President Obama speaks in Galesburg (with photos)

By WEEK Producer
By Anna Yee

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    People begin to file into the gymnasium at Knox College where President Obama will speak.

6 photos

July 24, 2013 Updated Jul 24, 2013 at 7:25 PM CDT

GALESBURG, Ill. -- President Barack Obama says that Washington has "taken its eye off the ball" and the American People agree. 

 According to an NBC Wall Street Journal Poll, a whopping 83 percent of Americans disapprove of Congress' job performance. That is an all time high in the survey's history.

The President's approval rating is now 45 percent.

On Wednesday, President Obama returned to Knox College in Galesburg. With a trio of speeches over two days, the President is trying to end the focus in Washington on "phony scandals" and get back to the pocketbook issues that Americans care about.

“The key is to break through the tendency in Washington to careen from crisis to crisis,” said Mr. Obama. “What we need isn't a 3 month plan, or even a 3 year plan, but a long-term American strategy, based on steady, persistent effort, to reverse the forces that have conspired against the middle class for decades."

Republican leaders of Congress denounced the speech even before it happened.

House Speaker Boehner said if the president was serious about helping the economy, he wouldn't just give another speech but he would work with the GOP on jobs.

Some central Illinois lawmakers and leaders were at the President's speech in Galesburg. Their reaction was mostly positive and the mood was optimistic as they joined the President's call to get America back in the game.

In addition to lawmakers, a packed gymnasium welcomed Mr. Obama back to Galesburg.

His focus was clear. The President will dedicate the rest of his time in office to helping grow the middle class, through improved job security and education.

One way is by reversing the recent doubling of college loan rates.

Mr. Obama's words resonated with Knox College student Jamal Nelson, who even got to meet the President beforehand.

"Makes me think about what I want to do,” said Nelson. “He talks about the American Dream, and how it's all about equality, about people moving forward. And, that sense of progression is what I want to do to graduate, to get into grad school, and whatever I want to do in life."

President Obama's plan for progression includes job creation in manufacturing and infrastructure, which speaks directly central Illinois.

"I was fortunate enough to be able to fly with the President over here and had some one-on-one time. We talked about the importance of manufacturing in our area,” said Rep. Cheri Bustos, (D) of 17th District.

"He even talked about building up the infrastructure in the way of transportation,” said Peoria City Councilwoman Denise Moore. “These are all things that are critical to bringing back not only the 1st district, but the whole city of Peoria."

Mr. Obama is also pushing for cheaper mortgages, more accessible retirement plans and advanced Obamacare.

"I thought it was interesting when he talked about healthcare, the really positive response he got from that standing ovation. So we hear a lot of critique on Obamacare, but obviously in this gym, in this slice of Illinois, people are appreciative,” said Lt. Gov. Shelia Simon.

However, not everyone is cheering. Some republicans want to see less talk and more action.

"Illinoisans face a staggering 9.2 percent unemployment rate, and yet the President continues to push the same policies that have failed the hardworking taxpayers of this state,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger.

Still the President is calling on both republicans and democrats to make these goals a reality and make every minute count.

"The only thing I care about," said Mr. Obama, "is how to use every minute of the remaining 1,276 days of my term to make this country work for working Americans again."

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