Wednesday, March 12, 2008
U.S. Sen. Barack Obama rocked the campus of Jackson State University March 10, committing to an agenda of ending the Iraq War, universal health insurance and providing $4,000 in annual tuition credits to college students under his administration.
The next day, Mississippi voters handed Obama a race-divided victory over Sen. Hillary Clinton, according to exit polls.
Obama drew a crowd of more than 8,000 to JSU's sports and athletic center Monday, which was more than the facility could handle.
Another crowd of about 1,000 supporters had to be ushered into a second auditorium at the corner of Prentiss and Lynch streets, to watch Obama's presentation through a live video feed.
Obama entered the auditorium containing the surplus audience first, shaking hands and exchanging greetings—and inciting a storm of well-wishers crushing the barricade—before stepping out to address the larger audience.
Citing a rash of mortgage failures across the nation, Obama said he would put in place a $10 billion "home protection fund" to rescue some homeowners from foreclosure,.
"It's bad for the whole community when a family loses a home," Obama said, explaining how the loss affects home prices and hurts the local community's ability to collect taxes.
Obama also said his presidency would buck the once-a-decade standard on minimum-wage hikes under the last few administrations, "to keep pace with inflation, because if you work in this country, you should not be poor," he said, sparking cheers from the crowd.
As president, Obama said he would push for an energy policy to take advantage of emerging solar and wind technologies.
"We send a billion dollars a day to other nations for foreign oil, but we're paying the highest gas prices we've ever seen, so we're going to change the way we do business," he said, vowing to, "develop new technologies and charge polluters who produce greenhouse gases."
Obama drew loud cheers for his position on the Iraq War, calling it "an unwise war," and vowing to end it in 2009.
Above all, Obama hammered away at his message for change. He separated the forces of change from the forces of the status quo and put Clinton firmly in the status quo side—particularly regarding some of her campaign tactics.
"When the campaign starts releasing photographs of me while I'm traveling overseas, wearing the native clothes of that country to make me look (foreign), then they run a (scare tactic) ad talking about who's going to answer the phone at three in the morning ... that's not real change. That's the same old thing, and we're moving on from that," Obama said.
Obama also could not resist a poke at Clinton's suggestion that she might adopt Obama as a vice president.
"This is a close race. I can't guarantee that I will win, but I am not running for vice president. I'm running for president of the United States of America," the senator from Illinois said.
The Obama platform resembles that of Clinton in many respects. Clinton promised, at a Democratic event in Canton last week, to begin troop withdrawal from Iraq in six months, saying the country needed to focus on winning the battle in Afghanistan. Obama is quick to point to Clinton's initial support of the war, however, and for her subsequent support for funding the war.
Clinton also promised big changes in the economy, and more jobs, similar to the high economic times during the 1990s, when her husband, former President Bill Clinton, was leading the country.
"People like to say (the 1990s) are ancient history. Well, it's not like it's ancient Rome. It was only 10 years ago when were creating more than 22 million new jobs, when the average family's income went up more than $7,000 a year, and more people were lifted out of poverty than in any time in our country's recent history," she said.
"There's no reason we can't do that, so long as we have a president who is a good steward of the economy, who will get us back to being fiscally responsible. End the war in Iraq, bring that money back home and put it to work here in Mississippi," Clinton told a crowd of about 2,000.
Like Obama, Clinton promised to dedicate national resources to developing "clean, renewable energy," such as solar and wind power.
"We've got to do it for our security. We can't keep sending millions of dollars off to other countries," she said.
Jackson resident Sam Begley supports Clinton over Obama, saying Clinton would have an advantage in moderate-to-conservative states during the general election. "I think Hillary will have to make her case, but you can see where she's popular in the states that matter. Not the blue states, but the purple states, where she has an edge," Begley said, predicting a windfall for Democrats against Republican nominee Sen. John McCain, no matter who won the Democratic nomination.
"What I really think is that Democrats will just kick ass this time around. I mean, you got a guy running for Republicans who is basically a new Bob Dole."
Vicksburg resident Winston Moore, a staff scientist with Applied Research Associates Inc. said Obama was probably going to take the nomination and soundly trounce McCain in the November election.
"Obama's talking a message that's uniting people who haven't come together in years," Moore said.
"He's got a positive message that's bringing new voters out to vote this year."
One of those voters is Jackson State University student Lasheba Wallace, 18. Wallace said she felt confident that Obama would take the White House.
"Oh, he's going to win. He's going to win this election. We can all feel it coming," Wallace said.
Kelly Jacobs of Hernando, who spoke at Clinton's speech in Canton, said most Democrats would be happy to vote for either of the primary candidates.
"I'm supporting Hillary because she's smart and articulate, but if she loses I'll support Obama and be happy with that. I'm not sure if a lot of Republicans can say they're happy with McCain," Jacobs said.
Here is a transcript of Obama's "Race" speech today. I think this is hands down one of the best speeches ever written that addresses how most everyone feels or should feel about being an American. I learned a lot from this speech, I hope you all do too! Some excerpts: For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives – by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny. Ironically, this quintessentially American – and yes, conservative – notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright’s sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change. The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen – is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow. In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.... For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies. We can do that. But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change. WOW!