On Thursday, I was given the extraordinary opportunity to hear President Obama speak at Northwestern University. After picking up my ticket, waiting in line for an hour, going through security, and waiting another hour and a half, President Obama finally took the podium. It was a packed house, with over 500 Kellogg MBA students, special representatives from the Evanston community, Governor Pat Quinn, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Senator Dick Durbin, and Northwestern President Morton Schapiro. Here’s a pretty good video of President Obama arriving at Northwestern.
The topic of choice was the economy. President Obama acknowledged that although the economy had improved, these gains have not been shared. He outlined his past, present, and future policies which he believes will improve the economy. He called on the federal government (and possibly the states) to raise the minimum wage to $10.10, and enact laws for paid maternity leave, and equal wages for women.
President Obama also stated that if America wants to stay competitive, we have to improve education. He set a goal: “by the end of this decade, let’s enroll six million children in high-quality preschool.” He also stated that we should redesign our high schools to train students in real world skills.
The President called on business students to revitalize the economy and support his policies: “The notion that this agenda I just outlined [to fix the economy] is somehow contrary to pro-business, capitalist, free market values…Don’t buy this notion that this is somehow an anti business agenda, this is a pro business agenda, this is a pro economic growth agenda.” “It’s going to be young people like you, and universities like this, that will shape the American economy and set the conditions for middle-class growth well into the 21st century.”
The speech included many humorous moments: “I know that here at Northwestern, your researchers are working to convert sunlight into liquid fuel – which sounds impossible, or at least really hard.” He often used humor to directly address Republican opposition to his policies: “In the decade before the Affordable Care Act– AKA Obamacare, double-digit premium increases were common.”
There’s a reason fewer are running against Obamacare – because while good, affordable health care might still be a fanged threat to freedom on Fox News, it’s working pretty well in the real world.
I’m always willing to work with anyone, Democrat or Republican, to get things done. Every once in a while, we actually see a bill land on my desk from Congress, and we do a bill signing, and I look at the members and I tell them “look how much fun this is let’s do this again!”
President Obama also addressed his critics: “Kellogg Business School, you guys are all smart. You do all this analysis. You run the numbers. Has anybody here seen a credible argument that [cutting taxes for the wealthy] is what our economy needs right now?”
The speech was very inspiring because of how direct President Obama was. He clearly stated what specific things needed to be done in order to fix the economy, and addressed all counter arguments. As a future businessperson myself, I understood how the President’s logic, along with small business would help the economy.
It was amazing to be able to see a speech by a sitting president, especially President Obama, in such a small venue. I noted to my parents that I got much closer tickets to see the President than I did to see The Black Keys last Saturday! I’d like to personally thank President Schapiro and the rest of the Northwestern Administration for the invitation.
Here’s a full video of the speech: