in a coordinated fashion so that we can get that tipping point where suddenly a community starts feeling like things are changing and we can come back.

 

Second of all, if you’re willing to play a role in a child’s education, then we’ll help you reform your schools. We want to see more and more partnerships of the kind that Rahm is trying to set up. Third, we’re going to help bring jobs and growth to hard-hit neighborhoods by giving tax breaks to business owners who invest and hire in those neighborhoods. (Applause.)

 

Fourth, and specific to the issue of violence — because it’s very hard to develop economically if people don’t feel safe. If they don’t feel like they can walk down the street and shop at a store without getting hit over the head or worse, then commerce dries up, businesses don’t want to locate, families move out — you get into the wrong cycle.

 

So we’re going to target neighborhoods struggling to deal with violent crime and help them reduce that violence in ways that have been proven to work. (Applause.) And I know this is a priority of your mayor’s; it’s going to be a priority of mine.

 

And finally, we’re going to keep working in communities all across the country, including here in Chicago, to replace run-down public housing that doesn’t offer much hope or safety with new healthy homes for low- and moderate-income families. (Applause.) And — and here in Woodlawn, you’ve seen some of the progress that we can make when we come together to rebuild our neighborhoods and attract new businesses and improve our schools.

 

Woodlawn’s not all the way where it needs to be, but thanks to wonderful institutions like Apostolic Church, we’ve made great progress. (Applause.) So we want to help more communities follow your example.

 

And let’s go even farther by offering incentives to companies that hire unemployed Americans who’ve got what it takes to fill a job opening, but they may have been out of work so long that nobody’s willing to give them a chance right now. Let’s put our people back to work rebuilding vacant homes in need of repair. Young people can get experience, apprenticeships, learn a trade. And we’re removing blight from our community. (Applause.)

 

You know, if we gather together what works, we can extend more ladders of opportunity for anybody who’s working to build a — a strong middle-class life for themselves because in America, your destiny shouldn’t be determined by where you live, where you were born. It should be determined by how big you’re willing to dream, how much effort and sweat and tears you’re willing to put into realizing that dream.

 

You know, when I first moved to Chicago, before any of the students in this room were born — (laughter) — and a whole lot of people who are in the audience remember me from those days — I lived in a community on the South Side — you know, right up the block — but I also worked further south, where communities had been devastated by some of the steel plants closing. And my job was to work with churches and lay people and local leaders to rebuild neighborhoods and improve schools and help young people who felt like they had nowhere to turn.

 

And those of you who worked with me — Reverend Love (sp), you remember — it wasn’t easy. Progress didn’t come quickly. Sometimes I got so discouraged I thought about just giving up. But what kept me going was the belief that with enough determination and effort and persistence and perseverance, change is always possible; that we may not be able to help everybody, but if we help a few, then that propels progress forward.

 

We may not be able to save every child from gun violence, but if we save a few, that starts changing the atmosphere in our community. (Applause.) We may not be able to get everybody a job right away, but if we get a few folks a job, then everybody starts feeling a little more hopeful and a little more encouraged. Neighborhood by neighborhood. One block by one block. One family at a time.

 

Now, this is what I had a chance to talk about when I met with some young men from Hyde Park Academy who are participating in this band program.

 

Where — where are the guys that I talked to? Where? Stand up, y’all, so we can all see you guys. (Cheers, applause.)

 

So — and these are some — (applause) — these are all some exceptional young men. And I — I couldn’t be prouder of them. And the reason I’m proud of them is because a lot of them have had some issues. That’s part of the reason why you guys are in the program. (Laughter.) But what I explained to them was, I had issues too when I was their age. I just had an environment that was a little more forgiving. So when I screwed up, the consequences weren’t as high as when kids on the South Side screw up. So I had more of a safety net. (Applause.)

 

But you guys are no different than me. And we had that conversation about, what does it take to change? And the same thing that it takes for us individually to change, I said to them — well, that’s what it takes for communities to change. That’s what it takes for countries to change.

 

It’s not easy, but it does require us, first of all, having a vision about where we want to be. It requires us recognizing that it will be hard work getting there. It requires us being able to overcome and persevere in the face of roadblocks and disappointments and failures. It requires us reflecting internally about who we are and what we believe in and, you know, facing up to our own fears and insecurities and admitting when we’re wrong. And that’s the same thing that we have to do in our individual lives that these guys talked about, and that’s what we have to do for our communities.

 

And it will not be easy, but it can be done.

 

When Hadiya Pendleton and her classmates visited Washington three weeks ago, they spent time visiting the monuments, including the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, just off the National Mall. And that memorial stands as a tribute to everything Dr. King achieved in his lifetime, but it also reminds us of how hard that work was and how many disappointments he experienced.

 

He was here in Chicago fighting poverty and, just like a lot of us, there were times where he felt like he was losing hope. So in some ways, that memorial is a testament not to work that’s completed, but it’s a testament to the work that remains unfinished. His goal was to free us not only from the shackles of discrimination but from the shadow of poverty that haunts too many of our communities, the self-destructive impulse and the mindless violence that claims so many lives of so many innocent young people.

 

These are difficult challenges. No solution we offer will be perfect, but perfection has never been our goal. Our goal has been to try and make whatever difference we can. Our goal has been to engage in the hard but necessary work of bringing America one step closer to the nation we know we can be.

 

And if we do that — if we’re striving with every fiber of our being to strengthen our middle class, to extend ladders of opportunity for everybody who’s trying as hard as they can to create a better life for themselves — if we do everything in our power to keep our children safe from harm, if we’re fulfilling our obligations to one another and to future generations, if we make that effort, then I’m confident — I’m confident that we will write the next great chapter in our American story.

 

I’m not going to be able to do it by myself, though. Nobody can. We’re going to have to do it together. (Applause.)

 

Thank you, everybody. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. Thank you. (Cheers, applause.)

 

 

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