Sarah Phelan reports from Saturday's Obama lovefest in Oakland
Barack Obama has the cutest, toothy, crinkly-at-the-edges smile. Yeah, he's the Democratic Presidential candidate with the dangerously high level of charisma and everyone knows it. (A recent poll, taken the same week as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill giving California an early Feb. 5 2008 presidential primary, placed him only a few points behind Sen. Hillary Clinton, with Sen. John Edwards trailing in third place.)
(pic by Khalil Abusaba)
That's why folks during Obama's St Patrick's Day appearance in Oakland were wielding a "You're Barackin' Me Crazy" sign, and Double Funk Crunch, the band chosen to serenade this youthful presidential hopeful, warmed up the crowd by singing "Crazy."
Not that the crowd needed any warming. Oakland crowds are hot. And the minute the youthful Senator from Illinois stepped onto the stage, things got even hotter.
"How's it going, Oakland? I'm fired up! This is a good-looking crowd," Obama told the 10,000 + people crammed into Oakland's Frank H. Ogawa Plaza outside City Hall.
(pic by Khalil Abusaba)
Recalling how his 8-year-old daughter, while on a recent road trip, turned and said, "Daddy this is great...What are we doing here again?" and how his 5-year old daughter answered, "This has to do with Daddy's presidency thingy," Obama elaborated to the Oakland crowd, "We are here today because the country calls us, we are here today because history beckons us, we are here today because we face a series of challenges as significant, as daunting as any generation has faced."
That said, he Painted a realistic and bleak picture of how today's America faces a "healthcare system that's broken, "an education sytem that's teaching the few, but failing too many, : an energy crisis that sends billions of dollars to hostile nations for oil while "melting the polar ice caps and warming the planet and "an economy that has never been more productive, that has never generated more wealth: yet leaves average workers' wages stagnant as living costs rise."
All this, "in the midst of a war that should never have been authorized and that should never have been waged," said Obama, who wants troop withdrawals to start by May 1, with all combat troops out by March 1, 2008.
"Don't stand next to a flag and say you believe in supporting the troops when you're forgetting about them when they come home," he said, referring the recent scandal over deplorable conditions at Walter Reed Army Hospital."
Promising universal healthcare for all by the end of his first term, Obama promised the crowd, "This campaign is a vehicle for you, your hopes, your dreams...I promise you that not only will we have a better America, but I will be the next president of the United States."