ALBANY -- When President Trump needed an example Thursday of big-thinking ingenuity, he turned to an historic landmark in his home state: the Erie Canal.
Trump delivered a speech Thursday in Cincinnati on his plans to invest in the country's roads, bridges, airports and other infrastructure while streamlining federal permitting processes, calling on the federal government to think big and rebuild.
To illustrate his point, the Republican president mentioned former New York Gov. DeWitt Clinton, who spearheaded construction of the historic canal more than 200 years ago despite skepticism from President Jefferson.
"The new canal exceeded even the governor's bold vision," Trump said. "It dramatically reduced the time and cost required to transport goods from the heartland. As a result, new settlers rushed into the Midwest, including to right smack here."
The Erie Canal, which connected the Hudson River to the Great Lakes and opened the New York City harbor to the Midwest, is currently celebrating the bicentennial of its groundbreaking.
As he closed his speech, Trump used Clinton's push as an aspirational goal for future infrastructure investment.
"Just as the daring dreams of our ancestors opened new paths across our land, today we will build the dreams that open new paths to a better tomorrow," he said. "We too will see jobs and wealth flood into the heartland and see new products and new produce made and grown right here in the USA."
Trump is far from the first New York politician to use construction of the Erie Canal as a metaphor for doing big things.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has repeatedly referenced Clinton and the canal's inception as he has pushed his administration's major infrastructure projects, such as the $4 billion Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project.
Both Cuomo and Trump are Queens natives.
"Erie Canal is what made New York, New York," Cuomo said in March at a New York construction trade conference in Florida. "And it was that kind of confidence, it was that kind of unbelievable confidence that actually made New York, New York and started the whole nation on that endeavor. "
In his speech, Trump joked that Jefferson's resistance to the canal may have been a motivational tactic for Clinton.
"I think that Jefferson simply understood who he was and who he was dealing with," Trump said Wednesday. "Because if you want a New Yorker to do something, just tell them -- like our great past governor -- that it's impossible to do."
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