OSAWATOMIE, Kan. -- A child born in poverty today has a one-in-three chance of reaching the middle class. And President Obama told a crowd in a small Kansas town that's just not right.
Obama delivered his speech to a full crowd at Osawatomie High School Tuesday afternoon.
"I'm here in Kansas to reaffirm my deep conviction that we're greater together than we are on our own," he said.
The President was greeted with cheers and pretended to make a mistake, joking with the crowd about being in Texas. He told them he knows the country is in hard economic times, times in which hard work has stopped paying off.
"When people are slipping out the middle class, it drives down the entire economy, from top to bottom," he said.
During his speech, Obama repeatedly evoked the name of former President Teddy Roosevelt, who made the last presidential visit to the Kansas town over a century ago in 1910.
"Teddy Roosevelt knew that the free market is not a license to take what you can," said Obama.
The President said America can only succeed when everyone plays by the same rules.
"We are greater together when everybody engages in fair play and does their fair share," Obama said.
And Obama says that what's not fair right now in America is loopholes and shelters that make it possible for the wealthiest Americans to pay lower tax rates than the middle class.
"Some billionaires have a tax rate as low as one percent. That is the height of unfairness," Obama said. "It is wrong."
Obama said change begins with making sure every American gets a fair shot at success.
"The world is shifting to an innovation economy," he said. "And no one does innovation better than America."
Obama went on to voice his belief that education should be a national mission.
"We shouldn't be laying off good teachers right now, we should be hiring them," he said. "We shouldn't be expecting less of our schools, we should be demanding more. We shouldn't be making it harder to afford college, we should be a country where everyone has the chance to go."
The president spoke for about an hour. Following his speech, Obama stopped at an Osawatomie barbecue restaurant - We B Smokin' Barbecue - and posed for pictures before buying some barbecue for the return trip to Air Force One.