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Obama fuels debate, gives speech to well-wishers

Bill Brink | Thursday, April 10, 2008

Illinois Senator and Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama told supporters Wednesday at Washington High School in South Bend that changing parties in the White House will not suffice, outlined his plan for drastic alterations and gained an endorsement along the way.

South Bend Mayor Stephen Luecke, preceding Obama, endorsed the Senator to raucous approval from Obama supporters.

“Let’s not hold the surprise,” he said.

Obama, who entered the packed gymnasium with U2 playing in the background, received a huge response when he asked how many Notre Dame students were present. He explained his reasoning for running for president while he was still young, citing Martin Luther King’s “Fierce urgency of now.” He said the ongoing war, the recession and the mortgage crisis necessitated change that could not wait.

“We can be too late, and the hour is upon us,” he said.

Obama placed emphasis on improving education, but said it started in homes with good parenting.

“Every child is our child,” he said. “Every child deserves support, every child deserves the American dream, and we need to start investing in those children.”

To foster educational improvements, Obama said, he wants to reward teachers by paying them higher salaries.

Standardized tests alone should not determine educational improvement, he said. Instead, students should receive a well-rounded education that includes art, music and civics.

To continue his educational goals, Obama said he will offer $4,000 per semester in tuition credits to college students with the stipulation that students serve their community in some way. He offered the Peace Corps as an example of the service required.

“We invest in you, you invest in America,” he said.

To keep jobs in America, Obama said he would end tax cuts to companies that shipped jobs overseas. He also pledged to roll back President George Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy and give them to people who needed them.

Obama’s health care plan, he said, is intended to accommodate both those with health care and those without. For families with health care, he said he would lower premiums by $2,500. If families had no plan, he would make available plans similar to the government plan he receives as a member of the Senate. The plan would have no conditions, and if a family could not afford it, the government would subsidize it on a “sliding scale,” he said.

He ended with a discussion of the war in Iraq, which he said he opposed from the start. He pledged to pull the soldiers out of Iraq, which he said distracted the country from the war in Afghanistan “that we needed to win.”

Notre Dame sophomore Angela Anido, whose father is a teacher, said she appreciated the proposal to increase teachers’ salaries.

“It was really moving,” she said.

Fellow sophomore Alena Christiansen was also impressed by the speech.

“It was relatable to every race, every gender, every person,” she said. “He’s an awesome speaker.”