Chicagoans react to Obama's speech

February 25, 2009 9:52:12 AM PST
From the economy to our troops to healthcare, many people listened with a hopeful ear Tuesday night. As President Barack Obama laid out his agenda for America's future, did his speech hit the mark?

You know Chicago people. We always have plenty to say. And when you're talking about a local man who is now the president making his first major speech to the American public, as you can imagine, on Wednesday the people were talking.

" Our economy will recover," Obama declared.

If the purpose of the president's speech was to make Americans feel good during these dire economic times, some Chicagoans say it was a mission accomplished.

"It's wonderful. It just makes me feel so proud. I was walking to work this morning. I just noticed that I was standing up straight. I just feel so proud to be an American," said Phyllinis Easter, Chicago.

But others were not so easily impressed. It was a good speech, they say, but can he deliver?

"I still don't see how the numbers are going to work. I will have to wait and see details because I don't see how you put it in half while you're spending double. It just doesn't make sense to me," said Nick Osbourne, Chicago.

Indeed, so many of the bold promises Obama made, such as cutting the deficit in half by the end of his first term, tend to make people leery. And could they raise hopes too high?

"If he can break the pattern of the old combative politics, if he can change the definition of what a promise is, that it's not fulfilled, that he can actually then act on these things, I think these promises will come to fruition. But he has to change the game," said Dr. Clarke Caywood, Northwestern University.

Still, on the streets Wednesday morning, many Chicagoans were hopeful yet skeptical.

"I don't know if all the solutions are what he's recommending. As a person who is just losing their job in a week, I will be part of the problem. So it's scary," said Sandi Miller, Chicago.

While others say at least give the new president a chance.

"You don't know how people struggle until you have been there. I think the president knows that," said Mari Rodriguez, Chicago.

"I love the speech. I loved everything that he was saying. It bothers me that people that you talk to, everybody wants everything instantaneously. It took us a while to get into this mess," said Darlene Simmons.

Many people were just happy to have something else to talk about when it comes to Illinois politics other than the latest scandal.

Four faces of a faltering economy

Alejandro Castro runs a 65-year-old family business in Chicago's Little Village neighborhood. La Guadalapuana makes chips, salsa, masa and tamales for restaurants and grocery stores across the area.

The business grew 30 percent in each of the last three years. That is, until the credit crisis drove a bank to cut credit and demand payment, making it near impossible to purchase the raw ingredients necessary for the products and survival.

"We've been asking for time, time and relief. The same relief the bank received," said Castro.

Castro and the others listened intently to the president's economic recovery goals but says it'll take more than a soaring speech to ensure continued employment for his 25 workers.

"The question is, can he push the banks to lend the money that we the taxpayers gave to the bank?" said Castro.

Jeff Metzger works for the Illinois Association of Realtors, a group whose members have been hit hard by the housing crisis.

"I have a lot of friends are local realtors and been in the business for years. Some no longer are, some are struggling. I think they want to know, at the local level, when are they going to see change? Some can only hang on for so much longer," said Metzger.

Brian Carney lost his job managing a Lakeview hardware store just after the new year.

"I think this is going to be in for the long haul. I'm not optimistic," said Carney.

Zack Isaacs sees a brighter future. He's done with grad school in May. Due to the economy, he's shifting his career focus from advertising to public relations.

"I'm more hopeful because we have a president willing to listen to opposing views," said Isaacs, Loyola graduate student.

Four people from different walks of life, all hoping the president's words translate into action.


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