Washington, DC…Hello, everyone. I hope you’re having a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day Weekend. I’ve got some good news for us today. Not only is our economy overall growing, but one of the important sectors of our economy is on the rise again: the American automobile industry.
Just a few days ago, on Tuesday, Chrysler Corporation announced that they were repaying the taxpayers for the loans we gave them when we came into office.
And this announcement came six years ahead of schedule – and just two years after Chrysler Corporation emerged from bankruptcy. You know, and it’s a sign of what’s happening throughout the American automobile industry.
It’s not just Chrysler. Also this week, GM announced that its Detroit Hamtramck factory will run three shifts for the first time its 26-year history. You know, that’s 2,500 more good, paying jobs.
In the words of Don LaForest, of the UAW – and I want to quote him – he said, “It’s mind-boggling that we can go from near-extinction to full employment in two years.”
What you didn’t get to hear in my rendition of his quote is the tone of his voice: It was full of pride. Genuine pride. Because I can tell you he knows – as my dad used to say – that a job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It’s about dignity. It’s about respect.
And I heard the same pride, and the same feeling of dignity, when I called the Jefferson North Chrysler plant in Detroit the day Chrysler paid back its debt. I talked to a UAW worker – her name was Frances – a line worker, who said her dad had worked on that line before, and that she had been out of work for two-and-a-half years before she was hired a year ago back to the plant.
I got the same sense when I went to Bonneville and Son, a Chrysler dealership in Manchester, New Hampshire a couple days ago. 85 employees came out, stood out there in the lot with me. 85 people. All of whom knew and said, had Chrysler liquidated, had we not helped them, they wouldn’t have a job.
When President Obama and I came into office, we faced an auto industry on the brink of extinction. Total collapse.
At the time, many people thought the President should just let GM and Chrysler go under. They didn’t think the automobile industry was essential to America’s future.
The President disagreed – and, in addition, he wasn’t willing to walk away from the thousands of hardworking UAW members who worked at GM and Chrysler – and in many cases, not only all their lives, but as second and third generation employees. And he certainly wasn’t going to abandon an industry that had meant so much to our economy, and so much to so many for so long.
So, he said if GM and Chrysler, and their management, and all their shareholders were willing to do the difficult work of making themselves more competitive, we would support giving them another chance.
And because of what we did, the auto industry is rising again. Manufacturing is coming back. And our economy is recovering and it’s gaining traction.
But the thing is this: even for a lot of people with jobs, their wages aren’t keeping pace with prices of everything from gas to groceries to health care and college tuition.
That’s why the President and I remain focused on, not just recovering from this recession. We’re focused on making sure that if you work hard, play by the rules, you’ll be able to get ahead, put your kids through college, retire with dignity and security.
Before I sign off, I just want to mention once again Memorial Day and remember what this holiday’s all about. You know – we still have thousands of troops deployed in harm’s way. In days past, on Memorial Day, we remembered heroes from former wars – but I think it’s absolutely essential that we all remember today that thousands of names have been added to those memorials in the wars that are still continuing.
Folks, all I ask you to do is, what my wife Jill and Michelle Obama ask, to reach out to those families who have someone deployed, in your community. Let them know you know. Let them know you know the sacrifice they’re making. Engage in – as my wife would say – a single act of kindness.
Maybe invite them to your barbecue this weekend. Mow their lawn. Offer to mow their lawn next week. Make it known that you appreciate their sacrifice and you’re willing to lend a hand.
As I said, that’s what Jill and Michelle Obama are doing through their Joining Forces initiative. And that’s what I hope all of us will do every day as long as we have a man or woman deployed in harm’s way. Thank you for listening and enjoy the holiday.
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