Minnesotans at Obama’s speech speak of hope and dreams

Jobs, transit, forward-thought, and dreaming big was the theme of President Obama’s speech at the Union Depot in St. Paul Wednesday afternoon. When it was over, Bruce Springsteen’s “Land of Hope and Dreams” lilted out of the p.a., and, considering the ubertransit-hub setting, the sepia backdrop of American flags and a presidential podium flanked by signs reading “To Trains” and “From Trains,” Springsteen’s refrain has never sounded more poignant or promising:

This train carries saints and sinners
This train carries losers and winners
This train carries whores and gamblers
This train carries lost souls
This train/Dreams will not be thwarted
This train/Faith will be rewarded

Talking the big train America and the audacity of hope, still, all of which was on the mind of hundreds of Minnesotans who took off work or school to attend the president’s speech yesterday. Before Obama took the stage, some speech-goers talked about their affection for the man, and how his presidency has affected their lives.

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Ro Shanklin, Bloomington: “Right now I’m unemployed, I was working in retail, and I’m here to hear this great president talk about jobs and the economy. For me, this is an awesome experience. I don’t want to get into that part of it, but he is the first black president, and I want to tell my grandchildren some day that I came here and saw the first black president, right here in St. Paul, Minnesota. I like what he’s standing for, and what he’s trying to do for the country.  

“I think the thing I admire most is the way he’s kept his composure, with everything that’s been thrown at him: two wars, the economy going down in the tanks, and for him to just stay strong for this country and not blow up like people wanted him to, he’s just been a leader through all of this.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Tina Curry, Minneapolis: “I work in Ramsey County, I’m the divisional director of Financial Assistance Offices. I work with individuals that are receiving some type of public assistance, and [Obama] is really trying to get people off public assistance and get them a livable wage so they can have good jobs. I’m glad he’s talking about mass transit, because we keep hearing how if you have mass transit, you can get to jobs that might not be in the city. 

“I think he’s done a very good job under some very difficult situations. This is the fourth time I’ve seen him. I think he’s a phenomenal leader and speaker, and so to hear him, you just get drawn into the message and sometimes you feel like you’re the only person in the room and he’s talking to you. He’s just so engaging. He’s phenomenal.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Cecil Alston, West St. Paul: “I’m a Teamster, Local 120, and I’m just concerned here about what he’s here to say about the job situation and what he says about the grant money and other things he’s offering. I have some concerns. Not very concerned, but concerned about job growth. Minnesota is definitely moving in the right direction with the opening of the rail; a lot of jobs will be coming in that direction, so I’m glad to see him here for that. It’s a big thing, and Minnesota is just getting started with the rails. That’s going to start a lot of jobs.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Tisha Ferguson, St. Paul and Cecelia Blakey. “This is my daughter,” said Cecelia. “I’m from St. Paul, retired from Metro Transit, and I’m here to hear him make history, and talk about the Green Line … . He is our first African-American president, and he does not always get credit for what he’s done, and I’m sure he won’t get any credit for what he’s done until he’s gone. Then we’ll really know his greatness, once he’s out of the office, because there’s so much holdback. It’s an honor to be here.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh
MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Letricia Edwards, St. Paul: “Seeing President Obama has been on my bucket list, so now I can scratch that off. It means a lot for me to be here today. I really admire the president, I think he’s doing a great job. That’s all I want to say.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Deangelo Friends, St. Paul: “This is my first time being able to see a president of the United States in person, and I voted for him. He was the first president I was of age to vote for, so it’s history. I’m from Wisconsin, I’m a psychology/occupational therapy major at Concordia University. I just wanted to see him in the flesh, and also this opportunity can create many things in the future for myself and for others who I share this with later, who can’t be here today. Building blocks right now, building blocks. I’m about action. I’m action-oriented. How can we create jobs as Americans … and as scholars, we have to be able to rely on our own critical thinking, not other people’s.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Frank J. Brown, St. Paul: “I’ve lived in downtown St. Paul for 17 years, but I’m moving to Cleveland because I can’t stand the racism here. I’m a sculptor. I’m here to see a part of history. It’s very sad how certain populations have kept up their vendettas against President Obama because of his race. This is the only president that’s been disrespected the way he has — he’s been so disrespected. I support him, I’m glad his focus didn’t waver. I’ve been fired from jobs because of the color of my skin, here in Minnesota, where it’s not so nice. I’ve walked down the street and had people yell, ‘nigger’ at me. Today. That happened today.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Warsame Warsame, Blaine, and Abdul Youb, Columbia Heights. “I listened to his State of the Union address, and what he said about the Year of Action, and I support that even though Congress doesn’t,” said Warsame. “The Year of Action really struck a chord with me. It’s his last term, and I feel like when a president is in his last term, does he stick to the promises he made? And with the Year of Action, hopefully he finishes up his term strong.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Abdi Hilowle, Minneapolis: “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, to see the president of the United States. I really appreciate him because he gives people like us, different people of color, opportunity and inspiration, because he became president of the United States. It’s motivation, and it’s very inspiring.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Trace Massie, St. Paul: “I own a small business here in St. Paul, and I’m just here because I’m interested in what direction the country is going for small businesses. I have a small Fed Ex authorization center here in downtown St. Paul. Overall, it’s been positive, and even though the economy has been dragging, he’s done a lot of things to assist small businesses.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Evangelynn Dew, Minneapolis: “I think he’s important because he makes me think I can achieve anything I want to achieve in my life. I’m unemployed and disabled because of my leg, and I need a knee replacement. I was a chef, so I can’t do that anymore, and now I’m seeking some schooling so I can further my education and do something that can accommodate my disability. But through Obamacare, I get medical rides to my appointments, my co-pays are affordable, and I’m very satisfied with my insurance.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Mickies Kiros, St. Paul: “I’m a sixth-grader at Capital Hill Magnet School, St. Paul. I was lucky I got picked to get tickets to go, because I’ve always admired him. He’s a great president, and I’ve always wanted to see him.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

Stacy Ward, Minneapolis: “I’m just here to be present with the president of the United States, and be a part of history before I get too old to be able to come and do this. I do construction. I started a little small business. He’s been good for a lot of my friends who have small businesses, and I’m just starting out, so we’ll see.”

MinnPost photo by Jim Walsh

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Comments (18)

  1. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 02/27/2014 - 09:53 am.


    Does Trace Massie look like a young James Earl Jones or what?

  2. Submitted by Dennis Litfin on 02/27/2014 - 11:12 am.

    I voted for him and I support him…BUT…..

    I have also heard that ‘hope and dreams’ spiel before. I also remember very well the ‘jobs’, jobs, jobs’ promises of Republican wanna-be legislators several years back which turned out to be nothing more than more republican fluff talk.

    Lets see some action before we go ga ga again.

  3. Submitted by Pat Berg on 02/27/2014 - 11:21 am.

    Small business owners

    I was struck by the fact that a couple of them were small business owners and said that his policies have been good for small businesses.

    Completely opposite to the right-wing wailing we generally hear over how small businesses are suffering because of him

  4. Submitted by Norman Harris on 02/27/2014 - 01:32 pm.


    Mr. Obama is our first African-American president. He did however get quite a few Euro-American votes to win his office. There were quite a few white people at the Union Depot speech. Would none of them comment for your article?

  5. Submitted by Beth Dhennin on 02/27/2014 - 01:48 pm.

    Impact of Obama’s St. Paul speech…

    Writing as a strong Obama-supporter – and a white woman, I am disappointed to see that the interviews presented were only with African-Americans…How much more powerful this would have been had it included other races. The feel of the piece is that only blacks supported his visit and speech…Not the case at all; my husband and I were thrilled!

  6. Submitted by beryl john-knudson on 02/27/2014 - 01:48 pm.

    Hope and dreams, yes…

    and here indeed are recorded the voices of those who still hope and dream within the limitations Obama could achieve under the most impossible atmosphere of an unyielding congress?

    Obama still receives my respect in spite of the greed and selfish voices of the conservatives protecting only their own ingrown interests.

    Congress failed us; failed to allow the hopes of Obama to actuate so much more in positive change.

    Roadblocks from the right leave history today looking like a battle ground…almost trashing Obama’s health care program as he had to compromise to even gain a hand in the door to effect affordable health care even in its present limited format.

    That is quite an achievement even with its limitations in a society so selfishly dedicated to singular, insular concerns of me-and-mine. Yes, we live in a nation that more and more has turned inward to self. A battle it seems, of us over them… who deserves, who doesn’t; who controls, who submits?

    We’ve come a way so very slowly toward justice for all and Springsteen’s voice is full of hope, yet…

    Tom Morello takes us on a road we dare not go…yet who knows? Tom Morello’s “The Road We Must Travel” sings a powerful song but well worth the listening however raw or real it may be, down the road…

    Down the road where uncivil liberties have already become the norm and voting groups fight like dogs and parties treat each other as two separate ‘tribes’ in the same nation?

    “If there is no struggle, there is no progress” Frederick Douglas

  7. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 02/27/2014 - 02:21 pm.


    is thy middle name. Good grief, people. I get being proud because you have a black president, but wouldn’t you rather have a competent one? For people for whom race matters, he’s destroyed any chance of another black president for a generation.

    • Submitted by Tom Christensen on 02/27/2014 - 03:35 pm.

      George W. Bush

      What race did George W. Bush’s performance eliminate from being president? Maybe you have forgotten about him already.

      • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 02/27/2014 - 04:33 pm.

        Race doesn’t matter

        to people who voted for Bush. I said for people for whom race matters and they know who they are.

        • Submitted by Tom Christensen on 02/27/2014 - 05:13 pm.


          For those who race matters what race did George W. Bush eliminate from the possibility of being President? It is going to be hard to forget George for a very long time. Luckily not presidents, but Tim Pawlenty nor Michelle Bachmann have done us any favors either. I guess political philosophy matters.

        • Submitted by jason myron on 02/27/2014 - 05:25 pm.

          well, yeah….

          he’s white….just like the 42 guys that came before him. He also ran against two guys that were white…how COULD it matter? Race sure does matter for a large faction of people who hate Obama though and they know who they are. You contend that Obama garnered votes because of his color, but deny that he also lost votes because of it?

    • Submitted by Robert Lilly on 02/27/2014 - 04:09 pm.

      Good grief!

      I hear this a lot from conservatives. Who would say is more competent?
      I was about 8 months when JFK was assassinated so I won’t count him. Obama has been the most competent president in my life time.
      Do you really believe McCain or Romney would be more competent? That’s delusional.

  8. Submitted by Pat Berg on 02/27/2014 - 04:44 pm.

    I wonder . . . . . .

    if only white people had been interviewed for this article whether it would have occurred to anyone to point THAT out.

    It didn’t happen that way, so we’ll never know. But certainly something to ponder . . . . . . .

  9. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 02/27/2014 - 09:31 pm.

    Just think of greater adoration poured upon Obama had he been a successful President.

  10. Submitted by Eric Paul Jacobsen on 02/28/2014 - 08:34 am.

    Thanks for the lift, Jim Walsh.

    The article really cheered me up! Yes, even in spite of Frank J. Brown’s testimony that racism still bites in Saint Paul. That testimony belongs in the portrait, but does no harm to the overall message hope. And may peace and good luck go with you, Mr. Brown.

    I have to admire Evangelynn Dew and smile with her. In an article filled with dreams, I think her personal statement wins first prize. She came not only to express her appreciation for Obamacare, but to craft a message of support so that we can all keep it. Thank you, Ms. Dew, for paying it forward!

    The article doesn’t have much to tell us about President Obama that we don’t already know. But it is full of candor and insight from African-Americans who live in my own community. No matter what we may feel about the job the President is doing right now, the fact of his election and re-election is inspiring for people of color. The world has changed because they now have higher expectations. This is good news and will not stop being good news.

  11. Submitted by tiffany vanvorken on 03/06/2014 - 06:38 am.


    It is hard to believe that this many people are so ignorant so to what the President has done for the US. This President will go down in history as being the poorest President thet we have had along with Jimmy Carter. I didn’t want to believe that the black citizens voted for him because he is black. As a result of these comments, it is true that the color of his skin got him the black vote. That is a giant shame!

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