Making Presidential history on Old Route 66!

Making Presidential history on Old Route 66!

What a week it has been along this the most conservative segment of Old Route 66!  This past Wednesday in the Bryan County seat of Durant in the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, President Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. President to visit that town since Teddy Roosevelt in 1905.  Forget the fact that he was defeated in 77 of 77 counties twice, President Obama has an agenda for second half of his second term and chose the Sooner State to introduce the implementation of the latest administration program.  The Choctaw Nation did represent us all well.  More than 900 nation members and other citizens fully embraced President Obama on his historic visit, his third to Oklahoma during his tenure in the White House.


The President chose this particular occasion to launch the ConnectHome Initiative.  This program will bring low cost or free internet services to low income households.  Mr. Obama eloquently articulated the need for Internet access as an imperative to maintain a competitive edge in the digital age.

“In this digital age, when you can apply for a job, take a course, pay your bills, order a pizza, even find a date by tapping your phone, the Internet is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. You cannot connect with today’s economy without having access to the Internet.”

It was inspirational to hear the President speak in my home state.


Next stop for the President on his visit to Oklahoma was Tinker Air Force Base.  Governor Mary Fallin was on hand to meet the Chief Executive as he stepped off Air Force One.  The President, traveling without the First Lady, stayed overnight in a hotel in downtown OKC.  Now I recall designated Free Speech Zones for those choosing to protest the preceding President when he visited many places around the nation and even here in Oklahoma.  It appears no such area was set aside for those on hand to protest President Obama Wednesday evening.  There were also such protesters out and about in Durant as not everyone in that town was happy Mr. Obama came to visit.


Of course the Confederate battle flag is all about heritage and not race just like the swastika is about history and not anti-Semitism, right?!  My hat is off to both members of the Oklahoma Congressional delegation who issued statements of censure regarding these protesters.  Why the other five members of that same delegation, including both senators, remained mum on the issue is anyone’s guess.  The Republican representing the OK 3rd CD, Frank Lucas went on record stating:

“Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing.  Unfortunately this was an inappropriate use of it.”

Congressman Tom Cole, R-OK CD 4 took it a little further:

“I was shocked and disappointed by those who showed up to wave Confederate flags soon after President Obama arrived in Oklahoma.

“Their actions were not only disappointing but incredibly disrespectful, insensitive and embarrassing to the entire state. The unacceptable behavior displayed by these individuals certainly does not reflect the values and views of the vast majority of Oklahomans. No president should ever be confronted by such behavior, especially when the purpose of the visit was meant to celebrate and recognize some of our state’s greatest achievements.

“The office of President of the United States is deserving of the respect of all Americans, regardless of how deeply we may disagree on issues or policies. Political differences are never a justification to insult the president, and I believe that such action shows disrespect for the office itself.

“In this circumstance, I consider it to be particularly insensitive given the president’s personal graciousness when Oklahomans in Moore were devastated by tornadoes in May 2013.

“Like me, I’m certain that the vast majority of people across our state are embarrassed and disappointed to see other Oklahomans engage in this sort of activity. Given the president’s purpose for visiting, all Oklahomans should have been proud to have him in the state and shown him the same hospitality that we routinely extend to those who visit our state.”


On Thursday Mr. Obama became the first sitting President to make a personal visit to a federal correctional facility.  As part of his criminal justice reform agenda, the President took a ride out Old Route 66 from OKC to the Mother Road town of El Reno.  El Reno Federal Correctional Institution, the first federal prison ever visited by a U.S. President, once housed the likes of Timothy McVeigh.  The President met with a few of the inmates during his visit to the prison.  Earlier in the week he issued Presidential commutations of sentences for 46 inmates convicted on drug charges.  Sentencing reform is one of the main items of his criminal justice reform.  Hopefully it may lead to a constructive discussion and reconsideration of the policy failure known as the “War on Drugs.”

It is not every day of the World we here in Oklahoma are graced with the presence of a sitting Chief Executive.  I wish that the President’s fans who exuded true Okie hospitality had gotten as much air time as his heritage obsessed critics.  Believe me even though we are a definite minority, President Obama does have a fan base along this stretch of Old Route 66.


It made for an interesting week.  We already know the true colors of those waving colors other than that of the Union.  We should refuse to allow that particular protest to define this visit.  All the best to President Obama and his agenda for the rest of his term.  We along this stretch of the Mother Road are grateful he came our way!




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