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Obama addresses select few at FTCC

By Abbigail Overfelt
News Editor

Photo by Michael Graham
Sen. Barack Obama waves to the crowd after speaking in Fayetteville.

On the morning of March 19, the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war, approximately 450 people were present at the Tony Rand Student Center on the campus of Fayetteville Technical Community College to hear a speech by Senator and Democratic frontrunner Barack Obama, which would later make national headlines.

Sen. Obama made the speech to an invitation-only audience of about 150, which included Former Army Captain and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Paul Bacha, Fayetteville Mayor Anthony Chavonne, President of Fayetteville Technical Community College Dr. Larry Keen, state Senator Larry Shaw, state Treasurer Richard Moore and the Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand. Other members of the invited audience included local leaders in the Democratic Party, according to FTCC’s Vice President for Institutional Advancement Barbara Copeland.

Several members of the national and local press were also present, including CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who would later have an exclusive interview with the senator. Approximately 300 people that were not invited stood outside the building and listened to the broadcast of Sen. Obama’s speech, which lasted for more than an hour. Afterwards, the same audience remained standing behind barricades for an additional two hours, hoping for a chance to shake the senator’s hand. Some attendants wondered why the senator chose to speak to a small audience.

Retired Sgt. First Class and Purple Heart recipient Mark Erwin sported a button that read “I’m a veteran and I vote” with the words “no for Obama” taped to the bottom.

Erwin said that he was skeptical of why the senator did not want military in the room.

He also said that if Obama was to make a speech, he should allow everyone to listen in his presence, not just a select few.
“I’m here to use my First Amendment right, and I should be able to,” he said.

Student Delphine Roberts agreed that the senator should have made his speech out in the open. “This is part of history,” she said. “This is the year that I graduate and I should be able to hear and see it first hand.”

By Michael Graham
CNN’s Anderson Cooper enters the Tony Rand Student Center in Fayetteville. Cooper has been following Obama’s campaign, providing coverage for CNN.

Roberts also said she was glad that Sen. Obama came to a small community college rather than to one more “upscale.” “This is a chance for people who are not as well off as other students may be, such as mothers like myself, to be a part of something,” she said. Copeland said she felt Sen. Obama spoke to a small audience so his campaign would not be confronted with anti-war protests that might have occurred.

She said the campaign’s advance team came to the campus March 17 and chose the area because of the small venue and the student center’s capacity to be contained.

Before his visit to FTCC, Sen. Obama loosened up by playing basketball with Fort Bragg soldiers. He addressed their service during his speech. “From…Fort Bragg, our soldiers have gone abroad with a greater sense of purpose than our leaders in Washington…and they have shown a sense of service and selflessness that represents the very best of the American character,” he said. Sen. Obama also addressed his thoughts on the war, and the exit strategy he has planned.

“This war has now lasted longer than World War I, World War II, or the Civil War,” he said. “Nearly 4,000 Americans have given their lives.

Thousands more have been wounded. Under the best case scenario, this war will cost American taxpayers well over a trillion dollars. And where are we for all the sacrifice?” he asked rhetorically.

“Now, we are debating who should be our next commander-in-chief. And I’m running for President because it’s time to turn the page on a failed ideology and a fundamentally flawed political strategy so that we can make pragmatic judgments to keep our country safe,” Sen. Obama said to loud applause. The senator went on to say the front of terror was never in Iraq and the mili tary should turn its attention on the Al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

His plan to end the war in Iraq would involve putting serious pressure on Iraqi leaders to take responsibility for the future of their country. “We are at a defining moment in our history,” said Sen. Obama. “We can choose the path of unending war and unilateral action and sap our strength and standing; we can choose the path of disengagement and cede our leadership; or, we can meet fear and dangerhead-on with hope and strength, with common purpose as a united America and with common cause with old allies and new partners.” Sen. Obama concluded his time on FTCC’s campus with a wave to the audience outside as he climbed into his vehicle, driven by secret service. Also on March 19, Sen. Barack Obama made a visit to Charlotte, N.C.’s Grady Cole Center for a town meeting and held two fundraisers at a private home later in the evening.

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Updated: Thursday, March 27, 2008
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