As President Barack Obama walked across the Miller Middle School gym floor arriving at the podium and saying "Hello Marshalltown," an historic moment was made Tuesday.
Obama is the first sitting president to visit Marshalltown since Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940.
A crowd of an estimated 555 people were on hand, including recent Marshalltown High School graduate TJ Miller, 18, who was the third one to shake the president's hand when he entered the gym. Miller seemed surprised that it has been 72 years since a sitting president visited town.
T-R PHOTO BY LUKE STALZER
President Barack Obama pauses during his speech to wave to a crowd of more than 500 people Tuesday afternoon at Marshalltown’s Miller Middle School in the old gymnasium. Obama’s appearance in Marshalltown is the first of a sitting president in 72 years with the last to be Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940.
"That's kind of amazing," Miller said. "That kind of proves that he's a personable guy and that he cares."
Obama has a history of his own with Marshalltown as he visited here three times in 2007 as an Illinois senator campaigning for the 2008 Iowa Caucuses, which helped propel him to the Democratic presidential nomination that year.
"This is really where our movement began," Obama said of his return to Iowa, which has included a three-day swing from west to east in the state.
He joked about his trip to the Iowa State Fair Monday, where he washed down a pork chop and a beer.
"I might have another beer today," he said.
Obama spoke for 30 minutes, concentrating on what he's accomplished during his administration and what lies ahead. He focused his talk on wind energy tax credits, education, the Republican's trickle down economics and ways to strengthen the middle class.
After his speech, Obama walked around the crowd, shaking hands with dozens of people and even had something special for 100-year-old Mabel Coulter, of Marshalltown.
"I said to him this lady is 100 years old and he said anybody 100 years old deserves a kiss and he kissed her," said Betty Wehrman, Coulter's daughter.
While the president provided some star power, Marshalltown had its own star in attendance - homegrown actor Toby Huss. Huss is in Iowa to visit family and the Iowa State Fair this week and it worked out where he could also support Obama.
"I think he generally has my country's best interests in mind," Huss said. "He's much more in touch with the regular folks than Romney."
Several local people took the stage before Obama, including Riley Willman who led the Pledge of Allegiance, Sister Chris Feagan, who did the invocation and University of Iowa student Veronica Guevara, who talked about her road to an education.
Willman was honored to be a part of the process and even got to shake the president's hand after his speech.
"It was a great experience," Willman said. "I think it's a great opportunity for Marshalltown."
Miller Principal Jacy Large got to talk to the president before his speech, along with other area educational leaders.
"For me, it was breathtaking," Large said. "He was very down to earth."
Hundreds in town didn't even need a ticket to see the president as they were able to get a wave from his bus as it headed down Center Street and Main Street through Marshalltown.