President Barack Obama basked under the scorching noontime Puerto Rican sun upon arriving to this Caribbean U.S. territory Tuesday, walking the 300-foot stretch between Air Force One and the hangar at the Muñiz Air National Guard Base in Carolina.
In his 10-minute message, Obama reiterated his commitment with the island’s status issue, saying the White House will honor whatever decisions island residents make. In his speech, he also noted the island’s accomplishments, including the performance by hoopster José Juan Barea and the Dallas Mavericks earlier this week.
“That guy can play. I don’t know, next time I may have to come down and play some basketball,” he said, drawing a happy reaction from the hundreds of invited guests who gathered to listen to Obama speak during his first visit to the island as president.
Obama is the first U.S. sitting president to visit Puerto Rico since John F. Kennedy spent several days here in 1951.
“The aspirations and struggles on this island mirror those of other parts of America. How do I make sure my kids get the kind of education they need? How do I put away a little money for retirement? How do I fill up the gas tank? How do I pay the bills?” Obama questioned.
“Those are problems that didn’t develop overnight here in Puerto Rico or anywhere else. That means we’re not going to solve them overnight, day-by-day, step-by-step we will solve them.”
After wrapping up his brief speech, the president was whisked away to other commitments in his tight one-day agenda. Later in the day, he would meet with Gov. Luis Fortuño at La Fortaleza, followed by a fundraising event at a San Juan area hotel.