By Ryan Robertson
Omaha, NE – President Barack Obama wasn’t scheduled to speak at the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s newly built Baxter Arena until 4pm. But the line to get-in started to form at nine in the morning.
One of the thousands standing in line, is Audrey Williams, who says she traveled to Washington D.C. twice to see President Obama’s inaugurations. But both times she couldn’t get tickets. So I had to ask Audrey.
Do you have your tickets already? ‘Yes.’ So it’s guaranteed? ‘I hope so! You tell me? I hope so with all these thousands of people. I hope I get in. yes. Yes.’
Even though she’s been standing around for several hours, in snow covered grass, Williams is excited.
“We here for the third time, we want to make it work, and see him and be in his presence and be as close as possible and just let him know we’re here to support him,” Williams said. “Yup. First black president. Yup. Two terms. We here to support him.”
Wednesday’s trip to Omaha marked the first time since being elected Obama has visited the city. Inside Baxter Arena a capacity crowd of around 7,500 people made sure to welcome him back.
According to the president, one of the reasons he chose Omaha as the first stop after his final State of the Union Address, was because of the civility in Nebraska politics.
“Because as I said last night, America is at its best when we see each other as one people,” President Obama said. “Not democrat first, not republican first, but Americans first, that’s out priority.”
Much of what the President said was more or less a repackaging of his State of the Union Address. Randall Adkins, the Dean of UNO’s College of Arts and Sciences, said that’s fairly common.
“Presidents travel a lot,” Adkins said. “They make a lot of speeches and it’s what we call ‘going public’ and the purpose of that is to try to move the needle on the public opinion polls. So the president’s out today trying to move the needle on some of these issues. And to try to really sort of reset were campaign politics is going into this election year.”
Like he did in his state of the union address, president Obama said there are four questions facing America today. How to give everyone a fair shot in the new economy? How can technology help impact climate change? How can we keep America safe without becoming the world’s police officer? And finally: How can we make our politics reflect the best of American values?
“We’ve got to make some choices. Do we respond to these changes with fear and do we turn on each other or do we face the future with confidence in who we are and what we stand for and all the incredible things we can get done together.”
Jody Neathery-Castro is the associate professor for political science at UNO. She says President Obama also used his speech to help better position his party for the November election.
“Talking in front of a student audience was a good choice too.” Neathery-Castro said. “You saw some really large cheers for his notion of not being discriminatory and working together as one. I think that kind of message resonates really well with a diverse student body like we have here at University of Nebraska Omaha.”
Spreading a message that resonates well, is the goal of events like Wednesday’s speech at Baxter Arena. President Obama has less than a year left in office, and faces several looming battles with a Republican controlled Congress. But if you take a man at his word, as is the Nebraska way, then things will probably work out in the end.
“Because of folks like all of you, I am absolutely confident that we’re going to get to where we need to go and America will remain greatest country on earth.”