Obama begins last stretch in Canton

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama spoke to the public at the Canton Memorial Civic Center Monday. Obama discussed health care and education while reminding voters there is only one more week to vote. Caitlin Sirse | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Before Barack Obama took the stage in front of about 5,000 people at the Canton Memorial Civic Center to deliver one of his final campaign trail speeches yesterday morning, the crowd found solace in breaking out the “human wave,” a pastime typically relegated to sporting events.

The wave circled the U-shaped auditorium eight times, and set the stage for the Illinois senator’s speech about turning the tide of the last eight years under the leadership of President George W. Bush.

“After decades of broken politics in Washington, eight years of failed policies from George Bush, and 21 months of a campaign that has taken us from the rocky coast of Maine to the sunshine of California, we are one week away from change in America,” Obama said. “In one week, you can give this country the change it needs.”

Obama used the 40 minutes he was on stage to carry his message of change, speaking mostly about his economic policies as well as health care, education and safety.

“I will ensure that the financial rescue plan helps stop foreclosures and protects your money instead of enriching CEOs,” Obama said. “And I will put in place the common-sense regulations I’ve been calling for throughout this campaign so that Wall Street can never cause a crisis like this again.”

Ronald Bauer, 80, and his wife Barbara, 71, both of Canton, said they came to see Obama because they probably may not get the chance to see a candidate in person again.

“This will probably be our last election,” Barbara Bauer said.

Ronald Bauer said they have seen their retirement savings dwindle because of the financial crisis, and he said he won’t live long enough to see a return on his investments again.

“If I had 10 or 15 years for it (the economy) to come back to life it probably would,” he said. “So let’s do something about it now.”

Obama stressed his various polices, such as health care, were nuanced, as opposed to what appeared to be what is often presented as a complete government overhaul of the system.

“When it comes to health care, we don’t have to choose between a government-run health care system and the unaffordable one we have now,” Obama said. “If you already have health insurance, the only thing that will change under my plan is that we will lower premiums. If you don’t have health insurance, you’ll be able to get the same kind of health insurance that Members of Congress get for themselves.”

“(Obama’s stance) on health care resounded more with me than anything,” William Poole, 65, of Massillon, said. “I know for a fact that my health care has risen from the time I retired in 1992 to right now – it was up to $752 a month and now it’s around $500-600 a month that I pay – and I still have to pay for my wife’s (health care) too.”

Obama’s plan for allowing college students to get free tuition for not only serving in the military but also in their community also left a mark on the raucous crowd.

“The future of our kids being able to go to college and being able to afford college without having to be slapped with a whole lot of loans after college (is something that struck me),” Poole said.

Aside from laying out his plans for the country, Obama was also quick to slam his opponent John McCain for his ideas.

“If you can’t beat your opponent’s ideas, you distort an attack on those ideas – and you even make some up,” Obama said. “That’s not change.”

Though Obama was not shy to show the differences between his campaign and that of his Republican counterparts, he also spoke often about ending politics of division by closing the gap in America between parties and classes, a message picked up on by Stephanie Tag, 24, of Canton.

“He talked so much about unity in America,” she said. “How each person stands on their own but united with all their neighbors – regardless of where they’re from.”

Contact public affairs reporters Marcus Barkley at [email protected] and Kiera Manion-Fischerat [email protected].