President Obama dodged an awkward political issue at a New York community college, while declaring such schools hold the key to transforming the American workforce and digging the nation out of recession.
"This is a place where anyone with a desire to take their career to a new level or start a new career altogether has the opportunity to pursue that dream," Obama told students and faculty at Hudson Valley Community College.
The event was attended by several state leaders, including Gov. David Paterson. Over the weekend, reports surfaced that Obama is seeking to coax the unpopular Paterson, who was thrust into office when Eliot Spitzer resigned amid a hooker scandal, into not seeking reelection. That would clear the path for state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to seek the Democratic nomination for governor.
Obama introduced both, sidestepping a potentially awkward moment.
"A wonderful man, the governor of the great state of New York, David Paterson is in the house," Obama said. "Your shy and retiring attorney general, Andrew Cuomo, is in the house. Andrew's doing a great job enforcing the laws that need to be enforced."
Obama said training at schools like Hudson Valley will allow American workers to repair the nation's infrastructure, retrofit homes and buildings with solar panels and build an environmentally friendly energy grid.
Obama, who was introduced by Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden and a community college teacher,said his administration has increased Pell Grant funds, created a $2,500 tax credit for tuition and established a G.I. Bill of Rights that can help returning military men and women get training for new jobs. He said community colleges will play a big role in the new programs.
"We're going to reform and strengthen community colleges to help an additional five million Americans earn college educations in the next decade," Obama said.
The president also worked in a plug for his health care reform, which is working its way through Congress. He said his plan will help small businesses, which he note creat "13 times more patennts per employee than large businesses.
"Health insurance reform will be good for business and especially good for small business," Obama said.
Later tonight Obama will top a weekend health care media blitz with a TV appearance on "Late Show With David Letterman."
Obama then pivots to foreign policy for a United Nations session that begins on Tuesday in New York. During the U.N. session, Obama will become the first U.S. president to lead a Security Council meeting and will focus on nuclear proliferation, according to the AP. He will also reportedly broker a meeting between the leaders of Israel and Palestine on Tuesday.