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The White House

Remarks By The Vice President On The Recovery Act At Serious Materials In Chicago

Office of the Vice President
For Immediate Release                      April 27, 2009
Serious Materials Chicago
Chicago, Illinois
10:15 A.M. CDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Mr. Mayor, it's good to be back in your city, and it's good to be with you.  You are the guy that makes all this work, and I'm honored to be with you.
Kevin, it's not merely that you have the science, technology, and innovation to turn a failed factory into a potentially thriving business that can lead this country, but the thing I want to thank you for, having gone through these kinds of transitions in my years as a United States senator seeing "old" industries in my state close, is you've done something that is a little unusual; you've recognized, as Dick Durbin said, that the greatest asset that this factory had were the men and women who just spoke, the workers here. 
And instead of doing what has too often been the case in the last, I would argue, 10 to 15 years, you reached out for the most qualified workers in the world.  Instead of saying, if you want to come back I'm going to break your union, you said, come back, union and all.  That's a big deal.  That's a big deal.  (Applause.)
And I want to thank Frank Edwards, the production supervisor.  I also want to thank my friend, Dick Durbin, because Senator Burris said it correctly, we spent a lot of time -- I spent a lot of time in November and December here in Chicago during the transition period -- as a lot of aldermen saw us coming and going -- working on the crisis we had inherited.  As a matter of fact, there was a great line the President used -- he said, maybe we bought too high at the time because it was only becoming apparent just how deep this economic crisis was.
And as we were literally sitting around the conference table day after day coming up with notions as to how we would try to kick-start this economy, we came up with what was -- the President came up with was an incredibly bold idea.  He was going to have this thing called Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and try to convince the Congress and the American people that we should be trusted with $787 billion in this moment of crisis, and try to create or prevent the loss of 3.5 to 4 million jobs.
And you may remember we were told, Mr. Mayor, that that wasn't likely to get done.  But they didn't know we had Dick Durbin.  They didn't know we -- seriously, they did not know.  And I think sometimes in your own city, your own state, you go somewhat unappreciated because they know you as Dick, and you're here all the time and it's standing out.  The fact of the matter is, Dick, this act would not have passed without your leadership.  And that's not malarkey.  I mean, that's literally steering this through in record time.  It got through in less than a month.  It was incredible.  It exceeded every expectation anyone had, and Dick Durbin deserves the lion's share of the credit.  (Applause.)
And I remember in January talking with Dick Durbin about this factory.  He used it as an illustration of how badly things were going, and how dismissively American workers were being treated.  And so this is a guy who has been with you, like many other people here, but I happen to be closest to him, and was aware of what was happening out here.
Senator Roland Burris came along and provided an incredibly important vote.  This thing only passed by a razor-thin margin.  And I also want to thank Congressman Mike Quigley, who is -- took over Rahm Emanuel's seat -- for his support, as well as a woman I've become good friends with, Debbie Halvorson -- Congresswoman -- for her support. 
And Attorney General Lisa Madigan is here.  It's great to see you, Lisa, and thanks for all you're doing.  And Carl Rosen, president of the United Electrical Workers -- United Electrical Union. 
I want to say to all of you, thank you.  And again, I know that, having been a local official 180 years ago, that you aldermen know what's happening more immediately and more profoundly than any of us, because you're there; they have your phone number; you know exactly what's going on in your communities.  And thank you for sticking with your workers.
Ladies and gentlemen, to all of you let me say it's great to be back in Chicago.  You know there was an old British politician who was around in the 19th century -- his name was James Bryce.  And he described your town when he was studying America, he described it this way.  He said, "Perhaps the most typical American place in America is Chicago" -- a description that I think so perfectly embodied the optimism I feel, and felt as soon as I walked in. 
We have a couple dozen or more workers back here.  I'm hoping, Kevin, I get invited back when all 600 folks are working three shifts here, and things are really moving along.  (Applause.)
But the optimism, the optimism here is palpable; it's real, and it brings to life -- it's encouraging, and it brings to life directly, immediately, and profoundly the real impact of the Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and to what it's having -- it's impact on families.  This is being replicated all across America.
You see, the President and I, we realize that the full measure of our success hinges on one thing, and only one thing, and that is whether the standard of living of middle-class people actually rises, and whether those who are aspiring to the middle class make it and are able to stay there.  That's it, that's the measure; that’s the goal we set from day one, and that's the goal we have now.
We understand that our success is not measured by a statistical jump in the GDP, but by a leap forward in opportunity, the kind of thing that's happening here today. It's measured by the progress we see, and equally as important, by the promises, the promises we keep.  And it's measured by the men and women who will be able to come back to work here over the upcoming months, getting their paychecks, helping them rebuild their families, their communities.
Everyone -- everywhere I go, and everyone I see, there are places and stories just like this, stories about how the Recovery Act, in record time, has spurred economic growth in this country, a growth that we so badly, so badly need; stories of hard workers filling good jobs -- not just making windows, but by building the sturdy platform upon which we're going to build the economy of the 21st century; stories about how $8 billion in investment in weatherization has reopened doors and remade windows -- right here in Chicago and in your five other plants across the country, Kevin -- about how tax credits are encouraging homeowners to make their homes more energy efficient, and spurring a market -- spurring a market for what we need to make every single day. 
The single greatest immediate impact on the environment that we can have as a nation, and the world can have, is weatherization.  That's the immediate biggest bang for the buck.  It has the advantage of creating jobs, jobs right here in America; good jobs, union jobs, jobs people can raise a middle-class family on.
This, in a nutshell, is what the Recovery and Reinvestment Act is about.  And this is the story of Republic Windows and Serious Materials.  This is the story of how a new economy predicated on innovation and efficiency is not only helping us today but in inspiring a better tomorrow.
Kevin was talking to the Mayor and me over there showing us the final -- part of the final product.  And he pointed out to us it’s not just windows he's investing in; it's a whole new family of business -- business material -- building material that his business will be investing in -- not here, windows are -- but all across the country.
So, folks, the fact of the matter is, this is a story about how we inspire a better tomorrow.  And it's a story that I think you've -- we've demonstrated here, we're all writing together:  labor, business, management, government, all the citizens -- we're writing this together.
Now, don't get me wrong, we know there's still a great deal of work to be done, a great deal of work to be done.  But just seeing you hear today makes me even more confident about the certainty I have that we're going to succeed.  You see, you're not just turning our windows; you're making some of the most energy-efficient windows in the world, I would argue, the most energy-efficient windows in the world. 
And you're not just providing for your family with the income you're making here; but by lowering energy bills, you're saving the families in Delaware, California, Mississippi, Maine -- you're saving all of them.  You're saving people in public housing which are investing in weatherization.  You're saving -- you're saving people on the bottom line of how much money they will have to care for their families. 
And it makes sense.  It all makes sense, of course, but the city -- the city of broad shoulders, and those shoulders, your shoulders are built to help ease the burden of not only of families here, but the burden on families all across this country.  With more stories like this all around the country, we'll see the same kind of success. We'll see men and women like you who are back to work.  We'll see moms and dads who can once again, in these troubled times, look their worried children in the eye and say, honey, it's going to be okay, we're okay, it's going to be all right -- because that's the ultimate measure of whether or not you're providing, when you're able to look at your kids and say, don't worry, it's going to be okay.   Because one day our children are going to look at the world outside their windows, outside these windows, and see how their future was built by the broad shoulders of the folks right here in the city of Chicago.
So, Mr. Mayor, thank you for all you do.  Kevin, thank you and Serious for your faith in the people here at this factory, your faith in the country, your willingness to invest here in America.  And may God bless you all.  And most importantly, may God protect our troops. 
Thank you all very, very much.  (Applause.)
10:29 A.M. CDT