It wasn’t so much for himself as his town that Steve Hewitt “felt a little down” as he traveled by motorcade back to the White House Monday night following his attendance of President Bush’s State of the Union address on Capitol Hill.


  It wasn’t so much for himself as his town that Steve Hewitt “felt a little down” as he traveled by motorcade back to the White House Monday night following his attendance of President Bush’s State of the Union address on Capitol Hill.
   Though he “had no idea” as to whether the President would even mention Greensburg’s ongoing recovery from last May’s tornado during his speech, he’d harbored hopes—hopes that were heightened when Bush made reference to the ongoing struggle of the Gulf Coast region to bounce back from Katrina.
   “When he said that I expected he’d go ahead and mention Greensburg,” Hewitt said later.  “Maybe he was going to, but knew Sebelius was going to and decided to let her do it.”
   At the time, of course, Greensburg’s City Administrator had no idea what was being said by the Governor he’s worked with the past nine months as she followed the President to deliver the Democratic response from Topeka.  Shortly after returning to the White House Hewitt learned from his wife Sebelius had spoken directly of his pivotal leadership in Greensburg’s effort to rebuild and do so in an environmentally responsible manner.
   With room only for Hewitt himself in the First Lady’s box—he sat three rows behind Laura Bush and directly behind Bob Dole—Kim Whitfield had remained behind at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to watch the speech and Sebelius’ response on television with White House staffers.
   Hewitt’s mood lifted as his wife gave him a summary of what the Governor had said, and brightened even more when he was able to see a playback of Sebelius’ comments the next day.  More importantly, Hewitt returned to Kansas the next morning convinced Greensburg is still on the minds of key players in Washington, not the least of which is the President himself.
   Having met with Senator Pat Roberts Monday morning to discuss such matters as incentives for business to return to Greensburg and gap funding, Hewitt was gratified to hear Bush asks Roberts about Greensburg’s progress on a regular basis.  His post-speech moment with the President only confirmed Roberts’ implication of Bush’s ongoing interest in Kiowa County.
  “I got to talk with the President for a minute or two during the reception after the speech and he knew me right away and remembered everything about his trip to Greensburg right after the tornado,” Hewitt said.
   “He asked how things are going in Greensburg and where I’m living.  I told him I’m in a FEMA trailer and he said he was sorry about that.  I said I was just glad I have a place to stay while we’re planning our new house.”
   As if he needed further testament to those in Washington remembering his town, Hewitt recalled the First Lady’s Chief of Staff telling him Monday of having mentioned Greensburg’s situation and his invitation to attend the speech when speaking with Fox News that morning.  With his town’s nationwide media exposure having been more or less continuous since May 4, Hewitt realizes the significance of yet one more opportunity to be before the nation.
   “We continue to feel every time there’s a news article about us it lets potential corporate sponsors know what we’re doing,” he said.    “That’s a lot of the reason GM did what it did last week in giving us and the school those vehicles. 
   “John Picard’s in corporate board rooms every day telling our story and so we’re staying on people’s minds which gives us a better opportunity to fill the funding gaps that come with the projects we’re trying to fulfill.”
   Hewitt seemed genuinely awed by his initial trip to the nation’s capital, commenting repeatedly on the number and sheer size of the federal buildings and monuments, counting the Lincoln Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery as his favorites of the spots he was able to visit.
   “There was a lot, like the Smithsonian, we didn’t have time to see, so my wife and I have already talked about going back, maybe even this summer, when we have more time,” Hewitt said.  “It’s definitely a place I’d recommend for any American to visit.  You get such a patriotic feeling with the aura of all the great leaders we’ve had and those who’ve died to keep our land free.  It’s just a very humbling experience to be there.”
   Having sat three rows behind Mrs. Bush, Hewitt said he’s aware the most people saw of him on national television during the address was his knee when the camera panned to a brief shot of Senator Dole.  But he has a ready answer for those who doubt his actual presence in D.C.
   “They took a picture of me and my wife in the Red Room of the White House,” Hewitt said.  “And there’s also one of my with the President and Mrs. Bush.  So, yes, even though I didn’t get on television during the speech, I was there and did spend time with the President.  I have proof.”