The President Remembers Joplin

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:

obama greets billy long at sotu

Long tweeted (while Obama was on the podium receiving an ovation before he began his speech) the following:

billy long tweet from sotu

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:


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  1. angelfire

     /  February 15, 2013

    The president HAS class. He makes pigs like Long look stupid without even trying. I know it’s not my fault and I try not to,,,,,but Long embarrasses me every time I see or hear him. Geeeze. Hot diggity dog….you know what I mean?


  2. When I see pictures of Billy Long, our Congressman for God’s sake, words fail me and images from Al Capp and Walt Kelly float in my head. OMG.


  3. At least he voted for Hurricane Sandy relief, right? Your other GOP Rep. Steven Palazzo voted against it.


  4. Long voted against Hurricane Sandy relief. Palazzo represents Mississippi’s Fourth Congressional District. Not that there is a helluva lot of ideological difference between the two.


  5. Hiya Duane: there’s a story in my paper this am about Joplin – about the money from UAE – so of course I thought of you. How goes Joplin?


    • Hey, Moe. Thanks for asking. I saw that article and plan to put something up about it. My son, a high school senior, is a recipient of one of those UAE laptops. He has zero textbooks and hasn’t had for two years. And, as the article pointed out, there were locals who didn’t want the A-rab’s dough. But most folks around here didn’t care where the money came from, just like most folks around here will vote for small-government zealots–and I do mean zealots–while living at least partly off the government. That is part of what is so frustrating about living in these parts.

      Joplin is slowly building back. I walk through the damage zone (it’s only a few blocks from my house) all the time and, to be picky, I wish we could have found a way to bury the utility lines, instead of keeping them above ground where they are an eyesore (especially without trees to hide them) and a problem in inclement weather (and we have more than our share, as far as I’m concerned). I have noticed that a lot of folks put in tornado shelters, some inside the house and some out. I wonder what the odds are of another tornado like the last one coming through? Probably quite high.

      Businesses are mostly back, although there still remains several unsightly holes. Property owners have been given a lot of slack in cleaning up the remaining debris or making repairs to damaged structures, something I wish would change. It’s almost been two years.

      The new high school is still in the dirt-work stage, but it will be much bigger and better than before. The other schools are further along. The hospital referenced in the article–the now iconic St. Johns–is close to my house and is a skeleton of steel at the moment, but it will be very nice once finished.

      FEMA and other federal and state help has been indispensable to the ongoing recovery here, but there are a lot of hard-headed conservatives who are loathe to admit it. The city will obviously never be the same, and the loss of life will always be on everyone’s mind, but to tell the truth there were some folks who made out very well. New houses. New stuff to go inside them. New, or newer, cars.

      Again, thanks for asking about J-town and nice to hear from ya.



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