by Kevin Joseph Ryan
As most everyone is aware by now, President Barack Obama paid a visit to Vermont this past Friday, March the 30th, from the late morning until mid-afternoon. He attended a luncheon at the Sheraton Conference Center in South Burlington, then delivered remarks at University of Vermont to a crowd of thousands of very enthusiastic supporters. Most Vermont news media has covered these aspects of the Presidential visit extensively, so True North Reports today takes you to the audience, to find out what Vermont Democrats and other attendees are thinking about the President, his policies and the future of America. We also review the President’s vision as presented at UVM.
TNR did apply for press credentials to attend the UVM speaking engagement by the President, but email and phone calls to the President’s campaign went unanswered, including those to Press co-coordinator Michael Czin. TNR was able to contact Vermont Event Chairperson Carolyn Dwyer, but Ms. Dwyer referred TNR back to Mr. Czin.
Former Vermont Speaker of the House, Gaye Symington, had a much easier time attending the event. “For me, it was a chance to hear a really articulate leader talk about a set of values that ring true for me: that we’re in this together, we’re not going to be a stronger country by promoting policies that imply that we’re all on our own when things don’t go just right,” the former Speaker noted. When asked if this represented a more collectivist viewpoint of the world, Symington replied, ” It’s very much about a balance. It’s very much about we watch out for each other.” Ms. Symington is now the Executive Director of the High Meadows Foundation, whose mission is to “…ensure a more sustainable planet…” and which supports the Progressive Business Leaders Network, among other such organizations.
Caledonia County Democrat Chairman Steve Amos attended the President’s campaign event as well, and stood outside afterward, offering campaign buttons to passersby that covered his vest from top to bottom. What impresses him about Obama? “His optimism for the future, and the fact that he’s trying to get everybody joined up together, trying to look at America as a whole rather than trying to fraction out certain parties.” When asked what parties get fractioned out, Amos told TNR, “The Republican Party. There’s so much divisiveness going on with the Republican Party right now.” It would be an easy call to guess that Mr. Amos will be supporting the President in the fall elections.
Rick Cochran, of Danville was in fact, asked personally by the White House to not only attended the President’s visit, but also to speak with Barack Obama. Mr. Cochran is the President and founder of Mobile Medical International of Saint Johnsbury and was named as National Business Person of the Year by the Small Business Administration for 2011. He said he spoke to Obama regarding his mobile hospital units as a cost saver and that the President asked for a follow up at a later time. Cochran declined reveal his political affiliation.
Not everyone at UVM was quite so pleased with the President. A group of 80 protestors stood nearby UVM along Spear Street to let Obama know they were yet to be impressed with the President’s performance since his 2008 election. Most were concerned with acts such as the NDAA military detention and foreign war such as Afghanistan and Libya. Some protestors complained about their treatment at the hands of security. When a group of a dozen police were deployed from a white van shortly before the President’s arrival at UVM, Vermont Commons Photographer Dylan Kelley said he was stopped from photographing the limousine or leaving the Spear Street area. “I’m trying to get a better angle for the photo.” Kelley told an officer. “No, you’re staying back.” was the reply.
The President himself spoke to the crowd for about 30 minutes beginning at 3 PM, beginning by letting the crowd know how pleased he was to be in Vermont, where he won 67% of the vote in 2008. “This is a good crowd here in Vermont,” said the President. “You’ve got one of the best Governors in the country.” However, it became obvious that Mr. Obama was not all that familiar with Vermont’s Governor, as he referred to Peter Shumlin as Peter “Sumlin.”
Obama’s theme for the day seemed to be a future of collectivism for the United States. “After three years, we’ve begun to see what change looks like…we can’t go back to old policies. They didn’t work,” noted the President. He referred to the Republican’s plan for America as one of, “You’re on your own.” Obama said, “That’s the narrow conception they have of liberty.” While Obama certainly impressed himself upon his followers and loyalists in Burlington on Friday, perhaps he needs a reminder of what liberty is.
Miriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines liberty first as, “The quality or state of being free, the power to do as one pleases.” Therefore, It is not a conservative’s narrow conception of liberty that you are on your own, but rather it is the conception for the freedom of both individuals and associations to provide for societies’ needs free of governmental conformity and interference. It is not, Mr. Obama, that we resist change, it is that conservatives resist a change that would place us into a herd, rather than able to strive on our own.
While we are appreciative that the President took some time to offer Vermont a brief visit, it should be hoped that next time he remembers the old Vermont axiom, “I’m from Vermont, I do what I want.”