President Barack Obama praised Brooklyn on Friday for being forever "cool" and noted that it has drawn generations of immigrants seeking better opportunities, which he said should inspire the nation's approach to education.
Obama spoke at the Pathways in Technology Early College High School, known as P-Tech, which he praised for graduating students with a high school diploma and an associates degree. The school opened in 2011 in a rough stretch of Crown Heights.
"What's going on here at P-Tech is outstanding, and I'm excited to see it for myself," he said. "P-Tech is proof of what can be accomplished."
He urged Congress to come up with a spending deal that puts more money toward education.
"I don't want to hear the same old stuff about how America can't afford to invest in the things that have always made us strong," Obama said. "Don't tell me we can afford to shut down the government, which costs our economy billions of dollars, but we can't afford to invest in our education systems. There's nothing more important than this."
At the school students are assigned a mentor and many start taking college courses in the 10th grade, said Stan Litow, one of the architects for the idea for the school. After they graduate, many students have an inside track to a job at IBM.
"You guys have opportunities here that you don't find in most high schools yet," Obama said.
Authorities closed parts of Prospect Park, about two miles away, so the president's helicopter could land there.
Obama noted he used to live near the park, and said it was good to be back in Brooklyn.
"I know Brooklyn in general is blowing up right now," he said. "When I was living here, Brooklyn was cool, but not this cool."
On his way out of Brooklyn, the president stopped at Junior's Cheesecake, a local institution, for a photo-op with Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio, whom Obama called "your next mayor."
He then headed to two Manhattan fundraisers.