July 30, 2014
KANSAS CITY, Missouri — Before he got into the crux of his speech at the Uptown Theater, President Barack Obama noted he’s had to make a lot of tough decisions during his presidency..
But, after Tuesday night’s dinner at Arthur Bryant’s in Northeast Kansas City, he wasn’t ready to pick the best barbecue in Kansas City.
“I deal with a lot of tough issues but I’m not going to decide who makes the best barbecue in Kansas City,” Obama said to the roughly 1,500 people who turned out to head him speak Wednesday afternoon. “I haven’t had enough samples to make a definitive judgement.”
Obama said he went to dinner Tuesday night, joined by four Kansas City area residents, to talk about issues that are plaguing Americans. It was during the dinner discussion, as well as whenever he gets the chance to speak to those around the country, that he saw the “inherent goodness” of the American people. Like the rest of Americans, he said he’s trying to do his best and he’s optimistic.
“We all make mistakes. We all have regrets. But generally speaking, people are decent,” Obama said. “So the question is how can we do a better job of capturing that spirit in Washington [D.C.].”
Obama’s speech covered the economy, student loan debt, minimum wage and being sued by Congress, which he described as an unproductive thing to do. The President pointed out that every night, he reads 10 letters written from him from Americans across the country; some praising his work while other letter choose to call him an idiot. It was from those letters that he chose his dinner companions for Arthur Bryant’s. Victor Fugate, one of the President’s guests, explained over dinner how he had been unemployed, but because of several presidential measures, Fugate was able to keep a roof over his family.
“He said he was able to afford health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act,” Obama said. “He also said the income based repayment plan [for student loans] we put in place allowed him and his family to keep a roof over their heads. Victor is the sort of person I’m working for. Someone who never quits and believes in the American dream.”
The President pointed out the American dream hasn’t been easy to obtain recently, especially since 2008. But, he said, the country is climbing back. Obama said businesses have added over 10 million new jobs in the past 62 months, and the automotive and energy industries are “booming.”
“The unemployment rate is at its lowest rate since September 2008, dropping faster than anytime in the past 30 years,” Obama said. “In the second quarter of the year, our economy grew at a strong pace with businesses investing, workers building new homes, consumers spending and America is exporting goods around the world. So the decisions we’ve made to rescue the economy and the auto industry, to rebuild our foundation, are starting to pay off.”
All the good that is happening in American right now, he added, is not an accident. The county is looking up because “of the resilience and resolve of the American people.” Because of those reasons, and many more, Obama said, now is a good time to optimistic about the U.S.
“We hold the best cards and things are getting better,” Obama said. “The decisions we make now can make things better [in the future].”
Obama closed his speech by telling the crowd that the hardest thing to do is to bring about real change. There’s a stubborn status quo, but he said the country can’t afford to be cynical and leave the status quo alone. Cynacism, he said, didn’t put a man on the moon.
“I don’t believe in a cynical American,” Obama said. “I believe in an optimistic America.”