In Illinois, Obama To Plead For Unity That’s Eluded Him

Barack Obama announcing his candidacy for president in Springfield in 2007.

Then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama announcing his candidacy for president in Springfield in 2007

Brian Mackey/Illinois Public Radio

President Barack Obama is returning to Illinois' capital at the twilight of his political career, pleading once again for the type of national unity that has eluded him as president. 

Obama's speech to the Illinois General Assembly scheduled for Wednesday afternoon comes nine years ago to the day after he stood before the Old State Capitol in Springfield and announced his run for president, declaring that "the ways of Washington must change.'' 

Illinois Public Media will provide live coverage of the president's speech on WILL AM 580 during the one o'clock hour.

White House aides say Obama wanted to return to the place his career started to discuss how the U.S. can "build a better politics" in which Americans aren't so starkly divided by race, religion or political party. It's a goal that Obama readily concedes he has been unable to achieve during his two terms in the White House. 

And the president’s message will fall among the acidic word-war that has stifled Springfield for nearly a year. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, Democrats who control the Legislature, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel have exchanged criticism -- sometimes uncomfortably personal -- over the state budget mess, Chicago's schools, Rauner's appointments and more. 

Rauner says Emanuel has "failed" on public safety and schools. Emanuel has told Rauner to "stop name-calling and just do your job.'' 

The governor has said the state is in a "slow death spiral'' because Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan cares more about protecting a privileged "political class." Madigan retorts that Rauner's conservative agenda is "extreme'' and compromise requires "moderation."

President Obama’s visit will mark the first time a sitting President has addressed a joint session of the Illinois legislature since 1978.

Then, President Jimmy Carter said that as a former Georgia state senator he realized the "extreme importance" of state government.

"The difficulties of public service. The courage required to make decisions on controversial issues, because almost every issue that comes here is difficult to resolve," Carter said at that time.

Carter then spent about twenty minutes answering questions from legislators.

Presidents Herbert Hoover and William Howard Taft are also recorded as having addressed the Illinois General Assembly.

Story source: AP