‘We Are Connected' (Editorial)

by Arkansas Business Editors  on Monday, May. 12, 2014 12:00 am  

Perhaps we can be forgiven for fearing that Arkansans would behave rudely, or worse, toward the president of the United States. Barack Obama is deeply unpopular in this state, so unpopular that an online petition called for him to cancel his visit to storm-ravaged Vilonia and some commenters on social media couldn’t help but post vigorous criticism about the trip.

But the president did make his first visit to Arkansas, saying words of encouragement and support to people in need of both and pledging the resources of the federal government in helping Arkansans rebuild in the aftermath of storms that left 16 dead.

State politicians of both parties welcomed Obama, realizing that sometimes — and this was surely one of those times — a unified front in the face of devastation trumps partisanship.

And ultimately, good old-fashioned manners, the kind that can make living in this state a real pleasure, triumphed. As retired veteran Alan Willard said: “I may not agree with him or have voted for him, but he is still the president, and he deserves that respect. I get a cringe in my neck when I hear people call him just Barack or just Obama. If you can’t find anything else to say, it’s Mr. President.”

The people, victims and first responders primarily, with whom Obama met expressed appreciation for the president’s appearance, and surely their wants and needs are most important.

Vicki Champagne understood why the president’s visit was significant. She and her husband, Tim Hunter, lost their 22-year-old son, Jeffrey Hunter, in the tornado and were themselves injured. Champagne told a reporter: “I think his position as our country’s leader helps to give moral strength during times of tragedy. It doesn’t fix anything, but it helps us realize we are connected.”



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