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Obama tells Flint parents "your child will be fine" if you take action

May 5, 2016

President Obama came to Flint, Michigan as the drinking water crisis continues in the city. The people in the city have been dealing with bad drinking water for more than two years, and the water system still hasn't recovered.

Residents have craved action and answers from government leaders since the crisis began, but many haven't trusted the messages coming from Governor Snyder and the state government. 

The actions of top state officials are what led to the drinking water crisis in Flint in the first place.  

Here was their chance to hear a message from the nation's leader. Obama started by telling the audience that he understands why they would be angry and hurt.

"I also wanted to come here to tell you that I've got your back. That we're paying attention," Obama told the crowd in a 50-minute speech.

(Watch the entire speech here.)

Around midway through his talk, Obama, who had a dry cough, asked for some water. Listen to the crowd's reaction below:

Calls for a change to the "culture of neglect"

Obama highlighted what federal resources are in Flint, and called for more investment in basic infrastructure needs around the country.

Obama said Flint is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to looming infrastructure problems in other cities around the nation. He said politicians who demonize government foster a "culture of neglect" that leads to problems like what happened in Flint.

"Free markets and free enterprise are great," he said, "but companies won't invest in a place where your infrastructure is crumbling, and your roads are broke. You're not going to start a business or recruit outstanding staff if there's not safe drinking water in the city."

Obama said its no secret that it's mostly poor and working class people who are neglected by the "corridors of power." He called on people to confront their biases when it comes to helping others, and to break the mindset that leads to an "us vs. them" mentality. 

"So my hope is that this begins a national conversation about what we need to do to invest in future generations," Obama said.

Calls on people in Flint "not to despair" and to care for kids

Obama said he was troubled to hear that parents were feeling guilty and depressed over the fact that their kids may have been exposed to elevated levels of lead.

"It's right to be angry," he said, "but you can't be passive."

Listen to this portion of his speech below:

The president called on the audience to channel their anger and frustration for good.

Experts say lead levels in the drinking water system are going down, but the levels are still above federal drinking water standards.

EPA and state officials say the water is safe to drink when a certified water filter is used properly. Out of caution, experts recommend that kids 6 or under and pregnant women drink only bottled water.