Butler County Times Gazette
  • Honoring the President's Kansas connection

  • From the Flint Hills of Kansas to the White House was held on Sunday afternoon at Augusta's Garfield Elementary.
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  • In 2009, a group of citizens recognized a need to preserve a Presidential heritage. The group's current efforts are focused on collecting oral histories and artifacts, developing educational tools, and providing a website in order to make these resources available.
    It has nothing to do with politics, but everything about honoring our county's connections to President Obama. There is also a focus on Midwest values and sharing his family's legacy with people across the world.
    The group hosted a special celebration, "From the Flint Hills of Kansas to the White House" on Sunday afternoon at Augusta's Garfield Elementary.
    The event was a celebration of memories by friends of Stanley and Madelyn (Payne) Dunham, President Obama's grandparents, and the 1930-1940s history of Butler County.
    Stanley Dunham grew up in El Dorado and Madelyn Payne lived in Augusta from an early age, attending Garfield Elementary School and graduating from Augusta High School in 1940.
    Dr. John Black, Augusta School Superintendent welcomed the crowd assembled in the school gymnasium on Sunday, calling it "a grand celebration."
    A group of fourth and fifth grade students, led by Megan Hilton, paid homage to Kansas by singing "Home on the Range," and Dr. Jackie Vietti, retired president of Butler Community College and one of the founding members of the Obama Kansas Heritage committee addressed the audience.
    She thanked all those involved in the program and said, "We are here to honor and celebrate a president's Kansas heritage and his connection to Butler County. Our Kansas roots matter and we are very proud of them."
    A video was presented that included memories shared by relatives, friends, and classmates of the Dunhams. Sadly some of the narrators have died since the making of the video; Mary (Kennedy) Lawrence, Nina June (Swan) Parry, Forrest J. Robinson, Caroline (Ewing) Short, Clifford W. Stone, and Margaret McCurry Wolf. Other narrators included: Lois (Olsen) Cox, Bill D. Dennett, Margaret (Haines) Doornbos, Virginia (Dashner) Ewalt, Clarence H. Kerns, Margaret Shirk, Raymond Teegarden, and Nelva (Seaburn) Wentz.
    The special event was also sponsored by the Kansas Humanities Council.
    To view the oral histories in their entirety and to learn more about the project go to www.obamakansasheritage.org.
    (Check photo galleries for more scenes from the event).
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