Obama to shivering Washingtonians: Toughen up

January 28, 2009

President Barack Obama, steeled by Chicago’s harsh winters, had some unsolicited advice for shivering Washingtonians on Wednesday — toughen up.
Obama took a joking dig at residents of Washington, his new adopted home, after his daughters’ school was closed because of icy streets and sidewalks in the nation’s capital.
“My children’s school was canceled today, because of what? Some ice,” he said to laughter as he spoke to reporters while sitting down with corporate executives to discuss his economic recovery plan.
As one of his girls, who both attend the private Sidwell Friends school, pointed out, Obama added, “in Chicago, school is never canceled. … You’d go outside for recess. You wouldn’t even stay indoors.”
“We’re going to have to apply some flinty Chicago toughness,” he said in an amused tone.
Asked whether was calling Washingtonians wimps, Obama — who moved his family from Chicago before his presidential inauguration last week — said, “I’m saying when it comes to the weather, folks in Washington don’t seem to be able to handle things.”

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Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Reed (Obama meets business leaders)


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Washington is for weather wimps; been saying it for years.

Posted by jimbo | Report as abusive

Good one Barak. Then why did you spend all that time in Hawaii if you like the cold?

Wow…What arrogance.

Posted by TC | Report as abusive

Of course he’s right. As a parent with a job I really hate to use up vacation days because of schools closing to minimal snow fall. I grew up and walked to school in much worse weather than this. And TC I hardly think that his State of birth was an option that he was presented with!

Posted by DB | Report as abusive

Lighten up people Barack was just being funny, no need to take it that serious. Where’s your since of humor?

Posted by Stlhm | Report as abusive

To TC: Ummmm… Barack has family in Hawaii, number one. Number two, he lived there during his school years. Perhaps you should look up the definition of arrogance?

I live in Spokane, WA and schools don’t get closed for ANYTHING. One of the few times they DID close was in December when we received 3 feet of snow in 24 hours. It was almost impossible to navigate ANY roads, so it made sense to close the schools. Yet, on the other side of the state, Seattle can get a half inch of snow and the whole city shuts down! Go figure!

I agree with DB — as parents, you still have to work, but the kids don’t have school. It really does put parents in a bind, especially with younger kids.

Posted by MavericksHMB | Report as abusive

Any excuse for Obama. If it was Bush saying it, then I am certain your response would have been one filled with venom.

Posted by TC | Report as abusive

What was your response filled with, TC, perfume? Obama lived where his parents wanted (well, just his mother actually); he didn’t really have an awful lot of say in it. Oahu is an island after all; what would you have suggested to him, swim to the mainland? No wonder why your side isn’t worth listening to; it comes up with such brilliant snarky comments.

Posted by jimbo | Report as abusive

Certainly, it seems a little ridiculous to halt school when there are ways to overcome the ice and snow. Each day missed is a big thing. The way Obama said it was very straightforward — I admire him for that. But he also has to be very careful with what he says; it may be that the Washington people are just not used to the same harshness that Chicago experiences year after year. Of course, if there are measures to help the Washington people further adjust, then why not? It certainly helps productivity by keeping the community up on it’s feet despite the cold.

Posted by shayr | Report as abusive

Obama made an innocent joke about something that is true, Washington DC is not able to handle the cold and snow. I lived there for a year working as a bike messenger, we got two inches of snow and the whole city shut down for two days. If they even mention snow on the weather in DC people freak out and rush the stores chanting “bread, milk, toilet paper, bread, milk, toilet paper” it’s really quite amusing. We used to joke when I was a kid that Maine school buses were fitted with plows. We got at least a foot in Maine yesterday, my son had an early dismissal and is supposed to go to school today but we’re going snowboarding instead. Powder day!

TC, come on now. That’s exactly the kind of stuff you accuse us of, double standard?

Posted by Eric H | Report as abusive

I should have made the point that Obama has more important things than to worry about the local school district. The bottom line is that the schools are charged with being concerned for the safety of the children. If something happened on the way to school to any child as a result of the current winter weather, there would be an outcry and certain legal against taken against the school.

Someone said in an earlier post that Obama needs to watch what he says. That is very true, he does need to watch what he says. His comment was arrogant in that it implies Chicagoans are “better” than Washingtonians. Not very smart on his part.

Maverick, don’t lie. You lied about school not being closed down for anything.

Posted by TC | Report as abusive

Obama needs to remember that DC does not have a snow removal equipment that other states have….and not all children get to be chauffeured to school like his daughters!!!!!! Has anyone noticed that the only time Obama sounds intelligent is when he is reading from a teleprompter.

Posted by Sher | Report as abusive

well, as far as what he said here, I think it’s obviously a joke. I’m from Maine, and a little bit of ice means shorts and a tshirt, not major cancellations… and I think it’s good he’s worried about the local school system. Children’s education is important, whether it be local or national.

And how could you speak venom about Bush when everything he said was a joke? Everybody likes a funny guy.

Posted by HD | Report as abusive

I live in DC. That morning, the roads and sidewalks were extremely slippery (by anyone’s standards). It was totally appropriate to delay/cancel school. He probably was not aware of that from His cushy vantage point.

Posted by Marc | Report as abusive

There is a deeper message. “Toughen up” is more than how we approach changes in the weather, but how we approach change in anything. We have to toughen up our personal thinking, behavior, and choices. We need to spend less than we earn, choose what is sustainable over what deteriorates quickly, and think critically (examine all perspectives) before we speak. The President may not have intended that message, but it works! Make it a mantra…”Let’s toughen up”.

Posted by Dennis | Report as abusive

Dennis dig deep and sends a good message. It is nice to know that our President has a sense of humor.

Posted by eloise | Report as abusive

I live in DC. We are not wimps-nor have we ever been. If he thinks that was wimpy, then too bad. The weather here is not like it is in Chicago, and we value the lives and safety of our children. True, schools will close in anticipation of bad weather, but also true, is we don’t want kids on a school bus and/or walking amongst people who have moved here from other regions who think that they can still drive normally on ice or snow. Yes, I will keep my kids and myself at home.

Posted by vicky | Report as abusive

People…the term is analysis paralysis…too many comments on what amounts to a fairly trivial joke.

However, to take my turn at the psych chair, expect your future POTUS to say toughen up far more often, to get through these tough times America definately needs to buck up, work together, and get off our collective butts.

Posted by TH | Report as abusive

I also live in Spokane, WA and the schools did close after we got the big snow because it continued to snow so much that all of the roads are STILL down to one lane each way because all of the snow being plowed on the sidewalks. We’ve had several pedestrian deaths because there is no where for them walk except on mounds of snow which are still about 3-4ft high. Our schools closed because of this. But, for just ice on the sidewalks…I’d have to agree with President Obama.

I also grew up about 5 hours south of DC in Virginia and know (much like Seattle) that they are just not equipped for the snow. They don’t have snow plows and de-icer, they have farm equipment (at best – or at least they did in the 80-90’s) and salt the roads (which in turn rust the cars). He’s new to the area, so I’m sure it will take some getting used to. I know it took me several years to learn how to drive on ice and snow without studded tires.

Posted by Mo | Report as abusive

If Obama does not care about his children other people do care about theirs and they are much safer at home. Wished to heavens he had never got into the White House God only knows what is in store with him in charge.

Posted by taxpayer | Report as abusive