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Minnehaha Park crowd cheers Obama’s talk of flexible work, equal-pay efforts

REUTERS/Larry Downing
President Barack Obama speaking during a town hall meeting in Minnehaha Park this afternoon.

President Barack Obama made a stop in Minneapolis Thursday as he travels the country touting economic progress and Democratic policies ahead of a contentious midterm election. 

Obama, drinking hot tea and wearing a simple blue button-down shirt, spent more than an hour answering questions from Minnesotans at Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis. Questions from the dominantly Democratic crowd hit on everything from climate change, gun violence and the rising costs of higher education to efforts in Washington, D.C., to address the pay gap between men and women. But the president’s opening and closing remarks homed in on the economy.

“In just about every economic measure, we are better off now than we were before I came into office,” Obama opened with the crowd. “But people are still struggling. There are a lot of people who work really hard, do the right thing, are responsible, but still find at the end of the month that they aren’t getting ahead.”

He earned loud cheers from the crowd when he mentioned efforts for flexible workplaces, paid family leave, increasing the minimum wage and equal pay for all workers. He touted a bill he signed early in his presidency that allows women to sue for discrimination when they find out they are being paid less than a man, and he called on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.

“This is a family issue, not a gender issue,” he said.

Before arriving in Minnehaha Park Obama met Rebekah Erler, a 36-year-old woman who wrote a letter to the president in March, at Matt’s Bar in south Minneapolis. Over iced tea and the famous “Jucy Lucy” – a burger with cheese cooked inside the patty – Erler told Obama about how her family was hit by the economic downturn.

Erler said her husband lost his construction business and relocated their family to Minneapolis. She described her struggles raising her two school-aged boys while going back to community college for career training.

“If I’ve got one message today … it’s the same message that I gave to that young mom,” Obama told the crowd. “You’re the reason I ran for office. I grew up not in tough circumstances, but I was you guys.”

“I don’t want you to be cynical,” he added, before leaving the town hall. “Hope is better.”

In attendance at the town hall was a who’s who of local and state politicians, including Gov. Mark Dayton, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, Rep. Keith Ellison and members of the Minneapolis City Council.

In the evening, Obama will attend a fundraiser at the home of Sam and Sylvia Kaplan for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). The Kaplans, longtime Democratic donors, will host Minnesota’s congressional Democrats, DCCC Chairman Steve Israel and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, among others.

Obama will speak at public ticketed event at the Lake Harriet Bandshell in Minneapolis Friday morning before leaving the state.

President Obama leaving Matt's Bar after lunch earlier in the day.
REUTERS/Larry Downing
President Obama leaving Matt’s Bar after lunch earlier in the day.

Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 06/26/2014 - 04:46 pm.

    Is it a “townhall meeting”

    when everyone there has the same opinion?

    • Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 06/26/2014 - 09:33 pm.

      Good question

      I wondered about that myself when I attended a Michele Bachmann’s “townhall meeting” in 2010 where she bused in supporters from around the district. I will say dissenting voices were present, including mine, but knowing Bachmann, I doubt ours were heard. I think she learned from that one never to have any more “townhall meetings” which were not under her politburo-like control and she went to telephone only ones where only supporters could speak with pre-screened comments.

  2. Submitted by Amy Farland on 06/26/2014 - 05:08 pm.

    Is it a Townhall Meeting

    when people have to sign a loyalty oath to the GOP party in order to attend Dennis Tester? How quickly everyone forgets i guess….

  3. Submitted by Steven Bailey on 06/26/2014 - 08:41 pm.

    Obama 🙁

    I voted for Obama in 2008 but not in 2012. As Obama had almost no experience in government, I didn’t expect a lot from him except to be better than Bush. I was well aware that the Republicans would move to block everything Obama would try to do. The one hope I had was that Obama, needing no Congressional approval, would prosecute the Wall Street crooks for the biggest criminal financial conspiracy in human history. I guess I expected too much. Obama likes to talk about helping people but according to the NYTimes he spends most of his free time golfing and having dinner with Wall Street investment bankers. Obama talks at Democrats but negotiates with Republicans. After months the White House had to say that the brutal 6 city crackdown on Occupy Wall Street was directed from the White House. Obama negotiated away drug re-importation and Medicare drug price bargaining rights for nothing. No politician in my voting life (I’m in my 50’s) has made me so cynical about our government as Obama. Sadly we all seem to be getting the government that the majority deserves.

  4. Submitted by mark wallek on 06/27/2014 - 10:19 am.

    Sounds good

    My question is: how valuable are flexible work hours and equal pay if there’s still not enough to cover the bills, which increase faster than wages? How about talking up the idea of equity, where the top no longer gets 800 to 1000 percent more than the bottom? How about cutting off shelters offshore? How about the idea that Corporations are not human, have no say in human affairs and do not need to be fat or sassy as they have become today-the legacy of Ronald’s “government needs to run more like business.” Not likely since the gravy train that funds all our pols flows thru corporate country.

    • Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 06/27/2014 - 09:38 pm.

      Asking questions like that

      are bound to get some of us into trouble.

      I love the guy but his coziness with the privileged elite while ducking the substantive issues is beginning to wear a little thin.

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