Obama addresses National Urban League
NEW ORLEANS — President Barack Obama wrapped up a cross-country campaign swing Wednesday night touching on themes of access to education, inequality, personal responsibility and the economy in a speech to the National Urban League.
In the 40-minute address, Obama praised the group’s history of civil rights work and compared it to his days working in Chicago, where he said his desire to earn a paycheck was supplanted by his call to affect change.
The president called on young people in the audience tostop hanging outand to earn their success.
“You’re competing against young people in Beijing and Bangalore,” Obama said. “They’re not hanging out. They’re not getting over; they’re not playing video games. It’s a two-way street. You’ve got to earn success.
“That wasn’t in my prepared remarks,” Obama said to widespread cheers.
The president frequently called on themes he has made on the campaign trail arguing that his vision for prosperity will come through the strengthening of the middle class.
In painting Republicans as beholden to the wealthy and out of touch with the middle class, the president told the crowd everybody should have a fair shot, not just some.
“We’re not a nation of people looking for handouts. We certainly don’t like bailouts. ... but we do expect hard work to pay off,”Obama said.
Obama described the lack of progress in Washington D.C. as a stalemate over what he called two fundamentally different ways Democrats and Republicans want to create job growth.
“This country works best when we are growing a strong middle class. That has guided every decision I’ve made as president of the United States,” Obama said.
The president also defended his 31/2-year record in office by describing the country as on the brink of economic collapse after a decade of sluggish job growth when he took office in 2009.
Obama spoke about 28 straight months of job growth, 18 tax breaks for small business during his time in office and a rejuvenated automobile industry. He acknowledged that recovery from the recession hasn’t been as fast as he had hoped.
In a written statement released hours before Obama spoke, Gov. Bobby Jindal said: “We welcome Barack Obama to New Orleans. We hope that he has the opportunity to enjoy some of our city’s unique attractions. Many happen to be small businesses built by hardworking, independent folks, who are offended by the idea that their success is not the result of their own efforts.”
The Romney campaign also released a prepared statement.
“President Obama comes to New Orleans today trying to hide from his failed record as president. After three and a half years of liberal policies that have grown the size of government, President Obama’s record is clear,” spokesman Chris Walker said in the written statement.
Speaking just hours after the Senate passed an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts to the middle class, Obama called on Republicans in the House of Representatives to drop their opposition to end tax cuts to those earning more than $250,000 per year.
Framing the country as stuck in an economic situation where middle-class workers bear the brunt of the struggling economy, the president called for what he described as fairness.
Nobody who works hard in America, should be poor in America, Obama said to roaring applause.
The president also urged colleges and universities to expand access to higher education by lowering tuition, calling advanced degrees a necessity, not a luxury.
Near the end of his remarks, Obama addressed the contentious Affordable Care Act, his signature legislative achievement, ticking off some of the bills more popular elements including health care insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and the ability of parents to keep children on their health plans up to age 26. He also promised to improve the law.
“We’re going to implement this law and America is going to be better for it,” Obama said.
The president ended his speech asking for support in the Nov. 6 presidential elections urging a group which chanted four more years moments before he took the stage that failure is not an option.
“We will finish what we started,” Obama said.