Next month, President Barack Obama will return to the place where his political career began -- Springfield, Illinois -- to address state legislators.
Nine years ago, on Feb. 10, 2007, then U.S. Senator Obama chose Springfield to make a major announcement: that he was going to run for President of the United States. He told a shivering crowd in front of the Old State Capitol that it was in Springfield, as a state senator, that he saw "all that is America converge."
"It was here, it was here where we learned to disagree without being disagreeable. That it's possible to compromise, so long as you know those principles that can never be compromised. And that so long as we're willing to listen to each other we can assume the best in people instead of the worst," Obama said to cheers, and went on to describe some of his achievements from his time representing a portion of Chicago as a Democrat in the Illinois Senate.
This Feb. 10, Obama's returning, to celebrate the anniversary of that announcement.
A White House official says Obama "looks forward to addressing the Illinois General Assembly ... about what we can do, together, to build a better politics -- one that reflects our better selves."
An email sent to former Obama campaign workers notifying them of the President's upcoming visit, Obama Alumni Association leaders wrote "we've come so far since that day in Springfield." He's coming at a time of deep partisan gridlock in Springfield; so deep it's left the state without a budget for a historic seven months.
It'll be a week after Obama's speech -- on Feb. 17 -- that Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner will have to give an address of his own before a joint session of the General Assembly. Rauner's required then to present lawmakers with a new budget proposal for the state.
In a statement, Rauner said he looks forward to hearing the President speak about finding common ground between his party, and Obama's. Rauner says he and Obama share a passion for improving education, and a desire for more economic opportunity for Illinoisians.
"I know we can achieve great things for Illinois by having mutual respect for one another and focusing on bipartisan compromise to achieve what's best for the long-term future of our great state," Rauner said in the statement.
The President's visit may have have been nudged by an invitation from a former state senate colleague.
Illinois Senate President John Cullerton's office, Cullerton sent President Obama a letter last month suggesting "it was a good time for a return."
"President Obama’s State of the Union address struck a chord with its call for a more civil politics and working to find areas of agreement," Cullerton said in a statement. "Clearly, that’s what we need here. I’m looking forward to seeing the president again and I’m happy he’s coming back to where he started.”
In a statement, House Minority Leader Jim Durkin noted the rarity of a sitting President addressing a state legislature, saying "the President’s political career began in the state capitol under the same dome where we work today. My hope is that his remarks on building better politics will echo loudly in the Illinois House chamber where politics, rather than substance, has dominated this legislative session. I am honored that he will be joining us.”