President Obama spoke to the people of Puerto Rico today, becoming the first sitting president in 50 years to visit the island nation (President John F. Kennedy was the last). Back in 2008, when he was the Democratic candidate for the highest office in the U.S., Obama made a promise to the residents of Puerto Rico that he would return as President, and today he kept his word.
"When I ran for President, I promised to include Puerto Rico not just on my itinerary, but also in my vision of where our country needs to go. And I am proud to say that we've kept that promise," he said.
President Obama made reference to the commission he assembled to address the issue of the future status of the current commonwealth. "In March, a report from our presidential task force on Puerto Rican status provided a meaningful way forward on this question so that the residents of the island can determine their own future," stated the Commander in chief. "And when the people of Puerto Rico make a clear decision, my administration will stand by you."
The President made an attempt to address the crushing unemployment, decaying educational system and economic uncertainty facing most Puerto Ricans who live on the island, saying he plans to include the commonwealth in the health insurance and economic policies that he will be passing over the next few years. "We’re not where we need to be. But in these challenging times, people on this island don’t quit," said the President to rousing applause.
He also took time out to acknowledge the many Boricuas who have contribute to the arts, culture and armed forces, saying, "Every day, Boricuas help write the American story."
Many have criticized the President for making what seemed to be a trip motivated by politics and felt that the visit was organized to pander to the Latino vote in the United States instead of to address the myriad problems Puerto Rico is struggling with.
But press secretary Jay Carney shot down those allegations, saying, "The president is making the first official visit since 1961 of a United States President to the island. He thinks the issue of resolving its status is very important, of dealing with the economic hardships on the island are very important, and he’s very excited about being here."