Detroit Free Press- 'There's More To Do,' Obama Tells Adoring Crowd At Candidates' Forum
By Kathleen Gray
U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., was the rock star of the NAACP's presidential forum, prompting enthusiastic standing ovations both at his introduction and after his soaring three-minute speech to the crowd of more than 1,000 people.
"I know what you know. That despite all the progress that's been made, there's still more to do," he said. "There's more to do when more young black men languish in prison than who go to college in America."
Obama was just one of eight Democratic candidates who addressed the NAACP's annual convention in Detroit.
The other two front-runners - U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, and former U.S. Sen. John Edwards, D-NC - also received enthusiastic receptions. While each of the remaining five candidates - U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-OH, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, former U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel, D-AK, and U.S. Senators Joe Biden, D-DE, and Christopher Dodd, D-CT - had lines in their opening statements that brought the crowd to their feet.
"I'd like to thank the NAACP for allowing me to follow Barack Obama," Dodd said.
Each of the candidates had his or her own pet issues to discuss, including Clinton's need for a new administration in Washington, Edwards' war on poverty and Kucinich's crusade to end the war in Iraq.
"In two hours, we're going to talk about more issues of importance to the African-American community than Bush has in the last six and a half years," Clinton said. "Our country is ready for change, and I believe I can be the president to lead that change."
Gravel said he didn't come to Detroit to win any popularity contests, and didn't make many friends among the candidates on the stage.
"The people are brighter and better able to lead this country than their elected officials, who are there for their interests first and foremost," he said. "The Republicans have been a disaster, and the Democrats only a hair better."
Biden told the crowd that he is the best equipped to assume the presidency because of his experience and his plans.
In a subtle dig at Obama's age, Biden said, "I've been around a while, and I'm old enough to remember the civil rights movement -- And no one has a plan for dealing with the reality on the ground in Iraq. I'm the only candidate whose laid out a detailed plan to end the war in Iraq."
After their opening statements, the candidates each answered a series of five questions on school integration, gun violence, health care, free trade and voting rights.
Earlier in the day, and standing in the middle of 10 podiums, nine of them empty but waiting for Republican candidates, U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo asked, "Do you think we should wait a few minutes to see if these other guys show up?"
The Colorado Republican was the only one of 10 GOP candidates who accepted an invitation to speak at the NAACP's 98th annual convention in Detroit.
"Do they know something that I don't know," Tancredo said. "The fact is that I know something that they don't. We may not agree on all issues, but we do have a very common cause - that the playing field is level for everyone, and the gates of opportunity are open for all."
One of the leading critics of immigration legislation on Congress, Tancredo used his three-minute opening statement to talk about the issue, calling it one of the most serious domestic problems facing the nation.
"The federal government refuses to do its job," he said.
The audience gave Tancredo a standing ovation, more because he was the only Republican to show up, rather than approving of his stance on issues.