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Tribune Chronicle - Obama Brings Message of Hope

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Tribune Chronicle - Obama Brings Message of Hope

For Christena Weatherspoon of Struthers, it was like Barack Obama was inside her head.

After the Democratic presidential candidate's 45-minute address to at Youngstown State University, Weatherspoon said she was speechless. She said, ‘‘It was like he knows what I want.''

She was not alone in the crowd of about 6,800 supporters who packed Beeghly Center for Obama's first campaign rally in Ohio and responded enthusiastically to his message of ‘‘hope and change.''

Donald Butler, 44, of Warren, said he has not voted in the last couple of elections, but he worked his way to the stage after the talk and stretched his hand as high as he could to shake Obama's hand.

‘‘I got there,'' he said. And he said he'll vote for Obama this year.

Khaled Tabbara of Youngstown was a political activist in the Young Democrats at Fitch High School and worked on the Al Gore campaign in 2000. He said he had become cynical.

‘‘I felt like there were nothing we could do. This is the first guy I'm excited about in my life,'' Tabbara said.

Repeatedly, Obama asked if they were ready for change, and went through his economic and foreign policy proposals. The crowd roared its approval, especially when he said he would end the war in Iraq in 2009.

He said there is no contradiction between America being safe from terrorists and being respected around the world. He said he would close the prisoner camp at Guantanamo Bay and make America a leader in protecting the environment in ending HIV and respecting human rights.

Among other issues, Obama said he would:

? Roll back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to give those making less than $75,000 a tax break;

? Create a $10 billion fund so that people paying their mortgages won't face foreclosure;

? Raise the minimum wage not every 10 years, but every year.

He also talked about the need to change America's trade policy, a theme he stressed in brief remarks following an earlier tour of the RMI Titanium Co. plant in Weathersfield.

Following the 30-minute walk through the plant, he talked with Todd Weddell, president of United Steelworkers Local 2155, about the local economy, where more jobs are leaving than are being created.

Obama told a several dozen RMI workers that few areas of the country have been hurt worse by trade agreements than the Mahoning Valley. To help areas like the Valley, he said he would amend agreements like NAFTA and end tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas. Instead, he would give tax breaks to companies that maintain corporate headquarters in the United State and create good jobs here — ‘‘Companies like RTI,'' he said.

‘‘To help titanium plants like RTI, I want to make sure that our military gets the precious metal materials that it needs from American companies if they're available here in America, because there's no reason our own government shouldn't be doing all the business it can right here in the United States.''

Obama brushed aside charges from the Clinton camp that in a speech given Saturday in Wisconsin that he plagiarized one used by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. Obama said he and Patrick trade ideas and words, and he could have given Patrick credit but didn't.

‘‘I really don't think this is too big a deal,'' he said.

RMI workers were more laid back than the Youngstown crowd. Patty Clark, specifications clerk, said Obama is ‘‘somebody you can vote for an feel good about it.''

Dave Sova, who described himself as a swing voter, said he has heard a lot about Obama and change, but the candidate still has not convinced him

At YSU, Obama also took some shots at his opponent in the Democratic primary, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has been saying Obama's ability to give a good speech is not the same as offering solutions to America's problems.

According to Obama, who spoke with his tongue in his cheek, Clinton is saying, ‘‘Obama has not been in Washington long enough.

‘‘We need to season and stew him a little bit more and boil all the hope out of him and then maybe in 20 years, when he's now just like us, maybe then he'll be ready.''

‘‘That's the experience argument,'' Obama said. ‘‘But what matters is judgment.''

William Binning, retired political science professor at YSU, called Obama a ‘‘phenomenon'' who attracts an altogether different crowd from the people who usually show up at Valley political events.

‘‘This guy has drawn in a whole new layer of support,'' Binning said. ‘‘For the youth here, this is the most significant political event of their lives.''

As if to prove Binning's point, Jared Jacobs, 17, drove all the way from Ashtabula to see Obama. Jacobs, who said he will be 18 in time to vote in the November election, said, ‘‘I'll never forget this. It's one of the best moments of my life.''

Others drove even further to see Obama.

Parthi Kanavel, 26, drove from Toronto, Canada. He said the five-hour drive was nothing compared to the opportunity to tell his children some day that ‘‘I was there.''

‘‘Something about him is greater than politics as usual,'' Kanavel said. ‘‘He inspired me. He changed my life.''

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