Obama revisits Illinois capital where he launched presidency bid in 2007

"I was passionate, idealistic, ready to make a difference. ... Probably needed a little dose of reality when I first arrived," Obama said of his entry into politics in 1997.
By Doug G. Ware  |  Feb. 10, 2016 at 6:47 PM
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Feb. 10 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama stood near the exact spot where his presidential legacy was born exactly nine years ago Wednesday, and invoked some of the same sentiments he expressed to a relatively small crowd on that frigid Illinois morning in 2007.

On his return to Springfield Wednesday, though, he acknowledged one thing -- a lot has changed in nine years, but not enough.

"I miss you guys," he said in his opening remarks to the general assembly at the state capitol, recalling his first appearance there on the floor of the Illinois Senate as a freshman in 1997. "I was passionate, idealistic, ready to make a difference. ... Probably needed a little dose of reality when I first arrived."

Obama traveled to the Illinois capital earlier Wednesday. After his address to the general assembly, Obama delivered remarks at the Hoogland Center for the Arts before departing on Air Force One bound for California -- where he was set to visit San Jose.

Wednesday's nostalgic remarks by Obama came as candidates on both sides of the aisle continue their efforts to succeed him -- campaigns that are mirror images of the former Illinois senator's, which officially left the gate at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield on Feb. 10, 2007.

"I'm fired up," then Sen. Obama said in kicking off his hope to become the first African-American U.S. commander in-chief.

"It was here, in Springfield, where North, South, East and West come together, that I was reminded of the essential decency of the American people -- where I came to believe that through this decency, we can build a more hopeful America," he continued. "I stand before you today to announce my candidacy for president of the United States."

Twenty three months later, the Obama administration began.

"When I woke up on February 10, 2007 in Springfield, Illinois, my heart was full of hope about the infinite possibilities that lay ahead," Obama's senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett, wrote in a blog post Wednesday.

President Barack Obama waves as he walks toward Marine One while departing the White House on Wednesday. Obama traveled to Springfield, Ill., where addressed the Illinois General Assembly. Pool photo by Olivier Douliery/UPI

"It's hard to believe that nine years have gone by since that freezing but bright and sunny day on the steps of the Old State Capitol Building. For many of us, here at the White House and across the country, the President's return to Springfield today is a walk down memory lane -- a moment to think about where we came from and what has happened since," she continued. "For me, it was also a moment to revisit the vision he laid out for this country."

In his remarks Wednesday, the Illinois native acknowledged that much has changed in nine years -- but expressed disappointment that the political landscape in Washington has not.

"It's one of the few regrets of my presidency, that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has often gotten worse instead of better," he said last month during his final State of the Union address. "I have no doubt that a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I'll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office."

Even at the start of his campaign, Obama identified the politics-as-usual status quo as one thing he wished to change.

"I know I haven't spent a lot of time learning the ways of Washington. But I've been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change," he said then. "Each and every time, a new generation has risen up and done what's needed to be done. Today we are called once more -- and it is time for our generation to answer that call.

"Together, starting today, let us finish the work that needs to be done, and usher in a new birth of freedom on this Earth."

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