This story was written by Nichala Davidson, The Daily Cougar
A crowd of more than 3,000 people danced to lively music, awaiting the impending arrival of presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., at his fundraiser "Countdown to Change Campaign."
Obama's goal was to push what has been the essence of his campaign: change.
"I'm in the race to offer change that we can believe in," he said. "Change that's not just a slogan, but the real thing."
The rally had a heavy turn out of college students -- all of whom were awaiting Obama's response to rising tuition.
"It's about time college was affordable and accessible," Obama said. "I'm in this race to make sure every American child has the best education that we have to offer. If we invest in education, we can close the achievement gap."
Obama's proposed plan includes more grants and allowing professionals, such as police officers, teachers and social workers, to work off their student loans in their respective careers.
The first bill Obama introduced to the U.S. Senate called for the Pell Grant maximum to increase by more than $1,000, according to his Web site. Obama plans to continue working to increase the Pell Grants by $1,400 over the next few years.
Obama also wants to implement new legislation that would create more loans for need-based students and would "eliminate wasteful subsidies to private student lenders," according to his website.
As far as grade school education, Obama wanted to reform or end President George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind program.
Althea Gibson, a supporter at the rally, came from Mineral Springs, Ark. to hear Obama's platform.
She agreed with his assessment of Bush's No Child Left Behind program.
"We need to equip the children to learn and not how to just take a test," she said. "We need to focus on their weaknesses and help (them) overcome them."Obama also covered other hot topics such as the Iraq war. He criticized other senators for "thinking the only way to look tough on national security is by talking and acting and voting like George Bush's Republicans."
"When I am this party's nominee, the world will not be able to say that I voted for the war," Obama said, "I didn't, I opposed it. (They can't say) that I gave George Bush the benefit of the doubt on his Iran policy, because I don't."
Obama said if elected, he would withdraw the troops within 16 months of his appointment -- a statement that garnered much applause.
"As president I will end the war in Iraq," he said. "We will have our troops home in 16 months. I will close Guantanamo. I will finish the fight against al-Qaida. I will lead the world to combat the common threats of the 21st century: nuclear weapons and terrorism."
Obama continued to detail his plan for health care reform and promised that the first changes in health care would happen during his term.
While Obama mainly touched on the Iraq war and health care, he barely mentioned plans on immigration reform or how to protect U.S. borders.
Obama also didn't touch on gay rights -- an issue he has been criticized for in the past. Despite his popularity, Obama has garnered criticism for his views on the gay community and for not distinguishing his views on the Iraq war. The New York Times reported last month that gospel singer Donnie McClurkin in South Carolina, who Obama signed on to the campaign, had controversial views on homosexuality.
Critics say Obama is appealing to conservative blacks at the expense of gay people, the New York Times reported in October.
During a Democratic debate on Aug. 19, his political peers questioned whether he had enough experience to guide the country, CNN reported. Other Democrats also questioned Obama's promise to talk t dictators -- without preconditions -- to improve foreign relationships.
In his talk, Obama asked the audience what they wanted next.
"Here's the question you have to ask yourself, what's next for America?"
© 2007 The Daily Cougar via U-WIRE