Obama touts aid for emergency service workers

Posted Oct. 19, 2011, at 9:15 p.m.

NORTH CHESTERFIELD, Va. — Heralding a splash of good news on jobs, President Barack Obama on Wednesday praised companies that have promised to hire 25,000 veterans or military spouses within two years, calling it a sign of patriotism and business savvy. He pushed his economic agenda anew to a military audience and to firefighters, with first lady Michelle Obama at his side for one of his stops.

“We ask you to fight, to sacrifice, to risk your lives for your country,” Obama told an audience of thousands of people at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia. “The last thing you should have to do is fight for a job when you come home. Not here. Not in the United States of America.”

Later in the day Obama repeated the pitch at a fire station in North Chesterfield, saying that veterans shouldn’t return from service only to find themselves out of work. “We’ve got to do something about that. The question is why Congress isn’t willing to move.”

In the military setting, Obama’s pitch for his jobs bill was far less partisan than it has been across his bus tour of North Carolina and Virginia. He didn’t target at length the Republican lawmakers who have voted against his plan, promising more broadly to keep pushing Congress to pass a bill that’s now been broken into pieces.

The president’s day-long swing through Virginia does, however, have deep political undertones. Obama won the traditionally Republican-leaning state in 2008, but his poll numbers here are down, and some of the state’s high-profile Democrats are staying away from the president’s events.

The final day of Obama’s bus tour had a different feel primarily because the Obamas were together as the president campaigned for his ideas and, in turn, for his re-election. The president and Mrs. Obama made a surprise stop at a roadside pumpkin patch, scooping up some orange and white pumpkins, apples and peanuts.

Then they stopped for lunch at Anna’s Pizza and Italian Kitchen, having a meal with four veterans from different parts of the nation who had attended the earlier event at the base.

In their comments, Obama and the first lady both sought to assure veterans and their families that the country was behind them and that employers are, too. The American Logistics Association, which includes major companies like Tyson Foods Inc. and Coca-Cola Co., is pledging to hire 25,000 people by the end of 2013.

Michelle Obama called it the largest coordinated effort by the private sector to hire veterans that the nation has seen in years.

Mrs. Obama is leading a national campaign to rally the country around its veterans.

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