Remarks as prepared for delivery
National Action Network Annual Convention
New York, NY
April 4, 2013
Hello everyone. It’s great to be here. I want to thank Reverend Al Sharpton and Tamika Mallory [Tah-me-kah, Executive Director] for inviting me to join you today.
I also want to congratulate everyone in the National Action Network on the amazing work you’ve accomplished over the last 22 years.
The work you’re doing right now—coming together to figure out the answers to our biggest challenges—is exactly what we need to build a brighter future for every single kid in America.
As President Obama often says, we are all in this together.
If we want to dream the big dreams that change history….
If we want to continue to be a nation of builders & doers…
If we want to lead in the 21st century….
We must come together and invest in our future.
We must create the ladders of opportunity that help our kids climb into the middle class and beyond.
And that means building a modern transportation network that is safe, efficient and reliable.
The truth is, we need to give our kids and grand-kids a better transportation system than the one we inherited. Because transportation is not simply how we get from one point to another—it’s how we connect to opportunity.
A rebuilt road or a new transit system can be the difference between a child going to school or not—or the difference between getting a job or not.
Investing in our transportation is how we put the American dream within reach. It’s how we revitalize neighborhoods. And it’s how we’re going to compete with the rest of the world.
Under President Obama’s leadership, we’ve made unprecedented investments in our nation’s infrastructure.
We’ve improved over 350,000 miles of U.S. roads.
We’ve repaired or replaced over 20,000 bridges.
And we’ve invested in more than 350 miles of new rail and bus rapid transit systems, over 45,000 buses and over 5,500 rail cars.
I’ve traveled to every state in the country—and I’ve seen the amazing progress we’ve made.
In Atlanta, Mayor Kasim Reed has advocated for everything from road improvements to new transit projects for his city. Through our Partnership for Sustainable Communities, we’ve worked with Mayor Reed to create jobs, boost the local housing market and protect the environment.
And with the support of a $47.6 million TIGER grant from DOT, Atlanta is moving forward with a streetcar project that will serve as an important link for people and businesses in the core of the city.
The Atlanta Streetcar will also help people pay tribute to the legacy of the civil rights movement with stops at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site and the Auburn Avenue Corridor.
In Charlotte, Mayor Anthony Foxx has helped transform the city’s transportation network.
In December, they broke ground on the first phase of the Charlotte Streetcar, which is connecting people to jobs, schools and other vital services in the area.
And with the help of nearly $600 million from DOT, they are extending the LYNX Blue Line light rail system from downtown Charlotte to the UNC campus.
In Sacramento, we are working with Mayor Johnson to extend the Sacramento Light Rail Blue Line—making this critical transit service available for the staff and students at the Cosumnes [Co-SUM-nez] River College, a community college located in the growing South Sacramento County corridor.
And in Kansas City, Mayor James and other local officials used transportation investments to breathe new life into an area that was once devastated by high rates of unemployment, crime and abandoned properties.
These are just a few of the examples of how we have worked with local leaders to build more livable communities and create more transportation options.
Time and time again, we’ve seen how federal investments have created jobs and promoted economic development.
But the truth is—we have a lot of work to do.
The African American community is still hampered by high levels of unemployment and other obstacles to success, such as a lack of access to a car.
Modernizing our infrastructure and continuing to invest in livable communities can help us end unemployment disparities. And it will help us ensure that every American—no matter what neighborhood he or she lives in—can get to work, school or wherever it is he or she needs to go.
As we invest in our nation’s transportation network, we’ll also continue to place a high priority on environmental justice.
Under President Obama’s leadership, we’ll continue to ensure that our projects don’t disproportionately impact minority districts.
And we’ll try to heal the mistakes of the past. For instance, in New Orleans, we provided a TIGER grant to look at ways to reunite and restore the once thriving Claiborne Corridor.
The Claiborne Corridor is a largely African-American neighborhood, and it suffered serious decline following the construction of the 1-10 expressway in the 1960’s. We’re working with HUD to reach out to residents and bring them in as we create better transportation choices and revitalize and reunite this neighborhood.
As we look to the future, we will continue to work with you to invest in the infrastructure that will best serve your communities. We will continue to renew the promise that built this country—that if you work hard, you will get ahead and you will be able to provide for your family.
In his State of the Union Address, President Obama called on us to reignite America’s engine of economic growth: the middle class.
And he called on us to rebuild and upgrade our infrastructure so our businesses have the tools they need to compete.
He proposed a fix a “fix-it-first” policy to ensure that repair and maintenance of our existing roads, bridges and public transportation systems take priority.
And he proposed a “Rebuild America” Partnership that will attract private capital to build the infrastructure businesses need most.
This is the kind of big and bold vision we need for a 21st century America.
But we can’t do it alone. We need people like you to dream big too.
At DOT, we will continue to build the ladders of opportunity that support a stronger middle class.
And we’ll continue to build a brighter future for every child in America.
We believe that your destiny shouldn’t be determined by where you live or who your parents are. It should be determined by how big you’re willing to dream, by how much effort you’re willing to put in to that dream.
President Obama and the Department of Transportation stand ready to build the infrastructure that makes those dreams possible.
And now, I’d be happy to take a few questions.