Obama Offers 'Hope' in a County Nearing 17 Percent Unemployment

ABC News’ Rachel Martin reports: President Obama tied his destiny to that of Elkhart county, Indiana, an area that's been devastated by the recession and the related decline of the manufacturing and automobile industries.

The cover of the Elkhart Truth, the local newspaper, brandished the following headline today: "The fortunes of a community, a president, entwined."

In one year, the President noted, the Elkhart area suffered a 10 point increase in unemployment. It's now hovering around 17 percent. In an interview with NBC's Chuck Todd immediately after the event, Obama said he thought the characterization made by the paper was accurate. "If I'm successful at the end of four years, I will be able to look back and say Elkhart has not just come back from the brink but is actually poised to moved forward into the 21st century."

Obama delivered his remarks at an RV facility in Wakarusa, IN in Elkhart County. He announced $2.4 billion dollars in grants for the development and production of the "new generation of batteries" and electric vehicles. The state of Indiana will be the second biggest recipient of the grant money. He said that Navistar, the company that owns the Monaco RV facility, will receive a $39 million grant to build "400 advanced battery electric trucks with a range of 100 miles." The announcement was met with loud applause.

"See, I don't want to just reduce our dependence on foreign oil and then end up being dependent on their foreign innovations,” the president said.

“I don't want to have to import a hybrid car. I want to be able to build a hybrid car here. I don't want to have to import a hybrid truck, I want to build a hybrid truck here. I don't want to have to import a windmill from someplace else, I want to build a windmill right here in Indiana."

The president went on to give, in essence, a pep talk about how the economic Recovery Act is making an impact. And he launched into a campaign-style speech about his administration's top priorities. Besides energy independence and job creation, he talked about health care:

"I promise you, we will pass reform by the end of this year, because the American people need it. The American people need some relief."

And about those who he says are obstructing health care reform, "There are those who want to seek political advantage. They want to oppose these efforts. Some of them caused the problems that we've got now in the first place, and then suddenly they're blaming other folks for it."

The president also spoke about education reform.

“In the next decade, by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. We used to be number one. We will be number one again when it comes to college graduates.”

And he retraced familiar territory with talk of hope.

"The truth is, it can be easy to lose hope, especially when you see a lot of folks out there who failed to meet their responsibilities, from Wall Street to Washington,” he said.

“We've got to set our sights higher, not lower. We've got to imagine a future in which new American cars are powered by new American innovation, a future in which cities that led the global economy before are leading it again, a brighter future for Elkhart, a brighter future for Indiana and for the United States of America."

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