ed. note: In this major speech
President Obama took the Republican field to task ("their philosophy is
simple: We are better off when everybody is left to fend for
themselves and play by their own rules") and directly addressed issues
raised by the Occupy movement.
2011 White House advisory
President Obama to Travel to Kansas
DC - On Tuesday, December 6, President Obama will travel to Osawatomie,
Kansas where he will deliver remarks on the economy. The President
will talk about how he sees this as a make-or-break moment for the
middle class and all those working to join it. He’ll lay out the
choice we face between a country in which too few do well while too
many struggle to get by, and one where we’re all in it together – where
everyone engages in fair play, everyone does their fair share, and
everyone gets a fair shot. Just over one hundred years ago,
President Teddy Roosevelt came to Osawatomie, Kansas and called for a
New Nationalism, where everyone gets a fair chance, a square deal, and
an equal opportunity to succeed.
President Barack Obama
[WHITE HOUSE TRANSCRIPT]
12:59 P.M. CST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you,
everybody. Please, please have a seat. Thank you so
much. Thank you. Good afternoon, everybody.
AUDIENCE: Good afternoon.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I want to start by
thanking a few folks who’ve joined us today. We’ve got the mayor
of Osawatomie, Phil Dudley is here. (Applause.) We have
your superintendent Gary French in the house. (Applause.)
And we have the principal of Osawatomie High, Doug Chisam.
(Applause.) And I have brought your former governor, who is doing
now an outstanding job as Secretary of Health and Human Services --
Kathleen Sebelius is in the house. (Applause.) We love
Well, it is great to be back in the state of Tex -- (laughter) -- state
of Kansas. I was giving Bill Self a hard time, he was here a
while back. As many of you know, I have roots here.
(Applause.) I’m sure you’re all familiar with the Obamas of
Osawatomie. (Laughter.) Actually, I like to say that I got
my name from my father, but I got my accent -- and my values -- from my
mother. (Applause.) She was born in Wichita.
(Applause.) Her mother grew up in Augusta. Her father was
from El Dorado. So my Kansas roots run deep.
My grandparents served during World War II. He was a soldier in
Patton’s Army; she was a worker on a bomber assembly line. And
together, they shared the optimism of a nation that triumphed over the
Great Depression and over fascism. They believed in an America
where hard work paid off, and responsibility was rewarded, and anyone
could make it if they tried -- no matter who you were, no matter where
you came from, no matter how you started out. (Applause.)
And these values gave rise to the largest middle class and the
strongest economy that the world has ever known. It was here in
America that the most productive workers, the most innovative companies
turned out the best products on Earth. And you know what?
Every American shared in that pride and in that success -- from those
in the executive suites to those in middle management to those on the
factory floor. (Applause.) So you could have some
confidence that if you gave it your all, you’d take enough home to
raise your family and send your kids to school and have your health
care covered, put a little away for retirement.
Today, we’re still home to the world’s most productive workers.
We’re still home to the world’s most innovative companies. But
for most Americans, the basic bargain that made this country great has
eroded. Long before the recession hit, hard work stopped paying
off for too many people. Fewer and fewer of the folks who
contributed to the success of our economy actually benefited from that
success. Those at the very top grew wealthier from their incomes
and their investments -- wealthier than ever before. But
everybody else struggled with costs that were growing and paychecks
that weren’t -- and too many families found themselves racking up more
and more debt just to keep up.
Now, for many years, credit cards and home equity loans papered over
this harsh reality. But in 2008, the house of cards
collapsed. We all know the story by now: Mortgages sold to
people who couldn’t afford them, or even sometimes understand
them. Banks and investors allowed to keep packaging the risk and
selling it off. Huge bets -- and huge bonuses -- made with other
people’s money on the line. Regulators who were supposed to warn
us about the dangers of all this, but looked the other way or didn’t
have the authority to look at all.
It was wrong. It combined the breathtaking greed of a few with
irresponsibility all across the system. And it plunged our
economy and the world into a crisis from which we’re still fighting to
recover. It claimed the jobs and the homes and the basic security
of millions of people -- innocent, hardworking Americans who had met
their responsibilities but were still left holding the bag.
And ever since, there’s been a raging debate over the best way to
restore growth and prosperity, restore balance, restore fairness.
Throughout the country, it’s sparked protests and political movements
-- from the tea party to the people who’ve been occupying the streets
of New York and other cities. It’s left Washington in a
near-constant state of gridlock. It’s been the topic of heated
sometimes colorful discussion among the men and women running for
But, Osawatomie, this is not just another political debate. This is the
defining issue of our time. This is a make-or-break moment for
the middle class, and for all those who are fighting to get into the
middle class. Because what’s at stake is whether this will be a
country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a
modest savings, own a home, secure their retirement.
Now, in the midst of this debate, there are some who seem to be
suffering from a kind of collective amnesia. After all that’s
happened, after the worst economic crisis, the worst financial crisis
since the Great Depression, they want to return to the same practices
that got us into this mess. In fact, they want to go back to the
same policies that stacked the deck against middle-class Americans for
way too many years. And their philosophy is simple: We are
better off when everybody is left to fend for themselves and play by
their own rules.
I am here to say they are wrong. (Applause.) I’m here in
Kansas to reaffirm my deep conviction that we’re greater together than
we are on our own. I believe that this country succeeds when
everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, when
everyone plays by the same rules. (Applause.) These aren’t
Democratic values or Republican values. These aren’t 1 percent
values or 99 percent values. They’re American values. And
we have to reclaim them. (Applause.)
You see, this isn’t the first time America has faced this choice.
At the turn of the last century, when a nation of farmers was
transitioning to become the world’s industrial giant, we had to
decide: Would we settle for a country where most of the new
railroads and factories were being controlled by a few giant monopolies
that kept prices high and wages low? Would we allow our citizens
and even our children to work ungodly hours in conditions that were
unsafe and unsanitary? Would we restrict education to the
privileged few? Because there were people who thought massive
inequality and exploitation of people was just the price you pay for
Theodore Roosevelt disagreed. He was the Republican son of a
wealthy family. He praised what the titans of industry had done
create jobs and grow the economy. He believed then what we know
is true today, that the free market is the greatest force for economic
progress in human history. It’s led to a prosperity and a
standard of living unmatched by the rest of the world.
But Roosevelt also knew that the free market has never been a free
license to take whatever you can from whomever you can.
(Applause.) He understood the free market only works when there
are rules of the road that ensure competition is fair and open and
honest. And so he busted up monopolies, forcing those companies
to compete for consumers with better services and better prices.
And today, they still must. He fought to make sure businesses
couldn’t profit by exploiting children or selling food or medicine that
wasn’t safe. And today, they still can’t.
And in 1910, Teddy Roosevelt came here to Osawatomie and he 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
Now, for this, Roosevelt was called a radical. He was called a
socialist -- (laughter) -- even a communist. But today, we are a
richer nation and a stronger democracy because of what he fought for in
his last campaign: an eight-hour work day and a minimum wage for
women -- (applause) -- insurance for the unemployed and for the
elderly, and those with disabilities; political reform and a
progressive income tax. (Applause.)
Today, over 100 years later, our economy has gone through another
transformation. Over the last few decades, huge advances in
technology have allowed businesses to do more with less, and it’s made
it easier for them to set up shop and hire workers anywhere they want
in the world. And many of you know firsthand the painful
disruptions this has caused for a lot of Americans.
Factories where people thought they would retire suddenly picked up and
went overseas, where workers were cheaper. Steel mills that
needed 100 -- or 1,000 employees are now able to do the same work with
100 employees, so layoffs too often became permanent, not just a
temporary part of the business cycle. And these changes didn’t
just affect blue-collar workers. If you were a bank teller or a
phone operator or a travel agent, you saw many in your profession
replaced by ATMs and the Internet.
Today, even higher-skilled jobs, like accountants and middle management
can be outsourced to countries like China or India. And if you’re
somebody whose job can be done cheaper by a computer or someone in
another country, you don’t have a lot of leverage with your employer
when it comes to asking for better wages or better benefits, especially
since fewer Americans today are part of a union.
Now, just as there was in Teddy Roosevelt’s time, there is a certain
crowd in Washington who, for the last few decades, have said, let’s
respond to this economic challenge with the same old tune. “The
market will take care of everything,” they tell us. If we just
cut more regulations and cut more taxes -- especially for the wealthy
-- our economy will grow stronger. Sure, they say, there will be
winners and losers. But if the winners do really well, then jobs
and prosperity will eventually trickle down to everybody else.
they argue, even if prosperity doesn’t trickle down, well, that’s the
price of liberty.
Now, it’s a simple theory. And we have to admit, it’s one that
speaks to our rugged individualism and our healthy skepticism of too
much government. That’s in America’s DNA. And that theory
fits well on a bumper sticker. (Laughter.) But here’s the
problem: It doesn’t work. It has never worked.
(Applause.) It didn’t work when it was tried in the decade before
the Great Depression. It’s not what led to the incredible postwar
booms of the ‘50s and ‘60s. And it didn’t work when we tried it
during the last decade. (Applause.) I mean, understand,
it’s not as if we haven’t tried this theory.
Remember in those years, in 2001 and 2003, Congress passed two of the
most expensive tax cuts for the wealthy in history. And what did
it get us? The slowest job growth in half a century.
Massive deficits that have made it much harder to pay for the
investments that built this country and provided the basic security
that helped millions of Americans reach and stay in the middle class --
things like education and infrastructure, science and technology,
Medicare and Social Security.
Remember that in those same years, thanks to some of the same folks who
are now running Congress, we had weak regulation, we had little
oversight, and what did it get us? Insurance companies that
jacked up people’s premiums with impunity and denied care to patients
who were sick, mortgage lenders that tricked families into buying homes
they couldn’t afford, a financial sector where irresponsibility and
lack of basic oversight nearly destroyed our entire economy.
We simply cannot return to this brand of “you’re on your own” economics
if we’re serious about rebuilding the middle class in this
country. (Applause.) We know that it doesn’t result in a
strong economy. It results in an economy that invests too little
in its people and in its future. We know it doesn’t result in a
prosperity that trickles down. It results in a prosperity that’s
enjoyed by fewer and fewer of our citizens.
Look at the statistics. In the last few decades, the average
income of the top 1 percent has gone up by more than 250 percent to
$1.2 million per year. I’m not talking about millionaires, people
who have a million dollars. I’m saying people who make a million
dollars every single year. For the top one hundredth of 1
percent, the average income is now $27 million per year. The
typical CEO who used to earn about 30 times more than his or her worker
now earns 110 times more. And yet, over the last decade the
incomes of most Americans have actually fallen by about 6 percent.
Now, this kind of inequality -- a level that we haven’t seen since the
Great Depression -- hurts us all. When middle-class families can
no longer afford to buy the goods and services that businesses are
selling, when people are slipping out of the middle class, it drags
down the entire economy from top to bottom. America was built on
the idea of broad-based prosperity, of strong consumers all across the
country. That’s why a CEO like Henry Ford made it his mission to
pay his workers enough so that they could buy the cars he made.
It’s also why a recent study showed that countries with less inequality
tend to have stronger and steadier economic growth over the long run.
Inequality also distorts our democracy. It gives an outsized
voice to the few who can afford high-priced lobbyists and unlimited
campaign contributions, and it runs the risk of selling out our
democracy to the highest bidder. (Applause.) It leaves
everyone else rightly suspicious that the system in Washington is
rigged against them, that our elected representatives aren’t looking
out for the interests of most Americans.
But there’s an even more fundamental issue at stake. This kind of
gaping inequality gives lie to the promise that’s at the very heart of
America: that this is a place where you can make it if you
try. We tell people -- we tell our kids -- that in this country,
even if you’re born with nothing, work hard and you can get into the
middle class. We tell them that your children will have a chance
to do even better than you do. That’s why immigrants from around
the world historically have flocked to our shores.
And yet, over the last few decades, the rungs on the ladder of
opportunity have grown farther and farther apart, and the middle class
has shrunk. You know, a few years after World War II, a child who
was born into poverty had a slightly better than 50-50 chance of
becoming middle class as an adult. By 1980, that chance had
fallen to around 40 percent. And if the trend of rising
inequality over the last few decades continues, it’s estimated that a
child born today will only have a one-in-three chance of making it to
the middle class -- 33 percent.
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? That’s inexcusable. It
is wrong. (Applause.) It flies in the face of everything
that we stand for. (Applause.)
Now, fortunately, that’s not a future that we have to accept, because
there’s another view about how we build a strong middle class in this
country -- a view that’s truer to our history, a vision that’s been
embraced in the past by people of both parties for more than 200 years.
It’s not a view that we should somehow turn back technology or put up
walls around America. It’s not a view that says we should punish
profit or success or pretend that government knows how to fix all of
society’s problems. It is a view that says in America we are
greater together -- when everyone engages in fair play and everybody
gets a fair shot and everybody does their fair share.
So what does that mean for restoring middle-class security in today’s
economy? Well, it starts by making sure that everyone in America
gets a fair shot at success. The truth is we’ll never be able to
compete with other countries when it comes to who’s best at letting
their businesses pay the lowest wages, who’s best at busting unions,
who’s best at letting companies pollute as much as they want.
That’s a race to the bottom that we can’t win, and we shouldn’t want to
win that race. (Applause.) Those countries don’t have a
strong middle class. They don’t have our standard of
The race we want to win, the race we can win is a race to the top --
the race for good jobs that pay well and offer middle-class
security. Businesses will create those jobs in countries with the
highest-skilled, highest-educated workers, the most advanced
transportation and communication, the strongest commitment to research
The world is shifting to an innovation economy and nobody does
innovation better than America. Nobody does it better.
(Applause.) No one has better colleges. Nobody has better
universities. Nobody has a greater diversity of talent and
ingenuity. No one’s workers or entrepreneurs are more driven or
more daring. The things that have always been our strengths match
up perfectly with the demands of the moment.
But we need to meet the moment. We’ve got to up our game.
We need to remember that we can only do that together. It starts
by making education a national mission -- a national mission.
(Applause.) Government and businesses, parents and
citizens. In this economy, a higher education is the surest route
to the middle class. The unemployment rate for Americans with a
college degree or more is about half the national average. And
their incomes are twice as high as those who don’t have a high school
diploma. Which means we shouldn’t be laying off good teachers
right now -- we should be hiring them. (Applause.) We
shouldn’t be expecting less of our schools –- we should be demanding
more. (Applause.) We shouldn’t be making it harder to
afford college -- we should be a country where everyone has a chance to
go and doesn’t rack up $100,000 of debt just because they went.
In today’s innovation economy, we also need a world-class commitment to
science and research, the next generation of high-tech
manufacturing. Our factories and our workers shouldn’t be
idle. We should be giving people the chance to get new skills and
training at community colleges so they can learn how to make wind
turbines and semiconductors and high-powered batteries. And by
the way, if we don’t have an economy that’s built on bubbles and
financial speculation, our best and brightest won’t all gravitate
towards careers in banking and finance. (Applause.)
Because if we want an economy that’s built to last, we need more of
those young people in science and engineering. (Applause.)
This country should not be known for bad debt and phony profits. We
should be known for creating and selling products all around the world
that are stamped with three proud words: Made in America.
Today, manufacturers and other companies are setting up shop in the
places with the best infrastructure to ship their products, move their
workers, communicate with the rest of the world. And that’s why
the over 1 million construction workers who lost their jobs when the
housing market collapsed, they shouldn’t be sitting at home with
nothing to do. They should be rebuilding our roads and our
bridges, laying down faster railroads and broadband, modernizing our
schools -- (applause) -- all the things other countries are already
doing to attract good jobs and businesses to their
Yes, business, and not government, will always be the primary generator
of good jobs with incomes that lift people into the middle class and
keep them there. But as a nation, we’ve always come together,
through our government, to help create the conditions where both
workers and businesses can succeed. (Applause.) And
historically, that hasn’t been a partisan idea. Franklin Roosevelt
worked with Democrats and Republicans to give veterans of World War II
-- including my grandfather, Stanley Dunham -- the chance to go to
college on the G.I. Bill. It was a Republican President, Dwight
Eisenhower, a proud son of Kansas -- (applause) -- who started the
Interstate Highway System, and doubled down on science and research to
stay ahead of the Soviets.
Of course, those productive investments cost money. They’re not
free. And so we’ve also paid for these investments by asking
everybody to do their fair share. Look, if we had unlimited
resources, no one would ever have to pay any taxes and we would never
have to cut any spending. But we don’t have unlimited
resources. And so we have to set priorities. If we want a
strong middle class, then our tax code must reflect our values.
We have to make choices.
Today that choice is very clear. To reduce our deficit, I’ve
already signed nearly $1 trillion of spending cuts into law and I’ve
proposed trillions more, including reforms that would lower the cost of
Medicare and Medicaid. (Applause.)
But in order to structurally close the deficit, get our fiscal house in
order, we have to decide what our priorities are. Now, most
immediately, short term, we need to extend a payroll tax cut that’s set
to expire at the end of this month. (Applause.) If we don’t
do that, 160 million Americans, including most of the people here, will
see their taxes go up by an average of $1,000 starting in January and
it would badly weaken our recovery. That’s the short
In the long term, we have to rethink our tax system more
fundamentally. We have to ask ourselves: Do we want to make
the investments we need in things like education and research and
high-tech manufacturing -- all those things that helped make us an
economic superpower? Or do we want to keep in place the tax
breaks for the wealthiest Americans in our country? Because we
can’t afford to do both. That is not politics. That’s just
math. (Laughter and applause.)
Now, so far, most of my Republican friends in Washington have refused
under any circumstance to ask the wealthiest Americans to go to the
same tax rate they were paying when Bill Clinton was president.
So let’s just do a trip down memory lane here.
Keep in mind, when President Clinton first proposed these tax
increases, folks in Congress predicted they would kill jobs and lead to
another recession. Instead, our economy created nearly 23 million
jobs and we eliminated the deficit. (Applause.) Today, the
wealthiest Americans are paying the lowest taxes in over half a
century. This isn’t like in the early ‘50s, when the top tax rate
was over 90 percent. This isn’t even like the early ‘80s, when
the top tax rate was about 70 percent. Under President Clinton,
the top rate was only about 39 percent. Today, thanks to
loopholes and shelters, a quarter of all millionaires now pay lower tax
rates than millions of you, millions of middle-class families.
Some billionaires have a tax rate as low as 1 percent. One
That is the height of unfairness. It is wrong.
(Applause.) It’s wrong that in the United States of America, a
teacher or a nurse or a construction worker, maybe earns $50,000 a
year, should pay a higher tax rate than somebody raking in $50
million. (Applause.) It’s wrong for Warren Buffett’s
secretary to pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffett.
(Applause.) And by the way, Warren Buffett agrees with me.
(Laughter.) So do most Americans -- Democrats, independents and
Republicans. And I know that many of our wealthiest citizens
would agree to contribute a little more if it meant reducing the
deficit and strengthening the economy that made their success
This isn’t about class warfare. This is about the nation’s
welfare. It’s about making choices that benefit not just the
people who’ve done fantastically well over the last few decades, but
that benefits the middle class, and those fighting to get into the
middle class, and the economy as a whole.
Finally, a strong middle class can only exist in an economy where
everyone plays by the same rules, from Wall Street to Main
Street. (Applause.) As infuriating as it was for all of us,
we rescued our major banks from collapse, not only because a full-blown
financial meltdown would have sent us into a second Depression, but
because we need a strong, healthy financial sector in this
But part of the deal was that we wouldn’t go back to business as
usual. And that’s why last year we put in place new rules of the
road that refocus the financial sector on what should be their core
purpose: getting capital to the entrepreneurs with the best
ideas, and financing millions of families who want to buy a home or
send their kids to college.
Now, we’re not all the way there yet, and the banks are fighting us
every inch of the way. But already, some of these reforms are
If you’re a big bank or risky financial institution, you now have to
write out a “living will” that details exactly how you’ll pay the bills
if you fail, so that taxpayers are never again on the hook for Wall
Street’s mistakes. (Applause.) There are also limits on the
size of banks and new abilities for regulators to dismantle a firm that
is going under. The new law bans banks from making risky bets
with their customers’ deposits, and it takes away big bonuses and
paydays from failed CEOs, while giving shareholders a say on executive
This is the law that we passed. We are in the process of
implementing it now. All of this is being put in place as we
speak. Now, unless you’re a financial institution whose business
model is built on breaking the law, cheating consumers and making risky
bets that could damage the entire economy, you should have nothing to
fear from these new rules.
Some of you may know, my grandmother worked as a banker for most of her
life -- worked her way up, started as a secretary, ended up being a
vice president of a bank. And I know from her, and I know from
all the people that I’ve come in contact with, that the vast majority
of bankers and financial service professionals, they want to do right
by their customers. They want to have rules in place that don’t
put them at a disadvantage for doing the right thing. And yet,
Republicans in Congress are fighting as hard as they can to make sure
that these rules aren’t enforced.
I’ll give you a specific example. For the first time in history,
the reforms that we passed put in place a consumer watchdog who is
charged with protecting everyday Americans from being taken advantage
of by mortgage lenders or payday lenders or debt collectors. And
the man we nominated for the post, Richard Cordray, is a former
attorney general of Ohio who has the support of most attorney generals,
both Democrat and Republican, throughout the country. Nobody
claims he’s not qualified.
But the Republicans in the Senate refuse to confirm him for the job;
they refuse to let him do his job. Why? Does anybody here
think that the problem that led to our financial crisis was too much
oversight of mortgage lenders or debt collectors?
THE PRESIDENT: Of course not. Every day we go without a
consumer watchdog is another day when a student, or a senior citizen,
or a member of our Armed Forces -- because they are very vulnerable to
some of this stuff -- could be tricked into a loan that they can’t
afford -- something that happens all the time. And the fact is
that financial institutions have plenty of lobbyists looking out for
their interests. Consumers deserve to have someone whose job it
is to look out for them. (Applause.) And I intend to make
sure they do. (Applause.) And I want you to hear me,
I will veto any effort to delay or defund or dismantle the new rules
that we put in place. (Applause.)
We shouldn’t be weakening oversight and accountability. We should
be strengthening oversight and accountability. I’ll give you
another example. Too often, we’ve seen Wall Street firms
violating major anti-fraud laws because the penalties are too weak and
there’s no price for being a repeat offender. No more. I’ll
be calling for legislation that makes those penalties count so that
firms don’t see punishment for breaking the law as just the price of
doing business. (Applause.)
The fact is this crisis has left a huge deficit of trust between Main
Street and Wall Street. And major banks that were rescued by the
taxpayers have an obligation to go the extra mile in helping to close
that deficit of trust. At minimum, they should be remedying past
mortgage abuses that led to the financial crisis. They should be
working to keep responsible homeowners in their home. We’re going
to keep pushing them to provide more time for unemployed homeowners to
look for work without having to worry about immediately losing their
The big banks should increase access to refinancing opportunities to
borrowers who haven’t yet benefited from historically low interest
rates. And the big banks should recognize that precisely because
these steps are in the interest of middle-class families and the
broader economy, it will also be in the banks’ own long-term financial
interest. What will be good for consumers over the long term will
be good for the banks. (Applause.)
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. In the end, rebuilding this economy based on
fair play, a fair shot, and a fair share will require all of us to see
that we have a stake in each other’s success. And it will require
all of us to take some responsibility.
It will require parents to get more involved in their children’s
education. It will require students to study harder.
(Applause.) It will require some workers to start studying all
over again. It will require greater responsibility from
homeowners not to take out mortgages they can’t afford. They need
to remember that if something seems too good to be true, it probably
It will require those of us in public service to make government more
efficient and more effective, more consumer-friendly, more responsive
to people’s needs. That’s why we’re cutting programs that we
don’t need to pay for those we do. (Applause.) That’s why
we’ve made hundreds of regulatory reforms that will save businesses
billions of dollars. That’s why we’re not just throwing money at
education, we’re challenging schools to come up with the most
innovative reforms and the best results.
And it will require American business leaders to understand that their
obligations don’t just end with their shareholders. Andy Grove,
the legendary former CEO of Intel, put it best. He said, “There
is another obligation I feel personally, given that everything I’ve
achieved in my career, and a lot of what Intel has achieved…were made
possible by a climate of democracy, an economic climate and investment
climate provided by the United States.”
This broader obligation can take many forms. At a time when the
cost of hiring workers in China is rising rapidly, it should mean more
CEOs deciding that it’s time to bring jobs back to the United States --
(applause) -- not just because it’s good for business, but because it’s
good for the country that made their business and their personal
success possible. (Applause.)
I think about the Big Three auto companies who, during recent
negotiations, agreed to create more jobs and cars here in America, and
then decided to give bonuses not just to their executives, but to all
their employees, so that everyone was invested in the company’s
I think about a company based in Warroad, Minnesota. It’s called
Marvin Windows and Doors. During the recession, Marvin’s
competitors closed dozens of plants, let hundreds of workers go.
But Marvin’s did not lay off a single one of their 4,000 or so
employees -- not one. In fact, they’ve only laid off workers once
in over a hundred years. Mr. Marvin’s grandfather even kept his
eight employees during the Great Depression.
Now, at Marvin’s when times get tough, the workers agree to give up
some perks and some pay, and so do the owners. As one owner said,
“You can’t grow if you’re cutting your lifeblood -- and that’s the
skills and experience your workforce delivers.” (Applause.)
For the CEO of Marvin’s, it’s about the community. He said,
“These are people we went to school with. We go to church with
them. We see them in the same restaurants. Indeed, a lot of
us have married local girls and boys. We could be anywhere, but
we are in Warroad.”
That’s how America was built. That’s why we’re the greatest
nation on Earth. That’s what our greatest companies
understand. Our success has never just been about survival of the
fittest. It’s about building a nation where we’re all better
off. We pull together. We pitch in. We do our
part. We believe that hard work will pay off, that responsibility
will be rewarded, and that our children will inherit a nation where
those values live on. (Applause.)
And it is that belief that rallied thousands of Americans to Osawatomie
-- (applause) -- maybe even some of your ancestors -- on a rain-soaked
day more than a century ago. By train, by wagon, on buggy,
bicycle, on foot, they came to hear the vision of a man who loved this
country and was determined to perfect it.
“We are all Americans,” Teddy Roosevelt told them that day. “Our common
interests are as broad as the continent.” In the final years of
his life, Roosevelt took that same message all across this country,
from tiny Osawatomie to the heart of New York City, believing that no
matter where he went, no matter who he was talking to, everybody would
benefit from a country in which everyone gets a fair chance.
And well into our third century as a nation, we have grown and we’ve
changed in many ways since Roosevelt’s time. The world is faster
and the playing field is larger and the challenges are more
complex. But what hasn’t changed -- what can never change -- are
the values that got us this far. We still have a stake in each
other’s success. We still believe that this should be a place
where you can make it if you try. And we still believe, in the
words of the man who called for a New Nationalism all those years ago,
“The fundamental rule of our national life,” he said, “the rule which
underlies all others -- is that, on the whole, and in the long run, we
shall go up or down together.” And I believe America is on the
way up. (Applause.)
Thank you. God bless you. God bless the United States of
The RNC responded with three research briefings