The night of President Obama’s State of the Union speech, Ozark Billy Long, my congressman, greeted the President as he made his way up to the podium. No telling how long Ozark Billy waited to get the seat he had, but I am sure it was worth it, since he is such a great admirer of the President.
He’s not? Oh, well. In any case, here’s a picture of their encounter:
Long tweeted (while Obama was on the podium receiving an ovation before he began his speech) the following:
On May 22, 2011, a tornado ravaged Joplin and killed 161 people. A week later, President Obama, Governor Jay Nixon, Senator Claire McCaskill and Billy Long visited our devastated city. The President said then:
This is not just your tragedy. This is a national tragedy and that means there will be a national response.
There was. Still is.
At a memorial service President Obama said:
I can promise you your country will be there with you every single step of the way. We will be with you every step of the way. We’re not going anywhere. The cameras may leave. The spotlight may shift. But we will be with you every step of the way until Joplin is restored and this community is back on its feet. We’re not going anywhere.
The President came back to Joplin in May of 2012 to speak to graduates of Joplin High School. Some local conservatives thought he was doing so as a campaign event, even though there was no chance of picking up any votes in this Obama-despising part of the country. Indeed, the locals gave him a whopping 28.3% of the vote.
Obama told the graduates,
Now, just as you’ve learned the goodness of people, you’ve also learned the power of community. And you’ve heard from some of the other speakers how powerful that is. And as you take on the roles of co-worker and business owner — neighbor, citizen — you’ll encounter all kinds of divisions between groups, divisions of race and religion and ideology. You’ll meet people who like to disagree just for the sake of being disagreeable. You’ll meet people who prefer to play up their differences instead of focusing on what they have in common, where they can cooperate. But you’re from Joplin. So you will always know that it’s always possible for a community to come together when it matters most.
On Tuesday, before the State of the Union Address, President Obama saw Billy Long and remembered Joplin. Good for him. Good for Joplin. And good for Billy Long for telling us about it.
Here is a short clip I put on YouTube of the President greeting Ozark Billy: