SEDALIA — Teresa Kelley, 41, of Sedalia sat in a crowd of about 3,000 in the Missouri State Fairgrounds’ Coliseum to hear President Bush on Tuesday, just as she did 20 years ago when former President Ronald Reagan campaigned for re-election in the very same spot.
“They have a very similar style,” Kelley said. “They both spoke with honesty and optimism.”
Kelley, whose son will be deployed to Iraq in late October, said she is impressed with Bush’s defense polices and the fact that he’s “staying the course” in Iraq.
Dressed in a blue oxford shirt with an open collar and his sleeves rolled up, Bush entered the Coliseum shortly after noon, greeting supporters as he made his way to the center of the arena.
Bush highlighted the effects his programs have had on local residents. Using single-mom Ellyn Wilson as an example, Bush drew attention to his tax-relief package, which saved her $1,000.
Wilson, a full-time music teacher and a pianist for the First Baptist Church, said she was “very thankful” for the child tax credits approved during Bush’s presidency.
“I got braces for my kids,” she said as her daughter and son bared their teeth for the president. “It’s helped a lot … with my Mary Kay supplies, as well.”
Bush encouraged her to keep working for “that pink Cadillac,” the granddaddy of all Mary Kay incentives.
Other community members also shared their stories with Bush.
Steve Platt, now a warehouse manager at Sedalia Steel Supply, told Bush he left his job of 12 years at Duke Manufacturing to go back to college to encourage his children to continue their education.
“He made a tough choice, when you think about it,” Bush said. “And there’s a lot of people in this society … who are faced with the same choice, you know. Do I … upgrade my skills?” Bush said Platt’s choice enabled him to earn an extra $10,000 per year and to become a more productive worker.
Engaging the crowd by casually walking around the dirt mound that served as his stage, Bush addressed the concerns of small business owners like Wayne Lamb, who owns Sedalia Steel Supply and recently hired Platt.
Small business owners provide 70 percent of new jobs, Bush said. “Therefore … good policy is aimed at helping the small business sector of America remain strong and vibrant,” Bush said.
After hearing other stories, Bush continued with prepared remarks similar to those he gave in Lee’s Summit Tuesday morning and in Poplar Bluff on Monday.
Bush then gave the audience a chance to comment and ask questions. One woman voiced her approval of Bush’s running mate, Vice President Dick Cheney.
“A lot was made over John Edwards’ great head of hair when he decided to accept the nomination, but I would take Dick Cheney’s cute little smirk over that great head of hair any day of the year,” she said.
Another supporter stood up as “a Christian representative” to assure the president that many were praying for him, sparking wild applause.
Bush told the crowd he is thankful for the prayers, but added: “Ours is a society that is based upon the ability for people to worship or not to worship … the great thing about our country is that it’s that freedom, and we’ll guard that.”