Topeka — President Barack Obama plans to travel to eastern Kansas next week to give a speech in Osawatomie, the state Democratic Party’s chairwoman said.
The historic town was where former President Theodore Roosevelt gave his “New Nationalism” speech, which extolled the government’s role in promoting social justice and regulating the economy to help the poor and underprivileged. It also was the site of an 1856 battle between pro- and anti-slavery settlers.
State Chairwoman Joan Wagnon said she was notified of Obama’s plans by the Democratic National Committee but was given no details. Neither the White House nor a DNC spokeswoman would confirm the visit late Friday afternoon.
“Of course, it’s very exciting,” Wagnon said. “It’s exciting when any president comes.”
In his 1910 speech, Roosevelt criticized some fellow Republicans for refusing to tackle the economic power of the wealthy and declared that the “destruction of special privilege” aided progress. Two years later, Roosevelt broke with fellow Republicans to run for president as the Progressive Party nominee, unsuccessfully seeking a third term.
The 1856 battle, which helped earn the territory the nickname “Bleeding Kansas,” included abolitionist John Brown and members of his family. Kansas also is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its admission to the union in 1861.
Kansas is a Republican stronghold, having voted for every GOP nominee for president since 1964, including Obama’s opponent in the 2008 election, Arizona Sen. John McCain. But Obama’s 42 percent of the vote was the best showing by any Democratic nominee in 20 years.
His secretary of health and human services, Kathleen Sebelius, is a former two-term Kansas governor whose success as a Democrat in a GOP-leaning state gave her a national reputation.
But in 2010, amid dissatisfaction with Obama and fellow Democrats who controlled Congress, Republicans won every statewide and congressional office on the ballot in Kansas. Gov. Sam Brownback, who took office in January, is a GOP conservative.