Well, now we know.
At Barack Obama’s Economic Security Townhall yesterday, the Senator held up Friday’s St. Petersburg Times. The front page tells the story:
So, while the GOP tells us that things are just dandy, while John McCain insists that there has been great improvement in the last eight years – my state slides officially into the recession that was, according to the McCain campaign, a figment of our whiny imagination.
Senator Obama gave an extremely well received talk about the issues facing American, and specifically those facing Florida. He talked about the failure of the FCAT tests (Florida’s unfortunate nod to No Child Left Behind) and the responsibility parents have in their children’s upbringing. He talked about the dynamics of Florida’s specific problems, from the property insurance which has quadrupled during the Bush administration to the thoughts of a National Catastrophic Fund.
An Iraq and Afghanistan veteran asked Senator Obama what his plan was to help those who had served the country.
“screening for every veteran for PTSD”
“electronic medical records for every veteran”
“zero tolerance for homeless veterans…they are the ones who have kept us free.”
Prior to the meeting a group of protestors from Uhuru News (The “Online voice for the International African Revolution”, and Hugo Chavez support group) voiced their disastisfaction with Obama’s allegiance to the black community.
During Sen. Obama’s introduction talk before the Q&A session, several of the protestors unfurled a banner and began to shout. The crowd of largely African American attendees fired back with shouts of “do your homework!” and began chanting over them, but the Senator intervened and addressed the protestors.
The protestors were silent and when the Senator began taking questions he called on them and heard what they had to say.
Having been allowed to ask their question – and having each point refuted, the Senator clearly told them what their choices are, and what his position is:
“I may not have spoken out the way you may have wanted me to speak out, which is fine… that doesn’t mean I am always going to frame them the way you guys want. That gives you the option of voting for somebody else, it gives you the option of running for office yourself… But the one thing I think is important is that we’re respectfol towards each other, and what is true is that I believe that the only way we are going to solve our problems in this country is if all of us come together – black, white, hispanic, asian, native american, young, old, disabled, gay straight – that I think has got to be our agenda.”
The meeting continued peacfully and constructively.
The ability to deal with these protestors – without throwing them out, and without allowing them to take over – showed the kind of strong but inclusive leadership that has brought so many people together behind the Obama campaign. Hopefully this leadership style will soon be in place in Washington and we can reverse the Divisiveness – and the fear that feeds it – and get back to addressing the issues of dissension and recession facing the nation.
Co-reporters Damien Blask (right) and Joe (left)