SPRINGFIELD – President Obama will make some history when he arrives to speak in Springfield Wednesday.
It’s been almost 40 years since a sitting President addressed the General Assembly. President Barack Obama’s (D) visit will mark the first time in Illinois a President returned to speak at the state legislature.
The visit is the talk of the town in the state Capitol. Visitor Rich Keppner said he’s excited the chief executive is coming to the capital city.
“I’m excited about him coming to Illinois,” Keppner said.
Visitor Jeffrey Zeeb said he hopes all people in Illinois will welcome the President warmly even if they don’t agree with his politics. He said the President has the hardest job in the country.
“You don’t know what you’re going to do until you sit in that seat,” Zeeb said.
Kent Redfield has been an observer of Illinois politics for decades. Obama will be the fourth president to address state lawmakers. He said presidential addresses used to mean more in the early 20th century when lawmakers voted for representatives in the U.S. Senate.
“If you were trying to push something through the Senate, you also tried to go out into the states and drum up support,” Redfield said.
He said addresses in state legislatures provide more of a nice backdrop today.
“It’s more of a nostalgia trip than it is pushing a particular piece of legislation or trying to address a crisis or those sorts of things,” Redfield said.
Redfield said Obama’s speech on bipartisanship will likely be tailored to a national audience. He said the President needs to be careful of being pulled back into Illinois politics where he once held a Senate seat. He added anyone hoping the president can help end the budget gridlock should think again.
“Seriously I don’t believe even if you could raise Abraham Lincoln from the grave and bring him down to the statehouse that he could mediate the conflict that’s going on,” he said.
The last President to speak to the legislature was President Jimmy Carter (D) in 1978.