Clyburn introduces candidate: "Run, Obama, Run"
By LEE HENDREN
An enthusiastic crowd of nearly 2,000 people repeatedly cheered and applauded U.S. Sen. Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential hopeful spoke at Claflin University in Orangeburg on Saturday morning.
The big surprise of the day was that Sixth District U.S. Rep. James Clyburn changed his schedule at the last minute so that he could formally introduce Obama.
Clyburn, who has declared that he won't endorse any Democratic candidate in the presidential primary, nevertheless said he wanted to "thank (Obama) for giving new hope and inspiration to a new generation."
Linking the Illinois senator to two famous African-Americans who broke new ground for freedom, Clyburn said "Obama is able to run today because Rosa Parks sat down and Septima Clark stood up."
Addressing the question on everyone's minds, Clyburn said, "I have no idea whether a black person can get elected president of the United States."
One thing is for certain, Clyburn said. No one can win without becoming a candidate.
"Run, Barack, Run!" Clyburn declared amid an auditorium full of cheers, applause and sign waving that quickly picked up the chant as Obama entered the room.
Obama, in turn, complimented Clyburn, who this year was elected to the House leadership as the majority whip.
"Not only is he good for South Carolina, but he is good for the country," Obama said. "We need Jim Clyburn right where he is. He is doing outstanding work."
Obama also acknowledged Bakari Sellers of Denmark, who last month became, at age 22, the youngest member of the South Carolina Legislature.
At that age, "I was barely learning how to set my alarm clock and get to work on time," said Obama, who is 47. "Who knows how far this young man is going to go?"
People ask the same question of Obama.
"I've never been in a political campaign where (pundits) thought I would win," he said.
Can he -- and his wife, Michelle, whom he introduced as "the smarter, better looking and tougher member of the Obama family" -- go all the way to the White House?
"Yes, we can!" he declared with confidence.
Obama said this campaign is not about him. He said it's about filling what he described as a lack of leadership in a country that's at a "crossroads."
The health care system is "broke" because "we don't spend the money wisely," he said. If more effort were placed on prevention and on management of chronic conditions such as diabetes, less would have to be spent on critical care such as emergency room visits, he explained.
He said there's no reason South Korea should have a better broadband network than the United States. Providing Internet access to everyone is key to economic development, particularly in rural areas, in this global economy, he said.
Another key to prosperity is education, said Obama, who noted that his sister is a teacher.
The nation is correct in expecting "high standards and accountability," he said. And educators know how to do it: "We've got models that work."
But the "No Child Left Behind (law) left the money behind," Obama said. It's going to take more money, not only from the federal government but from states as well. And it's going to take commitment not only from educators but from parents too, he said.
Obama assailed "the anti-illectualism we see in the community sometimes." Young people will sometimes ask each other, "Why are you speaking proper English?" but "There's nothing wrong with (doing) that."
Just like Franklin D. Roosevelt rallied the nation to win World War II and John F. Kennedy inspired the country to develop the technology to "put a man on the moon," the next president needs to lead the effort toward energy independence, he said.
The technology exists to "grow our own fuel" through sugar cane, switchgrass, even cow manure -- "all kinds of degradable stuff," Obama said -- and Brazil is taking this path.
But "we don't have the leadership," and our oil purchases mean "we're funding both sides of the war on terrorism," he said.
Obama began his appearance an hour earlier than originally scheduled, and held the occasion to about 40 minutes, explaining that he had to catch a plane.
He planned to fly to Washington in time for a 2 p.m. Senate vote on whether to support President Bush's plans for sending more troops to Iraq.
Signaling how he'd vote, Obama said the conflict is "a war that should never have been authorized ..." The rest of his sentence was drowned out in applause from the audience.
Later, he said the country has wrongly "focused on trying to solve our foreign policy problems diplomatically and unilaterally."