Obama calls on Northwestern’s business students to boost nation’s economic growth


Sean Su/Daily Senior Staffer

President Barack Obama greets a cheering crowd Thursday as he walks onto the stage in Cahn Auditorium. Obama gave a speech directed at Kellogg School of Management students, calling them the nation’s future business leaders.

Jeanne Kuang, Campus Editor

Touting his administration’s health care, educational and economic policies, President Barack Obama called Kellogg School of Management students the leaders of the nation’s economic future in a speech peppered with jokes and Northwestern references.

“There’s a reason I came to a business school instead of a school of government,” he said Thursday afternoon at Cahn Auditorium to an audience of more than 500 Kellogg students, along with a handful of NU undergraduates, University administrators and local and state officials.

Obama geared his remarks toward business students, joking about not having a Master of Business Administration and making repeated and pointed mentions of facts, data and statistics about economic policy throughout his speech, which argued that his administration’s focus on job creation, healthcare reform, education and clean energy has helped the United States recover from the 2008 recession.

“Kellogg Business School, you guys are all smart. You do all this analysis. You run the numbers,” he said, drawing laughter from the crowd. “Has anybody here seen a credible argument that (cutting taxes for the wealthy) is what our economy needs right now?”

He called on the Kellogg community to support policies such as minimum wage raises, equal pay for women, paid maternity leave, immigration reform and other Democratic Party agenda items in the upcoming midterm election.

“It’s going to be young people like you, and universities like this, that will shape the American economy and set the conditions for middle-class growth well into the 21st century,” he said.

During the speech, Obama also announced a goal to enroll six million children in high quality pre-school programs by the end of the decade.

Despite the speech’s business and economics focus, other aspects of NU did not go unmentioned by the president.

“This is a university that is brimming with the possibilities of a new economy,” he said. “You can’t help but visit a campus like this and feel the promise of the future.”

He referenced the NU commencement address he gave as an Illinois senator in 2006, his Dance Marathon celebrity video in March and the many White House staffers who are NU alumni.

Obama also highlighted the University’s work in science and technology, including NU’s nanotechnology institute, an NU partnership with a Chicago design and digital manufacturing lab (which was funded by a federal grant) and University research in carbon emissions reduction.

“I know that here at Northwestern, your researchers are working to convert sunlight into liquid fuel — which sounds impossible, or at least really hard,” he said as the audience laughed.

University President Morton Schapiro, who introduced Obama before the speech, told The Daily he was “pleasantly surprised” by the NU references.

Schapiro said Obama was eager to address Kellogg students and the speech was originally scheduled to be given in a Kellogg classroom, but the White House decided on a larger venue.

“I figured he would talk to the Kellogg students about your role in the future of the economy but I was really gratified that he opened it up by talking about Northwestern,” Schapiro said.

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For more on this story, visit our livestream and full coverage of Obama’s speech at NU.