President Obama told a crowd in Flint the nation has not forgotten their plight.
The President said the water crisis in Flint is an example of similar problems facing cities across the country.
Mr. Obama arrived in Flint at the request of an 8-year-old girl who wrote him that she was suffering health problems from the lead contaminating the city’s water supply.
The President responded by not only traveling to the city, but he even took sips of filtered Flint water. He says he was assured by federal officials that the water is safe for all but young children and pregnant women.
But the President said Flint is one of many urban areas with aged infrastructure badly in need of replacement.
Mr. Obama said he’s been criticized for overreaching with government programs, but that a crisis like the one in Flint demands federal intervention.
“It’s not government overreach to say that our government’s responsible for making sure you can wash your hands in your own sink or shower in your own home or cook for your own family,” he said.
In an emotional speech, the President said he understood Flint residents’ anger at officials who told them their water was safe.
But he added that the state and federal governments now understand the scope of the problem and are cooperating to help repair pipes and extend health coverage for those in Flint.
The President told the crowd at Flint’s Northwestern High School that he was not there to blame anyone for the lead that tainted the city’s water supply.
Instead Mr. Obama said parents in Flint must realize their children can be healed and must not become stigmatized by a crisis they did not create.
The President said, “You should be angry but channel that anger. You should be hurt but don’t sink into despair. And most of all do not somehow communicate to our children here in this city that they are gonna be saddled with problems for the rest of their lives. Because they will not.”
Mr. Obama said cities like Flint, suffering from losses in manufacturing, often have little clout in the halls of power.
But the President says Flint has a friend in the White House.
The crowd, however, was not especially friendly to the top government official in Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder.
He was the first speaker to briefly address a crowd where many blame him for switching the city’s water supply to save money, and in the process costing them their health.
‘We have a short-term water crisis that needs to be repaired. We have a long-term issue about building a stronger city of Flint, to create job opportunities for everyone,” Snyder said to a resounding chorus of boos and catcalls.
Snyder issued yet another in a series of frequent apologies he’s made to the city’s residents since the state admitted that Flint’s water was contaminated.
He told the crowd, “You didn’t create this problem, government failed you.”
Many members of the audience answered back, “YOU failed us. You did this.”