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Obama Talks Education, Innovation At Forsyth Tech

Pres. Barack Obama at Forsyth Tech
Jennifer Rotenizer, Winston-Salem Journal

There have been encouraging signs the economy is no longer shrinking – but growing.   President Barack Obama told a crowd in Winston-Salem yesterday he will continue to fight for investments in education and innovation – a move he says will help continue the country’s economic recovery.   The president’s words were welcomed by students and staff at Forsyth Technical Community College where they’re in the business of re-invention and re-training.

"Hannah Kiger is a 19-year-old student at Forsyth Tech.  She was lucky enough to get one of the few available tickets to President Obama’s speech yesterday in the school gymnasium."

"Is this your first time seeing Obama in person?"
"Yes, seeing any president! Or anyone actually! I got to shake his hand so!"

Kiger isn’t the only one in her family enrolled at Forsyth Tech. Her mother is also a student – she lost her job in advertising two years ago.

"It’s actually me, my mom, my brother and my sister-in-law all here at the same time so, it’s a family affair."

That helps explain why Forsyth Tech has record enrollment this year – 10-thousand students.

"We want to create and sell products all over the world that are stamped with three simple words – ‘Made in America.’ That’s our goal. (applause)"

President Obama was invited to Forsyth Tech to help the school celebrate its 50th anniversary.  He praised the school for giving students the skills and training needed to get good jobs.

"And meanwhile, your unique partnerships that you’re building with advanced manufacturing and biotechnology firms will ensure that the businesses of the future locate here, they come here, they stay here, they hire right here in Winston-Salem. (applause)"

Winston-Salem and surrounding communities no longer have the traditional manufacturing jobs they used to. In the 1940s more than half of the local workers were employed by R-J Reynolds Tobacco Company or in textiles – working for Hanes.

That’s not today’s economic snapshot. The area has stakes tied to Winston-Salem’s Piedmont Triad Research Park – where more than 50 life science and technology organizations are located.

Gary Green is president of Forsyth Tech.  He says President Obama's visit and tour was exciting and proves they are doing something right.

"We’re very fortunate at Forsyth Tech to be able to have outstanding faculty and staff who have worked very hard over the years to create programs that really are preparing people for the jobs of tomorrow."

Mr. Obama used his visit to Winston-Salem to call for a new “Sputnik” moment.  He said around the time Forsyth Tech opened the Soviet Union beat America into space by launching a satellite known as “Sputnik.” He says America needs another wake-up call – to boost education, innovation and infrastructure – no matter the cost.

Liana Toe liked what she heard.  She’s taking pre-requisite classes at Forsyth Tech and is hoping to enter the nursing program. The 20-year-old Liberia native says her family brought her to North Carolina in 2002 for a better life and a better education.  Toe says she was inspired by Mr. Obama’s speech and hopes here classmates were as well:

"I hope they all get inspired to do their best in school, outside of school, just inspire others to go to school, get a good education and get a better job."

Forsyth Tech was a friendly audience for the president – now it’s back to the real world where the debate over tax breaks and an unemployment extension will determine who has a merry Christmas or not.

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