President Obama Speaks on the Economy


The President:
Good afternoon, everybody. Audience:
Good afternoon. The President:
Well, I want to start by
thanking a few folks who’ve joined us today. We’ve got the mayor of
Osawatomie, Phil Dudley is here. (applause) We have your superintendent
Gary French in the house. (applause) And we have the principal of
Osawatomie High, Doug Chisam. (applause) And I have brought
your former governor, who is doing now an outstanding
job as Secretary of Health and Human Services — Kathleen
Sebelius is in the house. (applause) We love Kathleen. (laughter) Well, it is great to be back in
the state of Tex — uh, whoops. (laughter) — state of Kansas. I was giving Bill Self a hard
time, he was here a while back. As many of you know,
I have roots here. (applause) I’m sure you’re all familiar
with the Obamas of Osawatomie. (laughter) Actually, I like to say that
I got my name from my father, but I got my accent
— and my values — from my mother. (applause) She was born in Wichita. (applause) Her mother grew up in Augusta. Her father was from El Dorado. So my Kansas roots run deep. My grandparents served
during World War II. He was a soldier
in Patton’s Army; she was a worker on a
bomber assembly line. And together, they shared the
optimism of a nation that triumphed over the Great
Depression and over fascism. They believed in an America
where hard work paid off, and responsibility was rewarded,
and anyone could make it if they tried — no matter who you were,
no matter where you came from, no matter how you started out. (applause) And these values gave rise to
the largest middle class and the strongest economy that
the world has ever known. It was here in America that
the most productive workers, the most innovative
companies turned out the best products on Earth. And you know what? Every American shared in that
pride and in that success — from those in the executive
suites to those in middle management to those
on the factory floor. (applause) So you could have some
confidence that if you gave it your all, you’d take enough home
to raise your family and send your kids to school and have
your health care covered, put a little away
for retirement. Today, we’re still home to the
world’s most productive workers. We’re still home to the world’s
most innovative companies. But for most Americans, the
basic bargain that made this country great has eroded. Long before the recession hit,
hard work stopped paying off for too many people. Fewer and fewer of the folks who
contributed to the success of our economy actually
benefited from that success. Those at the very top grew
wealthier from their incomes and their investments —
wealthier than ever before. But everybody else struggled
with costs that were growing and paychecks that weren’t —
and too many families found themselves racking up more
and more debt just to keep up. Now, for many years, credit
cards and home equity loans papered over this harsh reality. But in 2008, the house
of cards collapsed. We all know the story by now:
Mortgages sold to people who couldn’t afford them, or even
sometimes understand them. Banks and investors allowed to
keep packaging the risk and selling it off. Huge bets — and huge bonuses —
made with other people’s money on the line. Regulators who were supposed to
warn us about the dangers of all this, but looked the other way
or didn’t have the authority to look at all. It was wrong. It combined the breathtaking
greed of a few with irresponsibility all
across the system. And it plunged our economy and
the world into a crisis from which we’re still
fighting to recover. It claimed the jobs and the
homes and the basic security of millions of people — innocent,
hardworking Americans who had met their responsibilities but
were still left holding the bag. And ever since, there’s been a
raging debate over the best way to restore growth and
prosperity, restore balance, restore fairness. Throughout the country, it’s
sparked protests and political movements — from the tea
party to the people who’ve been occupying the streets of
New York and other cities. It’s left Washington in a
near-constant state of gridlock. It’s been the topic of heated
and sometimes colorful discussion among the men and
women running for president. (laughter) But, Osawatomie, this is not
just another political debate. This is the defining
issue of our time. This is a make-or-break
moment for the middle class, and for all those who are
fighting to get into the middle class. Because what’s at stake is
whether this will be a country where working people can earn
enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a
home, secure their retirement. Now, in the midst
of this debate, there are some who seem to
be suffering from a kind of collective amnesia. After all that’s happened, after
the worst economic crisis, the worst financial crisis
since the Great Depression, they want to return to the
same practices that got us into this mess. In fact, they want to go back to
the same policies that stacked the deck against middle-class
Americans for way too many years. And their philosophy is simple:
We are better off when everybody is left to fend for themselves
and play by their own rules. I am here to say they are wrong. (applause) I’m here in Kansas to reaffirm
my deep conviction that we’re greater together than
we are on our own. I believe that this country
succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone
does their fair share, when everyone plays
by the same rules. (applause) These aren’t Democratic
values or Republican values. These aren’t 1%
values or 99% values. They’re American values. And we have to reclaim them. (applause) You see, this isn’t the
first time America has faced this choice. At the turn of the last century,
when a nation of farmers was transitioning to become the
world’s industrial giant, we had to decide: Would we
settle for a country where most of the new railroads and
factories were being controlled by a few giant monopolies that
kept prices high and wages low? Would we allow our citizens
and even our children to work ungodly hours in conditions that
were unsafe and unsanitary? Would we restrict education
to the privileged few? Because there were people who
thought massive inequality and exploitation of people was just
the price you pay for progress. Theodore Roosevelt disagreed. He was the Republican
son of a wealthy family. He praised what the titans of
industry had done to create jobs and grow the economy. He believed then what
we know is true today, that the free market is the
greatest force for economic progress in human history. It’s led to a prosperity and a
standard of living unmatched by the rest of the world. But Roosevelt also knew that the
free market has never been a free license to take whatever
you can from whomever you can. (applause) He understood the free market
only works when there are rules of the road that ensure
competition is fair and open and honest. And so he busted up monopolies,
forcing those companies to compete for consumers
with better services and better prices. And today, they still must. He fought to make sure
businesses couldn’t profit by exploiting children or
selling food or medicine that wasn’t safe. And today, they still can’t. And in 1910, Teddy Roosevelt
came here to Osawatomie and he laid out his vision for what
he called a New Nationalism. “Our country,” he said,
“…means nothing unless it means the triumph of a real
democracy…of an economic system under which each man
shall be guaranteed the opportunity to show the
best that there is in him.” (applause) Now, for this, Roosevelt
was called a radical. He was called a socialist — (laughter) — even a communist. But today, we are a richer
nation and a stronger democracy because of what he fought
for in his last campaign: an eight-hour work day and
a minimum wage for women — (applause) — insurance for the
unemployed and for the elderly, and those with disabilities;
political reform and a progressive income tax. (applause) Today, over 100 years later,
our economy has gone through another transformation. Over the last few decades, huge
advances in technology have allowed businesses
to do more with less, and it’s made it easier for them
to set up shop and hire workers anywhere they want in the world. And many of you know firsthand
the painful disruptions this has caused for a lot of Americans. Factories where people thought
they would retire suddenly picked up and went overseas,
where workers were cheaper. Steel mills that needed 100 —
or 1,000 employees are now able to do the same work with 100
employees, so layoffs too often became permanent, not just
a temporary part of the business cycle. And these changes didn’t just
affect blue-collar workers. If you were a bank teller or
a phone operator or a travel agent, you saw many in your
profession replaced by ATMs and the Internet. Today, even higher-skilled jobs,
like accountants and middle management can be outsourced to
countries like China or India. And if you’re somebody whose
job can be done cheaper by a computer or someone
in another country, you don’t have a lot of leverage
with your employer when it comes to asking for better
wages or better benefits, especially since fewer Americans
today are part of a union. Now, just as there was in
Teddy Roosevelt’s time, there is a certain
crowd in Washington who, for the last few
decades, have said, let’s respond to this
economic challenge with the same old tune. “The market will take care of
everything,” they tell us. If we just cut more regulations
and cut more taxes — especially for the wealthy —
our economy will grow stronger. Sure, they say, there will
be winners and losers. But if the winners
do really well, then jobs and prosperity will
eventually trickle down to everybody else. And, they argue, even if
prosperity doesn’t trickle down, well, that’s the
price of liberty. Now, it’s a simple theory. And we have to admit, it’s
one that speaks to our rugged individualism and our
healthy skepticism of too much government. That’s in America’s DNA. And that theory fits
well on a bumper sticker. (laughter) But here’s the problem:
It doesn’t work. It has never worked. (applause) It didn’t work when it was
tried in the decade before the Great Depression. It’s not what led to the
incredible postwar booms of the ’50s and ’60s. And it didn’t work when we tried
it during the last decade. (applause) I mean, understand, it’s not as
if we haven’t tried this theory. Remember in those
years, in 2001 and 2003, Congress passed two of the most
expensive tax cuts for the wealthy in history. And what did it get us? The slowest job growth
in half a century. Massive deficits that have made
it much harder to pay for the investments that built this
country and provided the basic security that helped millions of
Americans reach and stay in the middle class — things like
education and infrastructure, science and technology,
Medicare and Social Security. Remember that in
those same years, thanks to some of the same folks
who are now running Congress, we had weak regulation,
we had little oversight, and what did it get us? Insurance companies that jacked
up people’s premiums with impunity and denied care
to patients who were sick, mortgage lenders that tricked
families into buying homes they couldn’t afford, a financial
sector where irresponsibility and lack of basic oversight
nearly destroyed our entire economy. We simply cannot return to this
brand of “you’re on your own” economics if we’re serious about
rebuilding the middle class in this country. (applause) We know that it doesn’t
result in a strong economy. It results in an economy that
invests too little in its people and in its future. We know it doesn’t result in a
prosperity that trickles down. It results in a prosperity
that’s enjoyed by fewer and fewer of our citizens. Look at the statistics. In the last few decades, the
average income of the top 1% has gone up by more than 250%
to $1.2 million per year. I’m not talking
about millionaires, people who have a
million dollars. I’m saying people who make
a million dollars every single year. For the top one hundredth of
1%, the average income is now $27 million per year. The typical CEO who used to earn
about 30 times more than his or her worker now earns
110 times more. And yet, over the last decade
the incomes of most Americans have actually
fallen by about 6%. Now, this kind of inequality
— a level that we haven’t seen since the Great Depression
— hurts us all. When middle-class families can
no longer afford to buy the goods and services that
businesses are selling, when people are slipping
out of the middle class, it drags down the entire
economy from top to bottom. America was built on the idea
of broad-based prosperity, of strong consumers
all across the country. That’s why a CEO like Henry Ford
made it his mission to pay his workers enough so that they
could buy the cars he made. It’s also why a recent study
showed that countries with less inequality tend to have stronger
and steadier economic growth over the long run. Inequality also
distorts our democracy. It gives an outsized voice
to the few who can afford high-priced lobbyists
and unlimited campaign contributions, and it runs
the risk of selling out our democracy to the highest bidder. (applause) It leaves everyone else rightly
suspicious that the system in Washington is
rigged against them, that our elected representatives
aren’t looking out for the interests of most Americans. But there’s an even more
fundamental issue at stake. This kind of gaping inequality
gives lie to the promise that’s at the very heart of America:
that this is a place where you can make it if you try. We tell people —
we tell our kids — that in this country, even
if you’re born with nothing, work hard and you can get
into the middle class. We tell them that your children
will have a chance to do even better than you do. That’s why immigrants from
around the world historically have flocked to our shores. And yet, over the
last few decades, the rungs on the ladder of
opportunity have grown farther and farther apart, and the
middle class has shrunk. You know, a few years
after World War II, a child who was born into
poverty had a slightly better than 50-50 chance of becoming
middle class as an adult. By 1980, that chance had
fallen to around 40%. And if the trend of rising
inequality over the last few decades continues, it’s
estimated that a child born today will only have a
one-in-three chance of making it to the middle class — 33%. It’s heartbreaking enough that
there are millions of working families in this country who
are now forced to take their children to food banks
for a decent meal. But the idea that those children
might not have a chance to climb out of that situation and
back into the middle class, no matter how hard they work? That’s inexcusable. It is wrong. (applause) It flies in the face of
everything that we stand for. (applause) Now, fortunately, that’s not a
future that we have to accept, because there’s another view
about how we build a strong middle class in this country
— a view that’s truer to our history, a vision that’s been
embraced in the past by people of both parties for
more than 200 years. It’s not a view that we should
somehow turn back technology or put up walls around America. It’s not a view that says we
should punish profit or success or pretend that government
knows how to fix all of society’s problems. It is a view that says in
America we are greater together — when everyone engages in fair
play and everybody gets a fair shot and everybody
does their fair share. (applause) So what does that mean for
restoring middle-class security in today’s economy? Well, it starts by making sure
that everyone in America gets a fair shot at success. The truth is we’ll never be able
to compete with other countries when it comes to who’s best at
letting their businesses pay the lowest wages, who’s
best at busting unions, who’s best at letting companies
pollute as much as they want. That’s a race to the
bottom that we can’t win, and we shouldn’t want
to win that race. (applause) Those countries don’t have
a strong middle class. They don’t have our
standard of living. The race we want to win, the
race we can win is a race to the top — the race for good
jobs that pay well and offer middle-class security. Businesses will create those
jobs in countries with the highest-skilled,
highest-educated workers, the most advanced transportation
and communication, the strongest commitment to
research and technology. The world is shifting to an
innovation economy and nobody does innovation
better than America. Nobody does it better. (applause) No one has better colleges. Nobody has better universities. Nobody has a greater diversity
of talent and ingenuity. No one’s workers or
entrepreneurs are more driven or more daring. The things that have always been
our strengths match up perfectly with the demands of the moment. But we need to meet the moment. We’ve got to up our game. We need to remember that we
can only do that together. It starts by making education
a national mission — a national mission. (applause) Government and businesses,
parents and citizens. In this economy, a higher
education is the surest route to the middle class. The unemployment rate for
Americans with a college degree or more is about half
the national average. And their incomes are twice as
high as those who don’t have a high school diploma. Which means we shouldn’t be
laying off good teachers right now — we should be hiring them. (applause) We shouldn’t be expecting less
of our schools — we should be demanding more. (applause) We shouldn’t be making it
harder to afford college — we should be a country where
everyone has a chance to go and doesn’t rack up $100,000 of
debt just because they went. (applause) In today’s innovation economy,
we also need a world-class commitment to
science and research, the next generation of
high-tech manufacturing. Our factories and our
workers shouldn’t be idle. We should be giving people the
chance to get new skills and training at community colleges
so they can learn how to make wind turbines and semiconductors
and high-powered batteries. And by the way, if we don’t
have an economy that’s built on bubbles and financial
speculation, our best and brightest won’t all
gravitate towards careers in banking and finance. (applause) Because if we want an economy
that’s built to last, we need more of those
young people in science and engineering. (applause) This country should not be known
for bad debt and phony profits. We should be known for creating
and selling products all around the world that are stamped
with three proud words: Made in America. (applause) Today, manufacturers and other
companies are setting up shop in the places with the best
infrastructure to ship their products, move their workers,
communicate with the rest of the world. And that’s why the over 1
million construction workers who lost their jobs when the
housing market collapsed, they shouldn’t be sitting
at home with nothing to do. They should be rebuilding
our roads and our bridges, laying down faster
railroads and broadband, modernizing our schools — (applause) — all the things other
countries are already doing to attract good jobs and
businesses to their shores. Yes, business, and
not government, will always be the primary
generator of good jobs with incomes that lift people
into the middle class and keep them there. But as a nation, we’ve
always come together, through our government, to help
create the conditions where both workers and businesses
can succeed. (applause) And historically, that
hasn’t been a partisan idea. Franklin Roosevelt worked with
Democrats and Republicans to give veterans of World War II
— including my grandfather, Stanley Dunham — the chance to
go to college on the G.I. Bill. It was a Republican
President, Dwight Eisenhower, a proud son of Kansas — (applause) — who started the
Interstate Highway System, and doubled down on science
and research to stay ahead of the Soviets. Of course, those productive
investments cost money. They’re not free. And so we’ve also paid for these
investments by asking everybody to do their fair share. Look, if we had
unlimited resources, no one would ever have to pay
any taxes and we would never have to cut any spending. But we don’t have
unlimited resources. And so we have to
set priorities. If we want a strong
middle class, then our tax code must
reflect our values. We have to make choices. Today that choice is very clear. To reduce our deficit,
I’ve already signed nearly $1 trillion of spending cuts
into law and I’ve proposed trillions more, including
reforms that would lower the cost of Medicare and Medicaid. (applause) But in order to structurally
close the deficit, get our fiscal house in order,
we have to decide what our priorities are. Now, most immediately,
short term, we need to extend a payroll tax
cut that’s set to expire at the end of this month. (applause) If we don’t do that,
160 million Americans, including most of
the people here, will see their taxes
go up by an average of $1, 000 starting in January
and it would badly weaken our recovery. That’s the short term. In the long term, we have
to rethink our tax system more fundamentally. We have to ask ourselves: Do we
want to make the investments we need in things like education
and research and high-tech manufacturing — all those
things that helped make us an economic superpower? Or do we want to keep in
place the tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans
in our country? Because we can’t
afford to do both. That is not politics. That’s just math. (laughter and applause) Now, so far, most of my Republican
friends in Washington have refused under any circumstance to ask the
wealthiest Americans to go to the same tax rate they were
paying when Bill Clinton was president. So let’s just do a trip
down memory lane here. Keep in mind, when President
Clinton first proposed these tax increases, folks in Congress
predicted they would kill jobs and lead to another recession. Instead, our economy created
nearly 23 million jobs and we eliminated the deficit. (applause) Today, the wealthiest Americans
are paying the lowest taxes in over half a century. This isn’t like
in the early ’50s, when the top tax
rate was over 90%. This isn’t even
like the early ’80s, when the top tax
rate was about 70%. Under President Clinton, the
top rate was only about 39%. Today, thanks to
loopholes and shelters, a quarter of all millionaires
now pay lower tax rates than millions of you, millions
of middle-class families. Some billionaires have
a tax rate as low as 1%. One percent. That is the height
of unfairness. It is wrong. (applause) It’s wrong that in the
United States of America, a teacher or a nurse or
a construction worker, maybe earns $50,000 a year,
should pay a higher tax rate than somebody raking
in $50 million. (applause) It’s wrong for Warren Buffett’s
secretary to pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett. (applause) And by the way, Warren
Buffett agrees with me. (laughter) So do most Americans —
Democrats, independents and Republicans. And I know that many of our
wealthiest citizens would agree to contribute a little more if
it meant reducing the deficit and strengthening the
economy that made their success possible. This isn’t about class warfare. This is about the
nation’s welfare. It’s about making choices that
benefit not just the people who’ve done fantastically well
over the last few decades, but that benefits
the middle class, and those fighting to get
into the middle class, and the economy as a whole. Finally, a strong middle class
can only exist in an economy where everyone plays
by the same rules, from Wall Street to Main Street. (applause) As infuriating as it
was for all of us, we rescued our major
banks from collapse, not only because a full-blown
financial meltdown would have sent us into a
second Depression, but because we need a strong,
healthy financial sector in this country. But part of the deal was that
we wouldn’t go back to business as usual. And that’s why last year we put
in place new rules of the road that refocus the financial
sector on what should be their core purpose: getting capital to
the entrepreneurs with the best ideas, and financing millions of
families who want to buy a home or send their kids to college. Now, we’re not all
the way there yet, and the banks are fighting
us every inch of the way. But already, some of these
reforms are being implemented. If you’re a big bank or
risky financial institution, you now have to write out a
“living will” that details exactly how you’ll pay
the bills if you fail, so that taxpayers are never
again on the hook for Wall Street’s mistakes. (applause) There are also limits on the
size of banks and new abilities for regulators to dismantle
a firm that is going under. The new law bans banks from
making risky bets with their customers’ deposits, and it
takes away big bonuses and paydays from failed CEOs, while
giving shareholders a say on executive salaries. This is the law that we passed. We are in the process
of implementing it now. All of this is being put
in place as we speak. Now, unless you’re a financial
institution whose business model is built on breaking the law,
cheating consumers and making risky bets that could
damage the entire economy, you should have nothing to
fear from these new rules. Some of you may know, my
grandmother worked as a banker for most of her life
— worked her way up, started as a secretary, ended
up being a vice president of a bank. And I know from her, and I know
from all the people that I’ve come in contact with, that the
vast majority of bankers and financial service professionals,
they want to do right by their customers. They want to have rules in
place that don’t put them at a disadvantage for
doing the right thing. And yet, Republicans in Congress
are fighting as hard as they can to make sure that these
rules aren’t enforced. I’ll give you a
specific example. For the first time in history,
the reforms that we passed put in place a consumer watchdog
who is charged with protecting everyday Americans from being
taken advantage of by mortgage lenders or payday lenders
or debt collectors. And the man we nominated for
the post, Richard Cordray, is a former attorney general of
Ohio who has the support of most attorney generals, both
Democrat and Republican, throughout the country. Nobody claims he’s
not qualified. But the Republicans in the
Senate refuse to confirm him for the job; they refuse
to let him do his job. Why? Does anybody here think that
the problem that led to our financial crisis was too much
oversight of mortgage lenders or debt collectors? Audience:
No! The President:
Of course not! Every day we go without a
consumer watchdog is another day when a student, or
a senior citizen, or a member of our
Armed Forces — because they are very vulnerable
to some of this stuff — could be tricked into a loan
that they can’t afford — something that
happens all the time. And the fact is that financial
institutions have plenty of lobbyists looking out
for their interests. Consumers deserve to have
someone whose job it is to look out for them. (applause) And I intend to
make sure they do. (applause) And I want you to
hear me, Kansas: I will veto any effort to delay
or defund or dismantle the new rules that we put in place. (applause) We shouldn’t be weakening
oversight and accountability. We should be strengthening
oversight and accountability. I’ll give you another example. Too often, we’ve seen Wall
Street firms violating major anti-fraud laws because the
penalties are too weak and there’s no price for
being a repeat offender. No more. I’ll be calling for legislation
that makes those penalties count so that firms don’t see
punishment for breaking the law as just the price
of doing business. (applause) The fact is this crisis has left
a huge deficit of trust between Main Street and Wall Street. And major banks that were
rescued by the taxpayers have an obligation to go the extra
mile in helping to close that deficit of trust. At minimum, they should be
remedying past mortgage abuses that led to the
financial crisis. They should be working to
keep responsible homeowners in their home. We’re going to keep pushing
them to provide more time for unemployed homeowners to look
for work without having to worry about immediately
losing their house. The big banks should increase
access to refinancing opportunities to borrowers who
haven’t yet benefited from historically low interest rates. And the big banks should
recognize that precisely because these steps are in the interest
of middle-class families and the broader economy, it will also
be in the banks’ own long-term financial interest. What will be good for consumers
over the long term will be good for the banks. (applause) Investing in things like
education that give everybody a chance to succeed. A tax code that makes sure
everybody pays their fair share. And laws that make sure
everybody follows the rules. That’s what will
transform our economy. That’s what will grow
our middle class again. In the end, rebuilding this
economy based on fair play, a fair shot, and a fair share
will require all of us to see that we have a stake in
each other’s success. And it will require all of us
to take some responsibility. It will require parents to
get more involved in their children’s education. It will require students
to study harder. (applause) It will require some workers to
start studying all over again. It will require greater
responsibility from homeowners not to take out mortgages
they can’t afford. They need to remember that if
something seems too good to be true, it probably is. It will require those of us
in public service to make government more efficient
and more effective, more consumer-friendly, more
responsive to people’s needs. That’s why we’re cutting
programs that we don’t need to pay for those we do. (applause) That’s why we’ve made hundreds
of regulatory reforms that will save businesses
billions of dollars. That’s why we’re not just
throwing money at education, we’re challenging schools to
come up with the most innovative reforms and the best results. And it will require American
business leaders to understand that their obligations
don’t just end with their shareholders. Andy Grove, the legendary former
CEO of Intel, put it best. He said, “There is another
obligation I feel personally, given that everything I’ve
achieved in my career, and a lot of what Intel has
achieved…were made possible by a climate of democracy, an
economic climate and investment climate provided by
the United States.” This broader obligation
can take many forms. At a time when the cost of
hiring workers in China is rising rapidly, it should mean
more CEOs deciding that it’s time to bring jobs back
to the United States — (applause) — not just because
it’s good for business, but because it’s good for the
country that made their business and their personal
success possible. (applause) I think about the Big
Three auto companies who, during recent negotiations,
agreed to create more jobs and cars here in America, and then
decided to give bonuses not just to their executives, but
to all their employees, so that everyone was invested
in the company’s success. (applause) I think about a company
based in Warroad, Minnesota. It’s called Marvin
Windows and Doors. During the recession, Marvin’s
competitors closed dozens of plants, let hundreds
of workers go. But Marvin’s did not lay
off a single one of their 4,000 or so employees
— not one. In fact, they’ve only laid
off workers once in over a hundred years. Mr. Marvin’s grandfather even
kept his eight employees during the Great Depression. Now, at Marvin’s
when times get tough, the workers agree to give
up some perks and some pay, and so do the owners. As one owner said, “You can’t
grow if you’re cutting your lifeblood — and that’s the
skills and experience your workforce delivers.” (applause) For the CEO of Marvin’s,
it’s about the community. He said, “These are people
we went to school with. We go to church with them. We see them in the
same restaurants. Indeed, a lot of us have
married local girls and boys. We could be anywhere,
but we are in Warroad.” That’s how America was built. That’s why we’re the
greatest nation on Earth. That’s what our greatest
companies understand. Our success has never just been
about survival of the fittest. It’s about building a nation
where we’re all better off. We pull together. We pitch in. We do our part. We believe that hard
work will pay off, that responsibility
will be rewarded, and that our children will
inherit a nation where those values live on. (applause) And it is that belief that
rallied thousands of Americans to Osawatomie — (applause) — maybe even some
of your ancestors — on a rain-soaked day
more than a century ago. By train, by wagon, on
buggy, bicycle, on foot, they came to hear the vision of
a man who loved this country and was determined to perfect it. “We are all Americans,” Teddy
Roosevelt told them that day. “Our common interests are
as broad as the continent.” In the final years of his life,
Roosevelt took that same message all across this country, from
tiny Osawatomie to the heart of New York City, believing
that no matter where he went, no matter who he was talking to,
everybody would benefit from a country in which everyone
gets a fair chance. (applause) And well into our third
century as a nation, we have grown and we’ve
changed in many ways since Roosevelt’s time. The world is faster and the
playing field is larger and the challenges are more complex. But what hasn’t changed —
what can never change — are the values that
got us this far. We still have a stake
in each other’s success. We still believe that this
should be a place where you can make it if you try. And we still believe, in the
words of the man who called for a New Nationalism
all those years ago, “The fundamental rule of our
national life,” he said, “the rule which underlies all
others — is that, on the whole, and in the long run, we shall
go up or down together.” And I believe America
is on the way up. (applause) Thank you. God bless you. God bless the United
States of America. (applause)

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