Northwest Florida is affectionately known as “Bush country,” and the people here were ready and waiting to greet our commander in chief.
The crowd roared as President Bush took the stage. His mission: drum up support for his plan to reform Social Security.
“If you're getting your check, you have nothing to worry about. It doesn't work for people who are going to have to pay for baby boomers like me who will be living longer, getting more money.”
The president used an informal town hall format to spread his message. With his mother, Barbara, and brother, Gov. Jeb Bush, at his side, Bush assured the crowd that privatizing Social Security was not the final answer to a growing problem.
These accounts do not permanently fix Social Security. We have to do other things. They are part of a Social Security fix that will help the individual worker.
Outside, protesters voiced their opposition to the president's plan.
Jamie Drew, a protester, says, “As everything else that has been privatized, it's a flaw because it dominantly favors those that are in power and it exploits the poor by serving the interest of the rich.”
The president focused much of his attention on young people, and it apparently worked.
Libby Binion, a student, says, “All that he shared about Social Security, I didn't even realize. I'm 21, and that totally concerns me and right where I'm at, so I was glad to hear about the way I can invest starting now.”
Eric Carr, also a student, says, “I think it was a good speech. I'm inspired by it. I'd like to take my own money and like to do what I'd like to do with it and have a part of my retirement, and I think we should start now and get something done now so I don't have to worry about or my kids in the future."
His message seemingly went over well at least for those inside. President Bush's next stop is Crawford, Texas. The president also pledged more government aid to those families still dealing with damage from Hurricane Ivan.