INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — President Barack Obama arrived in Indianapolis Friday afternoon for a speech at Ivy Tech Community College.
Air Force One landed at the Indianapolis International Airport just before 1:30 p.m. President Obama stepped off the aircraft with former Senator Dick Lugar and Congressman Andre Carson. They were welcomed outside by Gov. Mike Pence, Sen. Joe Donnelly, Rep. Todd Rokita and Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard.
Public safety officials say residents should expect some traffic delays during the president’s visit. Because of safety reasons, the exact route the president’s motorcade will take has not been released. Several Indianapolis interstates were temporarily shut down between the airport and downtown while the president made his way to Ivy Tech.
Shortly after 2 p.m., the president arrived at the college. About 200 people took their seats hours before, ready to hear his speech. 24-Hour News 8 spotted Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann, Ivy Tech President Tom Snyder, State School Superintendent Glenda Ritz and Higher Education Commissioner Teresa Lubbers in the audience.
President Obama was introduced by Ballard, who teased the president about his choice in sports teams.
“Despite the fact that you’re a Chicago Bulls fan, it’s with great enthusiasm I welcome you to Indianapolis,” Ballard said.
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With his jacket off and sleeves rolled up, the president began his speech recalling previous visits to the Hoosier state, noting one of his first trips as president was to Elkhart. He went on to speak of job growth in the country and how the drop-out rate is falling.
His speech transitioned to more on his proposal on providing two years of free community college for students, a plan that would cost $60 billion over the next 10 years.
“Right here at this school (Ivy Tech), one of the best in the country, not just in the state of Indiana, you’re finding ways to raise graduation rates,” Obama said.
The White House says they picked Ivy Tech because it’s a “jewel” in the nation’s community college system. Ivy Tech is the nation’s largest statewide community college system. Over the past 10 years, enrollment has increased by more than 70 percent.
Prior to his speech, the White House said President Obama would discuss “making the paychecks of working families go further, preparing hardworking Americans to earn higher wages, and keeping good, high-paying jobs in America.”
In his address to the crowd at Ivy Tech, he defined what he believes middle class economics is.
“The idea that in this country, everybody does best when everyone’s doing their fair share and everyone’s got a fair shot and everyone’s playing by a fair set of rules,” Obama said.
The president said Republicans and Democrats don’t agree on everything, but said there should be common ground on some things.
“We should agree that hardworking families should be able to get child care that’s not more expensive than sending a kid to college,” he said.
President Obama challenged politicians to work together to bring jobs to the U.S.
“Let’s have a debate that’s worthy of this country and build on an economy that’s picking up steam and make sure it’s serving everybody,” he said.
After his speech, President Obama opened up the room for questions and comments from the crowd of more than 200. The president answered an Ivy Tech student’s question about if free community college for two years is offered, will value of an associate’s degree go down?
“Absolutely not,” President Obama replied. “Paying more isn’t better.”
A junior class president asked President Obama about how we can help get young people more involved and care about politics. In his answer, the president talked about how in the last election, only one-third of eligible voters voted. He added it just doesn’t make sense.
While the President’s plan calls for free community college for two years, one Ivy Tech student asked if there was any thought about the cost of books and the need for more academic advisors. President Obama agreed that textbook costs are enormous. He recalled how his student loan payments after he graduated from college were higher than his mortgage payment.
President Obama said he hopes the free community college proposal helps free up money for living expenses and students need to learn to manage their budget.
One person in the crowd asked the president what his priorities are for the remainder of his time in office, and how Hoosiers can help.
“To make sure the American people’s wages and incomes are going up,” President Obama said.
He added the best thing we can talk about was mentioned in the State of the Union — to create more growth and more demand in the United States.
The president’s visit to Ivy Tech was not open to the public.
As he walked out of the room, President Obama took a few minutes to shake hands with members of the audience.
He’s expected to head back to Washington D.C. by 5 p.m. It was the first time President Obama has visited Indianapolis since May 2011.