Obama speaks to more than 5,500 in Bowling GreenWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
Editor’s Note: Updated with crowd response.
President Barack Obama told an often-roaring crowd of more than 5,500 about his plans for the economy, health care and education affordability on Sept. 26 at the Stroh Center in Bowling Green.
“You’ve got a big choice to make and it’s not just a choice between two parties or two candidates. It is a choice between two fundamentally different paths for America,” he said.
Obama has traveled to Ohio 13 times this year and was at Scott High School on Labor Day. He went to Kent State University following his appearance in Bowling Green. His opponent Mitt Romney also spoke in Northwest Ohio on Sept. 26.
Obama criticized Romney’s plans for the economy, especially tax breaks.
“Top-down economics never works. The country doesn’t succeed when only the rich get richer. We succeed when the middle class gets bigger,” he said.
When the enthused crowd booed Romney’s stances, Obama responded with “Don’t boo, vote,” as he also said at Scott High School.
“We don’t believe that anybody is entitled to success in this country. We don’t believe government should be helping people who refuse to help themselves, but we do believe in something called opportunity,” Obama added.
“This country’s gone through a very tough time. We’ve still got a lot of folks who are hurting out there and I’m not somebody who’s come here offering some easy, quick solutions. The truth is, it’s going to take more than a few years to solve the challenges that were building up over decades,” he said.
The president said that although the country does face challenges, these are problems that can be solved.
“For the young people out here, I want you to understand, there is not a country on Earth that wouldn’t gladly trade places with the United States of America,” he said.
The president later launched into his plan for the economy, saying, “I want to export more products and outsource fewer jobs.”
“We can give more tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs overseas or we can start rewarding companies that open new plants and train new workers and create new jobs right here in the United States,” he said.
With the right policies, a million new manufacturing jobs could be created in the next four years, Obama added. He later said that those who make more than $250,000 per year should have to pay a higher tax rate.
He also criticized Romney’s famous statement on the auto industry, “Let Detroit go bankrupt.”
“That would have been walking away from an industry that supports one in eight Ohioans. It supports businesses in 82 of 88 Ohio counties,” he said.
Obama lambasted Romney’s statements that he’d be tough on China and said that Romney had profited from sending jobs to China.
“It feels a lot like a fox saying we need more secure chicken coops,” Obama said.
“I have woken up every single day doing everything I can to give American workers a fair shot in this global economy. We brought more trade cases against China in one term than the previous administration did in two. And by the way, we’ve been winning those cases,” he said.
Obama also spoke to the crowd, which included many college students, about the importance of education.
“[Education] was my gateway to opportunity; that’s the only reason I’m standing here,” he said. “It’s the path more than ever to a middle-class life. Today, millions of students are paying less for college because we took on a system that was wasting billions of dollars using banks and lenders and middlemen on the student loan process. We said, ‘Let’s give that money directly to students.’”
The president also said he would work with college presidents to make college more affordable.
In addition, he said the country has doubled the amount of its renewable, clean energy sources.
“Today, America is less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in nearly 20 years,” he said. Still, Obama said, he wanted the United States to control more of its own energy resources.
“Let’s take that money we’re giving to companies that are already hugely profitable. Every time you go to the pump, they’re making money; they don’t need a tax break. Let’s use that money and invest in wind and solar and clean coal technology,” he said.
Obama also pledged not to make Medicare voucher-based, which is part of Romney’s potential plan.
“We’ll reform and strengthen Medicare for the long haul, but we’ll do it by reducing the actual cost of care, not by dumping the costs onto seniors,” he said.
The president also pointed out his military successes, including the end of the war in Iraq, winding down the war in Afghanistan and the killing of Osama bin Laden.
“As we saw just a few days ago, we still face some serious threats in the world and that’s why as long as I’m commander in chief we’re going to maintain the strongest military the world’s ever known. And when our troops come home, and they take off their uniform, we’re going to serve them as well as they served us,” he said.
Obama emphasized that change takes time.
“I’ve always said change is hard; it takes more than one term or even one president. And the way our democracy works, we’re never going to get everything that each of us individually wants. But if we’re working together, you can make things happen. Now, you can’t make it happen if you write off half the nation before you take office,” he said.
Jim Wisler, an audience member and retired quality control worker for Ford, agreed.
“I know at this age, it takes more than two or three years to get through this mess. Back in the Depression years, well, it took 12 years for Roosevelt,” he said.
Wisler made the trip from Catawba Island with his wife Nancy, who said the drive was “well worth it.”
Rayia Gaddy, a Bowling Green State University sociology and psychology student, said she appreciated that the president addressed different groups like the working and middle classes in his speech.
Gaddy has a personal stake in some of Obama’s education policies. She is at BGSU on a full ride and has siblings who dropped out of college because they could no longer afford school.
“Starting and then not being able to go when they really loved it, it really tore them up,” she said.
Andrew McCaffrey, a BGSU education student, said he liked the diversity of the crowd.
“I was interested to see that [Obama] was coming to Ohio yet again. It’s a testimony to how important Ohio is in the election,” he added.
McCaffrey said he also agreed with the president’s stance on energy.
“A great deal of America’s problems can be traced back to energy and if we develop energy independently, that’ll improve our domestic situation as well as foreign situation,” he said.
Kelly Wicks, who is running for the Ohio House of Representatives, spoke to the president.
“I got to spend a minute with him and he asked who I was, what I did, how the campaign was going, said good luck, said make sure to tell everybody (volunteers) thank you,” he said.
Wicks has been to several Obama rallies, but said this crowd had the most energy he’s seen. He also said he likes watching people’s reactions.
“That moment, just watching people in the audience who can’t believe that they’re there or he made eye contact with them, that changes people’s lives,” Wicks said.
Early voting was another big subject at the rally. Seth Melchor, the BGSU student who introduced Obama, did so after breaking his wrist the night before.
“He was supposed to get it set yesterday but he didn’t want to miss this,” Obama said. “Now, I just want to make the point that if Seth can come up here with a broken wrist then there is not a student here who cannot get registered.”
In-person voting begins in Ohio on Oct. 2. The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 9.
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