DURANT, Okla. — President Obama made a special visit to Durant, Oklahoma to talk about economic development and the importance of having accessible internet in low-income homes.
“I want to thank all of you for building the relationship we have built with the Choctaw Nation,” President Obama said at the beginning of his speech. “We’re gonna do better by our first Americans… I believe we can come together as partners.”
Durant High School hosted a meeting of the President with the Choctaw Nation, which was chosen as one of President Obama’s Promise Zones.
The Promise Zones are designed to create jobs and increase economic security by partnering local communities with businesses.
Businesses and non-profit organizations like Cox, Best Buy, The Boys and Girls Club, EveryoneOn and US Ignite are all making donations and offering help with a new initiative, according to the President.
“Everything we’ve done over the last 6 years… was for one reason… creating opportunity for all people, not just some, but everybody,” Mr. President said.
“Michelle and I believe we’ve got a special obligation that every young child reaches their full potential… We are really excited about what you [the people] are doing, and we’re really excited about some of the work that is going to be done, not just here, but across the country.”
The President went on to list many of the positive strides that have been made while he has been in office. He named health care, education and high school enrollment, the housing market, and the use of renewable energy.
“We’ve got more work to do,” the President reminded. “Especially because the economy around the globe is changing so fast. I want to focus on one way we can prepare our kids and our workers for a changing world.”
“I’m announcing a new initiative called ConnectHome.”
The President said the initiative is a spin-off of the ConnectEd initiative.
“ConnectEd this was a strategy to make sure every school was connected and the classrooms were connected. ConnectHome is designed to make high speed internet to residents in low income housing more accessible.”
“If you’re not connected today, it’s very hard for you to understand what’s going on in our economy… It’s still hard to reach for many Americans,” he said. “We’re going to make sure everyone has access to high-speed broadband internet.”
President Obama stressed the importance of having good internet connection at a high speed, regardless of your financial status.
“In this digital age… the internet is not a luxury, it is a necessity. You cannot connect with today’s economy without being connected to the internet.”
The way the economy is right now, those with low-income jobs cannot afford to have internet or the devices that use internet. The President spoke about gaps in America, such as the achievement gap and the opportunity gap, saying,
“This starts with an access to learning gap…which eventually becomes an economic gap. That’s not what America is about. America doesn’t’ guarantee you success, but if you are willing to work hard and take responsibly, you have a chance to succeed.”
“Basically, the people who could benefit the most from the latest technology are the least likely to have it,” the President said.
Once the ConnectHome initiative is put into place, President Obama says about 200,000 people will soon be able to access affordable internet in their home.
According a press release from an Oklahoma representative, ConnectHome will provide free or subsidized hugh-speed internet service to low-income households in the Choctaw Nation and in 27 other communities across the country.
Choctaw’s boundaries encompass all of Atoka, Choctaw, Haskell, Latimer, LeFlore, McCurtain, Pittsburg, and Pushmataha counties…and portions of Bryan, Coal, Hughes, Johnston, and Pontotoc counties.
“These are the kind of investments we need to make…There are some investments we make in future generations, that help all of us, that we can’t do by ourselves,” he said.
President Obama made a clear point about children needing the internet because they are the future; if they are more educated now, they will create a stronger workforce when they get older.
“If we don’t give these young people the access to reach their full potential, it’s also our loss, not only theirs.”
Yet understanding that not every family can afford cell phones, laptops/computers, or tablets, the President justified ConnectHome by saying,
“Our whole country will fall behind if we don’t have everyone on the field playing… A child’s ability to succeed should not be based on where she lives or how much money her parents make.”
Mr. President made an example of the one the young Choctaw girls he met.
Kelsey, 16, of Choctaw Nation, can only get internet access or phone reception from home by stepping on a certain rock outside or a window sill in her family’s home.
The President said that shouldn’t be an issue for America’s youth because they deserve the best.
“I can’t do it for them, but I want to make sure, at least, they got a shot,” he said.
Noting that the children are not the only ones we need to worry about, the President spoke about Capitol Hill and the worry people have about the government.
“For all our disagreements for all our debates, we are one family. We are in this together,” he said. “It’s [success is] not democratic or republican, it’s an American tradition.”