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Obama energizes crowd in Athens

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President Barack Obama told a crowd in Athens, Ohio, Oct. 17 that he needs their votes to move America forward.

Obama, who spoke to 14,000 people at Ohio University the day after the second presidential debate, said his administration would continue to invest in infrastructure, energy, education and health care in his second term.

"For all the progress we've made, we have more work to do," he told the crowd.

"Gov. (Mitt) Romney wants to reduce this progress," he added later. "We want to build up."

Obama cited his success in signing into law both the health care reform and Don't Ask, Don't Tell bills. He also said his administration has cut taxes on the middle class by $3,600 and cut taxes for small businesses 18 times.

About one in eight jobs in Ohio are supported by the auto industry, Obama said, and that industry has paid back every dime the federal government spent to bail it out following the 2008 recession.

But partly because he was speaking on a university campus, one of Obama's biggest talking points was education. One bill Obama pushed, and was passed, allows the federal government to lend money directly to students without having to go through banks or other financial institutions. The bill also keeps interest rates low for those loans.

"One of the first things we did was to make sure – let's stop giving banks or lenders billions of dollars as middle men for the student loan program," Obama said. "Let's cut out the middle men and give the money directly to students.

"That's how we kept student loan interest rates low, that's how we expanded Pell grants, that's how we set up a system where students, if they have debt, will never have to pay more than 10 percent of their income if they become a teacher or do something that doesn't pay a lot of money. They can still manage the debt from getting an outstanding education."

In addition, Obama said his administration also would continue to work on education programs that would give students the skills for 21st century jobs.

"In America, we give everyone an opportunity," he said. "That's what this country is all about."

Many of those jobs would come as a result of Obama's plans for clean energy. While the federal government would continue investing in resources such as clean coal, oil and natural gas, it would also focus on wind and solar energy and other renewable resources.

"We give $4 billion a year to oil companies. Corporate welfare. You pay for it," Obama said. "They're making money every time you go to the pump. So I'm saying let's take that money – I don't want China to pave the way to new technology, new energy – let's invest here in the United States in developing that technology."

Jobs created by this investment, Obama said, would be available to men and women. His comments acknowledged a perceived "war on women" GOP nominee Romney and others in the Republican Party have been accused of perpetuating. Romney and Obama were asked in the Oct. 16 debate their plans regarding equal pay for equal work. Obama, the father of two daughters, said he wants his girls to have the same job opportunities as men.

"We want our sons in there, but we also want our daughters," he said.

"I have two daughters. I don't want them paid less for doing the same job," he later added. "By the way, men out there, you don't want your wives paid less for doing the same job."

The first bill Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act, which mandates equal pay for equal work.

Early voting is already underway in Ohio. West Virginia voters can head to the polls early beginning Oct. 24. The general election is Nov. 6.