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Green Bay Press Gazette - Obama at UWGB: Change Needed Now

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Green Bay Press Gazette - Obama at UWGB: Change Needed Now

Sen. Barack Obama ended his Green Bay visit Friday night with onion rings and a perch plate at Kroll's East.

The unscheduled stop on Main Street was the encore to his rally at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay's Kress Events Center that he concluded with the campaign theme that has helped him stay stride for stride with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.

"There is a time in the life of every generation where we have the opportunity to reach for what we know is better," said Obama, D-Ill., before an estimated 4,500 who cheered throughout his 55-minute speech, in advance of Tuesday's primary.

"This is our moment. This is our time. We will win in Wisconsin, we will win this nomination and the general election, and we will change this country and change the world."

Change was the word that came from Obama's lips repeatedly as he recited the issues he said must dominate the political debate for 2008. Health care, the war, education and the environment were high on his list.

Referring to the late Martin Luther King's phrase "the fierce urgency of now," Obama said change must happen now to reverse a national trend.

"We cannot wait to bring an end to global warming," he said.

"We cannot wait to bring an end to the war in Iraq."

Through it all, he urged his audience to become engaged in the need to change the direction of the country.

"It makes him more real," said Dawn King, 43, a pharmaceutical representative from Green Bay who will probably vote for Obama. "I liked the fact that he emphasized personal responsibility. His message wasn't all about government doing things for you. We have to do our part as well."

Obama's plan for educational credits in exchange for volunteer hours resonated with Green Bay residents Andy and Janet McGlinn, the parents of three children — all of whom will be in college soon.

"We were very excited to hear him talk about lowering tuition cost," Janet McGlinn said. Although they haven't decided on a candidate yet, the McGlinns said they are leaning toward Obama, and seeing him in person reinforced their position.

Obama directed his criticism at the Bush administration, Clinton and the Republican front-runner, Arizona Sen. John McCain.

"The war in Iraq has cost us billions of dollars and thousands of lives, Obama said. "That's why I opposed the war in 2002 and why I will bring this war to an end in 2009."

He chided Clinton for claiming that Obama lacks the experience in Washington, D.C., to qualify for the presidency.

"The last thing we need is the same old folks doing the same old things," he said.

And to her charges that he is avoiding debates, Obama noted that he has participated in 18 debates so far and has two more next week.

He expressed his respect for McCain, a former prisoner of war.

"But John McCain is wrong on the economy, and he's wrong on Iraq," Obama said. "He's looking backward while I'm looking forward."

Anticipating a large crowd comparable to the 20,000 who attended Obama's rally in Madison earlier this week, several hundred people staked out a spot before the doors of the Kress Events Center opened around 3:15 p.m.

"I was here at 11:30 a.m. — I expected people to get here early," said Greg Stachowiak, a 19-year-old UW-Green Bay student who skipped a class to secure a spot at the head of the line.

Although he was a supporter of Clinton until about a week ago, Stachowiak said Obama's enthusiasm and positive attitude cemented his decision to support the Illinois senator on Tuesday.

Some voters are still on the fence.

"I'm kind of undecided," said Vern Kasten of Green Bay, a retiree who also plans to see Clinton on Sunday when she visits De Pere. "(Obama's) a good new face — a fresh face."

Michael and Mary Lotter were having dinner Friday night at Kroll's when Obama walked in the door. He posed for a picture with the Lotters' 8-year-old son, Jonah.

"We're voting for him," Michael Lotter said.

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