Remarks by President Barack Obama this afternoon at Ellicott Dredges in Baltimore, from the White House.


THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Baltimore!  (Applause.)  Well, it is wonderful to see all of you.  Give Duncan a big round of applause for the great introduction.  (Applause.)  I want to thank all of you for the warm welcome, the great hospitality.  And I tell you what, I’m going to return the favor by hosting your Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens at the White House this summer.  (Applause.)  We’ll have Ray Lewis in the China Room -– what could go wrong?  (Laughter.)


I want to thank your CEO, Peter Bowe, and your plant manager, Robert Croom, and your entire team for showing me around this great facility.  I was told that one of your customers once named a dredge after President Clinton, so I’ve got my fingers crossed.  (Laughter.)  Never had a dredge named after me, so I’m looking after -- looking forward to that.


I’ve come here today to talk about our single most important priority as a country right now.  And that is reigniting the true engine of our economic growth, and that is a rising, thriving middle class.  (Applause.)  And as I said in my State of the Union address this year, that’s our North Star.  That’s what we have to focus on.  That’s what has to guide all our efforts. 


And we’ve got some great people who are championing middle-class families every single day.  First of all, your outstanding Governor -- come on -- Martin O’Malley.  (Applause.)  Your outstanding Mayor -- Madam Mayor.  (Applause.)  You’ve got some outstanding members of Congress, led by your senior Senator, Barbara Mikulski.  (Applause.)  And your own leader in the House of Representatives -- he is doing a great job every single day and he loves this state -- Steny Hoyer.  (Applause.) 


So we’ve got just some extraordinary folks here.  Let me make sure I’ve -- Elijah Cummings is here.  (Applause.)  But more importantly, Elijah’s mom is here.  (Applause.)  And we are so proud of Elijah, but his mom apparently prays for me every day, so I’m very grateful for her as well.


And all of these -- all of your members of Congress, every single day, are working, fighting on your behalf in terms of making sure that we’re growing an economy that creates outstanding middle-class jobs.  That’s the challenge that we should be rallying around every single day.  And I know it can seem frustrating sometimes when it seems like Washington’s priorities aren’t the same as your priorities.  I know it often seems like folks down there are more concerned with their jobs than with yours.  Others may get distracted by chasing every fleeting issue that passes by.  But the middle class will always be my number-one focus, period.  Your jobs, your families, your communities -- that’s why I ran for President.  That’s what drives me every day as I step into the Oval Office.  That’s what I’m going to keep fighting for over the next four years. 


And that’s why I’m so proud to have these partners.  John Sarbanes I saved for last, because Congressman Sarbanes, he himself is doing a great job, but when I first came in, his father was one of the people who I so admired in the Senate.  He had served for a long time.  And I remember just a conversation that we had -- he probably doesn’t remember it -- but I asked him -- I came and paid him a visit, and I asked him, “What’s your advice?”  He says, “Just keep in mind the people who sent you.”  Because here in Washington, sometimes people get distracted.  But you’re here to work on behalf of your constituencies.  And if you stick to that, you’re going to be just fine. 


And that’s what’s happening here in Maryland.  Under Governor O’Malley’s leadership, Maryland has won back almost 100 percent of the jobs that were claimed by the recession.  (Applause.)  So you might not know it if you were just watching the news and you’re exposed to all these partisan battles and brinksmanship in Washington, but the truth is there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about where this country is headed, especially after all we’ve been through over the past several years.  And that’s got to encourage us to roll up our sleeves, and work together, and take on the challenges that are still holding back the economy and holding down working families.


Now, the good news is in a little over three years, businesses like this one have created more than 6.5 million new jobs.  And while our unemployment rate is still too high, it’s the lowest it’s been since 2008.  (Applause.)  That's good news.