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Obama woos crowd in town hall forum


Democrat presidential candidate rallies faithful


April 30, 2008
He hadn't even come into the building yet when the announcer said "Ladies and gentlemen," and there was an immediate standing ovation, cheers and applause. Then, the crowd went into a chant: "Yes, we can! Yes, we can!"

Barack Obama campaigns at IUS
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However, it was only Floyd County Democratic Party Chair Randy Stumler, who came to the stage in the Activities Building of Indiana University Southeast. He obviously appreciated the welcome, but was surely aware that the star of the event was Sen. Barack Obama, the man Stumler was about to introduce.

"We need to join hands and say we are ready for change," Stumler said at the Wednesday, April 23, event. "If something is not working, then change what you're doing. It's time to turn the page on the broken politics of the past."

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Sen. Barack Obama addresses a crowd at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany last Wednesday afternoon. (Photo by Brian Smith)
The audience listened politely, but as soon as Obama entered the gym, everyone stood, as if they couldn't wait to get a glimpse of the popular presidential candidate, and the cheering, whistles and foot stomping resumed with new vigor.

Obama, coming off a loss to Sen. Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania the previous day, stepped to the stage and wooed the crowd, who needed little encouragement to give the senator from Illinois a standing ovation after the completion of almost every major point he made, whether it was the about the economy, jobs or education.

But one of the biggest responses from the audience came when Obama addressed the war in Iraq.

"The war in Iraq distracted from the war in Afghanistan," Obama said. "I believed that in the beginning, and I believe that now. We need to break the Bush foreign policy. We need to build alliances all over the world, and that will help keep this country safe. And keeping you safe also means treating our military properly."

When Obama mentioned ending the war in Iraq, the crowd jumped to its feet, cheered, applauded and whistled — reminiscent of a concert when an audience hears the beginning of a favorite song.

"And I believe this is a defining moment of our history," Obama said. "We have huge problems at home. The economy is teetering on the edge, and during this administration, wages haven't gone up — for the first time since World War II. People are working harder and harder just to get by. Jobs that used to be plentiful are gone. Groceries and gasoline have gone up. Millions of our poor children are left behind. And we can't afford to fix our schools, our health care system or our economy."

When Obama mentioned that the Bush Administration was spending $10 billion a month in Iraq that should be spent "in this country," there was another standing ovation.

"And John McCain looked at the Bush economy and said we've made gains," Obama continued. "But we need an economy that works for all Americans, not just the rich."

According to the Associated Press, Obama still leads Clinton in total delegates and superdelegates, 1,719.5 to 1,591.5, but it was also reported that Clinton had received a shot in the arm with millions collected in fundraising in recent days.

Obama said that he respected Clinton and that "we share a lot of common ideas." But he also told the audience that what was needed was a different kind of politics in Washington. And many in the audience agreed.

"Barack Obama represents a new kind of politics," said Sarah Watkins, a New Albany resident. "He has a very special vision of what this country can and should be."

"I don't think Hillary can unite this party and convince the undecided voter to join us," added Amellia Dusch, also of New Albany. "Her ideas about politics just doesn't get things done."

Molly Howard drove from Corydon, just to get a chance to see her favorite candidate.

"I'm thrilled to have a chance to see him this close," said Howard, who brought her 15-month-old daughter, Lila. "I really like his passion about the important issues. He inspires people — even young people — and we surely need that now."

The event, which was attended by an estimated 2,500 people, was billed as a "town hall meeting" and Obama took a few questions from the audience. One was about access to senators and congressmen. Another person said that Homeland Security was more of an enemy, due to the loss of civil rights in America, than al-Qaeda. But Obama assured the crowd that "they want to blow us up," so al-Qaeda was the more lethal enemy, but that "anyone who trades freedom for security will end up with neither."

A student from IUS asked Obama about his plans for Social Security, and Obama promised that it would not be privatized.

"Social Security is the best program in the history of this nation," Obama responded. "We must preserve Social Security, not just for this generation, but the next generation and generations to come. This trust fund, for years and years, had a surplus. Bush has borrowed that surplus to fund a war in Iraq, but we must pay it back.

"We have to get our budget under control, with no increases in government spending unless there's a way to pay for it. I believe in people investing in the stock market, but we've all seen what happened with Enron. Social Security should always be more secure than that, and we have to make sure it doesn't go away."

Obama went on to say that "government from the bottom up always works best."

"In the last couple of election cycles, we've not seen the kind of voting that is good," he added. "How successful we are in changing this country for the better is up to you.

"I will always tell you what I think and where I stand. I will be listening to those who are laid off and the kids left behind in the school systems. I will be thinking about you and working for you when I'm in the White House."

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