President Barack Obama addresses an estimated crowd of 7,000 during a campaign rally Sept. 8 at the Seminole campus of St. Petersburg College.
Photo by BOB McCLURE
An enthusiastic crowd battled high humidity and warm temperatures to see President Barack Obama during a campaign rally Sept. 8 at the Seminole campus of St. Petersburg College.
SEMINOLE – Demonstrating the same charisma and hope that got him elected four years ago, President Barack Obama wooed a crowd estimated at 11,000 Sept. 8 during a grassroots campaign rally at the Seminole campus of St. Petersburg College.
Mixing humor and charm, Obama called for “a fair shake for everyone” and asked his supporters “to not just rally around me, but also a set of goals for your country.”
Obama listed four goals for rebuilding the economy over the next four years and expanded in detail on each.
• More product exports and cutting the outsourcing of jobs to foreign countries. • Better control of energy resources. • Opening more doors for higher education. • Reducing the budget deficit “without sticking it to the middle class.”
He called the nation’s economic problems the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression and said going forward with his plan to return the nation economic prosperity would take time.
“In 2008, I said this is going to take time because these problems have been building up,” Obama said.
He went on to point out that Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s campaign has offered no real solution to the economic issues.
“Our friends can talk about everything that is wrong with America, but they don’t say much about how they would make it right,” said Obama. “They want your vote but they don’t want you to know their plan.”
Obama pointed to Republican efforts to cut taxes for the rich and said it’s a theory that will not work.
“It’s been tried and it didn’t work,” he said. “We’re not going back. We’re going forward. Also, for those that are saying America is declining, they’re dead wrong. No matter what the naysayers are saying and how dark they make things look for political reasons, there’s not a country on earth that wouldn’t gladly trade places with the United States of America.”
On the topic of education, which Obama called “the gateway to middle class life,” he called for more spending on education infrastructure, retraining of current employees and promised to cut in half the growth of college tuition costs over the next 10 years by working more closely with colleges and universities.
He also reiterated previous statements about reforming the nation’s tax code, putting more responsibility on those with incomes of $250,000 or more.
“Gov. Romney’s plan and Sen. Ryan’s plan don’t add up,” Obama said. “Tax breaks for the wealthy make the economy go slower, not faster. And I refuse to let than happen.”
Regarding healthcare, the president reiterated his stance on protecting Medicare from becoming a voucher system and to strengthen Social Security “rather than turning it over to Wall Street.”
He pointed out that seniors in Florida are saving $600 per year on prescription drugs, thanks to Obamacare.
“By the way, I do care. I like the term (Obamacare),” the president said. “Mr. Romney says he’s going to repeal it, which means his plan is Romney don’t care.”
Obama reminded his audience that he promised in 2008 to end the war in Iraq and he has done so. He also said he would wind down the war in Afghanistan and Obama said that is happening.
“We can use some of that money we’re spending on war to pay down our debt,” Obama said.
The president was introduced by former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who referred to Obama as “our friend, our president.”
“We are blessed to have this president,” said Crist. “He has courage and he has grace. He’s under fire all the time but he has a smile. And he has a wonderful heart.”
Congresswoman Kathy Castor of Tampa also spoke, as did U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who called Florida “ground zero” in the Nov. 6 general election with 29 electoral votes up for grabs.
“And where is the swing part of Florida?” Nelson asked. “It’s right here.”
Among the local government leaders on hand was Seminole City Councilor Patricia Plantamura, who sat in a VIP section about 20 feet from Obama.
“It is completely appropriate this is being on a college campus because of the president’s emphasis on education,” Plantamura said.
When she first learned of Obama’s visit, she asked “why Seminole?”
“But then I thought why not Seminole,” she said. “I’d like to change (Seminole campus provost) Jim Olliver’s job description to presidential recruiter.”