I think it's fair to say that Abraham Lincoln had convictions. But he constantly was making concessions and compromises. I've got the Emancipation Proclamation hanging up in the Oval Office, and if you read that document -- for those of you who have not read it -- it doesn't emancipate everybody. It actually declares the slaves who are in areas that have rebelled against the Union are free but it carves out various provinces, various parts of various states, that are still in the Union, you can keep your slaves.
Now, think about that. That's -- "the great emancipator" was making a compromise in the Emancipation Proclamation because he thought it was necessary in terms of advancing the goals of preserving the Union and winning the war. And then, ultimately, after the war was completed, you then had the 13th and 14th and 15th amendments.
So, you know what, if Abraham Lincoln could make some compromises as part of governance, then surely we can make some compromises when it comes to handling our budget. (Applause.)
But you're absolutely right that the culture is now pushing against compromise, and here are a couple of reasons. I mean, one reason is the nature of congressional districts. They've gotten drawn in such a way where some of these districts are so solidly Republican or so solidly Democrat, that a lot of Republicans in the House of Representatives, they're not worried about losing to a Democrat, they're worried about somebody on the right running against them because they compromise. So even if their instinct is to compromise, their instinct of self-preservation is stronger, and they say to themselves, I don't want a primary challenge. So that leads them to dig in.
You've got a media that has become much more splintered. So those of you who are of a Democratic persuasion are only reading The New York Times and watching MSNBC -- (laughter) -- and if you are on the right, then you're only reading the Wall Street Journal editorial page and watching FOX News. (Laughter.) And if that's where you get your information, just from one side, if you never even have to hear another argument, then over time you start getting more dug in into your positions.
They've actually done studies -- this is interesting -- that if you put people in a room who agree with each other basically -- if you just put a group of very liberal folks together and they're only talking to each other for long periods of time, then they start becoming -- they kind of gin each other up and they become more and more and more liberal. And the same thing happens on the conservative side; they become more and more and more conservative. And pretty soon you've got what you have now, which is everybody is demonizing the other side; everybody considers the other side completely extremist, completely unscrupulous, completely untrustworthy. Well, in that kind of atmosphere it's pretty hard to compromise.
So we have to wind back from that kind of political culture. But the only way we do it is if the American people insist on a different approach and say to their elected officials, we expect you to act reasonably, and we don't expect you to get your way a hundred percent of the time, and we expect you to have strong convictions, but we also expect you to manage the business of the people. And if you're sending that message, eventually Congress will get it. But it may take some time. You've got to stay on them.
All right? Gentleman back there, right there. You got a microphone. Oh, I'm sorry, I was pointing to this gentleman right there. Yes.
Q Mr. President, good morning to you.
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning.
Q I have cerebral palsy, as does my brother. And I come to you to implore you to do as much as you can to protect services and supports for people with disabilities in your negotiations with Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor. I know that's hard because Mr. McConnell has said he wants to make you a one-term President. But the issue is we need the vital therapies that Medicaid provides. We need a generous IDEA budget so people like me with severe disabilities can graduate from high school with a diploma and go to college. So please don't leave us holding the bag. I know that a lot of people at Easter Seals are very worried, but given your experience with your father-in-law, I know you'll do the right thing, sir. It's an honor to speak with you. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thanks. Thank you. Thank you. That's a wonderful comment. And the reference to my father-in-law, he actually had muscular dystrophy but ended up being pretty severely handicapped by the time he was 30, 35, but still went to work every single day, never missed a day of work, never missed a ballgame of Michelle's brother, never missed a dance recital of Michelle's, raised an incredible family, took care of all his responsibilities, didn't leave a lot of debt to his kids. An extraordinary man.
And you're exactly right that the enormous potential that so many people have, if they just get a little bit of help, that has to be factored in when we're making decisions about our budget, because if we're not providing services to persons with disabilities and they are not able to fulfill their potential -- graduate from high school, go to college, get a job -- then they will be more reliant on government over the long term because they'll be less self-sufficient. That doesn't make any sense.
So we've always got to factor in, are we being penny wise and pound foolish? If we cut services for young people -- let's say a lot of states are having to make some tough budget decisions -- I know Martin has had to make some tough ones here. But I know one of the things that Martin has tried to do is to preserve as much as possible Maryland's commitment to education, because he knows, look, I may save some money -- (applause) -- he knows, short term I may save some money if I lay off a whole bunch of teachers and classroom sizes get larger and we're giving less supplemental help to kids in need. But over the long term, it's more likely, then, that those kids end up dropping out of school, not working, not paying taxes, not starting businesses, maybe going to prison. And that's going to be a huge drag on the state's capacity to grow and prosper.
So we've always go to think about how do we trim back on what we need now, but keep our eyes on what are our investments in the future. And this is what you do in your own family. Think about it. Let's say that something happens, somebody in your family loses a job; you've got less income coming in. You're probably going to cut back on eating out. You're probably going to cut back on the kind of vacations you take, if any. But you're not going to cut out the college fund for your kid. You're not going to cut out fixing the roof if it's leaking, because you know that if I don't fix the roof, I'm going to get water damage in my house and that's going to cost me more money.
Well, the same thing is true here in America when it comes to infrastructure, for example. We've got all these broken down roads and bridges, and our ports and airports are in terrible shape.
I was talking to the CEO of Southwest Airlines and we've been doing a lot of work on the need for a next-generation air control system. And he said to me -- think about this -- that if we fixed, updated an air control system that was basically put in place back in the '30s, if we upgraded that to use GPS and all the new technologies, the average airline would save 15 percent in fuel -- 15 percent -- which some of that you'd get in terms of lower airfare. That's 15 percent less carbon going into the atmosphere, for those of you who are concerned about climate change. So why wouldn't we do that? Now, it cost some money to do it initially, but if we make the investment it will pay off.
All right, how much time do I have, Reggie? I got time for one more question? Okay. Well, this one -- all right, well, she is standing and waving. (Laughter.)
Q Hi, my name is Darla Bunting. I'm a third grade literacy teacher in Southeast D.C. (Applause.) And I view gentrification as a Catch 22, because, on one hand, you're bringing major businesses to underdeveloped areas in different cities, but on the other hand, the very people who live in the neighborhoods, it kind of seems as though they're not reaping the benefits. And I wanted to know how can we create sustainable neighborhoods that allow people who are still trying to achieve the American Dream to be able to afford and live in these brand new neighborhoods and communities?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I have to say that gentrification has been a problem in some communities. But right now, frankly, that would probably be a problem that a lot of communities would welcome if there was a lot of investment going on. We're probably seeing in a lot of cities around the country the reverse problem, which is no investment, people not building new homes, young people not moving back into some of these communities and it's emptying out. So as problems go for cities, this is probably not a bad problem to have because it means the city is growing and attracting new businesses and new energy.
'The United States of America does not run out without paying the tab'
Remarks of President Barack Obama at the University of Maryland
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