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Trump Delivers Campaign-Style Speech At Veterans Of Foreign Wars Convention

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

President Trump took a break from the political turmoil of Washington today. He was in Kansas City, Mo., speaking to a convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The criticism Trump has received following last week's summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin was nearly absent.

Frank Morris of member station KCUR is on the convention floor now and joins us. Frank, first describe the atmosphere there.

FRANK MORRIS, BYLINE: Well, I mean, so you're in this old convention hall in Kansas City built in the '30s, cool art deco hall. It holds about 10,000 people, and it was maybe half full. Most of the folks here were older and white, most of them, but they almost all seemed to adore President Trump. You know, the address was kind of a - you know, another sort of campaign-style address.

The president brought up Josh Hawley, who's running against the incumbent Democrat Sarah McCaskill for the Senate. He ran through some of his accomplishments and threw out some red meat about respecting the flag and standing for the national anthem. But he probably got the biggest response here when he spoke about repatriating the remains of service members killed in the Korean War, which has been a very important issue for the VFW.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: As you may know, we're also working to bring back the remains of your brothers in arms who gave their lives to Korea. And I hope that very soon these fallen warriors will begin coming home to lay at rest in American soil. That's starting the process.

(APPLAUSE)

CORNISH: We hear the applause from the crowd there. I know you've been talking to members of the VFW. What were their thoughts about the president?

MORRIS: You know, most of the people I spoke with are right in sync with President Trump. They like his tough stances. And Anthony Moroni (ph), an 89-year-old Army Airborne veteran from suburban Chicago, said pretty much the same thing a lot of people said.

ANTHONY MORONI: He gave a darn good speech. I'll tell you that. It was for everybody, not for himself but everybody, all the vets who were here.

MORRIS: I did hear some concerns about the speech not being specific enough about what the president would do for vets or how to pay for it. Some were taking issue with the president's - what they see as the president's cavalier style and his tweeting. And not everybody was happy about the relationship Trump is trying to foster with Russia. Timothy Juliet (ph) from Montgomery, Ill., who was also in the Army Airborne - but he was stationed in Eastern Europe during the close of the Cold War. It makes him nervous.

TIMOTHY JULIET: With Russia, I think he's making a huge mistake personally. And a lot of vets I think feel that way, but I'll speak for myself.

MORONI: So do I. I think that way, too, (unintelligible).

JULIET: And they have been an enemy of ours for eons.

MORRIS: And you might have heard Anthony Moroni chiming in there. So even people who are very supportive of President Trump - some of them are made nervous by the Russian thing. In general, though, people seem to love the president here and feel like he was doing a really good job for veterans and had them top of mind.

CORNISH: That's Frank Morris of member station KCUR in Kansas City, Mo. Thanks, Frank. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

I’ve been at KCUR almost 30 years, working partly for NPR and splitting my time between local and national reporting. I work to bring extra attention to people in the Midwest, my home state of Kansas and of course Kansas City. What I love about this job is having a license to talk to interesting people and then crafting radio stories around their voices. It’s a big responsibility to uphold the truth of those stories while condensing them for lots of other people listening to the radio, and I take it seriously. Email me at frank@kcur.org or find me on Twitter @FrankNewsman.
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