By J. Lee
TWIN CITIES (August 15, 2011) — With telescopic lens, one could see the sky blue and cloud white Air Force One approaching Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport where it landed and taxied to the accompanying 133rd Airlift Wing, Air National Guard terminal, where President Barack Obama began his three-day economic bus tour of the Midwest.
White House Press and major media paying to travel with the President, disembarked from the rear of the plane before a row of security vehicles and the customized high security, armor clad, bullet-proof, and mobile office bus the size of a semi-truck positioned themselves along Air Force One. The $1.1 million buses were equipped for use by the President, other executive officers, members of Congress, and candidates for the executive branch as cheaper than travel by plane or upgraded rental buses.
Minnesota’s greeting party of U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Senator Al Franken, Congressman Keith Ellison, Congresswoman Betty McCollum, Congressman Tim Walz, Brigadier General Robert Cayton, Governor Mark Dayton, and over 100 special guests were awaiting a grand entrance from Air Force One. But with a quick wave from the door, President Obama rushed down the stairs to the Minnesota delegation who accompanied him to Cannon Falls. Traveling with the President was U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
Making his way to the people, President Obama spent time talking to the children and adults and signing autographs. On departure by the specially equipped bus, the convoy of about 35 vehicles made their way to the President’s town hall forum in Cannon Falls at Lower Hannah Bend Park, about 40 miles away.
Cannon Falls Mayor Robby Robinson conveyed the people’s excitement about the historic event because President Calvin Coolidge was the only other President to visit them over 80 years ago in 1928. People came Saturday night to wait until when doors opened Sunday at 1pm for tickets to the free event.
Those who came shortly after 11am, were being turned away because over 1,000 place holder numbers were already given out. Because each person was allowed two tickets, people with numbers over 125 waited on the chance of more tickets being available. Security clearances took a long time whereby people who came before 5am, got their tickets by 2 p.m. Many people had waited up to 12 hours in the burning sun, heat and humidity.
Like Governor Mark Dayton’s earlier travel to rural Minnesota in talking about the budget and getting people’s feedback during the government shutdown – Cannon Falls, and small towns in Iowa and Illinoi were picked as town forum sites in President Obama’s agenda to spur economic growth in rural America, while getting feedback and participation by the people.
He will be going back to Washington DC and coming out with his accelerated plan to “boost the economy, globally market “Made in America” products, put people back to work including road construction, jobs and assistance for veterans”, and other items which incorporates the people’s interests and concerns. However, when a little girl asked him why he chose Cannon Falls, he replied that they “have the smartest and best looking kids around.”
People who came to see or participate as they could, were treated with more civility than occurred during the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul. Getting past the congestion and groups of protesters which included people from the Tea Party and the Republican National Convention Chair/Fmr Wisconsin Chair Reince Priebus, President Obama’s entourage made their way to the smaller and more personal atmosphere of the park.
Against a backdrop of the river and tress, President Obama spoke on ways to grow the economy, job creation, education, healthcare, business, government and compromise, putting people and Country first, and other issues raised by the people.
Similar to Minnesota’s legislation to reduce the deficit, the legislation to prevent the U.S. from “default” occurring at the same time – was only a temporary fix and real solutions still had to be worked on. At their town forums, both Governor Mark Dayton and President Obama resonated the same messages of “compromise”, “putting the people first, not politics”, and needing the people to “send their messages to elected officials” that were voiced by the community and non-profit organizations serving the them at the Statewide Tobacco Education and Engagement Project (STEEP) July 11, 2011 rally.
The people and organizations at this rally were the catalysts in ending Minnesota’s gridlock that caused the longest government shut-down in U.S. history, and cuts to organizations’ and agencies’ staff and services to the Asian Pacific Minnesotan community.
The STEEP initiative was led by Executive Directors Yorn Yan of United Cambodian Association of MN (www.ucaminc.org); Long Yang of Lao Family Community of MN (www.laofamily.org); Khao Insixiengmay of Lao Advancement Organization of America (www.laoamerica.org); Ly Vang of the Association for the Advancement of Hmong Women (www.aahwm.org); Yen Pham of Vietnamese Social Services (www.vssmn.org); and Dr. Zha Blong Xiong of the University of MN Dept. of the Family Social Science. Support came from Jean Lee, President, Executive Director of Children’s Hope Intl/R & R Family Ctrs., and APAHC-the Asian Pacific American Housing Consortium.
Asian Pacific American organizations “serve the poorest of the poor” who are disproportionately impacted by cuts in funds and services because they live in the poorest neighborhoods, have the least amount of resources, and are dependent on state programs that actually assist all ethnicities of children, youth, the elderly, vulnerable adults, and families. State and federal programs includes more programs than those providing basic necessities, child care, employment, food, health care, housing and shelters, ESL, safety, tobacco use prevention and cessation, and transportation for healthy living.
Yorn Yan called for legislators to “compromise” and put the “people first, not politics or the Party first”, especially when demand for services were increasing while funding services and employees were cut.
“The American Dream” for people and organizations helping them – cannot be achieved when the resources to survive are cut and the future is uncertain. Long Yang urged officials to “read the stories and letters of the people.”
Focusing on ”employment and job skills programs where people wanted to work and not live on welfare”, Yen Pham spoke on layoffs adding to the numbers of people needing help.
Khao Insixiengmay spoke for the Southeast Asian elderly and thousands of veterans who fought and gave their lives for the United States, lived in refugee camps, and supported the U.S.”. They have needs similar to other veterans and elderly and America made a promise to them for their sacrifices.
Encouraging collaboration of elected officials with voters, Ly Vang said “we will work with you, but we need to hear from you.”
Jean Lee spoke on how fellow organizations in the Asian Pacific American Housing Consortium, other entities, and the whole community were similarly affected. She asked people to “call, write and talk to the elected officials; to spread the word and have others do the same; and let the elected officials know that we will work with them on the solutions and changes needed, and that we need to move forward in making it a better Minnesota for all.”
Within two hours, Governor Mark Dayton announced he would do a series of visits to talk to and hear the public throughout Minnesota as he “continued his efforts to compromise.” Within the next few days, other nonprofit organizations, churches, unions, citizens, and the DFL Party rallied at the State Capitol to add their voices, also echoing statements made at the STEEP rally.
Vice President Walter Mondale and Governor Arne Carlson’s initiative of bi-partisan former legislators and Governor Dayton recommended reducing the deficit by increasing tobacco taxes. But Republican leaders would only agree on converting future tobacco funds to cash in covering the deficit. This extends the problems for STEEP who receives funds from the tobacco payments in providing tobacco prevention and intervention education and services. Also, cuts to education which covered the remaining deficit – will cause increased property taxes, reductions in teachers and school activities, and school closing.
President Obama stated what people had talked about, that “we have a political culture not willing to make tough choices to move American forward,” that “partisan games cost us economically and in terms of the future generation,” being a “burden on future generations.” He went on to say “there is nothing wrong with American that can’t be fixed, what’s broken is politics”, and that there’s “nothing we face that we can’t solve with the ‘spirit of America first’.”
To ensure that the “American Dream is there for our generation and the next generation, “ President Obama called the people to action in the “fight for the future of our Country” where the choices would be “country over party”, “next generation over next election” in “growing the economy”, “getting people back to work”, and “helping small businesses grow again.”
People were told by President Obama that he “needs you all to help and send messages to Washington D.C” Congressional members that it’s “time to stop the games and put country first.”
The Rural Economic Forum bus tour promoted “growing the economy, strengthening the middle class and accelerating hiring in communities and towns across the nation, and hearing directly from Americans, including small business owners, local families, private sector leaders, rural organizations, and government officials.” President Obama said “he would leave no stone unturned” in “doing everything we can to strengthen our economy, restore confidence in our nation’s future, and provide for future generations.” He told people that he would also like to hear their ideas and suggestions on growing the economy.
President Barack Obama (http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact); U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (http://klobuchar.senate.gov); U.S. Senator Al Franken (http://franken.senate.gov) ; 1st CD Congressman Tim Walz (http://walz.house.gov); 2nd CD Congressman John Kline (http://kline.house.gov); 3rd CD Congressman Erik Paulsen (http://paulsen.house.gov); 4th CD Congresswoman Betty McCollum (http://mccollum.house.gov); 5th CD Congressman Keith Ellison (http://ellison.house.gov); 6th CD Congresswoman ichele Bachmann (http://bachmann.house.gov); 7th CD Congressman Collin Peterson (http://collinpeterson.house.gov); 8th CD Congressman Chip Cravaack (http://cravaack.house.gov).
A woman at the forum said she saw President Obama as “a real person.” He already demonstrated that when he vacationed with his family in Hawaii, eating “shaved ice cones” in shorts and flip flops. White House and major media traveling with President Obama were able to see his unexpected stops of lunch with 9/11 veterans, pies from Zumbrota for those traveling with him and his visit with students in Chatfield before continuing on to Iowa.