President Barack Obama continued to denounce Republicans in the last speech of his two-day trip to Minnesota.
In his address to 3,500 people at the Lake Harriet Band Shell late Friday morning, the president claimed that the GOP blocked or voted down “every single serious idea to strengthen the middle class.”
Obama’s 30-minute speech carried a refrain from his remarks Thursday, rallying around the middle class, a theme partly inspired by Rebekah Erler, a Minnesotan whose letter about her family’s financial struggles made its way to the president’s hands. On Thursday, the president had lunch with Erler at Matt’s Bar in south Minneapolis.
“I’m here to tell you I’m listening, because you’re the reason I ran for president,” Obama told the crowd.
The president touted progress nationally and praised Minnesotan initiatives like legislation to reduce the gender pay gap, the legalization of same-sex marriage and the state’s recent bill that raised minimum wage from $6.15 per hour to $9.50 by 2016.
“Here we can say the women are strong, the men are good looking, the children are above average and 95 percent of you are insured,” Obama told the crowd.
Obama criticized the lack of partisan cooperation and highlighted his efforts to work around Congress. He also expressed frustration with Congress, criticizing what he said was a Republican effort to cater to America’s wealthiest.
“We know from our history that our economy does not grow from the top down, it grows from the middle out,” Obama said. “We do better when the middle class does better.”
He urged lawmakers to work together to push issues of immigration and minimum wage forward, despite years of gridlock and frustration on both sides of the aisle.
“Why don’t you join me and we’ll do it together?” he said. “I want to work with you but you’ve got to give me something. You’ve got to try to deliver something. Anything.”
Obama harkened to his first presidential election six years ago as he closed his speech, revisiting the theme of hope.
“I know that our politics looks profoundly broken, and Washington looks like it’s never going to deliver for you … I get that frustration,” he said. “Cynicism is a choice, and hope is a better choice.
His remarks resonated with audience members, who turned out largely in support of the president.
Monika Hoffman, a high school and middle school teacher in the audience at Lake Harriet, agreed with Obama’s remarks about prioritizing education.
“He’s right on about 21st century education” she said. “That’s where our hope for the future is.”