President Obama calls on lawmakers to find the middle ground - WGEM.com: Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio

President Obama calls on lawmakers to find the middle ground

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Air Force One sits on a runway ready to take off for Springfield, Illinois, Wednesday morning. Air Force One sits on a runway ready to take off for Springfield, Illinois, Wednesday morning.
President Obama steps off Air Force One as he arrives in Springfield Wednesday morning. President Obama steps off Air Force One as he arrives in Springfield Wednesday morning.
President Obama meets with people at the Feed Store Wednesday. President Obama meets with people at the Feed Store Wednesday.
President Obama speaks to the Illinois General Assembly Wednesday. President Obama speaks to the Illinois General Assembly Wednesday.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WGEM) -

President Obama addressed Illinois lawmakers Wednesday afternoon shortly after visiting a local restaurant for lunch along his route to the state capitol.

Air Force One landed in Illinois around 11:15 a.m.

The president flew into Springfield, where he got his start in politics. He spoke briefly with Gov. Bruce Rauner on the tarmac before getting in his limo. Sen. Dick Durbin, and representatives Robin Kelly, Tammy Duckworth and Mike Quigley traveled with the president.

Before he addressed his former colleagues, the president stopped by the Feed Store to pick up some barley soup and visit with customers. The Feed Store was a restaurant he frequented during his time as a state senator in Springfield.

He spoke to the General Assembly shortly after 1 p.m. and pleaded for national unity.

House Speaker Michael Madigan introduced the president as a son of Illinois. Obama got a standing ovation from the General Assembly, as many members took out their cellphones for pictures of the president.

Obama cracked a few jokes as he began with lighthearted hellos and mentioned memories from his time as a state senator. But his tone turned to a call for change in the political climate and urged lawmakers to find compromise.

"You're not going to get what you want 100 percent of the time," Obama said. 

He said compromising doesn't make someone a sellout to their party. 

"When I hear voices in either party boast of their refusal to compromise as an accomplishment in and of itself, I'm not impressed," the president said. "All that does is prevent what most Americans would consider actual accomplishments."

Obama reminded lawmakers children are watching and learning from them as examples. The inability to work together, he said, is setting a bad example for the kids.

He urged the legislators to draw from the determination of the American people and push forward to find a compromise. Legislators have been unable to pass a state budget, something that is more than seven months overdue. He also spoke about the ongoing conflict between the governor and union workers.

"Union bashing or corporate bashing, without acknowledging that both workers and businesses make our economy run, that kind of politics means that supporters will be perennially disappointed," Obama said.

He said the first step to better politics is not letting money pick the politicians. He called on lawmakers to redraw congressional districts, and he urged them to make it easier for constituents to vote, urging them to pass legislation right away.

As he neared the end of his speech, the president told his former colleagues to treat others the way their parents taught them to act.

He also cited Abe Lincoln in saying "a house divided cannot stand."

As he closed his speech, he urged lawmakers not to give up.

The speech came exactly nine years after he announced his run for president at the Old State Capitol, declaring "the ways of Washington must change."

White House aides say the president wanted to speak from the place his career began to talk about how the country can build "better politics," where Americans aren't divided by race, religion or politics. Obama admits it's a goal he has not been able to achieve during his two terms in the White House.

But his message fell among the acidic word-war that has stifled Springfield for nearly a year. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, Democrats who control the Legislature, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have exchanged criticism - sometimes uncomfortably personal - over the state budget mess, Chicago's schools, Rauner's appointments and more.

After his speech, Obama got many handshakes and hugs as some lawmakers continued to shoot cellphone video. Others continued to cheer. 

WGEM News spoke with lawmakers, who shared what they took away from the president's speech.

"I hope everyone that was listening - and I mean everybody that was listening - could take some of that message to heart," Sen. John Sullivan (D) said.

"I think it's going to take the general public and the representatives will to put aside their politics and try to do something that actually accomplishes a goal," Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer (R) said.

"Do I think everyone's mind is going to be changed because the president was here?" Rep. Norine Hammond (R) asked. "No. But I'm hopeful we get the core message and that was we have to compromise."

WGEM News requested an interview with Rep. Randy Frese, but our request was denied.

The presidential motorcade headed from there to the Hoogland Center for the Arts just after 2:30 p.m.. as hundreds of people lined the streets. 

Not everyone watching the motorcade was a fan. Two people carried an "Impeach Obama" banner. A few people held a sign that read "Honk to impeach Obama."

At the center, Obama spoke with supporters, stakeholders and volunteers and lawmakers he's worked with in the Illinois General Assembly.

The president left Illinois Wednesday evening  around 4:45 p.m. for San Jose, California, where the White House stated he planned to stay overnight.

The following is the president's schedule from WhiteHouse.gov:

All times ET

10:05 AM

The President departs the White House

South LawnOpen PressFinal Gather 9:50AM – North Doors of the Palm Room

10:20 AM

The President departs Andrews Air Force Base en route Springfield, Illinois

Andrews Air Force BaseTravel Pool CoverageCall Time 9:00AM – Virginia Gate, Joint Base Andrews

12:20 PM

The President arrives in Springfield, Illinois

Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport, Springfield, IllinoisOpen to pre-credentialed media

2:00 PM

The Vice President will tour the Modrich Laboratory in the Nanaline Duke Building

Duke University Medical CenterPooled Press

2:25 PM

The President addresses the Illinois General Assembly

Illinois State Capitol, Springfield, IllinoisPooled Press

2:30 PM

The Vice President will participate in a roundtable discussion on the Cancer Moonshot

Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans Center for Health Education at the Duke University Medical CenterOpen Press

4:25 PM

The President delivers remarks

Hoogland Center for the Arts, Springfield, IllinoisPooled Press

6:10 PM

The President departs Springfield, Illinois en route San Jose, California

Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport, Springfield, IllinoisOpen to pre-credentialed media

10:30 PM

The President arrives in San Jose, California

Moffett Federal Airfield, Mountain View, CaliforniaOpen to pre-credentialed media

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