Globe Gazette: Obama invites crowd: Let's do this together
By John Skipper
U.S. Sen. Barack Obama urged supporters Wednesday night to join him in a process that engages "ordinary people to do extraordinary things."
The key is working together, he told a crowd estimated at 1,800 at a rally in the North Iowa Area Community Colllege gym.
"We must believe we're in this together and not to go it alone. We've lost that notion over the past several years," said Obama, a first-term senator from Illinois.
"We're at a crossroads internationally and domestically," he said. "We have a broken health care system, an education system that is inadequate for students to compete in the world. We have no energy policy and an economy where some people have never had it so good but where average people are seeing their salaries and health care benefits flat-lined."
"Most of all," he said, "we have a war that should never have been authorized and our standing in the world is diminished despite losing blood and treasure."
Prior to the NIACC rally, Obama held an informal meeting with about 20 veterans at the Elks Lodge in Mason City. He fielded questions from Robert "B.J." Jackson of Des Moines, who lost both legs in fighting in Iraq, as well older veterans such as Harold Hopp and Willis Haddix of Mason City. Much of the discussion centered on the delivery system of veterans' benefits.
At NIACC, Obama made reference to his talk with the veterans.
"When our vets come home, they shouldn't have to beg for their benefits," he said.
Obama said he believes in "the politics of hope" -- the belief that by coming together, Americans can make each others' lives a little better.
Obama said he is often asked about his purported lack of experience.
"I haven't been in Washington long, but I've been there long enough to know it needs to change," he said.
Obama said the next president should have a universal health care system in place by the end of his first term "and I should be held accountable for that."
He said every child should have access to early childhood education and that teachers should receive higher pay.
"They want to be held accountable. They just don't want to be held accountable to `No Child Left Behind' that leaves all the money behind," said Obama.
Also, he said there is no reason why cars cannot be built that get 40-45 miles a gallon running on alternative fuels such as ethanol that will help free the U.S. from being dependent on foreign oil.
But none of the domestic goals will be possible until America gets out of the war in Iraq, said Obama.
He has proposed a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops that would begin this year and have all troops of out of Iraq within a year.
"It's time for millions of people to come together and say, "we want a change," said Obama.
"We can put our shoulder on the wheel of history and make a difference."