Barack Obama in Albuquerque: "The More Americans Prosper, The More America Prospers"
by fbihop, Fri Feb 01, 2008 at 07:36:25 PM EST
We can transform this economy, we can transform this country, we can transform this world.
- Sen. Barack Obama in Albuquerque
Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama stopped by for a visit to New Mexico. And this wasn't some ten-minute airport rally. He went to Albuquerque's Kiva Auditorium for an Economic Summit (which I attended) and was headed up to Santa Fe for another event.
I have to say, there was a palpable mood of excitement at the Albuquerque event. The doors to the event opened at 11:30, and the event was slated to begin at 1:15. I arrived to the Convention Center (where the Kiva Auditorium is located), and the line was already out the door. The line began on the second floor by the Kiva entrance, snaked through Ballroom A, down the stairs, snaked throughout the downstairs overflow room, out the other doors to the overflow room, out the outside doors and along the street.
There were a lot of people. And not just young people. There were those too young to vote, those old enough to have voted for Carter. There were black, there were white, there were hispanic. It was not a homogeneous crowd; it was a truly New Mexican crowd. All told, the event filled up the 2300-seat Kiva Auditorium, the massive overflow rooms set up with two large screens and there were still a thousand people waiting to get in. Truly an impassioned crowd ready to see Obama.
Read more about the event below.
While I was lucky enough to be in the Kiva, those who were not so lucky still got to see the man of the hour. Those of us in the auditorium were wondering why he was running so late; the event was scheduled to begin at 1:15, but Obama did not arrive until 1:50. A simple explanation.
Before the economic summit began, Barack addressed a crowd of around 1,000 people outside the Kiva auditorium who couldn't make it into the main room, or our two overflow rooms. There is an amazing energy all throughout this massive building and in the streets of Albuquerque.Classy move by the Presidential candidate.
In the mean time, the crowd chanted for Obama and generally had fun. The wave started, and went around the room several times (see picture above). Enthusiastic young supporters changed Obama's name; one young man got the crowd going
"Give me an O!"At ten before 2:00, a woman, Nancy Gage I believe, introduced the panel then, Obama himself came out to a rockstar welcome.
"Give me a Bama!"
"What does that spell?"
"Today we have to spend some time and attention on what is going on in the economy," Obama declared. With the falling stock market, a housing crisis and numerous other economic troubles, the economic roundtable was more relevant than ever. The news that America had the first negative job growth since August of 2003 hit the crowd hard.
But it gave Obama an opportunity to make a case for change. The current problems, according to Obama, were a product of "the failed policies of this administration and the failed policies of Washington," according to Obama. He used a populist approach, talking to the lower and middle-classes, saying he would fight for them once he was in the White House.
After all, the tax breaks for the rich take away from "the middle class and working poor who truly need it," Obama declared. He noted how some CEOs make more in ten minutes than many workers do in ten months. He noted the widening gap between rich and poor. He sounded a little like recently departed Presidential candidate John Edwards.
Which may be why former New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid chose to endorse Barack Obama. She formerly supported John Edwards in his quest for President, but once John Edwards dropped out, she decided to back Obama instead of Clinton. This despite the fact that the national media is telling us women and Hispanics will go to Hillary over Obama (Madrid is a Hispanic woman).
Obama spoke on a myriad of issues and showed how they all touched on the economic issues facing our country today.
There were some obvious like the housing crisis, "The housing crisis was merely the straw that broke the camel's back," and the economic stimulus package. Obama encouraged the idea of "get[ting] immediate relief to those who need it the most and will spend it the fastest" instead of to those who will just put it in their bank accounts and let it sit.
Others were less obvious, such as the need for better education. He warned, "Countries that outeducate us today will outcompete us tomorrow." Early childhood education was a topic as well as actually "rewarding" teachers instead of "just talking about how great teachers are."
On every topic of interest to voters today, Obama showed how it all touched the economy in some way or another. He warned that fixing all the problems caused by the current administration over the last seven years will not be easy. It "will require a new spirit of shared sacrifice and shared prosperity."
The panel briefly spoke on issues of importance to them, but the emphasis was all on Obama, as he had a brief Q&A session, taking seven questions from the audience and answering with well-thought out answers.
He spoke on teachers and said we must "recruit a whole new generation of teachers" to replace the baby boomers who are retiring. But it was more than just new teachers -- he wants to scrap No Child Left Behind, even if he didn't say it in those words exactly. "I want the highest standards in our classrooms. The highest standards. But those standards cannot just be measured by a single, high stakes standardized test."
And i have to say, the look on Obama's face when the tribal leader greeted Obama in his native language was priceless.
The final question had to do with veterans and their benefits. He said first of all, we must take care of those veterans while they are active duty by "training our troops properly, equipping them properly, putting them on proper rotations and providing them with the benefits they have earned when they get home." The entire answer was greeted by enthusiastic applause from the Marine veteran next to me -- and that's enough for me.
Overall, Obama left me very, very impressed. As was the large crowd.
He finished by telling the crowd, his plans "are practicle, they are doable, but they are politically difficult." The wealthy Americans and energy companies will oppose the changes he wants. But as Obama said, "change in America does not happen from the top down, but from the bottom up."