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The Kansas City Star: Obama Fires Up Backers In KC

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The Kansas City Star: Obama fires up backers in KC

By Steve Kraske

"We believe in individual initiative. We believe in self-reliance. But we also believe that we've got mutual obligations toward each other."
Sen. Barack Obama

Presidential candidate Barack Obama ginned up a political fervor rarely seen in Kansas City on Saturday afternoon with a stem-winder that audience members received with religious zeal.

The Democratic senator from Illinois offered his trademark message of hope to a crowd of hundreds jammed in a downtown ballroom. As Obama talked, audience members shouted back with cries of "That's right!" and "Tell it!" and in the case of one woman, with arms thrusted skyward.

"We want a politics that reflects our best values," Obama said. "We want a politics that reflects our core decency, a politics that is based on a simple premise that we stand and fall together.

"We believe in individual initiative. We believe in self-reliance. But we also believe that we've got mutual obligations toward each other."

The $25-a-person event at the Muehlebach Tower of the Kansas City Marriott Downtown hotel was Obama's second stop in Kansas City. His first was a private reception at One Park Place, 700 W. 31st St., where tickets ran $2,300 for a VIP reception.

Late Saturday, the campaign had not yet finished compiling figures for how much was raised, but one estimate said at least $100,000 was generated at One Park Place.

Obama's stop was the first in a series of visits here the next few weeks from leading presidential candidates of both parties. Democrats John Edwards and Hillary Rodham Clinton have scheduled fundraisers, as has Republican Mitt Romney.

At the Muehlebach Tower, Obama's speech left young people, many of whom said they were attending their first political rally, visibly excited. Older folks, meanwhile, compared Obama to John Kennedy.
One of those was Kansas City Councilman John Sharp, who said he would work as hard for Obama as he had this spring during his own campaign for the council.

Obama referred to Kennedy in his 33-minute speech, mentioning the former president's call to put a man on the moon during the 1960s.

"When America makes up its mind to do something, we can," Obama said.

After the speech, big crowds backed up at volunteer sign-up tables, and vendors hawking Obama T-shirts and buttons said they were practically wiped clean of merchandise.

"He's sincere. I think he's truthful. It's coming from his heart," said Bonnie Stephens, 80, of Blue Springs. "I believe in him."

Obama, 45, outlined his plans for providing universal health-care coverage, developing cars that go farther on a tank of gasoline to help the environment, paying teachers better and offering early-childhood education.

"We know what to do," Obama said.

On Iraq, he reminded the crowd that he opposed the war in 2002, when the idea of fighting in the Middle East was far more popular.

In a line that drew perhaps the most thunderous applause, Obama said: "It is time for us to bring this war to a close."

He said little about President Bush, but toward the end of his speech the Democrat said he had little confidence that the Republican president would change his mind about the war.

"The day this president decides to step down," Obama said, "the entire world will breathe a sign of relief."

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