Friday, Feb. 25


Sen. Obama meets the people in Lincoln town hall meeting     Send a link to a friend

[FEB. 25, 2005]  The Davidson-Sheffer Gymnasium was packed to overflowing. A number of junior high and high school students, community leaders, as well as residents, joined students at Lincoln College on Thursday morning for an opportunity to interact with nearly newly elected U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.

Just as this fresh-faced, clear-voiced, no-nonsense thinking man stirred crowds and constituents as he made his way onto the national scene recently, so he captivated local residents.

Sen. Obama spoke for about 15 minutes, introducing three categories that he has set his focus on:

  1. Economy and jobs
  2. Health care
  3. Education

At the core of his thinking is America's competitive position in the new global economy.

The senator then shifted and said that he wanted to hear from the people what our concerns are that we want him to work on during his term in office. He then spent the greater portion of the hour taking questions from the audience.

Subjects addressed from questions from the audience, in brief:

Looming Social Security crisis

He first identified the components that could lead to a shortage by 2042:

  • Government borrowed more money from the Social Security fund than they can put back.
  • Aging population leads to more retirees drawing on fund than employees putting into fund.

Potential resolutions, two choices: Take more money in or spend less.

  • Take more money in by raising the percentage drawn out of employee checks.
  • Create separate accounts that individuals pay into for their retirement.

Government needs to cut spending and put money away.


We're in a global economy. We need to equalize free trade.

  • No tax breaks for companies taking business and jobs offshore.
  • Tougher trade agreements.

Myers Industries strike

Companies have a responsibility to workers. MII should open up negotiations with workers. You can't have one side that refuses to talk.

School system

To students: Take preparing for a job seriously now. The job market is tougher than ever. A software company in India recently reported that they had 9,000 positions opening and had 1 million applications.

Three billion people will be entering the job market from China and the Soviet Union.

We're in competition with China and India. We must battle the anti-intellectualism that permeates this country.

  • Delay some gratification (don't spend study time playing on Game Boys and video games).
  • Work hard.
  • Be disciplined.

"All these things make a difference," Obama said.


  • Get teachers good pay.
  • Classrooms need basic computers and textbooks.
  • Restore extracurricular activities. It is not good to eliminate music, sports and other programs. These are not optional. They help you learn.

To do this we need to get away from a system that relies on property tax support. Supporting schools through income taxes would provide a more level support.

The federal government has been mandating school improvement programs, such as the No Child Left Behind Act, and not funding them. "We've got to get more money into the system," he said.

For students who plan to get a higher degree of education, the federal government needs to supply encouragement through financing with grants and loans and make them easy to pay back.

War in Iraq

Not in favor of it at the time of going into Iraq with no clear presence of weapons of mass destruction.

Encouraged by Iraqi election.

Being there confronts terrorism, increases the prospect for peace.

We owe extraordinary praise for U.S. soldiers and the Iraqi people (applause).

Need to ratchet up training of Iraqi security forces and bring our troops home.

[to top of second column in this article]

Regarding prisoner abuse and U.S. trials

Compares to Nuremburg Nazi war trials in which soldiers involved hid from their own moral responsibility by claiming, "I was ordered to do it."

The apparent definition of torture, that anything goes as long as it doesn't kill somebody, is too loose.

"I was distressed that there wasn't more outrage in the country," Obama said.

Health care

  • Implement tax credit for small business so they can afford to provide insurance coverage for employees.
  • Expand Illinois KidCare program to extend up to 22 years old to help transition young adults just entering the work force.
  • Need a public health infrastructure in place.

AIDS in America

It is a crisis we don't seem to get serious enough about. There appears to be less concern for this crisis since the news that it is now mostly affecting minorities. But we need to keep in mind that sooner or later it touches you. Viruses don't make discrimination between rich, male or white.

Drug companies need to be held accountable to help make drugs available to anyone who has gotten the disease.

Gay marriage

Response to question: Believes in the traditional view of man marries woman.

This is a values and morals issue that needs to be taught by parents to their children, not legislated by the government. "I don't need the federal government to tell me how to think," he said.

"Values and morality are what makes this country great -- honesty, hard work and decency. People can have a wide range of values."

Obama said he was disturbed with the issue gaining prominence during the presidential election. He said he thought, with all the problems this country has, this is going to be a debate? The economy might collapse and this is our most important issue?


We need to honor our veterans with more than mouth service, all the time.

The recent budget increases funding for veterans only one-half of 1 percent during a 2 percent inflation period.

We have 100,000 soldiers coming home from war and many will need post-traumatic stress treatment or could become like the many Vietnam War vets who ended up living on the streets. We need to take care of them.


There is no such thing as a free lunch. You have to think when you hear politicians who promise no new taxes. You will be left down the road asking why there are no new roads, no help for schools and no help for health care. It's simple math. There's got to be a source of revenue to do it.

"Even though I'm not driving the agenda the next couple of years -- the president is -- one of the things I've learned in government, politics and in life is that if you're walking down the right path and you're willing to just keep walking, you make progress." 

The senator's answers were complete and comprehensive as to what American government is and can be doing.

In a final twist he ultimately put the responsibility in the voter's hands, saying, "The real values are set by votes that are cast on Election Day."

[Jan Youngquist]


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