Obama debuts in Ohio

Alyssa Sparacino

Candidate’s stop at Youngstown State University attracts a diverse crowd

Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign trail led him to a packed Beeghly Center at Youngstown State University yesterday.

With the March 4 Ohio primary closing in, he spoke about his plans for health care, higher education, the war in Iraq and improving the local economy.

A lively 6,800 people came to listen to the Illinois senator speak. Some already had their voting decisions made and others were there to become better informed.

Obama has won the last eight primaries. Despite that momentum, recent polls are giving Clinton a double-digit lead in Ohio, The Associated Press reported.

Katie McLennan, junior telecommunications major at Youngstown State, came to the event as an Obama supporter.

She said she decided to attend because she liked what she had heard from Obama so far.

“I just want to hear what he has to say,” she said. “Also, more about his health care and economic plans as a whole.”

Allison Smith, sophomore public relations major from the University of Akron, said that her vote had always been between Obama and Clinton, but she has since declared herself an Obama supporter.

“He’s new; a breath of fresh air,” she said. “It seems like he honestly wants to change things.”

After thanking Youngstown, the elected officials, the voters and the believers in attendance, Obama said he knows Americans are ready and looking for a change, and that change starts from the bottom up.

“They want truthfulness, honesty and straight talk from their elected officials,” he said.

Before the event, Tara Pitsenbarger, sophomore corporate finance major at the University of Akron, said she had particular interest in hearing what the senator had to say about the war in Iraq.

“My boyfriend is in the army, so I want to hear what Obama plans to do, how he is going to get us out, if he wants more troops,” she said.

Obama said the current Bush administration sees a contradiction between safety and America’s reputation with the rest of the world, when these two factors are actually complementary.

“Part of keeping our country safe is using our troops wisely,” he said. “The war in Iraq was unwise. I will bring this war to an end in 2009 and bring our troops home.”

Obama also spoke on making higher education affordable and accessible to all Americans.

He explained his plan to give college students an annual $4,000 tuition credit, with the expectation that they will give back to the country through community service.

“If we invest in you, you invest in America,” he said.

Obama also said that teachers shouldn’t have to dip into their own pockets for school supplies, and he wants to reward teachers for their hard work with higher salaries.

After the event, Courtney Busdeker, senior secondary education major at Kent State, said this issue specifically sparked her interest as a soon to be graduate.

“I was really excited to hear his plans for education and to find out that he will be setting aside money specifically for teachers,” she said.

Speaking about the economy, Obama said he believes in tax cuts, but only for those companies and people who deserve them, such as those who invest in the city of Youngstown.

“I’m not going to raise minimum wage every 10 years. I’m going to raise minimum wage every year to keep with the pace of inflation,” Obama said.

Health care issues were personal for Obama because his mom died of cancer, and he watched her struggle with insurance form worries, he said. He made a promise to reform the country’s insurance policy if elected.

“Every American will be able to get health care coverage the same as I or anyone else in Congress,” he said.

Sabreena Shrader, freshman international marketing major at Youngstown State, said after hearing Obama speak, she was hopeful about the senator’s health care plans.

Busdeker said she was a Clinton supporter, but over the course of the last few months she has switched to supporting Obama.

“I’m pretty sure I’m voting for Barack,” she said. “No, I’m 100 percent.”

Obama said he is pleased to see young people getting involved in the campaign now for the first time.

“Part of the reason is because they know they will be voting for the president in November, and no matter what happens the name George W. Bush won’t be on the ballot,” he said.

Also voting in the March 4 primaries are residents of Texas, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Contact public affairs reporter Alyssa Sparacino at [email protected].