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President Barack Obama's has urged Illinois lawmakers to work to change the nation's toxic political climate

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SPRINGFIELD, Illinois — President Barack Obama's speech to Illinois legislators, including some former colleagues, left them starry-eyed and receptive to his message Wednesday about changing the rancorous tone of politics to one that's more collaborative and less combative.

But as the state enters its eighth month without a budget, it remains to be seen whether they'll act on the president's words about building a better political environment.

Gov. Bruce Rauner and his fellow Republicans are deadlocked in a battle with Democrats who control the Legislature over how to proceed.

Obama harkened to his experiences as a state senator — where he served for eight years— to tell lawmakers that his time in Springfield taught him to forge compromises.

"I was truly honored to be in the chamber today," said Republican House Leader Jim Durkin. "Politics aside, a sitting president, one who came from our humble chambers and was able to talk about his experiences with members of the general assembly, I thought it was great."

Here are some highlights from Obama's speech:

LESSON IN HUMILITY

Obama was in the minority party when he began serving in the state Senate in 1997.

"I was passionate, idealistic, ready to make a difference. Just to stand in that magnificent chamber was enough to fill me up with a heightened sense of purpose," Obama said, but adding that he needed a dose of reality.

He got it after he got up to speak on a bill.

"I thought I'd made some compelling points, with irrefutable logic," he said. The Senate majority leader at the time, Sen. James "Pate" Philip, approached him after his speech.

"He slapped me on the back and said, 'Kid that was a pretty good speech. In fact I think you changed a lot of minds. You didn't change any votes,'" Obama recalled. "That was my first lesson in humility."

POKER GAMES AND HORSESHOES

The president said that as a rookie legislator he became acquainted with other lower-ranking lawmakers from both parties who weren't invited to the meetings where deals were struck. He remembered attending the occasional fish fry, poker games, and having meals together.

"I can't say I miss the horseshoes," Obama joked, taking a dig at one of Springfield's most famous dishes — an open-faced sandwich with meat layered with French fries slathered with cheese.

Obama said he built relationships with lawmakers from both parties and learned that despite differences they shared a lot in common.

"We didn't call each other idiots, or fascists who were trying to destroy America," he said. "Because then we'd have to explain why we were playing poker or having a drink with an idiot or a fascist who was trying to destroy America."

POISONOUS POLIITICAL CLIMATE

Obama touched on some of the issues that are gridlocking Illinois lawmakers — redistricting and unions — as he urged them to fight against what he called a "poisonous political climate" in the U.S.

"It turns folks off. Makes them cynical," he said.

He gave both parties things to cheer for in his speech. He said they should rethink how congressional districts are drawn every 10 years so the process is fairer — an agenda item Rauner and fellow Republicans are pushing.

Obama also spoke about the importance of collective bargaining for workers — which drew applause from Democrats but not Republicans.

But he encouraged them to find compromises.

"All of you know it could be better and all of you could feel prouder about the work you do if it was better," he said.


This story has been corrected to reflect that state Sen. James "Pate" Philip was the Illinois Senate majority leader, not the Senate president, when Obama first became a state senator.

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