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The Ames Tribune - More than 3,000 Attend Obama Speech at Iowa State University

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Location: Ames, IA

The Ames Tribune - More than 3,000 Attend Obama Speech at Iowa State University

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., painted himself Friday as the change agent for the political atmosphere he said has plagued Washington and created decades-old stalemates on healthcare reform and fundamental changes in energy policy.

Addressing a crowd of more than 3,000 people on the central campus of Iowa State University, Obama said he will change politics and put an end to the games the U.S. Congress and the White House have been pulling if elected president.

"You know, we spent time (Thursday) debating a ad in the New York Times instead of debating what we were going to do about Iraq," he said. "That is the kind of game-playing that we've got to get over."

Obama's trip to Ames Friday was his first since February when he drew more than 4,000 people at Hilton Coliseum announcing his candidacy for president.

During his 50-minute speech outside Curtiss Hall Friday, Obama drew cheers from the mostly college-aged crowd for criticizing President Bush and his administration's actions following Hurricane Katrina, granting tax cuts to the wealthy and their handling of the Iraq war.

He gained jovial applause while laying out his audience-geared campaign promises that included higher salaries for teachers, investing in rural economic development and working to help students eliminate their college debt before graduation.

Obama reiterated his continued support to end the war in Iraq and begin to bring troops home by March 30, 2008. That plan was covered in a bill earlier this year that was vetoed by President Bush who did not want to put such a timetable on the war.

"I promise you that if we don't end this war before George Bush leaves office, the first thing I will do as president of the United States is pull the joint chiefs of staff and tell them it is time for us to start bringing those troops home," he said.

Obama argued that it would take more than ending the war in Iraq to restore U.S. diplomacy with the rest of the world, reiterating a plan he was largely criticized about that included talking with international leaders from all countries, allies or not.

"That's what strong nations and strong presidents do," he said. "They talk to their adversaries and tell them where America stands and what we believe in."

Later in his speech, he defended a common criticism of his campaign citing his lack of experience needed to hold the country's highest office. Obama, who has only served at the federal level as a U.S. senator since November 2004, cited his more than 20 years in public service "bringing people together to get things done" as experience enough.

"I am confident that I may not have the experience Washington likes, but I know I have the experience Washington needs right now," he said.

Later Friday, Obama spoke to a capacity crowd inside Ames City Hall auditorium. The speech was similar to the one he delivered on the ISU campus, but it was more geared toward senior citizens and local high school students.

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