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Obama tells crowd to remain hopeful, not get cynical

President Barack Obama said he's getting sick of the gridlock in Washington and understands that most people in the country don't feel heard.

President Barack Obama delivers a speech
President Barack Obama delivers a speech to a crowd of more than 1,000 on Friday at the Lake Harriet Bandshell in Minneapolis.

MINNEAPOLIS — President Barack Obama is getting sick of the gridlock in Washington and understands that most people in the country don't feel heard.

"If we do some basic things, if we make some basic changes, we can create more jobs and lift more incomes and strengthen the middle class," Obama told a crowd at the Lake Harriet Bandshell in Minneapolis on Friday. "Iknow it drives you nuts that Washington isn't doing it, and it drives me nuts."

Obama wrapped up a two-day visit to the Twin Cities with a speech to the general public that hit on many of the same points covered during his town hall discussion on Thursday: family-friendly workplaces, raising the minimum wage, affordable education and equal pay for women.

Obama criticized the Republican Party for blocking every move he's made and not working for everyday Americans, a criticism that he acknowledged might not be a smart political move.

"I'm finding lately that I just want to say what's on my mind," he said.


A letter written to the president by Rebekah Erler, a 36-year-old mother of two and accountant from Minneapolis, inspired Obama to visit Minnesota, he said. It's the first in a series of "Day in the Life" visits the president will make around the country.

Erler introduced the president for Friday's event and said she never expected to get a response from him.

"I'm proud to show my children that no matter who you are or where you come from, you can speak up about what you think needs changing, and people will listen," Erler said.

Erler's letter is one of thousands the White House receives each day, Obama said, and he considers each one an "act of hope."

"It's a hope that the system can listen," Obama said. "Iwanted to let Rebekah know, and I wanted to let all of you know … I'm listening, because you're the reason I ran for president."

The state GOP Party's national committeewoman, Janet Biehoffer, released a statement responding to national media claims that Erler was once a campaign staffer for Washington state Democratic Sen. Patty Murray.

"President Obama is so out of touch with reality that he thinks a former Democrat campaign staffer speaks for every Minnesotan," Beihoffer said in the statement. "By using a former political staffer to further his argument, Pres. Obama turned a policy debate into partisan political theater. In Minnesota, we value an honest debate about the facts, not slick, choreographed stunts like this."

Obama hit some familiar Minneapolis hotspots during his visit. He ordered a "Jucy Lucy" burger at Matt's Bar and ice cream at the Grand Ole Creamery. He also attended a Democratic fundraiser at the home ofSam and Sylvia Kaplan on Thursday night.Obama was joined by U.S. senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, as well as Gov. Mark Dayton and Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges on Friday.


The president derided cynicism during Friday's speech and encouraged the audience to keep hoping that things will get better.

"It's easier to be cynical," Obama said. "In fact, these days it's kind of trendy. … But cynicism doesn't liberate a continent. Cynicism doesn't build a transcontinental railroad. Cynicism doesn't send a man to the moon. … Cynicism is a choice, and hope is a better choice."

Obama praised Minnesota for increasing the minimum wage, despite Congress's inaction on a proposal to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. The Minnesota Legislature voted this year to increase the state's minimum wage to $9.50 an hour from $6.15 by the year 2016.

Sen. Franken and Secretary of Labor Tom Perez joined Obama as he toured a workforce center on before Friday's speech and met teenage mothers who are getting job training.

Minnesota Republicans were critical of Franken and Obama. A statement released Friday by the party's chairman, Keith Downey,said their relationship is bad for the state.

"It's fitting that Al Franken and President Obama will appear together in Minnesota only days after we learned their healthcare law is one reason for our shrinking economy," Downey said in a statement. "The Franken-Obama war on jobs only continues to hurt Minnesotans."

The president said he wants to work with Republicans instead of having to bypass them in order to get things done.

"If you're mad at me for helping people on my own, then why don't you join me and we'll do it together? I'm happy to share the credit," Obama said. "Iwant to work with you, but you got to give me something. You got to try to deliver something, anything."


Obama visits Minnesota to discuss everyday concerns

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