obama_smile_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

WEST PALM BEACH — The nation’s chief executive got up close and personal with his senior constituents at a rally held in West Palm Beach.

President Barack Obama spoke to a crowd of about 700 at Century Village, a senior living community, on the slow economy, job creation and affordable healthcare.

Obama said turning the economy around after it went through a decline eight years ago not seen since the Great Depression takes time.

“When I hear people say that somehow our best days are behind us, I tell them you don’t know the American people, the courage, the character, the determination … small business (people) sacrificing the perks, their own pay to make sure they can keep families on the job.”

Obama said Americans do not want handouts but want to work for what they earn.

But he said, citizens also want their hard work to pay off and expect after putting in the effort to find jobs that pay a living wage.

“All across America, people from every walk of life, black, white, Hispanic, Native American, Asian, it doesn’t matter where you come from, there’s this central idea that makes this country great,” he said during the July 19 campaign stopover at the seniors community.

“The idea that no matter who you are, what you look like or where you come from, here in America, if you’re willing to work hard, you can make it.”

Obama said that Medicare and Social Security for seniors should be protected but there is a stalemate in the government in Washington.

The president pushed hard for healthcare reform, commonly referred to as “Obamacare,” and his signature legislation in his first term, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, was recently deemed constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Seniors would have to pay nearly $6,400 more for Medicare than they do today (without reform),” Obama said. “Where are you going to get that from?”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who does not support Obamacare, has said he will not implement an expansion of Medicaid, which would help cover the costs for some individuals and families who may not be able to afford the mandated health coverage.

Scott says the healthcare reform would lead to job loss, siding with presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who has said if elected president he would push to repeal the law.

Wayne Richards, chairman of the Port of Palm Beach, said he thinks Obama has done a good job mending the healthcare system but added that the economy still needs repairing.

“The public is very concerned about the economy.  We all want to be gainfully employed and to be able to take care of our families,” he said. “We need to hear what steps the president will be implementing or putting before Congress that will help us thaw our economy and get us moving again.”

West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio agreed, saying if re-elected Obama needs to focus on the economy.

“The economy is what everyone is concerned about, the housing market,” she said.

Century Village resident Faith Archer, 67, said Obama should focus on welfare and elderly care, as well as the youth around the country who lack direction and guidance.

Archer said Obama should be given another four years to implement these changes.

And Mangonia Park Councilwoman Addie Greene said the president seems to be addressing the needs of the common people.

“Most people feel (Obama) only goes and speaks to a larger crowd.  But this made me feel like he was speaking to people on the ground, the grassroots people,” she said.

Greene, 69, said Century Village was the ideal place for the president to speak to people heavily impacted by the healthcare system.

“He came here to make sure that the senior citizens understand the rhetoric that’s being spoken about the healthcare (changes),” she said.

Riviera Beach Mayor Thomas Masters said Obama has a clear direction on how to create jobs and get people back to work.

“I think he is going to continue to help Riviera Beach.  He is going to continue to help us put people back to work, he said. “Obama is listening to the people on the grassroots level.”