Saturday, January 26, 2008

"Ready for change" in South Carolina

By Tim Wheeler, national political correspondent, People's Weekly World

Columbia, S.C.- Barack Obama delivered a powerful answer to those who dismiss his message of hope and change last night drawing thunderous cheers from an overflow crowd that packed the Ira and Nancy Koger Center for the Arts at the University of South Carolina.

Without mentioning Bill Clinton by name, Obama referred to the former president's dismissive comment that Obama is spreading a "fairy tale," that he is too young and naive to be president.

Those who counsel the people to be patient do not understand "the fierce urgency of now," Obama said, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King's argument against gradualism.

"There is such a thing as being too late," he said. He reminded the crowd that the nation is locked in the Iraq war, people are working longer hours and earning less, seniors have lost pensions and cannot retire, the healthcare system is "broken" and "we're on the brink of a recession."

"We cannot afford to wait," he said. "We cannot wait to end the war in Iraq and bring the troops home," he said. "We need a different politics based not on tearing each other down but building America up." Enormous crowds are greeting him all across the U.S. and South Carolina he said, attracted by that message of hope.

"Whatever else happens, next November the name George W. Bush will not be on the ballot." A roar went up and the crowd chanted, "No Bush! No Bush!"

He called for raising the minimum wage each year to offset inflation, health care for all, more money for schools than is spent for jails, making college affordable for all youth, and a change in U.S. foreign policy.

He vowed to "use our military wisely and that is why I opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning. I will end the war but also end the mindset that got us into this war."

He quoted President John Kennedy's admonition "never fear to negotiate" and promised to negotiate with both friend and foe.

All the candidates are now talking about "change," he said. "But change is not easy. Change is hard." Pharmaceutical corporations and oil companies "are not going to give up easily," he warned.

Already, they are attacking him, he said, spreading the word, "Obama can't be president right now. We have to slow him a little bit more, boil the hope out of him." Anonymous e-mails falsely report that he is a "Muslim."

"They want to preserve the status quo by feeding on fear," he charged.

Others say Obama "has his head in the clouds. He's a hopemonger," he said.

But the American people have always "defied the odds" and chose hope over fear and cynicism: waging the War for Independence against the British Empire, abolitionists who fought to end slavery, workers who pushed through the New Deal in the 1930s, joining the worldwide movement that defeated Hitler fascism.

"Hope is not blind optimism," he said. "I know how hard it will be to reform our health care system. I know because I have fought on the streets as an organizer."

He cited the courage of youth of all races in the 1960s who braved the fire hoses, clubs, and police dogs, some of them dying, to bring down the system of segregation.

"That's what hope is," he said."I can't do it without you. I am ready for change. But you've got to be ready for change as well. If we are ready for change, then the days of the lobbyists running Washington will be over. We can make an economy that works for all Americans, that works for mainstreet not Wall Street."

The crowd chanted, "Ready for change!"

[See Wheeler's earlier posts here and here.]

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