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
Obama spoke for about 15 minutes, introducing three categories that
he has set his focus on:
- Economy and jobs
- Health care
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
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.
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.
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.
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
- 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
- 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
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
Regarding prisoner abuse and U.S.
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
"I was distressed that there wasn't
more outrage in the country," Obama said.
- Implement tax credit for small
business so they can afford to provide insurance coverage for
- 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
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
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
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
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."