He made no mention of Samuel Wilson*, the Troy businessman who inspired the cartoon icon for America. He didn't need to. Economic hard times in Troy gave the president the backdrop he needed Monday to tell his story.
"Communities like this one were once the heart of America's manufacturing strength, but over the last few decades, you've born the brunt of the changing economy," the president told a crowd gathered at local Hudson Valley Community College. "Folks in Troy and upstate New York have been dealing with what amounts to almost a permanent recession for years, an economic downturn that has driven more and more young people from their home towns."
What can turn things around? Outlining a laundry list of administration initiatives to help the efforts by Troy and other hard-hit communities to reinvent themselves, Obama made his case for the need for everything from R&D tax credits to student-aid and healthcare reform.
"After so many years of failing to act, there are those who now suggest that there's really not much that government can or should to do make a difference, that what we've seen in places like Troy is inevitable," he said. "I'm here to tell you that that is just flat-out wrong."
On the defensive in the summer as critics attacked his healthcare plan, President Obama has been on a tear in September, packaging his plans for economic change in a message brimming with hope.
"We know that upstate New York can succeed," he said, pointing to new industries coming to the area and a new training center at the community college. "We know that in a global economy, where there's no room for error and there's certainly no room for wasted potential, America needs you to succeed."
In World War I, Uncle Sam wanted you to sign up for military service. In today's mobilization, apparently, Uncle Sam needs us.
*During the War of 1812, Mr. Wilson sold meat to the US Army packed in barrels stamped "U.S." Troops began saying their rations came from "Uncle Sam," a mythical stand-in for the US, which cartoonists later popularized.