Though many Kansans who tuned in to watch President Bush’s last State of the Union address Monday night did so in hopes of seeing one of their own acknowledged on national television, mention of Steve Hewitt had to wait until the Democratic response delivered minutes later by Governor Kathleen Sebelius.


   Though many Kansans who tuned in to watch President Bush’s last State of the Union address Monday night did so in hopes of seeing one of their own acknowledged on national television, mention of Steve Hewitt had to wait until the Democratic response delivered minutes later by Governor Kathleen Sebelius.
   Having flown to Washington last Friday with wife Kim at the White House’s invitation to sit in the gallery with Laura Bush during the speech, Greensburg’s City Administrator could be seen briefly at the edge of a shot of the First Lady’s row.  But with no mention by Bush of any one in particular in the gathered crowd, network cameramen preferred to focus on such political luminaries as Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton when panning away from Bush.
   While Sebelius opened her nearly ten minute response by saying she meant to turn from the “partisan response…normally reserved” for her task, she proceeded to run through a laundry list of her party’s priorities to which she repeatedly challenged the President to join the Democratically controlled Congress in accomplishing.
   It was immediately after mentioning the first of these priorities—imploring Bush to sign off on the expansion of childhood health insurance he’s already vetoed—that Sebelius suddenly shifted gears to speak of Hewitt and his town for roughly 50 seconds.
   After identifying Hewitt’s position in Greensburg and mentioning his proximity to Mrs. Bush during the speech, Sebelius referred to the Kiowa County Seat as “our town nearly destroyed by a tornado last year.”
   Saying “Greensburg will recover” due to “Steve’s efforts and hundreds of others in our state and across the country,” Sebelius spread the credit even further, saying, “Folks rolled up their sleeves and got to work and local, state and federal governments assisted in the effort.”
   It was then that the Governor mentioned the politically appealing factor of the town’s recovery that Hewitt had suspected brought him to Washington and led many to speculate he would be singled out during the speech—intentionally rebuilding green.
   “But more than just recover, the Kansans who live in Greensburg are building green,” Sebelius noted, “rebuilding a better community for their children and grandchildren, making shared sacrifices and investments for the next generation.
   “Greensburg is not alone,” Sebelius continued.  “You and I stand ready, ready to protect our environment for future generations and stay economically competitive.”
    With Hewitt and Greensburg having served their illustrative purpose, Sebelius then returned to her political agenda, saying the “majority in Congress are ready to tackle the challenge of reducing global warming and creating a new energy future for America.  So we ask you Mr. President, will you join us?  It’s time to get to work.”
   Among those watching expectantly Monday night were Hewitt’s in-laws, Robert and Elva Whitfield of Pratt, who kept their two-year-old grandson during the couple’s trip to Washington.
   Asked Tuesday morning if he were disappointed over his son-in-law not being mentioned by the President, Robert Whitfield admitted, “Just a little bit, but I guess the governor mentioned him later.  But that’s not the same.
   “I mean, with the expense gone to getting them there you’d have thought he’d at least get mentioned during the speech, but then I’m not sure exactly who invited them and how much the President know about all that.”