President Obama traveled to Flint, Michigan to hear firsthand from the residents whose lives have been affected by the public health crisis and deliver this message to the Flint community: "I've got your back."
First, in a meeting with federal responders, the President spoke about the federal efforts in place to ensure clean drinking water for Flint residents.
"And just to give you some examples of the work that's being done -- FEMA is expanding access to water and filters by providing water commodities to the state of Michigan. The EPA has been actively testing and monitoring the city's water, and is providing technical assistance to the city to make sure that the water distribution system is safe again. The CDC is investigating concerns that we've heard from people about health symptoms that may have been connected to the water."
Then, speaking to community members, the President highlighted the work of volunteers and community leaders on the ground.
"So many Americans, here in Flint and around the country, have proven that you don’t have be a plumber or a pipefitter to pitch in -- although it’s very helpful if you’re a plumber or pipefitter. So, in March, dozens of accountants teamed up with the American Red Cross to help residents recycle all the plastic water bottles that have been piling up. Religious and community groups are organizing supply drives, supporting families, offering free medical services.
"The director of a local dance studio, I understand, found a creative way to help: She’s letting people use her studio as a space to support one another by sharing their stories and realizing they’re not alone. Even inmates at an Indiana prison came together to donate more than $2,500 to the people of Flint. And a second-grader from Virginia, a young man named Isiah Britt, set up a website to see if he could raise $500 for hand sanitizers to send to the kids at Eisenhower Elementary here in Flint. So Isiah, it’s fair to say, surpassed his goal, because he raised $15,000. And he explained that the experience taught him just because you’re small doesn’t mean you can’t do big things.”
Then, the President laid out why we need to work together to change the underlying mindset of neglect that puts our communities at risk.
"Now, I do not believe that anybody consciously wanted to hurt the people in Flint. And this is not the place to sort out every screw-up that resulted in contaminated water. But I do think there is a larger issue that we have to acknowledge, because I do think that part of what contributed to this crisis was a broader mindset, a bigger attitude, a corrosive attitude that exists in our politics and exists in too many levels of our government.
"And it’s a mindset that believes that less government is the highest good no matter what. It’s a mindset that says environmental rules designed to keep your water clean or your air clean are optional, or not that important, or unnecessarily burden businesses or taxpayers. It’s an ideology that undervalues the common good, says we’re all on our own and what’s in it for me, and how do I do well, but I’m not going to invest in what we need as a community. And, as a consequence, you end up seeing an underinvestment in the things that we all share that make us safe, that make us whole, that give us the ability to pursue our own individual dreams."
"I want all of you to know I am confident that Flint will come back. I will not rest, and I'm going to make sure that the leaders, at every level of government, don’t rest until every drop of water that flows to your homes is safe to drink and safe to cook with, and safe to bathe in—because that's part of the basic responsibilities of a government in the United States of America."
Watch the President's full speech here:
Check out a few more photos from today's visit to Flint.