Tuesday, January 01, 2008

"Q&A With Mrs. Obama In Carroll, Iowa"

Iowa Independent:

Speaking to about 100 people at the new Crossroads Bistro in Carroll Sunday morning, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's wife, Michelle, a Princeton and Harvard-educated lawyer, talked of her motherly concerns.

Retirement security is not an abstract policy idea for her, said Michelle Obama, a mother of two young girls. Her own mother, thanks to years of middle class work, was able to retire with decency - giving her the time to be with the grandkids.
"There is nothing like grandma," Michelle Obama said. "All mothers like me need that support."

Mrs. Obama, an African-American raised in Chicago, said her life is one of overcoming the conventional wisdom, of ignoring a chorus of no's.

"All my life I have been told `No,'" Obama said. "'No, you can't, wait it's not your turn.' That's been my life's message."

Douglas Burns :: Q&A With Mrs. Obama In Carroll, Iowa

Obama sees her husband's barrier-breaking bid as uplifting the nation as a whole, bringing people together.

She dreams of what his inauguration as president would do for millions for young people.

"On that day the veil of impossibility gets snatched off the heads of millions of kids who've been told `No,'" Michelle Obama said.

She said the Obamas are still connected to their working-class roots, and even shop at Target in Chicago instead of more swanky stores.

Following the event Michelle Obama talked with Douglas Burns of Iowa Independent and The Daily Times Herald in Carroll, Iowa. Here is that exchange:

Iowa Independent: So this is it. You've said you're not going to make this run again in eight years or 12 years. It's now or never.

Mrs. Obama: You know. I think one of the things Barack clarified in this conversation is that part of my passion for running and why I think Barack is unique is because he has spent so much time in this system and we're not so far removed from everyday life and in four or eight years we will be.

It's just the bottom line.

And part of what I want to know as a citizen is what happens when you have leadership that is still very much connected to regular life.

And we won't be that. I mean, after this, our lives will change.

And if he's just going to be another politician - if that's what we want in this nation - someone who looks and breathes like everybody else - then what's the point?

We don't have ambitions or dreams of living in the White House just to be there.

This is really about change. So philosophically to me the whole reason for running is doing it now - doing it now when the country is possibly ready to be pushed in a different way.

And if we're not ready now I don't that we'll be any more ready to be pushed after we've made the same choices again and again. We've got to do this now. We've got do it now.

Iowa Independent: There have been some concerns expressed, particularly in the wake of the assassination in Pakistan, there have been concerns that maybe your husband doesn't have the foreign policy experience necessary to do this job. Could you talk about how his experience growing up in Indonesia, a Christian growing up in a Muslim nation, might be more beneficial than maybe having held some subcommittee hearings on Europe.

Mrs. Obama: Part of what happens is that culture of fear. When we don't know each other. When we haven't lived on that side of the world. When we haven't really experienced other cultures, something that happens, our first reaction, is to react in fear and to draw in. We didn't get to the right conclusion when we did that the first time. We are now in a war because of that.
Barack, because of his experience living abroad, his openness, his ability to approach problems not with toughness and meanness and tough talk but with real reason, looking at the facts, that's the kind of wisdom and judgment that we need.

So the Washington insiders keep pointing to the question of foreign policy experience because that's what they're used to. That's their comfort level.

But if it had gotten us to the right positions we wouldn't be here.

My view is we can't keep doing the same things over and over again and keep pointing to the same types of experiences and then be surprised when we get the same results.

Iowa Independent: I know he (Senator Obama) hasn't taken too many official delegation trips to Europe. He's talked a lot about Asia, obviously Indonesia. Just from your conversations as husband and wife, when he was younger did he have a lot of experience traveling around Europe? Is he really familiar with it?

Mrs. Obama: Yeah, yeah, he's traveled in the Middle East more than Europe. But we've traveled in Europe quite often and we had planned a trip to Asia and to Europe and then he decided to run for president so that kind of slowed things down.
It would have been difficult in a very tight race to do a foreign policy trip.
So he hasn't been there in an official capacity.

The other thing about Barack is that the people in his life, his friends, the people he surrounds himself with, are people who live all over the world.

His relationships and connections from the time he was 3 up until now are folks who live in Pakistan and folks who live currently in Europe.

Those are the conversations he's having and that helps to inform him as much as any one foreign affairs trip could.

When you know and live with people who are struggling and talking with you every day about the challenges that are happening, when you have family in Africa, when your grandmother lives in a hut in a small village, and you are getting word back of what's going on and cousins and nieces and nephews, let me tell you, you don't need the trip over there to know what's going on and to be able to appreciate it. You're living it.

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