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Read the full text of President Obama's economic speech in Kansas

December 06, 2011
  • President Obama speaks to the crowd at Osawatomie High School in Osawatomie, Kan.
President Obama speaks to the crowd at Osawatomie High School in Osawatomie,… (Kevin Lamarque / Reuters )

The following is the full transcript of President Obama's remarks in Osawatomie, Kan., Tuesday as provided by the White House.

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.

Well, it is great to be back in the state of Tex -- (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.)    

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