President Barack Obama brought an upbeat message to Nebraska the day after delivering his final State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress.
Obama began his speech by stating he needed to get out of Washington, D.C.
“Whenever I give a State of the Union (address), I want to get out of Washington and talk with people out in the country, so the first place I decided to visit was Omaha,” Obama said as the crowd of nearly 10,000 which waited for hours to pack Baxter Arena roared its approval.
Obama made a number of references to Nebraska in general and the University of Nebraska-Omaha specifically during the nearly 45 minute speech.
Obama noted that it had been awhile since he had been in Nebraska, recalling winning the Nebraska Democratic Caucus in 2008 and an electoral vote from Omaha during the general election. Obama then recalled getting beaten badly in the election four years later, but adding he loves Nebraska anyway.
Obama, a Democrat, said he wanted to strike a positive tone in his address and in his remaining year in office, making allusions to the political rhetoric coming from Republican presidential candidates campaigning in neighboring Iowa. He stated the negative spirit being expressed was not the spirit that brought America to where it is today.
The president acknowledged the country is living through some tough times, but asserted improvements have been made in the last seven years and that change can work in the country’s favor.
Obama rehashed much of the themes he struck during his State of the Union address, including the four questions he said the country needs to address:
- How do we make sure this economy works for everybody?
- How do we make sure that the spirit of innovation is used to solve problems?
- How do we keep the world safe without becoming the world’s policeman?
- How do we have a politics that reflects the best of us, not the worst?
Obama flatly rejected the picture of the country being drawn by Republican presidential candidates, stating that the United States isn’t just the strongest economy in the world, but the most powerful nation on the planet. Without naming Republican frontrunner Donald Trump by name, Obama called on Americans to repudiate the anti-Muslim comments Trump has made.
Obama said he has enjoyed being president and admitted his one regret is that political polarization has gotten worse.
He ended his remarks by telling Nebraskans the country’s collective future depends on their willingness to uphold their obligation as citizens.
“To vote and to speak out and to stand up for others, especially those who are vulnerable, especially those who need help, knowing that we are only here because somebody did that for us.”
AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:45]
AUDIO: President Barack Obama speaks at Baxter Arena on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Omaha. [44 min.]