April 12, 2008
Barack Obama~~~s visit comes 40 years after RFK came to campaign at Ball State
Democratic presidential contender Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois brought his "Road to Change" tour to Ball State April 12, telling about 3,000 students and Muncie residents packed into Irving Gymnasium that "there is no challenge we cannot meet; no destiny that we cannot fulfill."
Talking from the stage in the very same venue where the late Robert F. Kennedy spoke 40 years earlier during his run for the presidency in 1968, Obama also exhorted the audience to "write a new chapter in American history."
"We've got to change the way business is done in Washington," said the first-term member of Congress, who early in his speech opening the town hall style meeting also recalled the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his belief in the "fierce urgency of now."
"We've gotten used to not listening to the American people," Obama said. "We need a government that is paying attention. We've got to get past the divisions, past the politics, in order to make a change.
"We cannot wait."
The Illinois senator's appearance on campus marked the second time in as many months that a major figure from one of the two Democratic presidential campaigns has stumped for local votes ahead of Indiana's May 6 Democratic primary. Chelsea Clinton, daughter of New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton, answered questions from a group of 800 to 1,000 Ball State students in the Atrium of the Art and Journalism Building on March 25.
Hoping for a prime seat for the midmorning event, many Ball State students spent the night camped out on nearby University Green, so as to be near the front of the line when the doors to Irving Gym opened at 7:45 a.m. The process of clearing so many people through metal detectors and other security checks set up by the Secret Service took about two hours. But the enthusiastic crowd happily waded - and waited - through the long lines for an opportunity to see and hear the charismatic candidate, who suggested that he may return to Muncie before long for another larger, rally type event.
Appropriate to the scene at a major American university, one of the loudest ovations for Obama came in response to his remarks on the need for a more effective national education policy, one that increases investment in early childhood education, better rewards teachers for their sacrifice and dedication, supports the teaching of art, science and music - "all the things that we were taught when we were kids" - and ensures that a college education is affordable for every desiring student.
Obama also repeated his commitment to bringing American troops home from the war in Iraq and spoke about the current state of the U.S. economy, tax relief for middle class and elderly Americans, energy policy and global warming, health care, and the need in his view to restore the country's standing in the world community through the establishment of a renewed policy of diplomacy.
If successful in his bid for the White House, Obama said he would sit down to talk "not just with our friends, but with our enemies, as well."
Responding to criticism that such a step would not serve the nation's interest, Obama quoted President John F. Kennedy, when he said that America "must never negotiate out of fear. But it must never be afraid to negotiate." He added that key to those negotiations must be a call for greater respect worldwide of basic human rights and civil liberties.
"I will not be a perfect president," he said, "but I can promise you that I will always tell you what I think, always tell you where I stand, and always be honest with you about the challenges we face as a nation.
"We will disagree sometimes… It's a big nation with a lot of people and a lot of different views, so I know there will be times that we will disagree. But, I believe firmly that we can disagree without being disagreeable, and whatever else happens, I promise that I will spend every day I'm in the White House thinking about you."