U.S. President Barack Obama is back in campaign mode - traveling to regions hard-hit by the economic recession to rally support for his massive stimulus plan. His first stop was in a town in American's heartland with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country
In Elkhart, Indiana the unemployment rate stands at 15 percent, roughly twice the national average. The factories that have long sustained the area are closing, and families are worried about the future.
President Obama says Elkhart, and towns like it, provide the full measure of the economic crisis.
"We are talking about people who have lost their livelihood and do not know what will take its place," said President Obama. "We are talking about parents who have lost their health care and lie awake at night praying their kids do not get sick. We are talking about families who have lost the home that was the corner, the foundation for their American dream."
It was the president's first town hall style event since he took office. He took questions from members of the community and said Washington needs to listen to their concerns.
Mr. Obama said there has been a good debate in Congress on the stimulus bill, and now it is time to act.
"That is why I am calling on Congress to pass this bill immediately," said Mr. Obama. "Folks here in Elkhart and all across America need help right now, and they cannot afford to keep on waiting for folks in Washington to get this done."
The event in Elkhart gave President Obama an opportunity to move the focus from Washington, to the plight of those Americans struggling to deal with the current economic crisis. It put a face on the problem.
"President Obama, we welcome you to Elkhart with our whole hearts," said Helen Tastello.
Elkhart resident Helen Tastello wanted to know if any of the money in the stimulus package would come directly to her town.
The president said steps will be taken to make sure the public is informed every step of the way about where the funds are going and how they are being used.
"Look, we have got to get the bill passed, but we also have to make sure the money is well spent, which means we are doing some things that are unprecedented to make sure the money gets out quickly but it gets out wisely," said President Obama.
President Obama is expected to make many of the same points late Monday back in Washington when he goes before reporters for his first White House news conference. Then he goes back on the road with town meetings scheduled on Tuesday in Fort Myers, Florida and Thursday in Peoria, Illinois.