Bush visits Huntington, touts job training

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 3, 2004

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - America has endured much in the past four years, but the country remains stronger than ever, as far as President George W. Bush is concerned.

Bush emphasized this message and focused on the value of job training for a changing economy during his visit Friday to Marshall University.

The president was met with roaring applause and a standing ovation from more than 500 people inside the Joan C. Edwards Center for the Performing Arts, but the scene outside was vastly different as hundreds of anti-Bush protesters lined Fifth Avenue.

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With banners behind him proclaiming the slogan "Strengthening America's Economy," Bush said that the purpose of Friday's visit was to make sure people know how to acquire the skills needed to get good jobs in the new economy.

"As the economy changes, people's skill levels need to change with it," he said. "We need to match people who want to work with the jobs available today."

The president's plans include $250 million in grants for community colleges that collaborate with technological employers and a total of $500 million for job training and education.

Bush talked with business owners, the provost of Marshall's Community and Technical College, local job training officials and others about ways to continue to revitalize the economy in light of all the things the country has gone through, including a recession, the 9/11 attack, corporate scandals and the war in Iraq.

"A lot of people say the strength of America is our military. It is part of our strength. Our military is strong and we plan to keep it strong," the president said. "Other people say our strength of our nation is our wealth. That is important but the true strength of our nation is the hearts and souls of our citizens."

The president defended his stance on the war on terrorism and the work that sill needs done in Iraq.

"Terrorists hate the thought of a free country. They don't understand this country," Bush said. "We will never be intimidated by thugs and assassins. This country will stay the course and get the job done."

As examples of the country's economic growth, Bush said the tax cuts are working, the homeowner rate is higher than ever, small businesses continue to grow and more than 300,000 new jobs were created in March alone.

To continue this positive trend, the president said that the administration needs to make the tax cuts permanent, enact frivolous lawsuit reform, create good health care policies, create an energy policy that makes sense and continue funding programs that educate Americans from primary school on into higher education.

Outside in the drizzling rain, hundreds of college students, union members and voters waved signs stating "Show us the jobs," and chanted "Bush must go!"

Robert Davidson of Barboursville said he came out to support the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 317 union and make it clear that people are tired of watching America's jobs go overseas.

"We have lost over 3 million jobs nationally since he has been in office," Davidson said. "I am out here to show that we care about our hard-working jobs and good-paying jobs."

Marshall graduate student Sara Wilson agreed.

"The energy was flowing in this direction. I'm all about standing up for something I believe in or something I don't believe in," Wilson said. "I don't think Bush is a good president. It is not going to turn on a dime, but we are not going in the right direction.

A group of a few dozen Bush supporters gathered across the street and began countering the chants. Tempers will continue to flair as decision day comes in November.