Obama Revitalizes Hopeful Tone in Omaha

     OMAHA, Neb. (CN) – In his first public appearance since delivering his last State of the Union address, President Barack Obama resumed the hopeful tone of his Tuesday night speech and was welcomed by overflow crowds during his first visit to the Cornhusker state since his 2008 campaign.
     During what often resembled a pep talk about America’s economic, military and scientific might, Obama drew a stark contrast between his optimistic outlook and the apocalyptic view so often proffered by Republican presidential candidates in recent months.
     “I like talking about hope and all the good stuff that was going on, and then you look at some of these ads and it’s some doom and some gloom,” Obama remarked about the steady glut of political ads that air in the Omaha TV market, aimed at Iowa caucus voters across the river.
     “It’s like everybody is running around and saying America is in decline, and everything is scary, and let’s find somebody to blame,” Obama said. “That’s not the spirit that brought America so far. That’s not what I see in communities and neighborhoods all across this country.”
     The White House chose Nebraska for Obama’s first post-State-of-the-Union visit because the state has fared remarkably well in the wake the 2008 financial crisis. Known mostly for its agricultural identity and as the home of investment titan Warren Buffett, Nebraska’s unemployment rate currently stands at 2.9 percent, second-best in the nation, and never rose above 5 percent even at the depths of the recession.
     While repeating many of his talking points from the night before, Obama laid out a series of initiatives that emphasized spreading the wealth of a recovered economy to all citizens, leaning on innovation to solve our problems, and building a political milieu that reflects the best of what it means to be an American rather than the worst.
     “I want everybody to remember, America has been through big changes before, and each time we overcame our fears and we overcame our challenges,” Obama said. “Each time we made change work for us. And each time we emerged stronger and better than we were before.”
     “Now, here’s the thing: progress is not inevitable,” the president added. “We got to work for it.”
     This was vintage “Hope” Obama who electrified crowds with a buoyant message and inspiring rhetoric during his 2008 presidential campaign, a figure who has disappeared over the past eight years amid partisan bickering and gridlocked government.
     With nothing left to lose during his final year in office – and little hope of Congress passing meaningful legislation during an election year – the president was relaxed and at ease, joking with an adoring audience.
     “Back in 2008, I didn’t say, ‘Yes, I can,'” Obama reminded the audience between bursts of applause during the emotional peak of his speech. “I said, ‘Yes, we can.’ I asked you not to believe in my ability to bring about change; I asked to believe in your ability to bring about change.”
     The standing-room-only event at Baxter Arena on the campus of the University of Nebraska at Omaha was President Obama’s final public appearance of the day.
     Earlier in the day, the president went to the suburban home of Lisa Martin, a high school English teacher who sent Obama an email last year, one she wrote with her newborn on her lap at 4 a.m., in which she worried whether her son and the planet would survive if those in power ignore the threat of global warming.
     At Baxter Arena, Martin delivered the opening remarks welcoming Obama to the stage.
     After the event, a motorcade escorted Obama to Offutt Air Force Base, located south of Omaha in Bellevue, Neb., where the president boarded a flight bound for Louisiana.
     Baton Rouge will host an appearance by Obama on Thursday morning.

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