Saturday, August 20, 2011

Home In The Heartland: Obama's Weekly Address

Video from Illinois: "Putting country ahead of party"
President Obama filmed his weekly video/radio address on August 17th, while at Country Corner Farm in his adopted home state of Illinois, the final stop on his three-state rural bus tour.

The President reiterates the themes of his trip in his remarks, hailing rural America as a model for economic growth, and calling on Congress to quickly enact his legislative priorities--or as Mr. Obama phrases it, "putting country ahead of party." The President hosted a town hall at Country Corner, an agritourism venue located in the tiny town of Alpha. The farm grows and sells fifty kinds of vegetables and features an annual holiday corn maze. (Above, a White House photo from inside the bus; the President waves to locals as he drives through Alpha)

The Alpha town hall was notable primarily for the Q & A that followed, in which the President answered a question about First Lady Obama's Let's Move! campaign, speaking about its impact on family farmers. The President returned to Washington, DC, after his visit to Alpha, and is currently in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, for a ten-day vacation.

The transcript of the President's remarks:

Hello from the Country Corner Farm in Alpha, Illinois! For the past few days, I’ve been traveling to small towns and farm towns here in the heartland of this country. I sat down with small business owners in Gutenberg, Iowa; and ranchers and farmers in Peosta. I had lunch with veterans in Cannon Falls, Minnesota; and talked to plant workers at a seed distributor in Atkinson, Illinois. And to the girls volleyball team at Maquoketa High School, let me just say one thing: Go Cardinals.

Now, I’m out here for one reason: I think Washington, DC can learn something from the folks in Atkinson and Peosta and Cannon Falls. I think our country would be a whole lot better off if our elected leaders showed the same kind of discipline and integrity and responsibility that most Americans demonstrate in their lives every day.

Because, the fact is, we’re going through a tough time right now. We’re coming through a terrible recession; a lot of folks are still looking for work. A lot of people are getting by with smaller paychecks or less money in the cash register. So we need folks in Washington – the people whose job it is to deal with the country’s problems, the people who you elected to serve – we need them to put aside their differences to get things done.

There are things we can do right now that will mean more customers for businesses and more jobs across the country. We can cut payroll taxes again, so families have an extra $1,000 to spend. We can pass a road construction bill so construction crews – now sitting idle – can head back to the worksite, rebuilding roads, bridges, and airports. We’ve got brave, skilled Americans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Let’s connect them with businesses that could use their skills. And let’s pass trade deals to level the playing field for our businesses. We have Americans driving Hyundais and Kias. Well, I want to see folks in Korea driving Fords, Chevys and Chryslers. I want more products sold around the globe stamped with three words: Made in America.

These are commonsense ideas – ideas that have been supported by both Democrats and Republicans. The only thing holding them back is politics. The only thing preventing us from passing these bills is the refusal by some in Congress to put country ahead of party. That’s the problem right now. That’s what’s holding this country back. That’s what we have to change.

Because, for all the knocks we’ve taken, despite all the challenges we face, this is still the greatest country on earth. We still have the best workers and farmers, entrepreneurs and businesses, students and scientists. And you can see that here in Alpha. You can see it along the country roads that connect these small towns and farmlands.

These past few days, I’ve been seeing little kids with American flags and grandparents in lawn chairs. I’ve shaken hands with folks outside machine shops and churches, corner stores and farms. It reminds me why I got into public service in the first place. Getting out of Washington and spending time with the people of this country – seeing how hard you’re working, how creative you are, how resourceful you are, how determined you are – that only makes me more determined to serve you as best I can as President. And it only makes me more confident in our future.

That’s why it’s so important that folks in Washington put country before party. That’s why it’s so important that our elected leaders get past their differences to help grow the economy and put this nation back to work. Because here in Alpha it couldn’t be more clear: if we can come together, there’s no stopping the United States of America. There’s no doubt that our future is bright.

Thanks, and have a great weekend.

The President's three-day swing through Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois, August 15th-17th, included four town halls and one Rural Economic forum, and he unveiled both a new small business support initiative to create rural jobs, and a $510 million initiative to boost rural industries for advanced biofuels. The President, his Cabinet Secretaries, and the senior officials traveling with him heard plenty about the needs of farmers during the trip, being told, among other things, that land is too expensive, agriculture subsidies need to be eliminated or at least capped, and other regulations--such as those for water runoff, noise, and dust--are something farmers don't want. Estate taxes also came under fire, and there was a plea from the grandson of a farmer with an interest in a corn ethanol plant for the President to preserve the business.

Driving through the heartland on his high-tech black bus, the President made stops five kinds of pie, for ice cream, and for popcorn, and visited a County Fair in Illinois. The President had lunch with veterans and breakfast with small business owners. He was gifted with pie, and brought home gifts for Mrs. Obama.

*Photo by Pete Souza/White House

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