President Barack Obama speaks at KU’s Anschutz Sports Pavilion on January 22. (Photo by Sheri Hamilton)
by Charlie Perry and Colton Butler
LAWRENCE, KANSAS-President Barack Obama paid a visit to Lawrence, Kansas last week, just two days after his 2015 “State of the Union” address. as part of his “Middle Class Economics” speaking tour. The Chancellor of the University of Kansas, Bernadette Gray-Little, graciously extended the invitation to welcome Haskell Indian Nations University to the special Presidential event held at the Anschutz Sports Pavilion on the campus of KU.
Twelve Haskell Indian Nation University students were invited and given preferred seating on stage with the president. Each 4 year program selected three students to represent them alongside an additional three students in leadership positons on campus. Students representing Haskell in leadership positions included; Beverly Foley (student body president), Aleesta Thorne (Ms. Haskell 2014-15) and Charlie Perry (editor of the Indian Leader Newspaper). The other nine students selected based on their merit in their respective programs included; Dominic Goseyun, Marc Crooked Arm, Allyson Prue, Jacob Dixon, Barbara Wolfin, Peter Henry, Sarah Gowen, Trevor Pueblo, and Christina Davey. University President Dr. Venida Chenault and Stephen Prue were also on hand for the event.
Haskell representatives included: from front row left; Stephen Prue, Aleesta Thorne, Barbara Wolfin, Venida Chenault, Dominic Goseyun. Second row from left; Marc Crooked Arm, Jacob Dixon, Peter Henry, Charlie Perry, Trevor Pueblo, Beverly Foley, Allyson Prue, Sarah Gowen and Christina Davey
After a brief word from Chancellor Gray-Little Alisa Cole who is a senior at Kansas, and a single, working, mother of three took the stage to introduce the President. In 2013 Cole wrote a letter to the President Obama requesting more assistance for developing families in need of childcare and education. Cole stressed, “It is so important that parents receive help with childcare and pursuing an education.” She went on to speak about the government taking a more proactive approach on the issue.
President Obama took the stage to greet a diverse and enthused crowd of thousands of people eagerly awaited to hear his stance on issues such as; childcare, education, and strengthen the economy. Obama kicked off his speech by informing attendees that 2015 is off to a great start for the American People.
“We start this year with some good news. Our economy is creating jobs at the fastest pace since 1999. Our deficits are shrinking. Energy production is booming. Our troops are coming home. We have risen from recession. More young people are finishing college than ever before. The verdict is in. Middle class economics works. Providing opportunity for everybody works. The focus is to keep the momentum going. Let’s make sure everyone has a fair shot and everyone plays by the same rules.”
The President went on to say, “that means helping folks afford childcare, helping folks afford college, helping folks get paid leave at work, Making sure people have healthcare. Helping the first time home buyer, helping folks save for retirement.”
President Obama than tackled the issue of affordable childcare. “Affordable high quality childcare isn’t a nice to have; it is a must-have. Studies show children who receive high quality education are less likely to get in trouble with the law.”
The President then laid out a plan that would extend child care to reach over 1 million additional children from low to moderate income families. President Obama plans to expand a federal Child Care and Development Fund by adding over 80 billion dollars in the next 10 years. The New York Times reports that the plan would provide grants to developing families to help with childcare expenses. President Obama also proposed raising the maximum childcare tax credit up to $3,000.00 for young children under the age of 3. The revenue for the program would be generated by a tax increase on the wealthy. Obama added, “I don’t want any family to have to choose between working and sacrificing their child’s well being. I don’t want anybody to be daycare poor.”
Haskell would profit from the president’s proposed plan by securing a portion of the funding to help maintain The Little Nations Daycare Center. Little Nations opened its doors in 2005 to serve the children of Haskell students. The program currently serves up to twenty-five children ages six weeks to five years old from infant, toddler and preschool with the focus of a comprehensive educational environment.
Haskell Junior Dominic Goseyum and a father, was chosen to represent Haskell at the event. Goseyum took a moment to comment on the President’s plan to expand childcare. “I am a current student at Haskell Indian Nations University striving for a better life for my son and my family. I want to create a foundation that will give my son the best chance at having an amazing life. Federal assistance has helped me pay for school and other expenses that pertain to my son’s needs. Obama’s speech was uplifting and motivating. His words had that theme that every dream is reachable. Everyone has hardships but through these opportunities Obama has made the unrealistic, possible. When the people are weak, Obama has lent them a hand to help when they are down.”
Ms. Haskell Aleesta Thorne was also moved by President Obama’s remarks on assisting developing families. “I was honored to attend but at the same time I am humbled because although I do not have any children nor do I have the stress of paying student loans or having debt, I have very close friends and family who have had to forfeit a higher education. The reasons for this vary from high cost daycare to providing a home and food. To hear the President say this change is here makes me think of those who made it without this change, remembering that every positive change should not be taken lightly.”
Thorne went on to show here appreciation for an opportunity to represent the university, “. I would like to thank Dean Falleaf for giving me this opportunity as well as Chancellor Bernadette for inviting Haskell students to participate and be a part of this historical event, onward Haskell!”
President Obama also spoke on the issue of raising the national minimum wage, “Congress still needs to raise the minimum wage. If there are members of Congress who really believe that they can work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, they should try it. And if not, they should vote to give millions of hardworking people across America the raise that they deserve.”
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by “The Indian Leader,” the newspaper of Haskell Indian Nations University, located in Lawrence, Kansas.