President Barack Obama will visit Flint next Wednesday in response to a request by 8-year-old Flint resident Mari Copeny, also known as “Little Miss Flint.” Copeny has been working to bring attention to the Flint water crisis and had asked to see Obama on a trip she took to Washington D.C. herself.
The city has been suffering from the effects of lead contaminated water since April 2015 when the city switched from Detroit city water to Flint River water, which had a corrosive property leading to lead tainting the water. In the weeks following the switch, residents reported adverse health effects, but their complaints were largely ignored for nearly 18 months.
In her letter asking for a meeting, Copeny wrote that it would help improve her community’s morale.
“I know this is probably an odd request but I would love for a chance to meet you or your wife,” she wrote. “My mom said chances are you will be too busy with more important things, but there is a lot of people coming on these buses and even just a meeting from you or your wife would really lift people’s spirits.”
Obama responded to her letter to tell her he would be visiting Flint. He said though he is very busy, the work of citizens is also highly important.
“You’re right that Presidents are often busy, but the truth is, in America, there is no more important title than citizen,” he wrote. “And I am so proud of you for using your voice to speak out on behalf of the children of Flint.”
Obama will be meeting with Copeny and other local leaders to discuss the ongoing public health crisis and hear first-hand from the residents about their needs. The details of the trip have not yet been released.
This is Obama’s second visit to the state this year, following a trip to Detroit in January where he touted the success auto industry’s recovery after the federal bailout. Hillary Clinton and her daughter Chelsea Clinton have also visited the city earlier this year, and a Democratic presidential debate was held there in March just before the Michigan primary.
U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D–Flint) said in a press release he looks forward to the president’s visit and hopes the nation continues to pay attention to the public health crisis in Flint.
“I thank President Obama for keeping the focus on Flint families affected by the city’s water crisis, and I look forward to welcoming the president to my hometown,” he said. “All Americans should be focused on the ongoing public health emergency. A city of 100,000 people continues to not have safe drinking water and has been exposed to high levels of lead. As a nation, and as Americans, we must come together to help Flint families recover from this terrible tragedy.”