Local Residents React to President’s Message – Click to Listen: Link to audio story
An ocean blue sky dotted with islands of clouds stretched over a crowd of about 400 well-wishers and protesters at Knox College as they greeted President Obama’s motorcade.
Once inside Memorial Gym the president started off reminding Galesburg residents of what they told him about the changing economy in 2005. That’s when the local Maytag factory closed, leaving 1,500 people without good paying jobs.
“So these were stories of families who had worked hard, believed in the American Dream, but they felt like the odds were increasingly stacked against them. And they were right. Things had changed.”
“We’ve had a lot of repercussions in the area and all you have to do is drive around and see. The housing is deteriorating and so on. And people just don’t have enough money to make those improvements. I’m one of those people.”
That’s Sallee Wade. She’s a semi-retired yoga teacher and writer and has lived in Galesburg for years. She’s seen the changes in town since Maytag left.
“I would love to make some improvements on my property but it has lost value.”
“You just don’t have the extra…”
“No, no. There’s no extra. There’s always enough for this day, enough for this day. But I know people who are a lot worse off than I am.”
The president outlined five familiar areas he wants to focus on to help the U.S. stay competitive. They are: modernizing our infrastructure to create jobs, addressing skyrocketing college costs, new home ownership initiatives, continuing to focus on health care, and helping the middle class retire securely.
He also said that, behind closed doors, some Republicans in Congress agree with this agenda. But Mary King said she thinks things in Washington are pretty hopeless.
“I agree with everything he says but I still don’t know how it’s ever going to get done. No, it’s not his fault, but how’s he going to get anything through Congress?”
But George Lane from Peoria thought he heard something a little different.
“Was there anything in particular he said that really kind of struck a chord with you?”
“Yes. That he will go ahead and use the power of his office and try to bypass Congress as much as he can. Congress has not given him any cooperation whatsoever.”
Emails and calls to Illinois GOP leaders to get their responses to Obama’s speech were not returned. But Congressman Aaron Shock’s office directed me to a press release published by the Illinois House GOP Delegation.The delegation says they have worked to repeal the Affordable Care Act, are working on a tax reform bill they say will stimulate the economy, have presented a bill to permanently fix the student loan crisis, and quote: “we stand ready to work toward real, bipartisan solutions, not listen to another stump speech”.
Naturally you would expect to find most people at an Obama speech agreeing with him, but several people who said their own personal economies were fine were worried about global competitiveness. And they’re worried about younger adults and what lies ahead for them.
Doc Patterson is a retired firefighter from Chicago and Monmouth.
“The state of Illinois has been a leader in a lot of things in the world, not only locally here in Galesburg but nationally. And to hear him say we’re going to bring that back, and his plan, those five bullet points, are so important for these younger generations because they’re giving up hope. And I hope this re-energizes the area.”
Link to the GOP press release: here.
- New York Times opinion piece about Galesburg, Illinois and other small cities as they struggle to recover
- AP STORY about poverty increasing among the formerly Middle Class
- WALL STREET JOURNAL Reports the number of college grads making minimum wage is on the rise
- EVEN MBAs are earning less than before
- Does it seem difficult to find a good-paying job? It’s not your imagination
- More Information on how and why the value of a college degree is diminishing