2:52 P.M. CST
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I tell you what, I don’t know where that phrase “It’s a big deal” came from. (Laughter.) If anybody remembers that — which you seem to all remember — after the President spoke, and I spoke after then-President Obama — he was back to my right. And I went back and I made sure I was talking on his left ear, because it was — all of — he was down the hallway. And I whispered what I said. (Laughter.) How in God’s name anybody heard it, I have no idea. (Laughter.)
And I shouldn’t waste your time and tell you this, but we were going to go from there over to the Department of Transportation — no, excuse me, the Department of Education. And I walked out the back and got in the presidential limo on the driver’s side, in the back seat, and the President — he was already in there, and he was laughing like the devil. He was almost hysterical. I said, “What’s so damn funny?” And he told me. And I said, “You’re just lucky my mother is not alive. I’d be one dead man.” (Laughter.)
Look, before I begin, I’d like to say a word about a friend of mine who we lost this weekend, a man a few hours west of Russell, Kansas. Came from not far from here — in Russell, Kansas.
A lot of Americans today remember Bob Dole as a presidential candidate. But for the families he represented across the border, he represented Kansas for 36 years. And for those like me who had the honor of calling him a friend, Bob Dole was an American giant. A man of extraordinary courage, both physical and moral courage. A war hero who sacrificed beyond measure, who nearly gave his life for our country in World War Two. Among the greatest of the Great Generation. A leader of honesty, decency, and good humor — the same qualities that made him such a cherished friend to me and my wife, Jill, and to so many others through the years.
We didn’t agree on everything. But I always admired and respected him and his willingness to work with anyone, any party when it mattered most.
And our nation owes Bob Dole a debt of gratitude for the remarkable service and a life well lived. (Applause.)
And being here this week reminds me of another great American giant or, rather, an American monarch: Buck O’Neil of the Kansas City Monarchs. (Applause.) A great ballplayer, the first Black coach in the Majors, one of the game’s greatest ambassadors, and finally — finally — a Hall of Famer. (Applause.)
Now, if the sun shined a little brighter on Kansas City this week, it’s because Bob and Buck are up there sharing a laugh with one another. (Laughter.)
I also want to acknowledge Mayor Quinton Lucas. Mayor Q, you’ve done an amazing job, both in terms of economic justice as well as economic progress. (Applause.)
And I want to thank County Executive Frank White. He lived the life I had hoped to live. He started off as a laborer; he helped build the Royals Stadium. As a player, he was one of the best to ever play there. And now he’s a county executive in Jackson County — resident of the business — to — as well. You know, I mean this guy has done it all. I thought maybe I could make it in the pros, but look what happened. (Laughter and applause.)
I actually was foolish enough to ask Floyd Little whether he could get his — he was a friend of mine in Syracuse — if he could get his agent to see if I could walk on. You know, 50 — every year, they allow 50 folks to walk on. (Laughter.) Well, guess what? He said — he came back to me, laughed, and he said, “My agent said they’re afraid if they let you walk on, they’d have to just carry you off.” (Laughter.)
Look, the infrastructure law I signed on Thanksgiving would not be possible — and this is not hyperbole — without the leaders here today.
Congressman Emanuel Cleaver was a great mayor — (applause) — a significant leader in the House. Before he was both of those things, he was a pastor. And he saw — he saw a highway cut through the neighborhood many of his congregants call home. So he knows that we need to build our infrastructure the right way — not just […]
2:52 P.M. CST