When I heard that President Obama was coming to Milwaukee for a speech at Master Lock Company, there was no question that Locksmith Ledger would be there in downtown Milwaukee, WI, to cover the event.
The public relations group at Master Lock was kind enough to provide us with a White House E-mail connection. Publisher Nancy Brokamp and I both applied for proper clearance for admittance. We were informed that there was no guarantee of acceptance, and for 24 hours we heard nothing. The speech was scheduled for February 15th and our confirmation papers finally did arrive on the 14th.
With papers in hand, we headed up I-94 from Chicago. Our first hurdle was to get into the Master Lock parking lot. Guards on duty would not let us in without a special badge. We did not have badges, only a printed confirmation downloaded from the Internet. After several cell phone calls to people we knew inside the plant, someone was sent out to usher us in to the media ‘holding area’. Our official security badges were provided and we moved on to the next procedure.
We then stood in the holding area and waited while dozens of reporters and cameramen were sent through metal detectors. Our computers were turned on for testing and bags were thoroughly searched before we were admitted into the Master Lock factory. Guards and guard dogs patrolled the area. These people meant business.
Temporary elevated sections erected inside the building contained more electronic equipment than most movie sets. Heavy coaxial cables lined the floors. A large section was set aside for the “White House press corps.” Our designated area was for local media.
We were allowed into the building between 10 and 11:30 a.m. Even at approximately 10:15 when we gained admittance, temporary stands were already filling with Master Lock employees. An American flag and a Wisconsin banner hung from the ceiling. Several large shipping containers formed the stage backdrop and the stage was complete when a man pasted a large “made in USA” sticker on the shipping containers.
During past years I have attended concerts by Elton John, Pavarotti and even Barry Manilow. In my opinion, no matter who our President is, he or she is in a different league. Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, President Obama was duly elected and he is the present figurehead of what America stands for. To have been in the same room with one of our presidents is something we can talk about and describe for years to come.
Introductory speeches featured a local UAW labor leader and John Heppner, CEO of Master Lock. Finally, a Master Lock factory worker was given the honor of introducing the President at about 12:30. The President’s speech did not disappoint. He mentioned the trade problems with China several times. He congratulated Master Lock for bringing jobs back to America. He honestly mentioned some of the financial problems facing the nation, and he did become slightly political as he poked a few barbs at the opposition party. Ultimately, his oratory style alternately kept the crowd cheering, laughing or chanting, but always waiting for more. It was a presidential event that everyone in attendance will not soon forget.
Since mid-2010, Master Lock has brought back approximately 100 union jobs to its Milwaukee factory.