‘We’re at a defining moment’

Joe Shearer

Sen. Obama stumps at Kent State Tuscarawas

VIEW a photo gallery from Obama’s visit to the Tuscarawas campus yesterday.

There’s a disconnect between the leadership in Washington and everyday American workers.

That was Barack Obama’s message during his visit to Kent State’s Tuscarawas campus in New Philadelphia yesterday afternoon. Eager supporters young and old battled the 90-degree heat to hear the Democratic presidential hopeful. Speaking informally from the courtyard to a cozy crowd of about 120, Obama addressed the issue of working women and the economy.

Twenty-four-year-old Gabrielle Neavin, a Kent State Tuscarawas student, introduced the junior senator from Illinois after outlining her struggles of balancing being a single mom, working and going to school.

“I heard he has a plan to help women like me,” Neavin told the audience, sounding somewhat emotional.

The candidate sought to connect his childhood and his own mother with that of the struggles of single mothers in America, saying he understands the hardships women in Neavin’s situation must go through every day. His mother, Ann Dunham, was also a single mom.

“All of my success, I owe to her,” Obama said in tribute to her.

He went on to outline his economic plan, which would raise the minimum wage, provide health care to Ohio women who have none, extend child tax breaks and provide tax cuts to working women.

“I think we are at the defining moment in our history,” Obama told the crowd. “People are making less and working more … That’s what’s at stake this election.”

Obama took more shots at Republicans, charging all throughout Tuesday’s Republican National Convention speeches in St. Paul that there was no mention of the economy.

“I think John McCain is a great American war hero,” he said. “But the truth of the matter is, they just don’t get it.”

During a Q-and-A, when asked how so many people could vote Republican, he replied, “Republicans are really bad at government, but really good at campaigns.”

Obama continued to talk about the need to bolster America’s economy. He praised Beijing’s infrastructure as seen throughout the Olympic games, but he expressed disappointment in his belief countries like China and India were moving forward while America isn’t keeping up with their growth.

Between fanning themselves and sipping water, audience members cheered the message of a candidate they genuinely seemed excited to see. Before one man asked his question, he told the senator, “I’ve been waiting for you for 40 years.”

Others in the audience expressed their excitement even if Obama did accidentally refer to the city he was in as “New Pennsylvania.”

“I have a lot of faith in him, and a lot of hope in his views,” said 60-year-old Marlene Daniels, who attended the speech. “The line that sticks out to me was from his speech the other night when he said, ‘It’s not about him, it’s about us.’ That’s what really caught my heart.”

The aforementioned line made it into yesterday’s chat in an attempt to combat conservative critics that peg Obama as an out-of-touch elitist.

John Page, 82, said he was invited to the event and “enjoyed the whole thing.” He said he thinks he’ll do well, “but it’s going to be really tough because the American people are cynical at times.”

President Lester Lefton met with Obama and presented him with a portrait of the candidate by Kent State alumnus John Sokol. Lefton said he seemed genuinely impressed, prompting someone to take a picture of Lefton presenting Obama with the drawing.

Lefton said he extended an invitation to Obama to appear at the Kent campus, saying, “We’d be happy to host him.” He added that McCain has the same invitation.

Lefton said it was a “great learning and teaching moment” for the community and students.

Contact public affairs reporter Joe Shearer at [email protected].