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Government, Politics & Issues

What should Obama fix first? Missourians at convention share their views

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: August 27, 2008 - When Barack Obama takes to the floor Thursday night, he will surely sketch out his vision of the country and what he hopes to accomplish as president. The Beacon polled a number of delegates and guests to the Democratic National Convention and asked what Obama's top priority should be, if he's elected president.

What do you want Obama to fix first?

Lelia Medley
Missouri National Education Association (Jefferson City)

I really want him to fix No Child Left Behind. (The Obama campaign) promised our national organization that that's one of his priorities. That's a big plus to us. By 2014, under the law as it stands, every school in the country could be declared a failure. It's not possible that every school is a failure. The first thing is that NCLB needs to be funded. It's one of the most important educational issues that needs to be addressed. I know it's going to be slow, but it's a priority for him, and I hope he addresses it.

Maida Coleman
Former state senator

The problem he needs to fix first is health care. Universal health care is the most important thing a president can do for this country. We have so many people who have no health care or are underinsured. The cost keeps skyrocketing, and people keep losing their care. Corporations should be required to do more. If you work in this country, you should be able to qualify for health care. If he fixes health care, it would really show the world how much we care about our citizens.

Joe Maxwell
Former lieutenant governor

I don't think that there is one single issue. The nations of the world are going to be focused on him and his speech. But what I'm looking for, what I would hope to see, is who he is as a person, the integrity he has, where he came from and why his experiences will allow him to lead the free world. That's what I want to hear more about.

Robin Carnahan
Missouri secretary of state

Sen. Obama has a great opportunity on Thursday night to add meat to the bone of his message of change. All of us know things that need to be fixed in this country. I don't think there's any confusion. We're pretty unified about what those things are: health care, education, access to jobs. We have got to have ways to address these things instead of doing more of the same. It's important that he's specific about what he wants to do and continues to talk about transformation of politics, that it's not about red or blue; it's not about bickering and partisanship. The problems we face transcend all of those things.

Ed Quick
Presiding commissioner, Clay County

The economy. We're definitely going down the drain at this point. If we don't turn it around right away, it may be too late. It will take our kids 20 years, even if we do it now, to get the country back where it was. Taxation is one of the first things that needs to be addressed. The oil companies, for instance, are making millions and millions of dollars, and we're still giving them tax breaks. That's one thing that needs to change.

Kristy Manning
Delegate, St. Peters

I hope he talks about energy security and doing things more efficiently. That's really important for me. We need to be less dependent on oil, and we need to use our resources to make ourselves stronger so that we don't have to leverage ourselves in wars and conflicts in other parts of the world. Using renewable fuels, alternative fuels, is very important because energy has repercussions for this generation and the future.

Tamila Gresham
Student, Missouri State University, Springfield

I hope he addresses health care. It's the most important issue for our country. It's not a commodity, not a privilege; it's a right. I really want him to focus on it, along with environmental issues. I'd also like him to spend some time, which I'm sure he will, talking about the struggle that he represents as a minority and what that means for minorities and for the future of this country, not job ethnic minorities, but social minorities, such as women and homosexuals. I'd like him to focus on those issues.

Mike McMillan
City license collector

What most Americans are concerned about is the economy. I'm concerned about that, too, and how we're going to deal with the loss of manufacturing jobs across the country. As the city's license collector, I'm charged with assessing manufacturers. I can tell you that we constantly lose manufacturers every year, and that has an impact on the number of jobs and amount of revenue in the city. Also, we have to figure out how we're going to deal with the oil prices and the shrinking pie among families due to having expenses and less revenue.

Mark Abels
Former press secretary for Sen. Thomas F. Eagleton

Asked about what Sen. Eagleton would have thought of Barack Obama, Abels said: Tom Eagleton was a huge fan of Barack Obama. He endorsed Obama very early. They didn't know each other well, but they did get together this one time in 2006 when Obama spoke at a rally in Forest Park for Claire McCaskill. Tom was there and, of course, he was almost completely deaf at that time. As Tom described it to me a couple of days later, "You know" he said, "I listened to that speech and I thought it was one of the greatest speeches I'd ever heard. And later I went home and saw it on C-SPAN on closed caption and I was right. It was one of the greatest speeches I'd ever heard."

Abels chuckled but knew his boss could tell a great speech when he heard (or read) one.

Abels added that Eagleton's widow, Barbara, is an Obama backer and, by coincidence, their own daughter is "a good friend and neighbor" in Wilmington, Del., of Joe Biden, Obama's vice presidential pick. 

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