The presidential candidate came to Youngstown with a message of hope.
By HAROLD GWIN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN — “I can lead this country in a new direction ... but I can’t do it by myself,” Illinois Sen. Barack Obama told a crowd of about 6,400 supporters gathered in Beeghly Center at Youngstown State University.
“People tell me they want change,” he said, but he cautioned that change won’t happen unless the American people are truly committed to the process.
Obama brought his Ohio presidential campaign to Youngstown on Monday with a “Keeping America’s Promise” rally at YSU after a morning tour of the RMI Titanium Co. plant in Weathersfield Township.
Dozens of people were left waiting in line at Beeghly Center but couldn’t get into the building because it already had reached capacity.
Obama brought a message of hope to the city and stressed that hope isn’t blind optimism and being ignorant of the roadblocks those seeking change must face.
Hope means imagining and working for those things you want to change, he said, calling on those in the crowd to join him in changing things in Washington, D.C. The next president of the United States needs to be someone who will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear, he said.
Obama was introduced to the crowd by Rosemary Miller of Youngstown, who appeared on stage with her infant son and two young daughters to tout Obama’s plan to provide universal health care.
Miller, a laid-off member of Pipefitters Local 396, said she is in danger of losing her health care and will support the man who says he will do something about it.
Obama said providing better health care is just one of the changes he wants to make in the American system.
He told the crowd he wants everyone to have the same or better quality of care that he receives as a United States senator. He also wants a ban on pre-existing condition denials by insurance companies and a subsidy to help those who need assistance in securing health care.
He also vowed to end the war in Iraq, telling the crowd, “I will bring the war to an end in 2009.”
Obama said he wants to take away the tax breaks given to companies that decide to move operations overseas and give the breaks to companies that invest in Youngstown and the United States.
He proposes pulling back the tax cuts now enjoyed by the wealthiest Americans and giving them to working people. Those making less than $75,000 a year would get a $1,000 rollback on their taxes, he said.
Other changes he proposes include:
U An annual increase in the minimum wage to keep pace with inflation.
U International trade agreements that contain labor, environmental and safety arrangements that protect the jobs of American workers.
He took a shot at Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton, noting that she has been critical of him, saying he makes good speeches but speeches don’t put food on the table.
“NAFTA didn’t put food on the table here in Youngstown either,” Obama said, a reference to the North American Free Trade Agreement pushed by the Bill Clinton administration and signed into law by the former president. NAFTA has been blamed for the loss of thousands of local jobs to Mexico and other foreign countries.
U Changes in Social Security tax laws to have everyone paying a fair share. Working men and women pay taxes on 100 percent of their income but the wealthy don’t, Obama said.
U Investments in early childhood education to close the achievement gap, but with an added emphasis on poetry, music and art, not just academics. Obama admonished parents to do their part by turning off the television, putting away the video games, and instilling in their children a desire to get a good education.
U Raising teacher salaries.
U Making college more affordable by granting every student a $4,000 tuition credit in exchange for community or national service.
U Creating an energy plan that charges polluters for creating greenhouse gases that pollute the atmosphere and using that money to invest in green technology that will save energy and create jobs that can’t be exported.
U Creating a foreign policy that changes the attitude that led the United States to war in Iraq and restoring diplomacy, including having the president meet with those who like us and those who don’t.
Obama said he has been criticized as lacking experience on the national level.
“What matters is judgment,” he said, adding that some people never develop good judgment.