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Chicago Tribune: Obama Brings Message Of Change To Atlanta

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Location: Atlanta, GA

Chicago Tribune: Obama brings message of change to Atlanta

By Dahleen Glanton

In his first public rally in this city, Sen. Barack Obama stood before a crowd of 20,000 flag-waving supporters on Saturday and gave them what they came to hear -- a speech about ending the war in Iraq, providing affordable health care and improving education.

It was a message of change the Illinois Democrat repeatedly delivers across the country. But here where many voters are still trying to get to know him, Obama freshened it with parallels to the civil rights movement.

He quoted Rev. Martin Luther King. The former president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Rev. Joseph Lowery, offered a prayer. And the daughter of former Mayor Maynard Jackson, Alexandria Jackson, sang the national anthem.

Obama's speech was on target for the mostly young adult audience, particularly on the issue of the Iraq war. He asserted that the Bush administration had failed the American people and attributed the president's refusal to change course on the war to "stubbornness and obstinacy."

"The war is about an administration trying to preserve its political viability," Obama said.

"It is time to change course. It is time to bring our combat troops home," he said. "It is time for us to turn the page."

In the South, Obama has trailed Sen. Hillary Clinton and John Edwards in name recognition. A opinion poll of Democratic voters last month by InsiderAdvantage showed Obama third with 18 percent, following Clinton with 32 percent and Edwards with 28 percent.

Still, when Obama comes to town, people turn out. Last month, at a private fundraiser in Atlanta, hundreds of people paid $500 to $2,300 to meet him. The thousands who turned out for Saturday's outdoor rally at the Georgia Institute of Technology came despite the threat of severe thunderstorms.

Patrick McCullough, 22, said he was eager to hear Obama's views on issues that are on the minds of many of college students.

"Students on my campus are not talking about him that much," said McCullough, a senior at the predominantly black Clark Atlanta University. "I know much more about Hillary and I like her. But, as a black man, I want to know about him too."

For those already supporting Obama, the rally was a chance to get a good look at the candidate and, if they could get close enough, take a photo of him or shake his hand.

Denise Jones, 56, said she decided to support Obama the first time she heard him speak on the Oprah Winfrey show last year.

"He has a new vision for this country and I like that," said Jones, a writer from suburban Jonesboro, Ga. "We've been 'Bushwhacked' for so long and it's time for a change. I haven't felt like this since the '60s."

David Jones, 25, a law student at Mercer University in Macon, Ga., said Obama is the only candidate that has impressed him.

"He's the first politician to give me that good old feeling inside," said Jones. "It makes me excited to be an American."

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