The president is at the University of Kansas, scheduled to begin speaking shortly.
Color from the OTR visit to Head Start classroom at Community Children’s Center.
Teachers Dawna Kneedler and Rachel Gehringer were engaging the children as we awaited the president. The children gawked and giggled at the pool. “That’s a lot of people,” one kid said over and over. “They have caaaameras,” said another.
Birthday boy Josh Earnest entered the room, followed moments later by the president, in shirtsleeves, accompanies by Carolyn Kelly, Executive Director, Community Children’s Center, and Tracie Morris, Social Services Coordinator.
He was very animated as he greeted the kids, mostly 4 year olds and some 3s and 5s. About 16 of them.
“What are you guys doing? You guys are working on your letters?” he said.
One kid asked his name. “I’m Barack,” he said.
“I saw you on my TV,” another said.
“I saw him on the news,” another said.
“I’ve been on the news sometimes,” Obama said. Two tables of kids. Obama worked each, kneeling beside the kids. He asked just about each of them their names. One was named Michelle. “I know a Michelle. One of my favorite people’s named Michelle.”
The kids were reading a Dr. Seuss story – a parable about discrimination.
“Are these the Sneetches? The star-belly Sneetches? The Sneetches with no stars on thars? That is one of my favorite stories…In fact most of the things I deal with as president would be solved if everybody read about the Sneetches. Because there are some people who think they’re special cause they’ve got stars, and some who feel bad cause they don’t.”
One kid asked what he wanted to do when he grew up.
“When I was really young I wanted to be an architect. You know what an architect is? … We build buildings. We design buildings. We make buildings like schools, libraries, and office buildings. I really wanted to do that when I was young.”
Pool was escorted out as Obama posed for a group photo with the kids. One person out on the sidewalk was the Rev. Peter Luckey, senior pastor since 1995 at Plymouth Congregational Church, which houses and sponsors the Head Start program Obama visited.
“We’re completely supportive of the president’s agenda, especially on early childhood education, and to provide childcare to families. This is something the church feels very deeply about. And this has been the central core of our mission since 1966 to provide this program for low-income families,” he said.
Sequestration cost “significant dollars” for the Head Start program, Luckey said, and “We are proud of the fact that the church stepped up to the plate and found extra money to pay for Head Start when those funds were sequestered because we felt so, so committed to this program. We were just really chagrined that the sequestration happened and that children and families that are marginalized and vulnerable in the community were going to be adversely affected by it.”
Luckey noted that his church is part of the United Church of Christ- same as the Trinity Church in Chicago, where Obama attended.
Obama walked out, waved to the crowd of perhaps a couple hundred across the street – they hollered and cheered when he arrived, and as he emerged now