President Barack Obama launched the first day of a series of visits throughout the country with a stop in Warrensburg to a group of students and supporters at the University of Central Missouri July 24.
During Wednesday’s rally, Obama laid out his vision for rebuilding America’s middle class, making a promise to find a way to improve the economy.
“When the economy is working for the middle class, it also solves a lot of other problems,” he said.
About 2,500 people gathered for the speech. It was also the first time the university has hosted a sitting president to the campus.
The President began the day at Knox College in Illinois before flying to Missouri via Air Force One and landing at Whiteman Air Force Base.
In his speech, Obama outlined the steps he is encouraging Congress to make, steps he’ll take on his own, and steps the private sector can do restore the American Dream among those in the middle class.
“An endless parade of distractions and political posturing and phony scandals can’t get in the way of what we need to do,” Obama said. “We’ve got to focus on jobs and the economy and helping middle class families get ahead. And if we do that, we're going to solve a whole lot of problems.”
Obama shared a broad economic vision while also noting recent successes of shrinking deficits.
“We’re starting to lay the foundation for more durable economic growth,” he said. “We’re just not there yet.”
Karen Zentz, 60, of Raymore, attended the event.
“He’s just still trying to convince people and trying to get things done,” she said. “He wants the economy better, he wants to do all this stuff, but he keeps getting stopped by the GOP.”
Later in his speech, the President also took note of the work of local educational institutions helping students afford college without accruing significant debt.
Obama urged both the state government to make more funding available for students to attend college, as well as to colleges and universities to keep their costs minimal.
The President said while people think that higher education is expensive, the alternative is worse.
“If you think education is expensive, you should see how much ignorance costs in the 21st-century,” he said.
Students from the Missouri Innovation Campus, a branch of the Lee’s Summit School District’s Summit Technology Academy, which serves a number of metropolitan-area high schools, stood on the stage behind Obama’s podium while he addressed attendees.
The campus was developed as a collaboration among the university, the Lee’s Summit School District, Metropolitan Community College and several business partners.
While students take required courses required to graduate from high school, they are also enrolled in classes through Metropolitan Community College, and they finish high school with a diploma and an associate’s degree.
The experience also allows students to intern with an area business who also covers the cost two years of community college credits.
After high school, students finish their final two years of a bachelor’s degree at UCM, anticipating grants and scholarships to cover the rest of the bill.
“What’s happened at UCM, you’ve partnered with Lee's Summit School District with the Metropolitan Community College are everybody is now all working together to equip students with better skills, allow them to graduate faster and with less debt on a program, and with the certainty of getting a job at the other end,” Obama said.
Zentz, who has a son who is a junior at the University of Missouri-Columbia, worries about the college loans he’s going to be stuck with when he finishes.
“The fact that these kids to do this while they are in high school and come out without any student debt, that is unbelievable,” she said.