Obama Touts Improved, Strong U.S. Economy at Northwestern

Remarks at Kellogg School of Management are the first by a sitting president in 60 years

President Barack Obama went into defensive mode Thursday afternoon during a speech about the U.S. economy at Northwestern University, near Chicago.

"I have laid out my ideas to create more jobs and grow more wages," Obama told students and staff during his nearly hour-long speech at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management. "A true opposition party should have the courage to lay out theirs. There's a reason fewer Republicans are preaching doom on deficits, because they're now manageable."

Stepping back from what he called a rush of recent global events to take a "clear-eyed look at our economy," Obama painted a positive picture of the country's economics during his presidency. He said the general economy is stronger now than when he took office and Americans should be proud of the progress the U.S. has made in the past six years.

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Careful to say such growth wasn't a "hangover from the great recession," he touted a healthier housing market, steady job creation, modest wage growth and an increase of American exports.

He credited not only the success of the middle class, but also his administration, for the upswing.

"This progress has been hard, but it has been steady, and it has been real," Obama said. "It is a direct result of the American people's drive and determination. It's also the result of sound decisions made by my administration."

Looking ahead, the president detailed a few suggestions for building on the economy in the next decade, namely investing in clean energy technology, making high-quality preschool available to every child, fixing the immigration system and raising the minimum wage, a platform that Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, facing a November election, has championed.

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"Some of that depends on you," he said. "There's a reason I came to a business school instead of a school of government.  I believe that capitalism is the greatest force for prosperity and opportunity the world has ever known."

He said he decided to visit Northwestern because universities will "shape America's economy and set the conditions for middle-class growth in the 21st century."

The speech followed a morning fundraising appearance with Gov. Pat  Quinn in Chicago.

First Lady Michelle Obama will be in Chicago on Oct. 7 to support Quinn, and Hillary Clinton is expected on Oct. 8. Quinn's campaign released a new radio ad Wednesday featuring the first lady lauding the governor's work on behalf of veterans and support for raising the minimum wage.

Obama is scheduled to leave the Chicago area in the afternoon, ahead of approaching severe weather. He'll be in southern Indiana on Friday to deliver remarks at Millennium Steel Service in Gibson County to mark Manufacturing Day. The minority-owned business has grown significantly in the past decade.

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Obama spent Wednesday night at his home in Chicago's South Side Kenwood neighborhood after mingling with diners at a Chicago steakhouse owned by reality stars Bill and Giuliana Rancic.

His hometown visit came on the same day the head of the Secret Service, Julia Pierson, resigned amid new revelations about security problems. Joseph Clancy, once in charge of the president's security detail, was named acting director.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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