By ANDY LYONS
(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) — The Student Recreation and Wellness Center was warm enough that at least two people passed out and required medical attention, but that didn’t diminish the raucous applause when President Barack Obama took the stage late Wednesday afternoon.
Touching on topics similar to an address earlier Wednesday in Illinois, Obama delivered a fiery speech that touched on economic issues. His topics ranged from middle class equality to Missouri’s Innovation Campus Initiative, which was signed July 11.
Obama stressed the topic of making the middle class stronger.
“Middle class families felt like the odds were against them, and they were right,” Obama said.
The president said he would act on his own and not wait for Congress to act. He mentioned citizens contacting CEOs, university presidents, college students, Democrats, Republicans, independents and others in similar positions to share their ideas and make the choice to boost the economy.
“If we do nothing, we’re saying it’s OK for the middle class folks to keep taking it on the chin, and I don’t think it’s OK,” he said.
Obama highlighted changes needed in education beginning at an elementary level to start people on the right path to be successful throughout their entire lives. As he went on, he talked about focusing on the future, including the children of the students who attend UCM now.
“Here at Central Missouri, you are a laboratory for this kind of innovation,” Obama said.
The president highlighted the Missouri Innovation Campus, which partners UCM with Metropolitan Community College and the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District. High school seniors can graduate high school with an associate’s degree and then finish a bachelor’s degree in two years without the same debt as students attended college for four years.
The focus of the program is on systems engineering technology for a bachelor’s degree in engineering technology/design and drafting.
Students involved receive internships from companies like Cerner, DST, Saint Luke’s Health Systems, Black & Veatch, Burns & McDonnell, Honeywell, KCP&L, the City of Lee’s Summit and Grundfos, all of which are participants with the MIC.
Obama said he plans to take programs such as the MIC across the U.S. and use these programs to “shake up the system,” and keep the cost of higher education down and make finding a job post-graduation easier for college students.
“The economy grows not from the top down but the middle out,” Obama said.
He continued to hit on the topic of the middle class throughout his speech. He said he was looking to shake up the system to bring more equality to the lower and middle classes when it comes to education. Along with the topic of the working middle class, he highlighted what America is all about – equal opportunities for anyone who works hard.
“You can make it here in America if you’re trying hard,” he said.
The president ended his speech by saying that he will do everything he can to improve the economy for those living in America, which struck a chord with the audience. As he finished the last sentence, it was almost inaudible because of the deafening cheers and applause.
“1,267 days left in my presidency, and I’m going to spend every minute, every second as long as I have the privilege of being in this office, making sure that I’m doing every single thing that I can so that middle class families, working families, people that are out there scrubbing every single day, so that they know that that work can lead them to a better place.”