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Sun Herald - Obama Speaks at Jackson State

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Location: Jackson, MS

Sun Herald - Obama Speaks at Jackson State

Answering criticism he doesn't have enough experience, presidential hopeful Barack Obama said Monday his detractors really mean he isn't as seasoned with traditional Washington politics, which usually doesn't get much done.

The Democrat spoke to the estimated 9,000 people who were able to jam themselves into an arena on the campus of Jackson State University on Monday night. Many thousands more weren't able to get inside for the speech, which at times had the atmosphere of a crowded free concert.

Obama is leading in most polls going into today's Mississippi primary.

In his 45-minute address, Obama hit on a number of issues that have recently arisen in the unusually close Democratic race. For the first time in decades, one of the two political parties has come to the Magnolia State without having the nomination settled.

Obama takes poke at D.C.

Obama took on his opponent, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, who has said the Illinois senator lacks experience.

"When she talks about experience, what she really means is she's been in Washington longer than me," Obama said. "What the American people understand is what they don't need is a president who votes for the same old things, and talks the same old stuff and plays the same old games over and over and over and over again. That's not real change."

Clinton also recently said she wouldn't be opposed to sharing the ticket with Obama. But he scoffed at the notion Monday that he should accept a spot as Clinton's running mate, especially since he's leading the delegate count now.

"I'm not running for vice president, I'm running for president," Obama said.

Answering the criticism that his hopeful message is naïve, Obama said he was born to a teenage mother of modest means, but the family pitched in and he was now running for president. His story is one that should give others hope, he said. He also said some of the greatest Americans were driven by hope, including those who fought the American Revolution, abolished slavery and led the civil rights movement.

A little bit of Katrina

Hurricane Katrina was mentioned briefly in the speech to the central Mississippi crowd, but few specifics were given. Obama said there would be no more of what he perceives as a failure to respond to the storm by President Bush and former FEMA Director Michael Brown. U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, who has pledged his vote as a superdelegate to Obama, said he believed the senator would address post-Katrina ills.

Obama said he wanted to work to get everyone the same health insurance he has as a member of Congress if they want it.

He also wants to end the Iraq war in 2009.

A $4,000 per year grant for students to attend college is also part of his platform.

But the money wouldn't be given away, the student would have to sign up for the Peace Corps, take a job teaching or working in law enforcement or vow to do some other public service before they could get the money.

Jackson resident John Smith, 29, said he likes the candidate's promise to move away from the policies of the current administration. He wore an Obama shirt.

"We need to try it another way," Smith said. "We've tried the Republican way for the last eight years."

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