The tour area was under tight control by the Secret Service as is the case in any Presidential visit, but Barack Obama managed to get out on the ground and talk to Arkansans. Most of the time he was in a motorcade but stopped at Vilonia City Hall where he talked to first responders.
To view the White House video showing bits of Obama’s visit, clip HERE.
The President’s podium was set up on Clover Ridge Drive and he looked out over the destruction as he told them “A lot of work remains to be done, but I’m here to tell you that you are not in this alone.” He went on to say “ I could not be more proud of everybody that’s participated in this recovery.”
He took time to praise Casey Williams, a 16-year-old girl who went to work as a volunteer and organized the volunteer movement to the point where she was giving orders to Arkansas State Patrolmen.
Proir to his speech he talked to Vilonia tornado survivor Daniel Smith who told him he had taken cover at the newly built shelter at the high school with 300 other people the night of the storm.
The President said the area was immediately declared a disaster zone and FEMA is currently on the ground working on site. He said $1.2 million is in the bank on its way to Arkansas.
With 85 per cent of Vilonia’s business district destroyed the President said the loss of sales tax revenue for the community also has to be taken into account.
He praised Arkansans for their community spirit and said the federal government was going to “be right here” until the communities are rebuilt.
He said “folks here are tough, they look out for each other”. He recounted a tornado recovery worker who told him, “We just say a prayer and then get to work.”
To view our video clip of the President speaking, click HERE.
To view the White House video of the President’s remarks, click HERE.
To view the official White House transcript of the President’s remarks, click President Obama’s remarks – Vilonia AR 5-7-14.