America is back, and it’s now time to reimagine what the country’s economy and future could be, President Joe Biden told a group of McHenry County officials and community members Wednesday during a visit to Crystal Lake.
Biden, in a speech at McHenry County College, touted his Build Back Better plan, which he says makes needed improvements to infrastructure, and helps families economically. It includes parts of the American Rescue Plan, the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan.
“Think what it will mean to McHenry’s agricultural program if you can get products more easily to Chicago,” Biden said. “Think about how much easier life will be when it’s quicker to drive on Randall Road.”
It was a sweeping 29-minute speech that touched on topics such as climate change, job creation and education. His provisions in the Build Back Better plan include free community college for the first two years, the extension of the child tax credit and 12 weeks of paid family care.
“We need to invest in our people,” Biden said. “We can’t just build back. We need to build back better.”
Before his speech, traffic around the Crystal Lake campus was backed up.
A rally backing former President Donald Trump was taking place in response to Biden’s visit, with flags saying “Illinois for Trump” and touting Republican candidates, such as Gary Rabine, a McHenry County native who is running for governor against Gov. JB Pritzker.
But those waiting in line to see Biden speak, including McHenry County College student Anayeli Rojas, were excited.
“I’m honestly kind of shocked that he would come here,” said Rojas, who was there as a part of the school’s Upward Bound program. “There are no words to describe it other than like enjoyment and excitement.”
Biden was the first sitting president to visit Crystal Lake, giving this special meaning to many in the community, as previously reported by the Northwest Herald.
“It’s not every day the president comes to your city,” McHenry County Board Chairman Mike Buehler said. “I think it’s great that he’s here because McHenry County exemplifies the best of the best that the state has to offer.”
Education is great for the nation’s workforce, Buehler said.
“MCC does a fantastic job of it. It’s got to be one of the finest community colleges in the state if not the nation,” he said.
As chair, Buehler, a Republican, said he doesn’t just represent the political party, but the whole community.
“I’m really here as a representative of the entire county, and as an elected official,” he said.
This sentiment was shared by state Rep. Suzanne Ness, who represents the 66th District. She said Biden’s visit shows that the president wants to represent everybody.
“That means a lot because I have a similar feeling,” Ness said.
Biden’s trip is a sign of his commitment to bringing people together, and really wanting to be bipartisan, she said.
“He brings humanity to his role I think, and it’s something I respect as an elected official,” she said.
Even outside of his role as board chairman, Buehler was also looking forward to Biden’s visit as a Crystal Lake resident himself.
He remembers, as a child, seeing former President Jimmy Carter come to DuPage County.
“Hopefully, all the residents of Crystal Lake and McHenry County remember the excitement of this day for a long time to come,” he said.
Ahead of Biden’s remarks, he was joined by Pritzker, U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin as well as U.S. Reps. Lauren Underwood, and Sean Casten for a tour of MCC’s workforce development program and child care center.
“President Biden’s visit to the 14th District follows a long, hard period for our community — and for the country — as the COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll,” Underwood said in a statement. “But today, as I saw a packed arena full of healthy, smiling faces — I felt relief. I felt joy. I felt so proud of our community. We are back together, and we are coming back stronger than ever before.”
Casten spoke to Biden about climate change, which has been an issue the representative has been vocal about.
“When I met with the president today, we discussed the climate crisis and I urged him to do what the science tells us is necessary to protect communities and prevent economic catastrophe,” Casten said in a statement. “We’re lucky to have a president so deeply committed to tackling the climate crisis and I look forward to continuing to work alongside him to create a better planet for our children.”