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Obama lands in Boston, begins whirlwind visit

Posted by Metro Desk  March 8, 2011 03:31 PM

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Wendy Maeda / Globe Staff

President Obama waves from the doorway of Air Force One today after landing at Logan International Airport.

President Obama touched down this afternoon in Boston, where he was scheduled to deliver an speech on education reform at a well-regarded Dorchester high school before attending a Democratic fund-raiser at the Museum of Fine Arts.

Air Force One landed at Logan Airport at 2:25 p.m., and Obama quickly headed to TechBoston Academy, a pilot school that has drawn praise for its technology-centered approach and success in sending students to college.

About 10 minutes after landing, Obama exited the plane, pointing to Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino as he descended the stairs. Obama appeared to make a joke about Menino's recent leg injury, which Menino acknowledged with a smile and a jaunty lift of his cane.

Once on the tarmac, Obama gave Menino a hearty handshake and pat on the shoulder and greeted US Representative Edward Markey.

Obama then met about 50 friends and relatives of Secret Service agents and Air Force One crew standing behind a metal barricade on the tarmac. Obama shook hands as the crowd snapped photos before he was whisked off in a black Cadillac.

During his speech at the school, Obama, joined by Education Secretary Arne Duncan and philanthropist Melinda Gates, was expected to renew his calls for aggressive education reform to prepare students for a rapidly changing workplace.

"There is no better economic policy than one that produces more graduates," said an excerpt of Obama's prepared text. "That's why reforming education is the responsibility of every American — every parent, every teacher, every business leader, every public official, and every student."

Obama's budget calls for $90 million for a new grant competition to promote the use of technology in education, and $300 million in grants for projects in math, science, and engineering.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and The Boston Foundation helped provide seed money to launch TechBoston, whose graduation rate of 83 percent is significantly higher than most city schools.

"I think it’s very, very validating for our kids and the faculty that they are being chosen on the merit of their hard work,’’ said TechBoston’s headmaster, Mary Skipper. “It’s pride, pride in a healthy way.’’

Most students are from low-income families, and many are children of immigrants.

While anticipation at TechBoston was high, his policies drew flak in East Boston this morning, at a protest organized by some of his fellow Democrats. Former Representative Joseph P. Kennedy II, along with current Representatives Edward J. Markey, Michael Capuano, and James McGovern, called a news conference to protest the administration's proposed cut in heating assistance.

Obama has proposed cutting the program's $5.1 billion budget by $2.5 billion.

After the events at TechBoston Academy, Obama was to travel across town to the newly refurbished Museum of Fine Arts for the fund-raiser. In an e-mail soliciting contributions, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi labeled the gathering as "an unforgettable evening with President Obama and leading Democrats from across America."

"It is critical that we show the world how strongly we support President Obama's bold vision to encourage innovation and invest in America's future," she added.


Wendy Maeda / Globe Staff

President Obama shook hands after arriving at Loan International Airport today.

Originally published on the blog MetroDesk.

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