MILWAUKEE (WITI/AP) -- A Presidential visit for Milwaukee on this Labor Day! President Barack Obama flew into town on Air Force One -- speaking at Maier Festival Park to a crowd of an estimated 6,000, as part of Milwaukee's Laborfest celebration. President Obama used his speech to tell the story of his presidency -- intertwining his personal history at Milwaukee's Laborfest.
President Obama landed in Milwaukee just before 1:00 p.m. on Monday, September 1st. He was greeted by Governor Scott Walker, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. The president also hugged U.S. Congresswoman Gwen Moore. He then made his way to Maier Festival Park — where he delivered his speech.
President Obama greeted the crowd with, "It's great to be back in Milwaukee!"
President Obama rallied the crowd -- talking up improvements in the nation's economy -- saying "America is stronger." He highlighted a rebound in the U.S. auto industry, clean energy production and their impact on jobs. The president said there are "a lot of reasons to be optimistic about America."
"Right here in Wisconsin, right here in Milwaukee, an economy where a workers has a chance to earn new skills that lead to that good job. The first time I came to Laborfest, I was still a candidate -- back in 2008. Two weeks later, our financial system collapsed, a recession almost became a depression, and in the years since, our country has faced a choice," President Obama said.
President Obama spelled out the choice between his version of "bottom up" economics, versus "trickle down" economics. He says his path, which included a stimulus package, the bailout of the American auto industry and the passage of the Affordable Care Act helped the nation to recover from the recession.
"By almost every measure, the American economy and American workers are better off than when I took office," President Obama said.
President Obama said unions still play a vital role in protecting the nation's workers.
"If I were looking for a good job that let me build some security for my family, I'd join a union," President Obama said.
Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, who ran against President Obama on the Republican ticket in the 2012 election, recently told FOX6 News the nation's economic problems must be solved on the local level -- not by what he called the President's version of big government.
"We have to be able to revitalize our communities by bringing people together. This is one of the problems -- we have isolated the poor far too much, and it's one of the inadvertent results of the government's war on poverty, which has given people the mistaken impression that this is the government's responsibility. You don't have to get involved. That's not true," Ryan said.
President Obama, however, blamed Republicans in Congress for the seemingly endless gridlock in Washington.
"I am just telling the truth. The sky is blue today. Milwaukee brats are delicious. The Brewers are tied for first place -- and Republicans in Congress love to say no. Those are just facts. The facts of life," President Obama said.
President Obama told thousands of union workers the labor movement is responsible for protecting workers' rights.
"I want an economy where your hard work pays off with higher wages, and higher incomes, and fair pay for women and workplace flexibility for parents, and affordable health insurance and decent retirement benefits. I'm not asking for the moon. I just want a good deal for American workers," President Obama said.
President Obama then returned to his original theme from the 2008 election: Hope and change.
With just two years remaining in his presidency, he asked the union crowd to put their faith in America's people -- not its politicians.
"I asked you the same thing back in 2008. I'm asking you to believe, not just in my ability to bring about the change we need. I'm asking you to believe in yours. I'm asking you to believe in you," President Obama said.
President Obama stressed a point he made during his last visit to Wisconsin -- that Congress should raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour -- something that has been an issue in the campaign for governor of Wisconsin.
President Obama added that if Republicans gain control of Congress after November's elections, they will hurt the chances for a higher federal minimum wage.