On Wednesday, President Obama returned to my hometown, Elkhart, Indiana. It was the first city he visited after becoming president in 2009 during the middle of the Great Recession. The “RV Capital of the World,” our county’s unemployment rate jumped to 18.9 percent – the highest in the country. Now, the administration views Elkhart as a symbol of America’s recovery.
I was a sophomore in high school at the time and the majority of my friends had parents who had been laid off or who were underemployed. Everyone, no matter their socioeconomic status, struggled.
I remember in that first speech at Concord Community High School, an optimistic president promised that under his administration, we would be able to rise above our current struggles. Jobs would be created, everyone would have healthcare, and we would reinvest in our roads, bridges, and other infrastructure.
Following that visit, Obama urged Congress to pass an $800 billion economic stimulus package to keep the nation from slipping further into a recession that “we may be unable to reverse.” Elkhart was pushed to diversify its industry and promised millions of dollars of grants to jump start an electric car industry, specifically. With a $39.2 million federal grant, officials at Navistar Inc.predicted they could create 700 jobs.
But, it never came to fruition.
In 2012, I had the opportunity to interview Robert Gibbs, former White House Press Secretary, about what else was going to be done by the administration to aid Elkhart County. He touted that we [Elkhart] should be, “proud of the current unemployment rate.”
At that time, the unemployment rate was around 10 percent.
Currently, Elkhart County is in a better place than it was in 2009. The unemployment rate is around 4 percent, but it is delusional to attribute this growth to the empty promises of our current administration.
Promises and policies like cleaner air and water, universal healthcare, and higher wages were said to have contributed to some of Elkhart’s successes during Wednesday’s PBS town hall, even though this administration has polluted the Animas River, severely worsened the national debt, and is rewarding states for Affordable Care Act exchange failures.
Despite all of the government waste and abuse, Elkhart has thrived. But, how?
Elkhart County is home to some of the most hard-working, dedicated, and determined people that I have ever met. When times got tough, I saw families (including my own), reinvent their businesses and take a chance on a wavering economy. The community put the economy first and made shopping local a priority.
Knowing that education could help us solve our community’s long-term problems, I saw students study harder – my graduating class was the first to earn more than $1 million in scholarships (mainly from private institutions.)
Elkhart County is living proof that the American dream still exists: you just have to be willing to roll up your sleeves and work when your government won’t.