By Alicia Wade Special to The Washington Informer
Sen. Barack Obama smiled as he walked into Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pa., last Friday afternoon, making the hot, overcrowded gymnasium, with its predominantly White crowd, just a little cooler than it was just moments before his arrival. The audience roared when he entered, responding to his presence by clapping, whistling and yelling for the man who believes in change. “Obama, Obama, Obama!” was the chant from the crowd.
So what is it that makes people who live in Williamsport, Pa., have so much faith in him? He is seeking their votes; they are looking to him for change. How will this all come together? This is the question that ran in the back of my mind, as I, for the first time, had the chance to watch, up close and personal, this African American candidate with so much potential, deliver a “naturally from-the-heart speech” to the people in the gym.
He started out by joking with the crowd about being late, creating a family atmosphere. But the essential question that’s running in the back of many minds is, “Why does he want to run?” Obama stated that he isn’t running because of some long-held ambition, or because he thinks it’s his turn, or because it’s owed to him. He tells the crowd he is running because of what Dr. Martin Luther King once said, because of “the fierce urgency of now.”
Obama’s strong approach showed that he came prepared for anything thrown his way, and spoke about situations that affect us all in some way, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama stated that the war in Afghanistan with al-Qaida can’t be avoided and the war in Iraq should have been avoided altogether, or ended long ago. He talked to Pennsylvanians about their issues, and displayed an understanding that they need change, and that he can bring that about.
Obama’s statement became stronger each time, no longer claiming “if” but “when” he becomes president, what he can and will do, as he spoke to the audience about specific problems they face in Pennsylvania, such as manufacturing jobs being outsourced to Mexico and family incomes that are not keeping up with the rest of the country.
Obama spoke about outrageous prices, demonstrating that as a citizen, he understands that healthcare, gas, groceries and college tuition all are a part of the long list of things we now pay more for. He explained that the cost of these changes should in no way, shape or form be a major problem, because we can take the $10 billion dollars being wasted in Iraq and make something positive out of it.
Offering faith and hope, he told the crowd that there is “no problem we can’t solve and no destiny we can’t fulfill.”
During the question and answer session, one audience member stated that he knew Obama would win in November 2009, but the ultimate question is—what he would do to stay there until 2012? And the confident, but not cocky, Obama replied “actually, it’s 2016.”
One woman, named Darby, explained she hadn’t been this excited about politics for 40 to 50 years, ever since we lost Bobby Kennedy, saying that “he [Obama] has definitely inspired the youth.” A young audience member named Jennifer said she has never endorsed a candidate before and that Obama would be the first she was really interested in, saying really liked the fact that “he forces people to discuss race issues because they have been pushed aside for a while now.”
Obama admitted that change is something that takes time and that change doesn’t happen from the top down. It happens from the bottom up.
Obama is the change that America for the longest time has been afraid to grasp. He has slowly but surely opened the door to many, and helped us believe that it’s that change that we constantly avoid that we need the most. As one of his supporters would say, “Its time to take care of home, take care of our country and its definitely time for change.”
Alicia Wade is a sophomore at School Without Walls and a reporter for Friendship News Network, the student news network located at Friendship Public Charter School in Washington, D.C.