UPDATE: Obama addresses economy in Elyria

President also discusses health care agenda at community college.

ELYRIA —President Barack Obama spoke to a crowd hit hard by the economic downturn at Lorain County Community College in Elyria on Friday.

Addressing students, community members and business leaders, Obama focused the hour-long, Town Hall-style meeting on talking about generating jobs and health care reform. He downplayed the criticism this past week on his health care agenda and party by assuring the audience that he would “keep fighting” for them.

“So long as I have the privilege of serving as your president, I will not stop fighting for you,” Obama told the audience of roughly 1,300. “I’m not going to walk away just because it’s hard.”

After his opening remarks, Obama fielded questions ranging from Pell Grants to intellectual property rights protection overseas. Nearly all the questions asked dealt with the economy and jobs in the area, highlighting the concerns of local residents.

One woman, a worker in the financial services office at LCCC, asked the president if his administration would continue to increase Pell Grants. Obama replied with a straight yes.

“We made enormous investments into higher education,” he continued. “We significantly increased the level of each Pell grant, and we also put more money so that that we could have more Pell Grants.

“One thing I have to say though, even as we put more money into the student loan program, we’re also trying to reach out to university presidents and administrators to figure out how we can reduce the inflation in higher education. The fact is, the only thing that has gone up faster in costs than health care is, guess what? Higher education. Trying to find creative ways for universities to do more with less is going to be important.”

Throughout the meeting, Obama kept the mood of the meeting light by joking with audience members and even accepting a poem written by one man, to the delight of the crowd.

One audience member, Jordan Brown, didn’t have a question, but just wanted to shake the president’s hand.

Before and after appearing at LCCC, Obama toured local manufacturing plants, including EMC Precision Machining and the Riddell factory.

In his closing statements, Obama urged the audience to take on the big challenges facing the country.

“We can’t sort of start suddenly saying to ourselves, ‘America or Congress can’t do big things; that we should only do the things that are noncontroversial; we should only do the stuff that’s safe,’” Obama said. “Because if that’s what happens, then we’re not going to meet the challenges of the 21st century. And that’s not who we are.  That’s not how we used to operate, and that’s not how I intend us to operate going forward.”

Contact public affairs reporters Josh Johnston and Regina Garcia Cano at [email protected] and [email protected]