Pres. Obama spoke to General Assembly in Springfield, IL

RAW Video: Pres. Obama's full speech to IL General Assembly
(Source: Josh Murray/KFVS)
(Source: Josh Murray/KFVS)
Inside the Captol building (Source: Josh Murray/KFVS)
Inside the Captol building (Source: Josh Murray/KFVS)

SPRINGFIELD, IL (KFVS) - President Barack Obama spoke to the Illinois General Assembly in Springfield at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, February 10.

The president was back in Illinois, where he served as a senator from 1997 to 2008, at a critical time with the state's eight-month budget impasse.

When Obama took to the podium there was massive applause throughout the entire assembly hall.

"Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, members of the General Assembly, my fellow's actually kind of fun to start a speech twice in one month," Obama joked referring to his recent and final State of the Union address.

The main focus of his speech was on promoting bipartisanship.

Obama said Americans remain divided by race, religion and political parties. He admitted this is one area he has not fully achieved during his presidency.

"There's no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide," he said at his final State of the Union Address.

The president also stressed the importance of voter equality in Illinois.

"Let's make the Land of Lincoln a leader in voter participation," he sad.

The president said legislators should not let the influence of the media and lobbyists take over what is really important: the people.

"The reason this is important to me is, next year I'll still hold the most important title of all, and that's the title of citizen," he said. “Refusing to compromise is not an accomplishment and that goes both ways. Compromise does not make you a sellout."

Each of the five representatives of southern Illinois we spoke with after the speech agreed with the president's message, saying compromise is the only way to move forward. However, in the next breath, each of them said many proposed solutions from the other side of the aisle remain far too extreme to be reckoned with.

"I do agree with the governor, unless there are changes made in this state," said Sen. Dave Luechtefeld (R-Okawville). "We will never be where we can be, nor can we even be back to where we were."

"The decimation of downstate health care is an extreme position," said Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion). "The elimination of collective bargaining is an extreme position. the refusal to fund the universities is an extreme position."

Although many lawmakers remain polarized on many topics, each of them spoke with high hopes that the president's speech would be a catalyst to reignite efforts and spark a change in Springfield.

Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-IL) was also at the capitol building and watched Obama's address.

"I think we need to listen to him a little bit more as far as bipartisanship goes," Phelps said. "What I did not like is what he's talking about with global warming ad things like that. It's killing our coal industry and I wish he would have talked more about that."

Rep. Terri Bryant (R-IL) said he was interested in two topics in particular that the president talked about.

"He said some encouraging words about working together to move forward on some issues that are  important for both sides," Bryant said. "He did highlight two issues that have been really important to me and that's redistricting and term limits.

The speech comes at the twilight of Obama's career as president. It is nine years to the day he announced he was running for president.

Obama is the fourth sitting president to address the Illinois General Assembly, the last since 1978. Other former presidents who have spoken to the state's General Assembly include Jimmy Carter, Herbert Hoover and William Howard Taft.

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