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Obama: America Can't Wait for Change

Posted March 26, 2008
Updated March 28, 2008

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— Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama discussed the economy, education, health care and the Iraq War during a town-hall-style meeting in Greensboro on Wednesday.

"We're at a defining moment in our history," Obama told a packed house at the Greensboro Memorial Coliseum. "We can't wait to fix our schools. We can't wait to fix our health-care system. We can't wait to bring good jobs and wages back to the United States of America. We can't wait to bring the war in Iraq to an end."

Believing the best change occurs from the bottom up, he said, he wants to bring American people together to overcome special interests in Washington.

"The biggest problem we have right now is that Washington doesn't hear people," he said. "(Special interests) are the ones who are writing the laws. They're the ones hiring the high-priced lobbyists."


Obama called for rewarding top teachers, giving college tuition credits in exchange for community service, subsidizing health care for people currently uninsured, ending the Iraq War and implementing a more strategic foreign policy.

"If you're ready for change, if you're willing to work with me, we can shake things up," he said.

In response to a question from a Bosnian woman about immigration, Obama called for beefing up border security and cracking down on employers who hire illegal immigrants. But he said the U.S. can't reasonably try to round up millions of undocumented workers.

"You have to give them a pathway to gain citizenship," he said, noting that he would require them to pay a penalty for breaking the law and would make them wait for others who entered the country legally to become citizens.

Obama told a man who asked about the economy that he doesn't have "a silver bullet" to help those struggling with debt and job losses. But he said a combination of policies, from universal health care to improved education and training, should help millions of people.

"In a nation as wealthy as this, there shouldn't be deeply impoverished people," he said.

He blasted Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, for a lack of vision in dealing with the nation's economic problems. McCain has adopted a "sit back and watch it happen" approach to the downturn in the economy, Obama said.

"He offered not one policy, not one idea, not one bit of relief," Obama said. "We've been down this road before. It's the road that George Bush has taken over the last eight years. It's the idea that the government has no role at all in solving the challenges of working families."

Obama also addressed the recent controversy involving his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who has been criticized in recent weeks for statements criticizing U.S. race relations. Obama said Wright was wrong in making the statements but said it was unfair for 30 years of preaching to be boiled down into a 30-second sound bite, which he said distracts everyone from solving more serious problems in the country.

"We cannot solve the problems of America if, every time someone somewhere says something stupid, that everybody gets up in arms, and we forget about the war in Iraq or we forget about the economy or we forget about the things that are going to make a difference in our children's lives," he said.

The discussion of Wright came in response to a question from a Christian college student about Obama's faith and his policies. The candidate responded that he believes in "a gospel of not just words, but deeds" and tries to shape his policies to "apply Jesus' teachings in a concrete way."

"I believe in doing right here on Earth," he said.

Those in attendance said they were impressed with Obama and his message.

"I think he's good for the country. I think he gives a positive, positive message," one man said.

"He's a unifier," another man said.

The Greensboro appearance marked Obama's second trip to North Carolina in a week. Last week, he campaigned in Fayetteville and Charlotte, calling for an end to the Iraq War and speaking on issues from health care to the economy.

His main rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York , plans to stop in Raleigh, Fayetteville and Winston-Salem on Thursday.

Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, made stops in Cary and Charlotte last week and plans to visit Greensboro, High Point, Kannapolis, Salisbury and Hickory on Friday.

Chelsea Clinton, the Clintons' daughter, also is scheduled to appear at the North Carolina Young Democrats convention on Saturday.

In the close race for the Democratic nomination, North Carolina's 134 delegates are important.

"North Carolina, in some ways, captures what's happening around the country," Obama said in an exclusive interview with WRAL. "I do believe that, if we can do well here in North Carolina, we're starting to get to the point where it's really going to be hard for Sen. Clinton to win the nomination."

“This whole thing could come down to what you’ll decide to do in North Carolina,” Hillary Clinton said.

She is scheduled to talk about the economy during a speech at Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh. She’ll then lay out "Solutions for America" at Terry Sanford High School in Fayetteville.

Rob Christensen, a political columnist with The News & Observer newspaper, said presidential candidates have not given North Carolina this much attention in 20 years.

“They’ve watched Iowa, New Hampshire, even South Carolina pick nominees where North Carolina had no say. Now, they have a very big say,” Christensen said.


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  • Garnerwolf1 Mar 27, 2008

    Please folks, don't fall into the trap of believing that he, or anyone for that matter, can simply snap his fingers and improve the economy. It's not that easy. It's why many economics textbooks titles begin with "Theory of..."

    If you want any President to fix something, start with the multi-Trillion dollar hole that we've dug ourselves with Social Security and Medicaid. At some point that bill is going to come due, and it's going to be very, very ugly. Not to those of us in the workforce now, but to our children and grandchildren.

  • rc4nc Mar 27, 2008

    I know that any candidate that told US the truth wouldn't stand a chance at getting elected. If some candidate stood up and said "American people we are living beyond our means" wouldn't stand a chance. So expect more of the same.

  • Just Ice Mar 27, 2008

    Dark_Horse: "Who is this "Captain America" that you speak of?"

    I don't know. I really don't like Obama or Clinton. I don't trust Obama at all and I'm really sick and tired of the Clintons. I did like McCain 8 years ago when he truly was a maverick but he's sold out just to win the presidency. His campaign staff is full of lobbyists. I was a registered Democrat until this year. I changed my voter registration to unaffiliated because the Democrats took impeachment off the table as soon as they came to power. I can't think of any other sitting president or vice-president in my lifetime (that includes Nixon) that deserves impeachment more than those two. I guess like atozca, I'm hoping a third party candidate or an independent will step forward and announce their intention to run.

    I simply refuse to believe that out of 300,000,000+ U.S. citizens, these 3 are the best we can do. And this candidate doesn't need to be "Captain America". We need a patriot who hasn't sold out.

  • atozca Mar 27, 2008

    I am praying for a miracle darkhorse. I don't like McCain, Clinton nor Obama! I do not want more government run anything which is exactly what Obama says he plans to do. We the people always joke and laugh at "politicians" and talk about choosing the lesser of the evils.... what is it going to take for us to change this game and this attitude of acceptance? I don't want the lesser of evils to be our next president!

  • NCMOMof3 Mar 27, 2008

    doodad, hope springs eternal

  • happy Mar 27, 2008

    Who remembers the last president that had very little experience but talked a great game? He was a Republican and a HUGE spender.

    But the country loved him.


  • doodad Mar 27, 2008

    NCMOMof3, I'm actually thinking the Vice pick may give us some hope.

  • Nope Mar 27, 2008

    I don't like hillary, and with McCain, I am afraid that we will have basically an extension of the bush administration - more of the same.

  • Nope Mar 27, 2008

    Ltur - that is borrow and spend.

  • NCMOMof3 Mar 27, 2008

    DarkHorse, that's just it. We are facing a very scary election with the fact of having to choice the lesser of 3 evils. One that talks a very good game but has no substance to back it up, one that can't spout anything but lies (duck and cover, please) and the other I'm not comfortable with either but of the 3, maybe an independent will step up at the last minute