If you told me in 2011 when I was down and out that I would be in the same room as President Barack Obama in 2012 I would have never believed you. If you told me that I would be placed in the White House Press pool for that event I would have thought you were trying to sell me something. Yesterday it happened. Here is the full story of how it came to pass.
Short transcript and how I ended up there in the first place below the fold . . .
Over a month ago I was invited to speak at the United Auto Workers CAP conference in DC. I've always been a very vocal supporter of labor unions and workers rights, my father was a Union Carpenter, so I gladly accepted.
Then, this last Friday, the weekend before I was supposed to leave for DC for the conference, one of the organizers who invited me asked if I could come a day early. I said sure, figuring I might get a chance to do some site-seeing for once. Out of curiosity I asked why they had to rearrange the conference.
"President Obama is coming on Tuesday.", the organizer told me . . .
Yup. I got bumped off my panel by President Obama.
My panel wound up taking place on Monday. Congressman Barney Frank and Presidential Adviser Gene Sperling spoke before me. With that line up I had to wonder why I was there. With humility I took the stage. They played my Fox News interview and I spoke to another brilliant organizer named Michelle Ringuette from the American Federation of Teachers before an audience of almost two thousand hard working union members from across the country. No matter what going forward, getting a standing ovation from these folks will always be a highlight in my career.
Here is the highlight video of the first day. My part comes in at the end, at 6:58 . . .
After the panel one of the organizers told me they would be getting me press credentials for the President's speech the next day. She asked me which organization I wanted to be associated with. I didn't want to speak on behalf of Occupy Wall Street since no one had given me the authority to do so, so I told them to put DailyKos.com on the press pass, and so they did.
The next day the whole conference buzzed with excitement. The hall where the speech would be held was packed early, and when the President entered the room the place exploded with applause . . .
This is the full speech that President Obama gave yesterday to the UAW, which I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend.
Here is a short transcript, courtesy of David at CrooksandLiars.com
In a fiery speech to the United Auto Workers (UAW) members on Tuesday, the president said that his decision to bailout General Motors and Chrysler had been a success.Now, I have been a loud critic of President Obama over the three years and more that I have been writing at DailyKos, but I gotta hand it to the President on this one, saving the Auto Industry was the smart thing to do and the right thing to do.
"If we had turned our backs on you; if America had thrown in the towel; GM and Chrysler wouldn’t exist today," Obama told the crowd. "And you know why I knew this rescue would succeed? It wasn’t because of anything the government did. It wasn’t just because of anything management did. It was because I believed in you. I placed my bet on American workers."
"Three years later, the American auto industry is back," he continued. "GM is back on top as the number one automaker in the world, with the highest profits in its 100-year history. ... And you’re not just building cars again. You’re building better cars."
"I know our bet was a good one because I’ve seen the payoff first hand," Obama insisted. "I’ve seen at GM’s Lordstown plant in Ohio, where workers got their jobs back to build the Chevy Cobalt, and at GM’s Hamtramck plant in Detroit, where I got to get inside a brand-new Chevy Volt fresh off the line."
At that point, the president detoured from his prepared remarks to explain just how much he liked Chevy's new electric car.
"Secret Service wouldn't let me drive it," he joked. "But I liked sitting in it. It was nice. I bet it drives real good."
"And five years from now when I'm not president anymore, I'll buy one and drive it myself!" Obama exclaimed, prompting the enthusiastic audience to chant, "Four more years! Four more years!"
Can you imagine what would have happened if America had allowed the Auto Industry to go under? Millions of jobs would have been lost and every other industry related to the auto industry would have been adversely effected during an already disastrous economic situation that the President had inherited form his GOP predecessor. Certainly the GOP would have blamed President Obama for the disastrous results of the their own policy suggestions. And why was the GOP focused on letting Detroit fail? Because they wanted to destroy the strong labor unions employed by the big three auto-makers. Making the economy worse under Obama's watch would have just been icing on the cake.
The Union folks I met know what they are up against. They know that the GOP is waging a full on war on the working class, they want to make it harder to collectively bargain, they want to make it harder to vote, they want to make things harder on the working class so they can make things easier on the wealthiest 1% of America. Working class people in the labor movement know who is against them and they know who stands with them, and they are ready for a fight in 2012 because they know they can't afford to lose.
As the Foxaganada complex attacks this President for every single thing he does they have unwittingly handed President Obama the state of Michigan on a silver platter. Anti-union, ALEC owned corrupt politicians in Ohio, Wisconsin and states all across America have decided to destroy workers rights. The right wingers are waging a war on working class people. We. Can. NOT. Lose. They call it a class war, but they only call it a class war when working class people fight back.
I appreciated the warm welcome the UAW gave me, and I'd like to thank UAW President Bob King and Sandra Engle among others for inviting me. If I had a beer for every one the UAW folk tried to buy me I would've had over a thousand beers, but instead I just tipped my Kepi and said thanks. Okay, that's not true, I had a couple beers with them. : )
I've said it before and I will keep saying it until it sinks in, working class people want a fighter, someone who isn't afraid to take it to the radical right wing who would destroy the working class so they can auction off our remains to the highest bidder, Bain Capitol style.
After the conference I went with my girlfriend Luchia to visit the Jefferson Memorial. We walked around the Potomac and visited the FDR and MLK memorials as well. I was reminded that every major advance in American history was an expansion of rights, it happened in Jefferson's day, and then in Lincoln's (that's why I wear my Union army Kepi). It happened in FDR's day when we gave labor unions the power to organize and it happened again in Martin Luther King Jr's day. Martin Luther King Jr died fighting for workers rights. It is my great honor to stand with millions of others as we continue that fight.
We have a choice before us, we can repeal the 20th century or we can build a better future for all of us, not just for the 99% of us, but for 100% of us. That's the kind of future I want. If you want that too, I implore you, now is the time to fight back. It is now or never.
Peace and love to one and all,
You can follow me on Twitter @JesseLaGreca