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David Axelrod at Missouri Boys State – June 14, 2014.

David Axelrod, campaign strategist for the 2008 and 2012 Obama campaigns and former senior advisor in President Obama’s administration, spoke in Warrensburg last night at the opening evening assembly for the 75th session of Missouri Boys State held on the campus of the University of Central Missouri. Axelrod spoke in prepared remarks for about twenty-five minutes and then took questions for an hour.  

The transcript of a portion of the question and answer session:

Question: …What political issues would you like to see us [our generation] tackle?

David Axelrod: Well, I, I, the, the one of them, and it sounds trite, but one of them is the one I just mentioned, which is we’ve got to restore civility in our politics. It’s gonna be much harder to solve any of the other problems unless we do that. We have to respect each other more in our politics. And that’s one of the things that I’m hoping that you as a generation will bring to it.

You guys have to be sick of the constant fighting and squabbling that you see on television. Uh, and the, you know, you have the ability to, to demand something more. So I hope, uh, that you do that.

But, look, I, I think that, um, the greatest, uh, one of the great threats to, to, uh, who we are as a country are changes in the economy that, um, frankly, are nobody’s fault, it’s just the nature of progress. But technology has, uh, eliminated lots and lots of jobs. Um, the jobs, good jobs they’ve eliminated haven’t been replaced. Other jobs have been created but they require more education. Um, uh, and so we’ve seen wages flatten out. It’s harder to make a living, it’s harder to keep ahead of your expenses, um, and it’s harder to see the future for, uh, your kids. I think that we need a strategy to deal with that. And, and some of it has to do with we have to up our game on education, make sure that every single kid in this country gets the education that they, uh, deserve and can realize their full potential. We’ve got to make college affordable, uh, because there is a big difference between what your earning potential is if you go to college and if you don’t go to college. We have to use our community college system to train up people to do the jobs of the future in conjunction with business.

Uh, we need to lead the world in research and development. The stupidest thing that we’ve been doing lately is cutting back on research and development that lead to innovations. We’re the innovation leader. And a lot of it had, began with basic research that was funded by the government. And when we don’t fund that research we’re eating our seed corn.

We’ve made great progress in energy in the last few years. We’re on the road, on a path to become energy, uh, independent. But we also have to do it in a way that is, uh, cognizant of the, uh, of the environmental, uh, crisis that we have. Uh, and I know this is a debate with some, I, not with ninety-nine percent of scientists but with others. Uh, you know, we have a problem and this college [University of Central Missouri] exemplary for the way it’s approached, uh, their energy, uh, concern, their energy, uh, output to try and, uh, help that problem by becoming more green.

But we still have, we have great, we have, a bounty of natural gas has transformed our energy picture.  We have doubled the renewable energy, we have, we can make energy a real source of strength for us, uh, moving forward.

So there are things that we can do that will propel our economy, create good jobs and prepare people, uh, for those jobs so that we can maintain the quality of life that we want, uh, for ourselves.

I would love to see you guys work on all that. And it will require you working together, Republicans and Democrats, kind of sitting down there and looking at the facts and saying, what’s a practical answer to these questions. Instead of, uh, kind of beating each other up to try and win election.


[in response to a question] …Sadly, and this is one of the problems in our politics, it depends on what level you’re working at, but even, even in local races they’ve become expensive and so part of it involves raising money which I regret. I think this is one of the things I also hope you guys find a way to deal with way too much money in our politics. And it’s becoming, and we, by the way contributed to it in two thousand and eight because we made a decision, we were worried about these third parties spending money against us and we didn’t want to limit what we could spend to respond to them. And we, we, we went out of what was called the federal, uh, finance, presidential finance system so we wouldn’t be capped. And we ended up spending almost eight hundred million dollars, which was exponentially more than had ever been spent before. And it’ll never go back.

So we, we in, you know, unwittingly I think, uh, uh, were at least, I don’t know about unwittingly, but contributed, uh, to the problem. So money, uh, is a problem because that’s how we communicate, and television is expensive and, uh, all that stuff.

But, if you’re in a local community I mean I think you want to lay down roots and the point here is, and I want to leave this, uh, with you, is, uh, you’ll make your name by working on things that are, matter to people, that are important to people. Become leaders in your community. If you help, uh, solve, uh, problems in your community, if you help lift your local school systems, or make your communities, uh, or, or, or make your communities safer or, uh, or help bring better health facilities to your communities or deal with any number of issues that come up, um, you’re gonna be known to those people, um, uh, who you worked with and you’ll build a network. And that becomes a foundation and you build out, uh, from that.  Obama had a, had a base that he could build on. And then over time he got, uh, better known….