Packers Fans Eager For Season Opener, Jobs Speech

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During President Obama's jobs speech, Green Bay Packers fans will be preparing to watch the home team play. The Packers take on the New Orleans Saints in the NFL season opener. We know fans are excited about the game. But some people in Green Bay are just as eager to hear Obama's proposals.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host: When President Obama speaks tomorrow nigh about jobs Green Bay, Wisconsin, Packers' fans will be preparing to watch the home team play. The Packers take on the New Orleans Saints in the NFL season opener. We know that fans are excited about the game, but some people in Green Bay are just as eager to hear Mr. Obama's proposals.

Patty Murray, of Wisconsin Public Radio, talked with two of the unemployed in Green Bay.

PATTY MURRAY: It's a toss up in this football town. Listen to a jobs speech from the president or tune in for the first official game of the football season? Luckily for fans, President Barack Obama wants to catch the action too, so he's going first, before the match up.

MICHELLE FARNSWORTH: My name is Michelle Farnsworth. For about 15 years I worked for a local insurance company.

MURRAY: Sitting in a downtown Green Bay coffee shop, Farnsworth says she wants to hear what the president has to say.

FARNSWORTH: Quite honestly, as long as it doesn't interfere with my football, but yes...


FARNSWORTH: ...this is Green Bay, after all.


MURRAY: Farnsworth compares the president and members of Congress to little boys fighting over plastic army men in a sandbox. She says it's time for the politicians to get over themselves.

FARNSWORTH: You know, and I guess I would just like to hear from our president I don't know everything. None of us can know everything. So I'd like to sit down across a table with a cup of coffee, with some people who've created jobs and sustained those jobs and find out how they did it. Because you know what? I need some new ideas. Cause what we've been doing so far, the last couple years, apparently isn't getting us the results that we'd hoped for.

MURRAY: At 7.8 percent, Wisconsin's unemployment rate is below the national average of 9.1, but that's cold comfort to Farnsworth. If by chance, Mr. Obama walked into the coffee shop, she'd urge him to get off the bench and onto the field.

FARNSWORTH: I need him to be looking at, okay, what are we going to do to make some jobs. And we need to do it now, not tread water, not - well, you know, I'm going to get a task force together and we'll talk about it in January.

MURRAY: Donna Meves is treading the same water as Farnsworth. After 15 years, she just lost her job at a technical college. Ironically, she helped students get certified for those so-called shovel ready jobs the stimulus was supposed to create. Recently, the president has called on Congress for money for infrastructure work. Meves understands that but says she doesn't have a shovel.

DONNA MEVES: I need to hear that he's not only concerned about the trades people, you know, that he's concerned about professionals, too. And I'm a little bit older. You know, I'm not the plus-50 yet but I'm almost there. Trying to start over is very difficult sometimes and how's he going to make that easier for us?

MURRAY: Meves would like Mr. Obama know that middle class people like her are losing the hope he campaigned on.

MEVES: I'd like to tell him my story and how I thought I was a person who gave 110 percent every single day I went to work, thinking that doing that I would always have a job.

MURRAY: Meanwhile, the city of Green Bay is preparing for all the hoopla that goes along with launching the pro football season. Chances are ratings of the game between the Packers and the Saints will far surpass those of the president's.

For NPR News, I'm Patty Murray in Green Bay.

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