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Remarks by the Vice President to the National Governors Association

February 24, 2014

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thanks for making the Cabinet stand up for me. (Laughter.) I appreciate it.

It's great to see you all. And I don't know about you all, I had a great time last night and got a chance to actually do what we should be doing more of -- talking without thinking about politics and figuring how we can solve problems.

You've observed by now the reason the President and I like doing this every year is it's nice dealing with people who know they got to get a job done, and they get a job done. And I've gotten a chance to work directly with an awful lot of you in the days of the Recovery Act, and even when we were working on the gun violence; rebuilding from that super storm Sandy, which hit my state as well, and tornadoes and floods in a number of your states.

But it never ceases to amaze me how you all mobilize. You just mobilize. When crises hit your states, you mobilize and you rebuild. And you rebuild your infrastructure not to the standards that existed before, but to 21st century standards. You balance your budgets, you save neighborhoods, and you bring back jobs to your communities.

And the other thing I pick up -- and I may be wrong. I'm always labeled as the White House optimist, like I'm the kid who fell off the turnip truck yesterday, but I am the youngest here -- (laughter) -- and new. But it always amazes me your sense of optimism. You're the one group of folks you go to with all the problems you have that you're optimistic. You're optimistic about it being able to be done, getting things done. That is not always the mood up in the place where I spent a large portion of my career.

And last night I got to speak to a bunch of you, particularly about the job skills initiative the President asked me to lead, and I had a chance to speak with some of you specifically, and I'm going to ask to -- I'm going to get a chance to see more of you this afternoon. But this is more than just -- at least from the President's perspective and mine -- more than just a job skills initiative. It's about literally opening the aperture to the middle class. The middle class has actually shrunk.

And we always have these debates with our economists -- is the middle class $49,820 or $52,000. The middle class to me, and I think to most of you, it's really a state of mind. It's about being able to own your home and not have to rent it. It's about being able to send your kid to a park where you know you can send them out, and they'll come home safely. It's about being able to send them to school, that if they do well in the school, they're going to be able to get to something beyond high school if they want to do that. And you're going to be able to pay for it. And in the meantime, you may be able to take care of your mom and dad who are in tough shape and hope that your kids never have to take care of you. That's the middle class.

And before the Great Recession, it was already beginning to shrink. So together, we got to open -- Mary, you and I have talked about this -- about opening the aperture here for access to the middle class. But we'll be speaking a lot more about that in the next several months. A couple of you invited me to come out your way, including some of my Republican friends. And I'm going to be working with all of you.

But today I just want to say thank you. Thank you for what you always do. You come to town; you come to town with answers. You come to town with suggestions. You come to town to get things done. And believe me, we need that and the American people are looking for it.

And I want to welcome you back to the White House, and introduce you now to my friend, your President, Barack Obama. (Applause.)

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks by the Vice President to the National Governors Association Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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