Obama’s message resonates with middle class
- Dec. 6, 2011
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For being in the middle of a largely conservative county in a largely red state, president Barack Obama received a strong and positive response during the speech he gave Tuesday in Osawatomie.
Whether wearing overalls or overcoats, the crowd of 600 that packed Osawatomie High School gymnasium applauded and cheered the president’s speech championing the middle class and the necessity of a fair tax system.
“I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, and when everyone plays by the same rules,” Obama said. “Those aren’t Democratic or Republican values; 1percent values or 99 percent values. They’re American values, and we have to reclaim them.”
The president’s populist tone harkened back to a similar speech given by Theodore Roosevelt gave 100 years ago in the town. The speech, known as the “New Nationalism” speech called for a progressive income tax as well as well as increased regulation over industries.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that the “New Nationalism” speech was the motivation behind the President’s Osawatomie visit.
“It had everything to do with Theodore Roosevelt,” Carney said. “Teddy Roosevelt gave a profoundly important speech here in 1910. What is amazing is if you read that speech, I have it here, is you could deliver most of it today.”
Obama alluded to the speech numerous times, saying that as in 1910 and today the middle class had reached a turning point.
“In 1910, Teddy Roosevelt came here, to Osawatomie, and 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.’”
Obama warned that if the country does not take action, opportunities for Americans would continue to wane.
“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? It’s wrong,” he said drawing loud applause.
The tone of the speech may have struck a cord with members of the Osawatomie community. During the last decade unemployment in Osawatomie has increased while population has dropped. Obama made recommendations of fairer tax rates and increased emphasis on education as remedies to the problem of wealth inequality and the lack of opportunity.
“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,” Obama said.
Members of the crowd had waited outside in freezing temperatures since five in the morning, and had camped out to receive tickets for the event. The speech lasted a little under an hour.
Edited by C.J. Matson