Obama: 'I didn't run for president to get into the auto business'

President Obama spoke to 400 auto workers and Chrysler Group executives and random people Friday in Toledo. He used $20 bills from his pocket to spur the local economy by buying everything from gardening gloves to hot dogs to Faygo red pop. He listened intently and spoke forthrightly of the resurgence of the auto industry. What follows is the complete text of his prepared remarks.

Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Thank you. Everybody, please have a seat. Please have a seat.

It is good to be back in Toledo. (Applause.) It is good to be with all of you. Now, for those of you who I’ve met up close, I just want you to know that I stopped by Rudy’s -- (laughter) -- had two hot dogs, two chili dogs with onions. So I’ve been looking for a mint backstage. (Laughter.) It tasted pretty good going down though.

It is wonderful to see you. We’ve got some outstanding public servants who are here who’ve been working hard on behalf of working Americans their entire careers. One of the finest senators that I know of, Senator Sherrod Brown, is in the house. (Applause.) Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur is in the house. (Applause.) Your mayor is in the house. Give him a big round of applause. (Applause.)

I just took a short tour of the plant and watched some of you putting the finishing touches on the Wrangler. Now, as somebody reminded, I need to call it the “iconic” Wrangler. (Laughter.) And that’s appropriate because when you think about what Wrangler has always symbolized. It symbolized freedom, adventure, hitting the open road, never looking back -- which is why Malia and Sasha will never buy one. (Laughter.) Until maybe they’re 35. (Laughter.) I don’t want any adventure for them.

I want to thank Jill for the kind introduction. Somebody on my staff asked Jill to describe herself in three words or less, and she said “hard working.” Hard working. And her entire family agreed. So she’s with the right team here at this plant because I know there are a lot of hard-working people here. And I am -- (applause) -- I’m proud of all of you. Jill was born and raised right here in Toledo. Her mother retired from this plant. Her stepfather retired from this plant. Her uncle still works at this plant. She met her husband at this plant. Now they have two children of their own, and her three-year-old wants to work at this plant. (Laughter.)

I don’t think her story is unique. I’m sure there are a lot of you who have similar stories of previous generations working for Chrysler. And this plant, or the earlier plant that used to -- that I guess is still right down the road, this is the economic rock of the community. You depend on it, and so do thousands of Americans. The Wrangler you build here directly supports 3,000 other jobs, with parts manufactured all across America. Doors from Michigan. Axles from Kentucky. Tires from Tennessee. And this plant indirectly supports hundreds of other jobs right here in Toledo. After all, without you, who’d eat at Chet’s or Inky’s or Rudy’s? Or who’d buy all those cold ones at Zinger’s? (Laughter and applause.) This guy right here? That’s the Zinger crew right there. (Laughter.) All right. What would be life like here in Toledo if you didn’t make these cars?

Now, two years ago, we came pretty close to finding out. We were still near the bottom of a vicious recession -- the worst that we’ve seen in our lifetimes -- and ultimately, that recession cost 8 million jobs. And it hit this industry particularly hard. So in the year before I took office, this industry lost more than 400,000 jobs. In the span of a few months, one in five American autoworkers got a pink slip. And two great American companies, Chrysler and GM, stood on the brink of liquidation.

Now, we had a few options. We could have followed the status quo and kept the automakers on life support by just giving them tens of billions of dollars of taxpayer money, but never really dealing with the structural issues at these plants. But that would have just kicked the problem down the road.

Or we could have done what a lot of folks in Washington thought we should do, and that is nothing. We could have just let U.S. automakers go into an uncontrolled freefall. And that would have triggered a cascade of damage all across the country. If we let Chrysler and GM fail, plants like this would have shut down, then dealers and suppliers across the country would have shriveled up, then Ford and other automakers could have failed, too, because they wouldn’t have had the suppliers that they needed. And by the time the dominos stopped falling, more than a million jobs, and countless communities, and a proud industry that helped build America’s middle class for generations wouldn’t have been around anymore.

So in the middle of a deep recession, that would have been a brutal and irreversible shock to the entire economy and to the future of millions of Americans. So we refused to let that happen.

I didn’t run for president to get into the auto business –- I’ve got more than enough to do. I ran for president because too many Americans felt their dreams slipping away from them. That core idea of America –- that if you work hard, if you do right, if you’re responsible, that you can lead a better life and most importantly pass on a better life to your kids -- that American Dream felt like it was getting further and further out of reach.

Folks were working harder for less. Wages were flat while the cost of everything from health care to groceries kept on going up. And as if things weren’t hard enough, the bottom fell out of the economy in the closing weeks of that campaign back in 2008, so life got that much harder.

So I want everybody to understand, our task hasn’t just been to recover from the recession. Our task has been to rebuild the future on a stronger foundation than we had before to make sure that you can see your incomes and your savings rise again. And you can retire with security and respect again. And you can open doors of opportunity for your kids again. And we can live out the American Dream again. That's what we’re fighting for. (Applause.) That's what we’re fighting for.

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