Why President Obama’s upcoming economic speeches matter

He’s reinforcing his vision for our country — the reason he was elected twice — and calling on Republicans to get to work.

It’s unusual for the White House to start promoting a series of speeches days before they begin. But there’s a good reason they’re doing it now. They want to make sure people are paying attention. I feel the same way.

Here’s what Dan Pfeiffer, Senior Advisor to the President, had to say in an announcement on Sunday:

Eight years ago, not long after he was elected to the United States Senate, President Obama went to Knox College in his home state of Illinois where he laid out his economic vision for the country. It’s a vision that says America is strongest when everybody’s got a shot at opportunity — not when our economy is winner-take-all, but when we’re all in this together.

Revisiting that speech, it’s clear that it sowed the seeds of a consistent vision for the middle class he’s followed ever since. It’s a vision he carried through his first campaign in 2008, it’s a vision he carried through speeches like the one he gave at Georgetown University shortly after taking office that imagined a new foundation for our economy, and one in Osawatomie, Kansas on economic inequality in 2011 — and it’s a vision he carried through his last campaign in 2012.

The Osawatomie speech was especially meaningful to me, because it reminded me of my father. He was part of the Greatest Generation, serving our country in World War II after a childhood of abject poverty during the Depression. My father worked harder than just about anyone I’ve ever known and he succeeded. Because he lived at a time when that was something anyone could do.

You can read the blog post I wrote right after the Osawatomie speech, but here’s why what the President said resonated with me so much:

The President spoke about the dream of America, which has always been that people who work hard and play by the rules can achieve anything they set their minds to. My father, Alvie L. Smith, embodied that vision. He went from selling boiled peanuts on street corners in Savannah as a boy to leading the global communications program for General Motors. In between, he worked hard and studied hard and applied every ounce of his energy to making something of himself — both as a source of pride and to take care of his family.

This is what President Obama wants to see our country be again. A place where every man and woman has the opportunity to achieve greatness if they work hard. A country where everyone does their fair share, gets a fair shake and plays fair. Where even an orphan left to fend for himself and his three brothers on the streets of Savannah can grow up to become a leader in his field, like my father did.

I still believe, as I did then — and as President Obama always has — that we have the potential to rebuild our country’s middle class so everyone can have the opportunity to share in the American Dream if they work hard enough. My father had a little bit of help, mostly from the GI Bill and the kindness of a tugboat captain on the Savannah river who wanted to help a deserving young man. Think about that: How much money do you think a tugboat captain made? Yet he and his wife wanted to share what they had with someone less fortunate, and my father’s diligence did them proud.

I don’t know what the President is going to say in his upcoming speeches, but it’s clear he’s holding fast to his vision. The argument that his ideas haven’t worked is invalid because the Republicans haven’t given those ideas a chance. They are clinging to their “values” of prioritizing corporate interests and conservative ideology over efforts to continue our country’s recovery. They’re fighting old battles by trying to repeal Obamacare and limit the rights of women and minorities out of pure stubbornness. Most of them consistently put politics over people, austerity over job creation — to the detriment of everyone in this country who doesn’t earn the kind of salary they do.

Most of the Republican party would rather see our country fail than see President Obama succeed. That’s not patriotism. That’s tantamount to treason.

Republicans can mock the President for “pivoting to jobs” again all they want — and they are. But it just goes to show how little regard they have for him or middle-class Americans. I, for one, am grateful President Obama and the Democrats care about creating jobs and continuing to rebuilding our economy.

My father died before President Obama was elected the first time, and since he was largely an Independent I’m not positive how he would have voted. But I’m quite sure my father would have voted for President Obama in 2012. Because he knew good policies when he saw them. My father was living proof that the American Dream was once possible for everyone, and he would have applauded President Obama’s efforts to make sure it always is.

The President will deliver the first of his speeches on Wednesday. You can watch live or find a video and transcript at whitehouse.gov. The Administration is also urging Americans to watch the speech at Knox College where President Obama first outlined his economic vision. You can learn more and watch it here.

[Photos by Anne C. Savage]

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  • Baronbulldog

    Thanks for your statements of common sense and common values, Amy. We appear to be in the “New Guilded Age” in America where the accumulation of money appears to take priority over most anything else. With your help and others like you, we can move forward by remembering the past. And three cheers for Alvie!

  • http://manythings.blogtownhall.com/ egbegb

    With all due respect, Obama’s speeches are vacuous. Any who has watched/listened since 2008 knows that. He says what he thinks his local audience wants to hear. Lately, he is wrong, very wrong. His latest speech in Buffalo acknowledged to America that he has no clue what the college tuition problem is. President Obama has neutered himself.

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