5:35 P.M. CDT
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, Chicago! (Applause.)
Michael Jordan -- different Michael Jordan. (Laughter.) It is great to be home, and it is great to be among so many good friends. Starting with Jan Schakowsky, what she does not mention is -- in her introduction -- that not too many folks gave me a chance to win that first Senate race, but Jan Schakowsky was one of the few people who did and stepped out, along with Robin Kelly, along with Michael Jordan.
So there is a certain crew here of true believers, and we ended up having the primary night celebration in this hotel. And I was just saying that was probably -- maybe my favorite moment in politics, as opposed to governing. (Laughter.) Just because nobody expected it, including maybe me. (Laughter.) So it’s wonderful to have Jan here.
A couple other people, obviously, I want to acknowledge. First of all, outstanding leader, soon once again to be Speaker, Nancy Pelosi in the house. We love Nancy. (Applause.)
A man who is doing a thankless job with style and grace, our DCCC Chairman, Steve Israel. (Applause.) Tomorrow is Steve Israel’s birthday so I want to wish everybody -- yes, let’s go ahead and sing.
AUDIENCE: (Sings “Happy Birthday”.)
THE PRESIDENT: We’ve got a number of other extraordinary members -- a visitor, Steny Hoyer, whose leadership is invaluable and works so closely with Nancy. (Applause.)
And then just an incredible congressional delegation headed up by our own Dick Durbin. (Applause.) I already mentioned Robin Kelly. We’ve got Cheri Bustos here. We’ve got Bill Foster here. We’ve got Bobby Rush here. We’ve got Rick Nolan here -- Rick is not from Illinois but we like him anyway. (Laughter.) Sandy Levin is here. (Applause.) And candidate in the Illinois 13th from down south who is going to win, Ann Callis is in the house. (Applause.
And finally, a great friend and somebody who’s showing what leadership is all about here in Chicago, I could not be prouder of him, your great Mayor, Rahm Emanuel. (Applause.)
Now, my remarks are going to be relatively brief because game seven of the Blackhawks game is going on right now. (Applause.) And I expect the Blackhawks to win. (Applause.) I know the Crosstown Classic is going on this week, and I expect the White Sox to win. (Applause.) But I love the Cubs too, they’re great. (Laughter.) I’m not a Cubs hater, I’m just saying. (Laughter.) I think the Sox will win. (Laughter.)
But the main reason I’m here is just to say thanks to all of you for the incredible privilege that you’ve given me to lead this country, and to say that our work is not yet done.
Jan rattled off a list of accomplishments that I could not be prouder of, and I couldn’t have gotten them done had it not been for Nancy Pelosi and an incredible congressional delegation from here in Illinois. But what we also know is, despite the headlines talking about the economy starting to pick up steam; despite recovery in the housing market; despite the fact that we’ve created all those jobs; despite the fact that the stock market has hit an all-time high; what we also know is, is that there are people all across this country who are still hurting.
People whose homes are still underwater. People just a few miles from here who desperately want to work and can’t yet find work or can’t get the skills they need to work. There are people just a few miles from here who are still worried about gun violence striking down their children on the way to school. There are folks all across the country who are willing to work hard, have the same kinds of values that built this country -- looking after their families, taking responsibility not just for themselves, but also for their communities and their neighborhoods.
But the environment has changed for them, and what they need desperately is an entire nation that is willing to rally around the basic concept that if you work hard in this country, you can make it. Doesn't matter where you come from, what you look like, what faith you practice, who you love -- that here in America, you can make it if you try.
The good news is that we know the answers to so many of our challenges. We know, for example, that even though the economy has picked up, that if, in fact, we started putting people back to work all across this country rebuilding our roads and our bridges and our ports and our dams and our airports, that not only would that accelerate economic growth right now, but it would lay the foundation for economic growth for decades to come. We know that.
And we know by the way if we just put it off, it’s just going to get worse. This is deferred maintenance. It’s like not fixing the roof on your house when it’s leaking. It’s going to be more expensive to fix later.
We know that in this global economy, knowledge and skills and education count for everything, and that the biggest bang we can get for our education dollar is if we are investing in early childhood education so that every child is getting a good start when they enter kindergarten. We know that.
And we’ve got great models all across the country. We know how to do early childhood education well. The problem is we haven’t invested in it. We probably invest less in early childhood education in this country than in any other industrialized country in the world. Same, by the way, goes for infrastructure, which is why not a single airport out of the top 25 in the world are in America.
We know that if we have some common-sense laws that check to see if we’re keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, or folks who have significant mental illnesses, we know that that can reduce some deaths, save some kids. It doesn't solve the whole problem, but we know that. And we know that 90 percent of the American people and 80 percent of gun owners agree with us. Why aren’t we getting that done?
We know that energy is what makes an economy go. And the great news, here in America, is that by 2020 we’ll be a net exporter of natural gas. We will over the next couple of decades have the capacity to be energy independent for the first time, incredible change. It will change geopolitics for generations to come, and it fees ourselves from dependence not only on foreign oil generally, but from some of the most volatile parts of the world.
But what we also know is, is that the climate is changing in ways that we can't fully predict, but we know are not going to be good for our kids. And the good news is we’ve already doubled fuel-efficiency standards on cars. We’ve already doubled our production of clean energy. And if we continue to make the investments, nobody has the knowhow and the scientific skill to create the kinds of breakthroughs that deal with climate change, but we’ve got to go ahead and make that decision so that we can be leaders not just for our own kids, but for kids all around the world.
We know that making investments in science and technology pay off like nothing else. And yet right now we’ve got a budget that is actually cutting our commitment to science and energy because bad priorities in Washington.
And yet how else are we going to compete against China and Germany when they're doubling or tripling their R&D investments and we’re actually seeing ours fall or at least stay stagnant.
So the good news is that the United States of America is better positioned than any country on Earth to make sure that the 21st century remains our century, just like the 20th was. And a world city like Chicago is better positioned than just about anybody. Look at the assets that are here. We got the best universities. We’ve got the most dynamic entrepreneurs. We’ve got everything we need to succeed.
But the one thing that's still missing is a politics that matches up with the decency and the hard work and determination and creativity of the American people. We’ve got a politics that's stuck right now. And the reason it’s stuck is because people spend more time thinking about the next election than they do thinking about the next generation.
Now, I’ve got to tell you, I’ve run my last political race, and many of you may be relieved about that because -- (laughter) -- my good friend Ab Mikva in this town used to say that having a friend who is a politician is like permanently having a child in college. (Laughter.) You’re always writing checks. So I’ve graduated. (Laughter.)
But the reason that I’m here is because for me to govern effectively over the next three, three and a half years, part of my task is to constantly, continually reach out to the other side to try to find common ground; to look for those Republicans who don't think compromise is a dirty word; to continue to advance the agenda that the American people sent me there to advance; to make work pay; to attract new businesses to our shores; to make sure that we’re competitive; to build a middle class. And so any opportunities I have to do that, I will seize them.
And I have to say, as tough a fighter as Nancy Pelosi is, I have watched her and I have watched some of the Democrats who are in this room take very tough votes, even going against some of the special interests who support Democrats typically if we think it’s the right thing to do. We’ve shown ourselves willing to do it.
And so I’m constantly eager to find Republicans who are willing to do the same, because I actually don't think that any party has a monopoly on wisdom. And I actually think that Democrats, we have to be willing to compromise sometimes to get stuff done. We’re not an ideological party; we’re a practical party.
But what I will also say is this, that if day in, day out, what we confront is obstructionism for the sake of obstructionism and what appears to be an interest only in scoring political points or placating a base, as opposed to trying to advance the interests of the American people, then we’ve got to figure out a way to work around that. And one of the best ways to work around it is to have a Democratic House of Representatives. (Applause.)
So thanks to the work of Steve Israel, thanks to incredible candidates like Ann Callis, we’ve got a great chance of taking back the House. And I’m going to be working tirelessly wherever I get the opportunity to make the case to the American people that our ideas are the right ones for growing the middle class; that our ideas are the right ones to protect our environment; that our ideas are the right ones in terms of making sure our kids are getting a great education.
And any Republican who joins up and says, I agree, those are the right ideas -- hey, I’m ready to work. But those who don’t, I’m going to be out there making the case. And I know that that’s what some of the great candidates at the DCCC are going to be doing as well. And the only way they’re able to do that is if they’ve got support from folks like you.
So I just want to say to all of you, I’m grateful to you, but do not get complacent. Do not buy into this notion somehow that, oh, these problems are too big or Washington is broken. No, Washington is not broken. It’s broken right now for a particular reason, but it’s not permanently broken. It can be fixed.
We got a whole bunch of stuff done my first two years. We’ve gotten a whole bunch of stuff done since that time. And I’m optimistic about us getting legislation passed this year, but we could be doing a whole lot more -- we can only do it with you. We can only do it not only by you contributing to the DCCC, but also by talking to your friends and neighbors and colleagues about the ideas that are important for America.
And we can only do it if you guys sustain a sense of hope, a sense of promise, a belief that here in America, sometimes we take a bad turn, sometimes we make mistakes, but the trajectory of this country is for greater rights, more prosperity, greater tolerance, people still from around the world come here, recognizing that in this country there is this unique idea that all of us count and that all of us can make it. And that’s just a great gift, and it should make us hopeful.
And when I see young people, some of whom are here today, I am constantly inspired because they are smarter than we were, they’re more sophisticated than we were, in many ways they’re more conscientious than we were. So this is -- the generation coming behind us, I mean, they are spectacular. We’ve just got to make sure that we leave for them a political system that allows them to express all that incredible creativity and ingenuity and wonderful values that they’re going to be able to express through our politics. That’s what this project is about, and we can’t do it without you.
Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. Thank you. (Applause.)
5:52 P.M. CDT