MANITOWOC, Wis. — President Barack Obama is calling for Americans to show a ‘single-minded focus’ on making smarter and more innovative products than anyone else – or risk falling behind.
The president warns that while China invested in clean energy technologies, “we fell down on the job. We weren’t moving as fast as we should have.”
Obama spoke at a clean energy plant in Manitowoc, Wis., on Wednesday, a day after delivering a State of the Union speech where he challenged America to emerge strengthened from the punishing recession and compete and win for the future.
The president is calling it a new Sputnik moment, like the one in the 1950s when the Soviet Union beat the U.S. by sending a satellite into space. The challenge resonated in Manitowoc, a small city on the shores of Lake Michigan known best as the place where a 20-pound chunk of the Sputnik satellite crashed in 1962.
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President Barack Obama sought to put a fresh face on his revamped economic message Wednesday, singling out three Wisconsin factories the White House says would benefit from the administration’s new emphasis on innovation and infrastructure improvements.
First, Obama, a Chicagoan who rooted for the losing Chicago Bears in last weekend’s NFC championship game with the Green Bay Packers, had to endure a dose of local pride – and ribbing.
Upon arriving at Green Bay’s Austin Straubel International Airport, Obama was greeted at the side of the plane by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Green Bay Mayor James J. Schmitt. They gave Obama two Green Bay Packers’ jerseys, one with Obama on the back and one bearing the number 21, and name of Packer’s cornerback Charles Woodson.
“They’re rubbing it in,” Obama said to reporters accompanying him on the trip.
Obama had indicated before the game that he would travel to Texas for the Super Bowl next month to watch the game if the Bears beat the Packers last Sunday. The Packers, however, won 21-14.
Following the game, Woodson was captured on Packer’s video delivering a pep talk to his teammates. “The president don’t want to come watch us win the Super Bowl?” he said. “Guess what? We’ll go see him.”
Obama’s choice of three factories in the Manitowoc, Wis., area is rife with symbolism. In calling for a new a new spirit of innovation, Obama has talked of a new “Sputnik moment,” a reference to the launch of a Soviet satellite that sparked the U.S. to set a goal of a manned space flight to the moon.
Manitowoc, a small city on the shores of Lake Michigan, is best known as the place where a 20-pound chunk of the Sputnik crashed in 1962. It holds an annual Sputnikfest celebration that recognizes its spot in Cold War history – and by extension the eventual dominance of U.S. space exploration.
Obama’s tour of the three factories will also highlight how the companies benefited from the policies enacted during his first two years in office, including grants to provide incentives for the production of renewable energy and the extension of tax cuts for the middle class.
Wisconsin is likely to be a crucial battleground state in the 2012 election, and Obama’s trip underscores the White House’s increased focus on the president’s re-election campaign.