President Barack Obama cited new General Motors CEO Mary Barra as an example of those who strengthen America by realizing their dreams through hard work.
"That's what drew our forebears here," he said in his State of the Union address Tuesday. "It's how the daughter of a factory worker is CEO of America's largest automaker," he added, as television cameras focused on Barra, attending as a guest of first lady Michelle Obama.
Barra, 52, became the first CEO of a global automaker when she succeeded the retiring Dan Akerson two weeks ago. In the early 1980s, she landed her first job as a plant engineer at GM's Pontiac Motor Division, where her father worked as a die maker for nearly four decades.
Obama directly followed his nod to Barra with references to political rival John Boehner and himself.
It's "how the son of a barkeeper is speaker of the house," Obama continued, turning to a thumbs-up from the Ohio Republican seated behind him. It's "how the son of a single mom can be president of the greatest nation on Earth."
Separately, Obama praised Michigan auto supplier Andra Rush for her efforts to create American manufacturing jobs. The president highlighted Detroit Manufacturing Systems, a Ford supplier established by Rush and French auto supplier Faurecia SA, as he outlined a new plan for reviving U.S. manufacturing.
"Two years ago, as the auto industry came roaring back, Andra Rush opened up a manufacturing firm in Detroit. She knew that Ford needed parts for the best-selling truck in America, and she knew how to make them. She just needed the workforce," Obama said. "So she dialed up what we call an American Job Center -- places where folks can walk in to get the help or training they need to find a new job, or better job. She was flooded with new workers. And today, Detroit Manufacturing Systems has more than 700 employees."
"What Andra and her employees experienced is how it should be for every employer -- and every job seeker."
Detroit Manufacturing Systems was formed in May 2012 as a joint venture between Rush's company, Rush Group Ltd., and Faurecia. Rush owns 55 percent of the joint venture, with Faurecia owning the rest.