Later in the day, Obama headed to the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg for another address expected to focus on education.
Looming budget battle
Regardless of the political focus of recent months, the national debate was certain to focus on the federal budget this summer and fall.
Pitched political battles over spending and taxes have dominated Obama's presidency, and Republican leaders spurred on by conservative House Republicans facing congressional elections next year are threatening hardline negotiating tactics over the budget and affiliated issues of tax reform and forced spending cuts known as sequestration that took effect this year.
Both the Republican-majority House and Democratic-majority Senate have passed spending proposals for fiscal year 2014, but the measures bear little resemblance to each other in terms of priorities.
Any attempt to reconcile differences through negotiation faces complications from related issues such as whether the sweeping government spending cuts that took effect in March and hit the military and discretionary accounts hard should continue unchanged.
Another potential landmine is the opposition by conservative Republicans, including some GOP leaders in Congress, to funding the implementation of the health care reform law pushed through by Democrats with Obama's backing in 2010.
Further complicating the debate is the certain need for Congress to authorize an increase in the government's borrowing limit, or debt ceiling, sometime this fall.
'The Boehner rule'
House Speaker John Boehner has made clear that any rise in the debt ceiling would require an equal cut in government spending to get GOP support, a demand known as the Boehner rule as set by the Ohio Republican.
The White House has said it will not negotiate on the debt ceiling, and some congressional Republicans balk at linking it to specific demands, such as cuts in funds for implementing health care reform, but insist that more must be done to reduce deficits and debt.
"I think holding the debt limit a hostage to any specific thing is probably not the best negotiating place," GOP Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri told MSNBC. "Where we ought to be now is, we need more spending cuts."
Blunt specifically called for reforms to popular entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to reduce their costs "so they last."
However, Democrats and Republicans remain far apart on entitlements, long a target of conservatives seeking to shrink government, especially programs that they say lead to federal dependence.
Democrats argue the government pension program and health care for the elderly and poor are part of a vital social contract that ensures the well-being of vulnerable citizens.
Obama said Wednesday that Democrats must "question old assumptions" and "be willing to redesign or get rid of programs that don't work as well as they should."
He has come under fire from some liberals for already proposing a change in how the annual cost-of-living index for federal benefits gets calculated as part of a broad but so far unreachable deficit reduction deal with Republicans.