Allow me to introduce you to your fierce, pissed off fighter-in-chief, President Barack Obama.
President Barack Obama took the stage today in Washington speaking to the United Auto Workers to wild cheers of “Four more years!” And let me tell you something…. This was an epic, genuinely passionate speech about Obama’s betting on the American worker and his faith in the spirit of Americans who are their brothers and sisters keepers.
The President promised workers, “As long as you have an ounce of fight left in you, I’ll have a ton of fight left in me.” This is a side to this President he doesn’t often show, but foes are unwise to discount and supporters are remiss to gloss over.
You have to watch the entire speech. You just do. Because here it is, here he is – here is what lurks beneath the cool exterior, the pragmatic diplomat and legislator extraordinaire. Here is the man who came up from nothing. A man who knows your pain. A man who values your hard work and thinks you deserve the same opportunities as everyone else. This is a man who isn’t guarding his privileged status at the golden gate, but swinging the gate wide open and proudly yelling, “Come on down!” to all Americans who are willing to work hard. And contrary to the fearful Republican Party’s belief about most Americans, most Americans are good people who want a job they can be proud of and enough to pay their mortgage and send their kids to college.
This is a man who believes in the goodness of the American people. And his speech today will show you just how deeply angry he is about the obstruction and the lies coming from “some folks”. But it will also show you how a skilled politician and leader uses that anger to bring Americans together in the spirit of looking out for one another, uses that energy for a greater good – the good of this country.
The President started off reminding the unions of their contribution in history, “It’s unions like yours that fought for jobs and opportunity for generations of American workers. It’s unions like yours that helped build the arsenal of democracy that defeated fascism and won World War II. It’s unions like yours that forged the American middle class — that great engine of prosperity, the greatest that the world has ever known.”
Then Obama moved on to the good news of today, “So you guys helped to write the American story. And today, you’re busy writing a proud new chapter. You are reminding us that no matter how tough times get, Americans are tougher. …You’re showing us what’s possible in America. So I’m here to tell you one thing today: You make me proud. You make me proud.”
The crowd went wild as the President expressed his pride in their hard work, cheers and applause rose up in a swell of emotion. This writer may have even had a tear in her eye. These have been tough years and it’s inspiring to have our President tell workers he’s proud of them, instead of denigrating them and demeaning them as “entitled”.
Let’s go into full script mode here, because you have to get the audience reaction in order to fully appreciate this speech.
THE PRESIDENT: A few years ago, nearly one in five autoworkers were handed a pink slip — one in five. Four hundred thousand jobs across this industry vanished the year before I took office. And then as the financial crisis hit with its full force, America faced a hard and once unimaginable reality, that two of the Big 3 automakers — GM and Chrysler — were on the brink of liquidation.
The heartbeat of American manufacturing was flat-lining and we had to make a choice. With the economy in complete free fall there were no private investors or companies out there willing to take a chance on the auto industry. Nobody was lining up to give you guys loans. Anyone in the financial sector can tell you that.
So we could have kept giving billions of dollars of taxpayer dollars to automakers without demanding the real changes or accountability in return that were needed — that was one option. But that wouldn’t have solved anything in the long term. Sooner or later we would have run out of money. We could have just kicked the problem down the road. The other option was to do absolutely nothing and let these companies fail. And you will recall there were some politicians who said we should do that.
AUDIENCE: Booo —
THE PRESIDENT: Some even said we should “let Detroit go bankrupt.”
AUDIENCE: Booo —
THE PRESIDENT: You remember that? (Applause.) You know. (Laughter.) Think about what that choice would have meant for this country, if we had turned our backs on you, if America had thrown in the towel, if GM and Chrysler had gone under. The suppliers, the distributors that get their business from these companies, they would have died off. Then even Ford could have gone down as well. Production shut down. Factories shuttered. Once-proud companies chopped up and sold off for scraps. And all of you, the men and women who built these companies with your own hands, would have been hung out to dry.
… Not just your families, but the schoolteachers, the small business owners, the server in the diner who knows your order, the bartender who’s waiting for you to get off. (Laughter.) That’s right. (Applause.) Their livelihoods were at stake as well.
And you know what was else at stake? How many of you who’ve worked the assembly line had a father or a grandfather or a mother who worked on that same line? (Applause.) How many of you have sons and daughters who said, you know, Mom, Dad, I’d like to work at the plant, too? (Applause.)
These jobs are worth more than just a paycheck. They’re a source of pride. They’re a ticket to a middle-class life that make it possible for you to own a home and raise kids and maybe send them — yes — to college. (Applause.) Give you a chance to retire with some dignity and some respect. These companies are worth more than just the cars they build. They’re a symbol of American innovation and know-how. They’re the source of our manufacturing might. If that’s not worth fighting for, what’s worth fighting for? (Applause.)
So, no, we were not going to take a knee and do nothing. We were not going to give up on your jobs and your families and your communities. So in exchange for help, we demanded responsibility. We said to the auto industry, you’re going to have to truly change, not just pretend like you’re changing. And thanks to outstanding leadership like Bob King, we were able to get labor and management to settle their differences. (Applause.)
We got the industry to retool and restructure, and everybody involved made sacrifices. Everybody had some skin in the game. And it wasn’t popular. And it wasn’t what I ran for President to do. That wasn’t originally what I thought I was going to be doing as President. (Laughter.) But you know what, I did run to make the tough calls and do the right things — no matter what the politics were. (Applause.)
And I want you to know, you know why I knew this rescue would succeed?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: How did you do it? (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: You want to know? It wasn’t because of anything the government did. It wasn’t just because of anything management did. It was because I believed in you. I placed my bet on the American worker. (Applause.) And I’ll make that bet any day of the week. (Applause.)
And now, three years later — three years later, that bet is paying off — not just paying off for you, it’s paying off for America. Three years later, the American auto industry is back. (Applause.) GM is back on top as the number-one automaker in the world — (applause) — highest profits in its 100-year history. Chrysler is growing faster in America than any other car company. (Applause.) Ford is investing billions in American plants, American factories — plans to bring thousands of jobs back to America. (Applause.)
All told, the entire industry has added more than 200,000 new jobs over the past two and a half years — 200,000 new jobs. And here’s the best part — you’re not just building cars again; you’re building better cars. (Applause.)
Thanks to the bipartisan trade agreement I signed into law — with you in mind, working with you — there will soon be new cars in the streets of South Korea imported from Detroit and from Toledo and from Chicago. (Applause.)
…. America has the best workers in the world. When the playing field is level, nobody will beat us. And we’re going to make sure that playing field is level. (Applause.)
Because America always wins when the playing field is level. And because everyone came together and worked together, the most high-tech, fuel-efficient, good-looking cars in the world are once again designed and engineered and forged and built — not in Europe, not in Asia — right here in the United States of America. (Applause.)
The President’s voice cracks with emotion, raw and uncensored, as he speaks of his pride in the American worker. And here is where he sets the place on fire:
THE PRESIDENT: I’ve seen it at GM’s Lordstown plant in Ohio — (applause) — where workers got their jobs back to build the Chevy Cobalt, and at GM’s Hamtramck plant in Detroit — (applause) — where I got to get inside a brand-new Chevy Volt fresh off the line — even though Secret Service wouldn’t let me drive it. (Laughter.) But I liked sitting in it. (Laughter.) It was nice. I’ll bet it drives real good. (Laughter.)
And five years from now when I’m not President anymore, I’ll buy one and drive it myself. (Applause.) Yes, that’s right.
AUDIENCE (bringing down the house with wild cheers): Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
THE PRESIDENT:…. I’ve got to admit, it’s been funny to watch some of these folks completely try to rewrite history now that you’re back on your feet. (Applause.) The same folks who said, if we went forward with our plan to rescue Detroit, “you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye.” Now they’re saying, we were right all along. (Laughter.)
Or you’ve got folks saying, well, the real problem is — what we really disagreed with was the workers, they all made out like bandits — that saving the auto industry was just about paying back the unions. Really? (Laughter.) I mean, even by the standards of this town, that’s a load of you know what. (Laughter.)
About 700,000 retirees had to make sacrifices on their health care benefits that they had earned. A lot of you saw hours reduced, or pay or wages scaled back. You gave up some of your rights as workers….. You want to talk about sacrifice? You made sacrifices. (Applause.) This wasn’t an easy thing to do.
Let me tell you, I keep on hearing these same folks talk about values all the time. You want to talk about values? Hard work — that’s a value. (Applause.) Looking out for one another — that’s a value. The idea that we’re all in it together, and I’m my brother’s keeper and sister’s keeper — that’s a value. (Applause.)
….They think we should keep cutting taxes for those at the very top, for people like me, even though we don’t need it, just so they can keep paying lower tax rates than their secretaries.
Well, let me tell you something. Not to put too fine a point on it — they’re wrong. (Laughter.) They are wrong. (Applause.) That’s the philosophy that got us into this mess. We can’t afford to go back to it. Not now.
Fired up, the President reached a crescendo.
THE PRESIDENT: We’re fighting for an economy where everybody gets a fair shot, where everybody does their fair share, where everybody plays by the same set of rules. We’re not going to go back to an economy that’s all about outsourcing and bad debt and phony profits. We’re fighting for an economy that’s built to last, that’s built on things like education and energy and manufacturing. Making things, not just buying things — making things that the rest of the world wants to buy. And restoring the values that made this country great: hard work and fair play, the chance to make it if you really try, the responsibility to reach back and help somebody else make it, too — not just you. That’s who we are. That’s what we believe in. (Applause.)
… America is not just looking out for yourself. It’s not just about greed. It’s not just about trying to climb to the very top and keep everybody else down. When our assembly lines grind to a halt, we work together and we get them going again. When somebody else falters, we try to give them a hand up, because we know we’re all in it together.
I got my start standing with working folks who’d lost their jobs, folks who had lost their hope because the steel plants had closed down. I didn’t like the idea that they didn’t have anybody fighting for them. The same reason I got into this business is the same reason I’m here today. I’m driven by that same belief that everybody — everybody — should deserve a chance. (Applause.)
So I promise you this: As long as you’ve got an ounce of fight left in you, I’ll have a ton of fight left in me. (Applause.) We’re going to keep on fighting to make our economy stronger; to put our friends and neighbors back to work faster; to give our children even more opportunity; to make sure that the United States of America remains the greatest nation on Earth. (Applause.)
Thank you, UAW. I love you. God bless you. God bless the work you do. God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you do it. That is how a real leader takes a crisis and uses it for the good of the country rather than pure political gain. This is how you do it. You appeal to the best in the people rather than their fear. You inspire them by your leadership and faith in them. You empower them to get up and fight and stake a proud American flag on their work.
This is the spirit that is getting our country out of the mess we’ve been in, and this is the spirit that will rebuild this country on a solid foundation as a country that produces things other countries want. A country that leads rather than merely borrows and buys.
President Obama is a true leader of the people. He is far from perfect, but he isn’t playing a part when he speaks from the heart about his faith and belief in the American worker or when he backs the people against Wall Street. He is sure not able to do all that he’d like to do and the office is riddled with roadblocks, but one thing Americans have in this President is a real, honest-to-goodness fighter for the middle class. Someone who’s been there and didn’t slam the door shut behind him.
It’s my belief (and I don’t often go out on a limb to make predictions) that one day long from now, this President will be hailed as one of the best. He was given a load of crap and a desperate opposition party, but he has never given up on us. He has been fighting for long term paradigm shifting legislation that restores America to a country where the middle class can thrive and where all Americans have opportunities. Yes, there are a thousand things to be angry about, but there are also a lot of things to celebrate. And this President’s full engagement with the working class is one of them.
Some fearful folks call this class warfare; I call it American exceptionalism.
Source: Link to full transcript here
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.