Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Barack Obama at Take Back America

I am watching Barack Obama's speech at Take Back America online live.

So here are some notes on the speech:

Obama is introduced by civil rights activist Roger Wilkins who describes the junior Senator from Illinois as a man who possesses FDR's intellect, courage, and leadership.

Wilkins asks, "The question for 2008 is who's got the stuff to lead us out of today's quagmires? Obama's got the stuff!"

[loud applause]

Wilkins points out that Obama will lead us out of the war in Iraq, has fought for ethics reform, and will win us universal health care.

[rowdy enthusiastic crowd]


People are coming out to be active in campaigns because they are longing for something new. "People are hungry to turn the page and write a new chapter in American history."

Obama is inspired by the civil rights movement and the courage of the young people who took a stand in the 1960s.

Tells about his community organizer work in the 1980s in the South Side of Chicago. (See Dreams From My Father for this moving story.)

Obama is basically running down his credentials as an activist, a civil rights lawyer, and his experience in politics in Illinois and Washington.

These activist credentials strongly identify him with the activists who are present at this conference in ways that don't really work for life-long politicians like Hillary Clinton or John Edwards or Bill Richardson, as qualified as they may be.

Obama takes on the lobbyists: "Our government is not for sale, and we're taking it back, right here and right now!"

Obama says that some people say he hasn't been in Washington long enough to know the ways of Washington. "But I know that the ways of Washington have to change."

On health care and globalization: Washington has been telling the people who lack health care or who are seeing their jobs move overseas say that we can't do anything about it.

But, Obama says, we are our "brothers' keeper." We rise and fall as one community. When people suffer in poverty, lack health care, or unemployment – that diminishes us all. When we see veterans forging through trash because they have no jobs or resources, it diminishes all of our patriotism. Don't say you support our troops when veterans come home and face unemployment.

It is time for the politics of fear and division to end. Obama accepts the title of "hope monger."

Obama's legislative record: passage of health care reform to provide coverage for 150,000 children, ethics reform, education.

"It's not enough to change parties. It's time to turn the page on how we've been doing business as well. It's time to let the health care and drug companies know that while they have a seat at the table they don't get to buy every chair."

Health care plan: subsidies for purchasing coverage and pledges to sign a universal health care plan by the end of his first term.

Education: recruiting new teachers with competitive salaries, work with teachers to help students accomplish high standards, fund education, invest in early childhood education

Energy: fuel standards have to go up, place a cap on carbon emission (cap and trade), low-carbon fuel standards to take inefficient cars off the road

Jobs: Make the minimum wage a living wage, tied to the cost of living. Job creation and training programs. Pass the Employee Free Choice Act. "If the majority of workers in a workplace want a union, they should get a union. That's not complicated."

Iraq war: The war should never have been waged. We knew all along that these consequences were going to happen. "It is time to start bringing our troops home. Not a year from now, or a month from now, but now." Voted against giving a blank check for Bush to keep the troops in Iraq. "We are 16 votes in the Senate and a comparable number in the House away from ending this war."

America has a leadership role to work with, not against other countries to fight climate change, end proliferation of WMD, global poverty, AIDS and so on. And while we're at it let's close Guantanamo and restore habeas corpus. "That's not who we are." We are a country that has fought and struggled for democracy. "We are a beacon of hope." Not torture, war, bullying and secret prisons.

Obama actually believes that we have the capacity for good and great things inside us, and that the people are responsible for change rather than the "commander guy." It is easy to see why this crowd is so crazy for him.

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