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Obama highlights past achievements, future plans in speech addressing supporters

By Giacomo Bologna, Daily Staff Reporter
Published April 18, 2012

DEARBORN — With a World War II-era aircraft hanging beside him in the rafters, President Barack Obama spoke in Dearborn Wednesday about returning to an age of economic prosperity and security once seen by the nearby “Motor City,” Detroit. It was his first time back in Michigan since speaking at the University in January.

Obama spoke to a crowd of about 600 supporters at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, reflecting on his time in the White House and detailing his plan for the coming year. Some attendees paid several hundred dollars and others up to $1000 for a ticket to the speech.

Obama said he wants a future built on American “manufacturing” and “energy,” adding that the future of the U.S.’s manufacturing needs to begin in Detroit.

“We’re reminded (that) part of America’s greatness is making stuff,” Obama said. “And I want the next generation of manufacturing to take root not in Asia, not in Europe — I want it to happen right here in Detroit.”

Obama said he fears the changes he made during his term as president could be allowed to regress under a different presidential candidate’s leadership.

“This is real,” Obama said. “This is a make or break moment for the middle class and all those fighting to get into the middle class.”

For the first 10 minutes of the 25-minute speech, Obama explained how he has brought the change he promised in his 2008 presidential campaign and noted that he thought other politicians would have let the auto industry collapse.

“Change is the decision we make to rescue the American automotive industry from collapse, when some politicians said, ‘Let Detroit go bankrupt,’” Obama said.

Obama called attention to the changes he has brought to healthcare and added that 2.5 million Americans now have health insurance because of the Affordable Health Care for Americans Act. Signed under Obama’s administration, the act allows those under the age of 25 to stay on their parents' health insurance as dependents.

“At least every American will be able to get health care regardless of who you are (or) how much money you make,” Obama said. “It doesn’t matter if you have a preexisting condition, you will be able to get coverage, that’s what change is.”

He added that the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — a policy banning openly gay citizens from serving in the U.S. military — was a positive change as well.

“Change is the fact that for the first time in history, you don’t have hide to who you are in order to serve the country you love,” Obama said.

Obama added that he wants Congress to reform the interest rates for student loans so higher education can be more accessible.

“We need to make college affordable,” Obama said. “Americans already owe more in tuition debt than in credit card debt.”

Obama said he never promised to be perfect when he ran for president, but rather he promised to always fight as hard as he could for citizens.

“I’m not a perfect man, I’ll never be a perfect president, but what I promised you was that I would … wake up every single day, fighting for you as hard as I could,” he said. “And I have kept that promise.”

Dearborn Mayor John O’Reilly attended the rally in support of Obama. O'Reilly, who also backed Obama in 2008, said Obama has the right policies for the younger generations in America.

“We’re talking not about the next couple (of) years or next four years — we’re talking about the next 20 years,” O’Reilly said.

He added that Obama understands what America needs to do to progress.

“We’ve got people cutting education funding — the most critical thing for any country to be successful in the future,” O’Reilly said. “The themes he hit, to me, are the fundamental themes if you’re thinking about, ‘how does this nation proceed?’”

After the speech concluded, Obama attended a dinner party at the home of University Regent Denise Ilitch (D–Bingham Farms). The dinner was expected to host about 50 supporters who purchased tickets that cost as much as $40,000.

--Daily Staff Reporter Austen Hufford contributed to this story