Obama talks change in Lebanon
Calling for a change to the Washington climate and an end to the U.S. troop presence in Iraq, presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., addressed a filled gymnasium at Lebanon High School Monday evening. Obama discussed a variety of issues ranging from education to gay marriage, emphasizing his dissatisfaction with the political status quo.
"Politics as usual will not do in this election," he said. "We don't need to play the game better, we need to put an end to the game playing, and that's why I'm running for president of the United States of America."
Obama spoke to an energetic and responsive audience, receiving the loudest standing ovation when he declared that he will bring all U.S. troops in Iraq home within 16 months after he is elected president. He also used this opportunity to make a distinction between himself and the current Democratic frontrunner Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., on diplomatic strategy.
"I had an argument with Clinton," he said. "I said we need to talk not just with our friends but also with our enemies. JFK said, 'we should never negotiate out of fear, but we should never fear to negotiate.'"
Hoping to dismiss accusations that he lacks the Washington experience needed to serve as president, Obama pointed to his two decades of public service, including his involvement with grassroots campaigns in Illinois after college.
"When I hear this I have to remind people that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld have two of the longest resumes in Washington," Obama said. "A long Washington resume does not ensure good judgment; it does not ensure good character."
As a former law professor, he went on to criticize the current administration's abuse of the Constitution.
"Your next president will actually believe in the Constitution," he said.
Obama outlined his position on several social issues, including health care and education. He said that health care reform is a personal issue for him because of his mother's struggle with cancer.
"My mom died with she was 53 years old," he said. "She wasn't thinking about how to get well, she was reading insurance forms. It was heartbreaking. It was wrong."
Obama pledged to promote a health care plan equal to the plan he receives as a senator and make it available to all Americans by the end of his first term as president.
Speaking on another social issue, education, Obama stressed the importance of early childhood education to prepare children for elementary school and to close the achievement gap. He said that he wants fast and effective change, which he said has not occurred under the current administration.
"I'm impatient with our schools," he said. "Don't pass 'No Child Left Behind' and leave the money behind."
During the question-and-answer session following his address, Obama was asked to explain why he does not support gay marriage. He said that although he does not openly promote the rights of gay and lesbian couples to marry, he does believe that they should be treated equal to heterosexual couples.
"I am absolutely committed to civil unions that are robust," he said. "Not that just provide half the rights or benefits. There are 1,200 federal rights that are not provided even if a state recognizes civil unions. I am absolutely committed to reversing that."
When discussing what distinguishes him as a candidate from his opponents, Obama said that he is the candidate who will effectively bring about change.
"I want us to move forward," he said. "I have a track record of fighting for change. I made choices all my life that indicate a bias for change."
He concluded his visit by challenging his audience to use their leverage as New Hampshire voters effectively.
"Let's go change the world," he said.