For the second time in slightly more than a hundred years, a current or former president visited the Kansas town of Osawatomie. There were similarities, then and now. Inside Osawatomie High School gymnasium President Barack Obama encouraged his listeners, cajoled Congress and invoked the memory of Theodore Roosevelt. KCUR's Dan Verbeck was there and described hundreds waiting in line on streets and sidewalks.
From Mayors of the two Kansas Cities, Sly James and Joe Reardon at the front of the room, to "Mrs. Kansas United States" Christy Dreiling of Paola, Kansas at the very back, with some 12 hundred people in between, the President talked about jobs, education and regulating business and banks. He said for most Americans the basic bargain that made this country great , that of hard work, stopped paying off, long before the recession. He talked about " raging debate over the best way to restore growth and prosperity; balance and fairness." And the President scolded Congress for refusal to raise taxes on the wealthiest. In his words, " it's wrong for Warren Buffet's secretary to pay a higher tax rate than Warren Buffet. And by the way, Warren Buffet agrees with me. So do most Americans. And I know that many of our wealthiest citizens would agree to contribute a little more if it meant reducing the deficit."
The President chided those who would return to the old ways of doing business, calling it a 'kind of collective amnesia." He described the philosophy as " we are better off when everyone is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules." The President drew some of his most extended applause when he said, of that premise, "They are wrong."
Mr. Obama drew heavily on the 1910 Osawatomie speech by Theodore Roosevelt as he got set for a 1912 rerun at the White House, calling for a New Nationalism, for unity. Quoting Roosevelt that " we will all go up or down together."
The Presidential party left Osawatomie by mid afternoon by air. Most homeward bound drivers in the Kansas City area were unaware who was inside the cluster of large and small helicopters flying overhead toward KCI Airport.