Inside a crowded St. Charles bar, volunteers from Obama for America’s Kane County team watched on as the President talked on national television about the economy and his agenda for the near future Tuesday.
For the group of nearly 30 volunteers watching on screens normally reserved for sporting events at in St. Charles, Obama’s State of the Union address is a reminder of the candidate—and the ideals he supports—for which they volunteered their time to help push him into office.
Much of Obama’s speech focused on the economy and jobs. The President's critics often cite a lingering economic recovery and a nationwide unemployment rate that remains far too high. In Illinois, statewide unemployment dropped, but only slightly, in December to 9.8 percent. In Kane County, the unemployment rate has hovered just under 10 percent in recent months.
“No, we will not go back to an economy weakened by outsourcing, bad debt, and phony financial profits,” Obama said. “I want to speak about how we move forward, and lay out a blueprint for an economy that’s built to last—an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values."
The tone of Obama’s words rings as particularly vital for one volunteer: Ben Carter. He is the community organizer for Kane County.
"People feel hurt. There’s a lot of anger and frustration and I think the best way to move forward is together … ,” Carter said. “I’m looking forward to the unity and the cohesiveness that he wants our country to have further on.”
Volunteer Ursula Small of St. Charles believes that people want to see progress made and is looking for Obama to accomplish this in "positive way" by pushing past what she sees as a lot of anger among Americans.
"We are tired of angry. We just want to move forward," Small said.
The Kane County team is tasked with establishing a stronger core of volunteers in what has historically been a Republican-dominated area. While several of those in attendance were new to the group, some of the local volunteers had been with the campaign since last year.
On the other side of the aisle, Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-14) seemed to express disappointment in Obama's speech, saying in a response released shortly after the speech that President used "divisive rhetoric" instead making it priority to work with Republicans.
"The efforts of the House Republicans are not, as he suggests, acts of obstruction, but rather we are remaining true to the principles of smaller government, less spending, and lower taxes, which are fundamentally incompatible with the taxing, spending, borrowing and government-growing policies of his administration," Hultgren said.
Hultgren also said it was "deeply disingenuous" for the President to say he supports American energy, just days after rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline project.
This was Obama's third State of the Union address and is being seen as a sort of starting pistol, beginning a 10-month campaign marathon to seek a second term in office.