Obama Drinks Flint Water While Blaming ‘Culture of Neglect’ for Crisis

That's one brave sip for man, one giant sip for mankind.

Not Available Lead
Complex Original

Image via Complex Original

Not Available Lead

President Barack Obama took one big sip Wednesday when he drank water from Flint, Michigan. During his speech at an area high school, he asked for a glass of water. "I really did need a glass of water," Obama said. "This is not a stunt," according to USA Today

In January, Obama did more than show solidarity. He declared a state of emergency to help residents get a more immediate response to the high lead levels found in the city's tap water. The lead resulted from the city's decision to switch to untreated Flint River water in April 2014, The New York Times reported.  

While he hesitated from directing blame at any one party, he did claim that less government, not more, led to the issue in the first place because politicians with that point of view tend to invest less in poor communities. Despite that, he encouraged the audience not to blame their government. "That attitude is just as corrosive to democracy as that stuff that put lead in your water," he said. "It's not enough to fix the water. We need to fix the culture of neglect." 

In addition to expanding Medicare to help children affected by lead poisoning, Obama also pledged to provide free filters to residents. "If you’re using a filter, if you’re installing it, then Flint water at this point is drinkable."

The president's appearance, coming in the in the final months of his presidency, showed residents someone was paying attention. "I came here to tell you directly that I see you, I hear you, and I want to hear directly from you about how this public health crisis has affected your lives," Obama said. "I know you’re scared. A lot of you feel let down. I also came here to tell you that I've got your back."

Obama isn't the first politician to drink Flint's water. In April, Gov. Rick Snyder pledged to drink the city's water for one month to show residents it was safe, NPR reported.

Latest in Life