President Obama at Choctaw Nation on Wednesday – Photo by Reid Williams
Presidential Visit to Choctaw Nation Coverage
DURANT, OKLAHOMA – Wednesday July 15th, 2015 was not your average day in Choctaw Territory. In fact, it was a day that will be remembered for years to come.
He’s known by many names, the Commander & Chief, Leader of the Free World, 44, but most notably, President of the United States of America, Barack Obama.
President Obama paid a visit to the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma on Wednesday. After addressing the media in Washington earlier in the day, the President departed Air Force One, in flight for Denison, Texas.
At 4:30pm local time, Air Force One landed at the North Texas Regional Airport. After landing and speaking with Denison Mayor Jared Duane Johnson for two minutes, the President boarded Marine One for a flight to Durant, Oklahoma at 4:45pm.
As the President was in route, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Chief Gary Batton introduced the event, in front of a crowd of 920 attendees at the Durant High School Auditorium.
Shortly after the introduction, Marine One landed in the parking lot of Durant High School at 5:04pm. President Obama was on the ground off the chopper, just a few minutes later at 5:07pm and went straight into the high school.
Before the President took the stage, he met with youth from the Choctaw Nation, Cherokee Nation, Muscogee (Creek) Nation and Chickasaw Nation. President Obama discussed with them about his Generation Indigenous initiative. According to Sarah Wheaton of Politico, the initiative is a program is aimed to help Native American youth improve their lives and cultivate the next generation of Native leaders.
After a playlist that included music from the likes of the Reverend Al Green, Dierks Bentley and the First Lady of Soul Aretha Franklin, President Obama took the podium to “Hail to the Chief” at 6:06pm.
The President welcomed the crowd saying, “Hello Oklahoma!” After an applause from the audience, President Obama said, “Halito,” the Choctaw greeting for hello.
Minutes later, the President discussed the relationship between his organization and the Choctaw Nation. He also mentioned the Tribal Nations Conference, which is held each year in Washington D.C.
President Obama went on to say, “Michelle (Obama) and I believe we’ve got a special obligation to make sure that tribal youth have every opportunity to achieve their potential not just for the benefit of themselves and their communities, but for our entire nation.”
This led to the President introducing his new ConnectHome Initiative. The plan calls for an expansion of high speed broadband internet in twenty-seven cities, as well as the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. ConnectHome’s goal is to be available to 275,000 low-income households and nearly 200,000 children in these areas by 2017.
President Obama said he believed the program was necessary because, “A child’s ability to succeed should not be based on where she (he) lives, how much money she (he) make.”
He went on to say, “Just because you don’t have money in your household to buy fancy technology, that should not be an obstacle.”
The President stressed the importance of giving access to the digital world to those that do not have it, because they could be next Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates. President Obama went on to say, “Some of them might be right here in the Choctaw Nation.”
President Obama concluded with a story about Kelsey Janway. Janway, a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, according to the President, had to stand on a particular rock in her family’s’ yard or on top of the window still in their bathroom, just to receive phone reception.
He mentioned that although she has better access to the digital world than before, she still has inadequate internet access at home and at school. Janway met with the President in Washington last week at the White House Tribal Youth Gathering. The President claims that his ConnectHome plan would help out people like Janway and even the playing field.
In his closing remarks, the President stated, “I’m proud of the Choctaw Nation. And I am surely proud of these United States of America. Let’s get to work and make sure we’re leaving the kind of country we want for our kids. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. Thank you.”
After President Obama’s address, he came through the crowd, greeting a number of people in the audience. The President boarded Marine One at 7:23pm, headed back towards the North Texas Regional Airport.
The President ended his day at Tinker Air Force base in Oklahoma City at 8:22pm, as he was welcomed by Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin.