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AMVETS Post 44
Struthers, Ohio

6:28 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Look at all those cameras back there. Isn’t that nice? (Laughter.) We love Ohio. Boy, do we love Ohio. (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Ohio loves you!

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. And I’m going to be speaking about you in a couple of minutes. You are something. You are brave and strong, and we’re going to be talking about you. And that’s why we’re here, to talk about you. So thank you very much.

And thank you, Secretary Shulkin, for the introduction — a special guy. And he’s doing a tremendous job in leadership of the VA. He’s working every day to keep our promise to take care of our great veterans.

Now, I went all over Ohio, but I went all over almost every state, and the veterans were a very, very big topic for me. You know that. And I think what we’re doing, it’s never been done before. We just had a bill — the VA Accountability bill. They’ve been trying to get it for many, many decades. They were unable to get it, and we got it. That means people are accountable. (Applause.) That means people are accountable for taking care of our vets. And if they don’t care proper care, we hold them accountable. So I think it’s just great.

So, Secretary, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

I also want to recognize two veterans here with us who now serve the American people as members of our Cabinet — Secretary Zinke and Secretary Perry. And we’re going to be a net exporter of energy very shortly. Where is our Perry? Come here. (Applause.)

And Secretary of the Interior controls about, what, 22 percent of the entire United States. So when somebody thinks they’re big landlords, they’re actually very small compared to him. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY ZINKE: He’s in real estate. He knows. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: It’s great to be back in Youngstown. It was an incredible time we had. And you know the numbers, and you saw for many, many years Democrats — and they’re really great — but Democrats, they win in Youngstown. But not this time. (Laughter and applause.) Right? They started to get a little nervous at the beginning of that evening when they see Youngstown seems to be going the other way. That hasn’t happened in a lot of decades.

And I hear we’re doing better in the polls, even right now, than we were even on election night, in so many different places — swing states, et cetera — because they see what we’re doing with jobs. The jobs are the best they’ve been in 17 years. The stock market hit another all-time high today. We’re doing trade deals. And, you know, we have statutory length problems where you have to wait statutorily before you do them. But everybody has been put on notice.

We’re renegotiating NAFTA. And if we don’t get the deal we want, we’ll terminate NAFTA. NAFTA has been a disaster for Youngstown. It’s been a disaster for Ohio. And people are coming back, if you look at Ohio. But if you look at Michigan and other places, the auto industry is starting to come back in a very, very big way. You see what’s happening with coal. Coal is coming — clean coal. We love clean coal. And it’s coming back.

I especially want to thank John and Jan Brown whose leadership in AMVETS has improved the lives of so many. Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you, John. Thank you, Jan. And they were with us right from the beginning, first time I was here. First time. We really appreciate it, Jan. Thank you very much. Is he a good husband? Or just average? (Laughter.)

MRS. BROWN: (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT: I know he is.

To all the veterans with us this evening, we’re here to honor you, to celebrate your service, and to thank you for your sacrifice. A grateful nation salutes you. And that’s from the bottom of the President’s heart — a truly grateful nation salutes you.

All week at the White House, we are celebrating American heroes. And nothing fills our hearts with more pride than to be with those who risked everything to protect our citizens and preserve our way of life.

This evening, we’re joined by veterans from every major engagement since World War II. You have crossed oceans, trekked deserts, scaled mountains, and cut your way through jungles to secure our nation and defend our people. And nobody — throughout history, nobody has done it better than you.

You gave all that you have for our country and for victory. We love victory, don’t we? (Applause.) We haven’t had enough victory, but we’re having it now. We’re seeing it. We’re having it now. You carried out your duty with honor, courage and devotion. And with your sacrifice, you earned our freedom.

In my administration, we will always protect those who protect us. Believe me, we will protect you because you have protected us.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you, sir.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, sir. Thank you very much. I tell you, thank you very much. That includes reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs — where David is doing such an incredible job — so we can serve you as faithfully as you served our nation.

Since my first day in office, we’ve taken one action after another to make sure that our veterans get the care they so richly deserve. We’ve begun to process a — seamlessly transferring veterans’ medical records. Horrible situation. You couldn’t get your medical records. And now it’s so easy and so good. And the system is fixed, finally, after all of these years. (Applause.)

We’ve published wait times at every VA facility. I used to go around and talk about the veterans and they’d stand on line for nine days, seven days, four days — that was a good one — fifteen days. People that could have been given a prescription and been better right away end up dying waiting on line. That’s not happening anymore.

And we have choice. If that happens, you’re going to go out to the doctor. We’re going to have choice, David. And it seems so obvious to me. Even before I really got into the nitty-gritty of the VA, it just seemed like — why would this great veteran, who protected us, stand on line for days and days and days and wait for a simple solution where it became a big problem because of those time delays.

And we are now doing choice. And you go out and you take care of it with a great doctor. Hopefully, you have a great doctor. If he’s not so good, you get another one, right? (Laughter.)

We’ve delivered same-day mental health services at every VA medical center. And so many of the veterans would come up to me during the campaign, and they really stressed how important the mental health aspect of what we’re doing is.

We have nearly doubled the number of veterans given approvals to see the doctor of their choice. So not only is it choice, but we’ve doubled up and now we’re going to be tripling up very shortly.

And, so importantly, I have signed new historic legislation to ensure that every single federal VA worker has to do what they have to do. They’re going to be held accountable. (Applause.)

The pushback on that bill was unbelievable. I said to myself, oh, that should be easy. And then I looked at 40 years of turmoil trying to get it through. And we won’t attack any particular group, but you understand why it was not easy to get through. Because some people didn’t want that. They wanted it to be that certain workers could do a horrible job. And most of the workers are great. And the doctors — a lot of the doctors in the VA are phenomenal talents — phenomenal. But now we’re going to be able to get to those doctors.

You’ve put America first every day of your lives, and now we have a VA that will truly put our veterans first — veterans. Your stories are America’s stories, and your names are the names of true American heroes.

I’d like to honor one such hero who is with us tonight: Robert M. Bishop. (Applause.) He looks good.

Nearly 76 years ago, Bob was a gunner aboard the USS Tennessee in Pearl Harbor when the Japanese bombs struck the turrets of that once-great ship.

During the attack, Bob was below the deck at his battle station for four excruciating hours of fire and hell. Five of his crewmembers never made it off the ship, giving their last breath in this courageous and incredible service to our country.

Bob stayed with his ship after the attack. And once it was repaired — which went, actually, much faster than it goes today, folks — you’ll have to explain that one, folks. (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER: And it cost less.

THE PRESIDENT: It cost a lot less. (Laughter.) He served on the Tennessee for another four-and-a-half years, fighting in some of the greatest engagements in the Pacific Ocean.

After World War II, Bob and his wife Doris moved back to Ohio. Good choice, Bob. That is a good choice. I love this state. Remember at the beginning, they always said, there is no victory without Ohio. Right, Mr. Chairman? Boy, did we win Ohio. Right? Remember? (Applause.) And it wasn’t like it was close. That was a — that was a big one.


THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Thank you very much. Where Bob served in the Navy Reserve and also worked in the steel industry for over 50 years. This year, Bob and Doris celebrated — now, you’re going to have to explain this to me — their 74th wedding anniversary. Wow. (Applause.) That is fantastic. That is so beautiful.

He’s been back to Pearl Harbor eight times to pay tribute to his comrades. And it is with his — really, this great wish of his and the great wish of so many people that know Bob, that he will attend the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor on the eve of his 101st birthday. And if your party gets — (applause) — and Bob, if your party gets a little bit cheap with the money, I’ll pay for it, okay? (Applause.) Right? Right?

So, Bob, the depth of your love for the country — you really inspire us all. Today, I’m truly honored to present you with a Certificate of Recognition for your heroic sacrifice, your lifetime of service, and your undying devotion to our great nation. Thank you, Bob.

Where is that beautiful certificate? Oh, nice frame. They never give me frames. They just give me the paper. I have to go out and get my own frame. It’s never great. Thank you, Bob. Thank you. Congratulations. (Applause.)

To every veteran here this evening, your courage is the strength of our nation, and your patriotism is the beating heart of our shared destiny. Your stories will inspire generations of Americans to fight and to win for our country and for our great, beautiful American flag that we all honor.

May God bless you. May God bless our veterans. And may God bless the United States of America. And thank you very much, it’s such an honor to be with you again. You are special people in a special state. Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.)

6:42 P.M. EDT