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Obama caps visit to Flint with message of reassurance

President Barack Obama addresses Flint residents. (Drew Moore/WEYI-TV)

It was a whirlwind trip to Flint on Wednesday for President Barack Obama, who visited the city for the first time since its water crisis started a couple of years ago.

"Generally, I've not been doing stunts here... But ya know..." he said before taking a drink of water that he said was filtered tap water from Flint. It happened after a briefing on the crisis that included federal, state and local officials.

Obama then spent nearly on hour addressing about 1,000 residents at Flint's Northwestern High School.

Longer than he planned, he said. But his words were to the point.

"You should be angry. But channel that anger. You should be hurt. But don't sink into despair," he said.

The President was met by demonstrators outside the building. Those representing the 'Flint Lives Matter' movement demanded the President declare the city a federal disaster area.

"Obama... Obama... This dirty water is killin' me," they chanted.

Most of them told NBC 24 they were however pleased with Obama's decision to visit and felt he could provide help.

It was announced Wednesday that the Department of Health and Human Services would allocate $10 Million to Michigan health services, including one million for services in Flint.

Obama promised that officials would continue to work together to resolve the issue that began when the city changed its water source from Detroit to the Flint River. Corroded pipes caused lead to penetrate the water supply.

Adults and children were sickened.

Many have blamed Governor Rick Snyder for doing very little at the outset of the crisis. He was met with loud and long-standing boos before unexpectedly speaking to the crowd at the high school.

"I want to come here today to apologize," he told them. "I'm sorry and I will fix this."

The smiles were provided by eight-year old Mari Copeny, known as 'Little Miss Flint.' She's the one who wrote President Obama a letter, asking him to come see the effects of the water crisis first-hand.

She was acknowledged by the President, and even met him -- as she wished.

"It was fun!" she said.

We asked if she thought the water crisis would soon be over.

"Uh-huh!" she replied. And why? "(President Obama) brought hope and lifted people's spirits up."

Obama finished his message with more reassurance.

"You can make a difference and rebuild this city better than ever," he told the energized crowd. "And you'll have a friend and partner in the President of the United State. God bless you."

In all, the President spent about four hours in Flint. After the briefing with officials, he met with a small group of citizens that have been directly affected by the water crisis.

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