Obama Baracks auditiorium
Senator outlined goals for N.O.'s recovery in Tulane visit
Barack Obama addresses Tulane's filled-to-capacity Fogelman Arena on Feb. 7. His visit came two days before La.'s primaries. Michael Nissman
In the final days of the presidential primaries, Sen. Barack Obama delivered promises to repair breaches in both levees and the current administration in his speech at Tulane University's filled-to-capacity Fogleman Arena on Feb. 7. Deafening cheers, punctuated with chants of "Yes we can," met the presidential hopeful as he took the stage. After thanking the crowd, comprised mostly of students who had "recovered from Mardi Gras," he launched into a speech suffused with themes of optimism and sweeping change.He outlined concrete goals to usher in New Orleans' recovery, earning the most crowd response when mentioning government incompetence after Hurricane Katrina. "We can talk about levees that couldn't hold, about a FEMA that seemed not just incompetent, but paralyzed and powerless, about a President who only saw the people from the window of an airplane," he said, followed by thunderous applause. Obama promised to finish restoring both the levee system and "nature's barriers - the wetlands" in his presidency. He resolved to rid FEMA of its "dysfunction" and "cronyism" by ensuring the agency's director has the "highest qualifications in emergency management" and by making the position a fixed term to "insulate that office from politics."In reference to the Road Home recovery initiative, Obama proclaimed that it's "time to cut the red tape" and make the program more efficient, with federal aid making its way to needy recipients in two months. He vowed to tackle high rent around the city, to use incentives to woo more medical practitioners to Louisiana, and up educational standards by improving facilities and calling for "$250 million to bring quality teachers to the Gulf region." He also promised an annual $4,000 tax credit to college students who pledge community service time. Obama's optimism remained unfaltering after he disclosed his many goals, and he jokingly referred to critics who call him a "hope monger.""If you talk about hope, you must have your head in the clouds," he said. "But that's not what hope is. It's not blind optimism. It's not ignorance of the obstacles standing in your way."Psychology junior Gina Bell, one of the many Loyola students in attendance, particularly connected with Obama's message of hope. "I liked how he spoke about hope," she said. "He really gave that auditorium hope that he can be the next president. It was a very well-rounded speech that touched on every necessary subject to rebuild this city and this country."Music performance senior Maria Altany, who was undecided but now leans toward Obama, was a bit more skeptical of the senator's message. "I thought it was good, but it will be interesting to see if he really follows through on those promises," she said. Obama exited the stage to the sound of the audience's New Orleans-style sign of approval - chants of "Who dat sayin' they're gonna beat Obama?" Nola.com estimates 3,500 people attended the rally. About 500 students were denied entrance into the auditorium once it reached capacity. Lauren LaBorde can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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