Obama appears at Soldiers and Sailors
Two weeks after Senator Hillary Clinton’s visit to Pittsburgh, Senator Barack Obama spoke to a similarly enthusiastic crowd of Pittsburghers who filled Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall on Friday.
Two weeks after Senator Hillary Clinton’s visit to Pittsburgh, Senator Barack Obama spoke to a similarly enthusiastic crowd of Pittsburghers who filled Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall on Friday to hear what the Illinois senator and presidential hopeful had to say. Obama has been campaigning intensely in Pennsylvania, as the state is important for the senator to win in order to receive the Democratic nomination.
Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.) announced his endorsement of Senator Obama at Friday’s event.
“If there’s one thing Pittsburgh knows, it’s that we’ve got to do some pretty hard work,” Casey said at the event. “We can work hard, but we can only do so much as individuals. We need a president who’s committed to change and we need a president who will lead us in that new direction. [Obama] is the kind of leader who is ready to be the president of the United States.”
Tickets for the event, held in the hall’s 2550-seat auditorium, quickly sold out. Hours before the doors opened, the line of people waiting to enter extended down the stairs of the memorial and down Fifth Avenue, as a small group of Hillary Clinton supporters assembled across the street to taunt the formidable crowd with pro-Clinton signs. The audience was a mix of labor workers, union organizers, college students, parents with their children, and other members of the community.
Senator Obama began his speech by acknowledging some domestic issues, particularly those relevant to the lower classes.
“Everywhere you go, people are working harder and harder to pay the bills every month. You’ve never paid more for gas out of your pocket, for health care, for a college education,” he said. “Co-payments are going up, deductibles are going up, gas prices are going up. Our health care system leaves 47 million people without health insurance.”
Obama explained his plan for improving health care for all Americans by the end of his first term, emphasizing that those who have insurance will have lower premiums, and those without will have the option of receiving government-subsidized health insurance if they can’t afford insurance on their own.
In addition, he said that he wanted to start a home foreclosure prevention fund to allow more people to stay in their homes, in addition to creating after school programs for children; improving safety, health, and environmental standards for free trade; and investing in the country’s infrastructure.
He said that he would strive to lower college tuition and make a college education a reality for everyone, regardless of income, though he did not address the youth voter population directly.
But above all, Obama stressed the imminent need for change.
“We can’t afford to wait. We can’t wait to fix our schools, we can’t wait to fix our healthcare system, we can’t wait to have an energy policy that makes sense in this country, we can’t wait to bring this war in Iraq to an end, we cannot wait!” he said
However, he also cautioned the audience that change would not be easy.
“Understand how much work we have to do. We can’t afford to look at the world through rose-colored glasses. We’ve got a lot of work to do because we’ve dug a big hole for ourselves,” he said. “The only way change is going to happen is if we change how business is done in Washington. People don’t feel like Washington is listening because it’s not listening.”
Obama said that the main difference between his and Senator Clinton’s ideologies was that Clinton was not as adamant about decreasing U.S. dependence on foreign oil and turning to renewable energy. But he also said that the two had different opinions about how the environment in Washington must change in order for policy change to occur.
“I think that Senator Clinton is a smart and capable person,” he said. “But she seems to think that all we need to do is change political parties and kind of work the system. But what I’m going to say is, we don’t just need to play the game in Washington, we need to put an end to the game-playing in Washington.”
He also said that Clinton accepted money from lobbyists, whereas he did not, relying instead on the American people.
“I can’t do it by myself. I’ve got to have you with me,” he said to the crowd.
Candice Gesecki, a senior chemical engineering major, and Miriam Savad, a senior psychology and decision sciences major, were among the Carnegie Mellon students in attendance at the rally.
“I liked his idea of supporting college tuition through public service,” Gesecki said. “But he could have been specific about how he’s going to make those changes. I wanted to hear more specifics on policies.”
Gesecki plans to keep up with both Clinton and Obama before she makes her final decision about which candidate will get her vote.
Savad is also undecided.
“I’d like to see democracy represented again,” she said. “Either Obama or Hillary could potentially do a lot of things. I will vote for who I think is going to beat McCain, and who I think will win the election.”
Both Savad and Gesecki intend to vote in the Pennsylvania primary on April 22.