On February 10, in front of a crowd of about 17,000 people, Senator Barak Obama kicked off his run for the Oval Office on the steps of the Illinois State Capitol Building with his wife, Michelle, and two young daughters, Malia and Sasha, by his side. He has crisscrossed America in the past few weeks traveling from Iowa, to South Carolina and even made a stop during NBA All Star weekend in Nevada.
This Tuesday, the Obama for President Campaign made their Los Angeles debut at Dorsey High School where they were greeted by City Council member Herb Wesson and thousands of admiring fans, well-wishers and potential voters in both the Democratic Primary and the 2008 general election.
In the middle of bringing his message of hope, inspiration and revitalization to Los Angeles, Senator Obama gave an exclusive interview to Sentinel President Danny J. Bakewell, Jr. and addressed his commitment to the African American Community, the rebuilding of New Orleans and his plans to create more jobs and family.
Many people have stated that America is not ready for a Black president. Obama confidently remarked that he "would not be running if he did not believe that America was ready to elect a Black man as president." He said that thousands of people are showing up in every city his campaign visits and that "there is so much energy and enthusiasm because people want to see a change."
He does acknowledge that there are those who will have a problem with him simply because of
the color of his skin, but he believes that what is most important to Americans these days is "who's going to help fix the health care system that is broken, who's going to take seriously the need to fix our education system and who's going to bring this war in Iraq to an end so that we can take some of those war dollars and begin fixing our communities and rebuilding our infrastructure here at home."
Obama wants to be a President for all Americans, but that does not mean he has or will ever forget his roots.
"I am not somebody who is going to take the African American community for granted," he said. "I think I have to earn the African American community's vote just like any other candidate does. I believe they will feel that I am somebody who is working on their behalf".
During his seven years as an Illinois state legislator; he says that has always led the fight for the things that are most important to the African American community. He fought for and passed state health care legislation for children who did not have health care (a disproportionate number of them being African American). He also helped to make sure the criminal justice system worked on behalf of African Americans by passing ex-offender legislation and has been a leader in making sure that the legal system is not discriminatory. He wants African Americans to know that he will continue to be "at the forefront of those issues that matter to our folks".
Speaking on the African American community, the senator is not shy about the fact that we need to fix our school system.
"We need to revamp or early childhood education system, and provide better educational tools for our kids," he said.
He also believes that jobs are the basis for revitalizing urban communities like Compton, South Central Los Angeles, and Fresno's 3rd District, and he will continue to seek out programs that provide jobs and resources in our society.
One important area he touched on was that the health field is an expanding field and that we should be creating programs to train African American nurses.
"We have a nursing shortage all across the country and we are bringing in immigrant nurses to fill the shortfall," he said "Why aren't we going into every school and talking to young people while they are still in high school about how to become a nurse and placing them in those jobs?"
He also suggested creating jobs through energy efficiency. In our opinion, the community suffers because the older buildings are some of the least energy efficient buildings out there. He proposed to create training programs with government partnerships for young men and women to learn how to install insulation, which would give them a trade. Given the amount of buildings without insulation in the community, this would be a marketable trade for years and then they could move into the private sector within this skill.
"We need creativity, we need reinvestment," he said. "We've got to match up jobs that are going to be out there with the skills that our young people are receiving."
The conversation then refocused on rebuilding New Orleans. Obama was there a few weeks ago for hearings for the Homeland Security Commission and he noticed that "one of the biggest problems in New Orleans is that the money that has been allocated isn't getting to the folks that need it."
"The SBA (Small Business Administration) programs and reconstruction loans that are supposed to get to the people are getting caught up in bureaucracy and red tape," he said.
He went on to say that New Orleans needs a well-developed training program so that people can rebuild their homes as well as other peoples homes which will put those most affected by the hurricane back to work. In his mind, not creating these types of programs and opportunities makes absolutely no sense and he promises that his campaign will come out with some specific plans on how the government should deal with the rebuilding process.
At the end of the interview, he talked about how his family was dealing with the campaign trail. He mentioned that they were doing great and looked forward to bringing them out to Los Angeles on a future campaign stop. When asked how he planned to have a successful marriage, raise two young daughters and run the United States at the same time, he happily replied: "Well at least we will be in the same house everyday."
In their mind and in the mind of his supporters, they can't wait for that day when the Obama family will hopefully be together at the house on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave-the White House.