Obama Promotes Job Training At Community College
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President Obama unveiled an election year budget in a state that could matter in November. He chose a community college in Virginia, a state that voted for him in 2008 after backing Republicans for decades. His budget may not get far in Congress, but he found a mostly receptive audience yesterday. Here's NPR's Don Gonyea.
DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Mr. Obama was on familiar turf as he made his fourth stop as president to Northern Virginia Community College, that's NOVA for short.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It is great to be back here at NOVA. I've been here so many times I'm about three credits short of graduation.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
GONYEA: He spoke in a gymnasium at the college's Annandale, Virginia campus. Bleachers on stage behind him were filled with students. They, and the audience in front of him, cheered frequently. So much so, that it felt like a campaign event, minus the signs, banners and buttons. The president was in rally mode.
OBAMA: American manufacturers are creating jobs for the first time since the 1990s. The economy is growing stronger. The recovery is speeding up. And the last thing we can afford to do right now is to go back to the very policies that got us into this mess in the first place. We can't afford it.
(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)
GONYEA: President Obama, not unlike President Bush before him, is a fan of community colleges, what they stand for in terms of affordable education and their ability to help older students and those who've lost their jobs get a new start.
He spoke of a proposal to provide $8 billion for these colleges to partner with businesses to provide training in job skills that are in-demand. In the audience was 20-year-old student Natalie Benitez, who also works at the restaurant her parents own and run.
NATALIE BENITEZ: I'm studying business and I want to transfer to a four year - either George Mason or James Madison - to study marketing.
GONYEA: Benitez says she continues to be a supporter of the president, even as her family has felt the effects of a weak economy.
BENITEZ: Business has gone a little down. Or, I guess it's been a little harder for my parents. But right now it's actually been picking up, so compared, I think, to two years ago, I think there has been improvement.
GONYEA: Also there was 18-year-old college freshman, Daniel Corcoran. He grew up in a Republican family and describes himself as a social conservative. But says he was pleased to hear the president call for more support for schools like this one.
DANIEL CORCORAN: In general, it's definitely a good thing when somebody's trying to help people get an education. I find it hard to find error with that.
GONYEA: Corcoran juggles a full load of classes and a part time job. He works 15-20 hours a week. He says he expects to vote for the Republican nominee this fall and says the president needs to take ownership of the economy, even if it was in horrible shape when he took office.
CORCORAN: To keep playing, almost four years later, the, well, look what I inherited it card, I feel like he's kind of stretching it a little bit.
GONYEA: Nearby stands one of those older students you find at community colleges. Fifty-year-old Terrence Callahan is on disability and is studying to become a substance abuse counselor. Ask his thoughts on the president and he says it's been a tough four years, but that Republicans in Congress share the blame.
TERRANCE CALLAHAN: Congress has not given him the opportunity to bring jobs or anything. They just ain't given him a chance, for real, I mean.
GONYEA: That's a case the president makes as well. Look for him to continue to make the very short trip from the White House to Virginia to spread that message. It's a place that's as important, politically, as it is convenient.
Don Gonyea, NPR News.
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