“Dear President Obama, I am 13 years old and I am worried about my family’s future in Michigan,” the daughter of a laid-off worker within the automobile industry wrote six years ago. The now-19-year-old and her employed father joined President Barack Obama during his address on enabling a successful economy for working families.
The Flint water crisis and the economic reliance of the automobile industry put Michigan high on the White House agenda of this week. After an Oval Office debriefing with Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, the 44th president expressed his distress over the lead-filled pipes and inadequate drinking water Weaver’s residents face. Wednesday (Jan. 20), Obama and his advisors stepped outside 1600 Pennsylvania for a trip to a Midwestern convention and lunch with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.
POTUS addressed a room full of factory workers and car manufacturers at the 2016 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. First, Obama mentioned the situation in Flint briefly, acknowledging the efforts the federal government is making on the ground and making a personal statement, “I know that if I was a parent up there, I would be beside myself that my kid’s health could be at risk,” he said, “It is a reminder why you can’t shortchange basic services that we provide to our people and that we together provide as a government to make sure that public health and safety is preserved.”
But his main focus in front of the United Auto Workers was his administration’s impact on the revival of the nicknamed Motor City and the domestic auto industry in general. The president compared industry statistics now to those before his first term seven years ago. And with a city dependent on automobile production, he drew connections between the community’s enhancement and his administration recession relief.
Obama put emphasis on the “hard-working families” of the United States, citing the significant increase in jobs relative to other nations. His speech also warned the cheering crowd, of the candidates vying for his executive office. “When you heard people claiming that America’s in decline, They don’t know what they’re talking about. They’re peddling fiction during a political season,” he said, “I want everyone to remember these are the same folks who would have let this industry go under.” Obama then quoted the doubts those running had with his plan to save the auto industry.
Other points the president raised stemmed from securing unions, stabilizing employment rates despite automated labor technologies, strengthening benefits like health care and pensions, increasing the affordability and access to high education, and easing the reintroduction into the job market for unemployed individuals. Returning to the conversation on Flint with hints at pollution, climate change, discrimination, and poverty, Obama targeted banks and large companies’ irresponsibility when it comes to the community. POTUS said, “We need to make sure the system’s not rigged against working families.” He also mentioned initiatives to aid small businesses, appreciating the innovative designs seen at the auto show.
Outside the convention at the GM Center for Human Resources, POTUS toured Detroit with Mayor Duggan. After lunch, the two visited the Shinola factory and were inspired by the account of a supervisor who was previously homeless. “What’s true of Detroit is true of the country. I want America to have confidence in where we can go,” said Obama as he celebrates the seventh anniversary of his inauguration today.
Watch President Obama’s full speech below.