DALLAS -- Air Force One touched down at Dallas Love Field at 6:40 p.m. and taxied to the east side of the field, where about 100 people gathered to greet President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.
Waiting on the tarmac were Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and freshman U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey (D-Fort Worth), whose district touches the north side of the airport.
“It’s great that he’s here. I want him to come back to Texas as often as possible. I think that the president sees Texas as a dynamic place,” Veasey said before the president arrived. “Dallas certainly is [Democratic turf] and we hope the rest of the state follows soon.”
Rawlings called it “a momentous day for Dallas” to have the president and all four living ex-presidents in the city for the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center on the SMU campus.
“It’s a big day and it’s symbolic of where Dallas is on the map,” he said.
As for security, the mayor offered reassurance.
“Secret Service has taken the lead. And our police department has been working hard on this for the last month or so. Everybody knows their roles and what they’re doing, and I’m pleased at the organization up to this point,” he said. “I don’t think citizens should be concerned. As a leader of a city after what happened to Boston, we must be ever-vigilant. This is an important day. I hope it goes off well.”
Rawlings, just back from a Wednesday afternoon funeral in West for a Dallas firefighter killed in the fertilizer plant blast a week ago, lauded Obama for taking time to attend the memorial service in Waco Thursday afternoon.
“That’s a wonderful thing to do for that community. That’s going to mean a lot for people in that community and in Texas,” Rawlings said.
The president arrived at a Democratic National Committee fund-raising dinner at 7:17 p.m. Wednesday with about 60 guests at the home of Democratic activist Naomi Aberly and her husband, hedge fund manager Larry Lebowitz. Tickets range from $10,000 to the maximum allowed, $32,400.
Obama spoke for 17 minutes without notes to six tables of 12. He held a microphone, standing at the front of a two-story room with symmetrical staircases leading to a wraparound balcony.
The president took a moment to talk to the audience about the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center.
“I’m really looking forward to attending the Bush library opening,” President Obama said. “One of the things I will insist upon is that, whatever our political differences, President Bush loves this country and loves its people... But what’s also true is that policy matters. How we express that best part of ourselves is a matter of significant debate and it’s a matter of votes and its’ a matter or legislation, and budgets, and how we’re allocating resources.”
Obama also alluded to the tragedies last week in Boston and West, Texas.
“Obviously this has been a tough couple of weeks for the country,” he said. “There’s no words that are satisfactory when you’re confronting these kinds of losses... I don’t want to pretend that somehow you can put a positive gloss on those kinds of events. On the other hand, what is remarkable is the strength and the courage and the fellowship that you see in people when they’re confronted with these kind of challenges.”