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Citizens Name Economy as Top Priority for Inaugural Address, War, Healthcare as Other Top Issues

By Christina Edwards

Credit BarackObama.com

Credit BarackObama.com

December 11, 2008

Hundreds of thousands of people crowded in Grant Park in Chicago on November 4 as the new President-Elect Barack Obama spoke to address his win and the work that needs to be done in his coming term as president. Similar scenes were echoed across the nation: crowds gathered, cheering and pressing against the White House fence, people gathered in Times Square, pouring out into neighboring streets, students at Elon University gathered in Young Commons, circling up and holding hands to sing the national anthem.

“I almost cried a little when Obama spoke,” said Caitie Zavila, a sophomore at Georgetown University who said she watched Obama speak with her classmates, then headed over to join the crowd at the White House.

On election night, chants of “yes we can” melded into new chants of “yes we did.” And on January 20, Obama’s term begins and he will again address the American people about their future at his inauguration. In his inaugural speech, citizens would like him to exactly what exactly it is that “we’ve” done in terms of the economy, war, and healthcare.

The Economy and Bailouts: He’s Got Some Explaining to Do

The current economic crisis is almost unanimously the top issue for U.S. citizens. Obama addressed the crisis in a radio address on December 6, calling attention to November as the worst month of job loss in over three decades. He began to announce key parts of his economic plan, which citizens say they would like to hear in more detail in his Inaugural Address—along with explanations for the bailout trend.

In September, federal bailouts hit the forefront of the economic crisis when Federal Reserve chairmen Ben Bernanke proposed a plan for a $700 billion bailout of U.S. financial firms. In the past month, Congress has been discussing a similar bailout of the automotive industry.

“We have these bailout plans for Wall Street and the automotive industry, but I think we need a bailout for Americans in general,” said Robin Riggins, who works in the admissions office at Elon University. Riggins says she thinks a bailout for the average American would be more proficient than the proposed auto bailout.

“We need to help people be able to pay their mortgages, for people who are unemployed because of the crisis not to be have to sacrifice their livelihood,” said Riggins. “If we’re bailing them out, the money will go back into the economy. We’re going to bailout the automotive industry when we can’t afford to buy cars. I want him to address the bailouts and what it’s going to mean for us.”

Sonja Hopkins, who works at the Kangaroo Express near Elon University agrees.

“He needs to talk about the economy in general. Nothing really specific, but I want him to be talking about the economy,” Hopkins said.

Rudy Zarzar, Professor of political science at Elon University said that with the government openly saying that the economy is in a recession, there is no way that Obama’s speech will not heavily focus on the economy.

“He will primary focus on the economy. I don’t see how he can ignore it, he’d be a fool if he did,” Zarzar said. “We already had a fool in the White House, we don’t need another one.”

War and the Military

Another top concern many would like Obama to address is the war in Iraq, which Obama adamantly professed plans for pulling out of during the campaign.

“I’m concerned about the war,” said Terri Martin, contract administrator at Memorial Mission Hospital in Asheville, N.C. “He’s said we’re going to pull out of Iraq, but we need to know that we’re not going to just go straight to Afghanistan.”

Makaila McKinely, a junior at Elon University, said that she is primarily concerned with Obama’s views on the military.

“My dad was in the Navy, so I’m really concerned with what he’s going to do with the military,” McKinely said. “I didn’t vote for him because he was so against the military; I’m concerned about retirement benefits for my dad. I’m concerned about the war in Iraq and hope we’re not just going to surrender like he’s said he would. I think he’s going to have a tough battle to fight. He’s going to have to prove he’s good for America, which is going to be tough because basically half of American voted for McCain.”

Healthcare and the Government’s Role

According to Zarzar, Obama needs to put his secondary focus on healthcare, which Zarzar says is inexplicably tied to the economy.

“No American should find himself or herself in a situation where they can’t afford healthcare because they don’t have the means,” said Zarzar. “I don’t really care what it is, we need to have it. A system must be created to enable people who can’t afford medical care to have it.”

While others can agree that healthcare is a major issue, some expressed more concern than Zarzar over the actual details of a heathcare plan.

“I’m concerned about healthcare, of course, because I’m working in a healthcare related job,” said Martin. Concerned has been raised among employees at Memorial Mission Hospital about job retention under Obama’s healthcare plan.

Looking to the Future

What is important beyond the actual topics of the address, citizen say, is the tone Obama sets for the next four years.

“I really think the most important thing he needs to address is that we all need to work together,” said Martin.” “It’s no longer political. It’s not about whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat anymore, it’s about all of us.”

Additional Comments on Inaugural Address:

Ahmed Fadaam, Iraqi journalist, visits Elon

Information, understanding key in Iraq war according to journalist.

By Christina Edwards

October 22, 2008

Ahmed Fadaam addresses the war in Iraq and the role media plays.

Ahmed Fadaam addresses the war in Iraq and the role media plays.

Dr. Ahmed Fadaam is an accidental journalist.

Until 2003, he was a professor of fine arts at the University of Baghdad. He was a figurative artist, working with clay, marble and stone. He lived in Baghdad with his two children and his wife.

Until the school he was teaching at was destroyed in a 2003 bombing.

“You can’t even feel safe inside your house,” Fadaam said of the turmoil in Iraq.

After the bombings, Fadaam was out of a job. He was then hired as a translator for NPR’s The Connection, going on in May 2003 to work for The Agence France Presse as an interpreter, videographer, reporter, courtroom artist and photographer. Presently, he is working as the Baghdad reporter for The Story with Dick Gordon on WUNC North Carolina Public Radio, and for the Baghdad Bureau of the New York Times.

“Art was my life at that time. I couldn’t imagine myself as a man who would chase stories,” Fadaam said. “I was trying to lock myself up in my own paradise.”

Since falling into journalism, Fadaam’s work has won five awards, including the Edward R. Murrow Award for Continuing Coverage. While at Elon University as a scholar-in-residence, Fadaam spoke to journalism students October 22 about the role of media in the war and future relations between the United States and Iraq.

“It’s curiosity,” Fadaam said. Some people believe what they hear, others have to check it out for themselves. I don’t know if I’m a good [journalist], but I did something.”

Fadaam speaks to Janna Anderson's class at Elon University October 22.

Fadaam speaks to Janna Anderson's class at Elon University October 22.

His work and achievement has come with its consequences. Fadaam has received death threats for his affiliation with western media, causing him to move his wife and children to Syria for safety.

“We’re looked at as spies, as blood traitors,” Fadaam said. “But as long as you know you’re telling the truth. When you want to fight back, it’s not necessary to use weapons. We do it with words, with the truth.”

According to Fadaam, in the early days of the war in Iraq, it was only the Americans and the American media that was looked at with distrust by the Iraqi people.

“It would have been better to introduce yourself as Canadian,” Fadaam said, noting that he was better received by Iraqi citizens when working for the French news organization.

Now, he says, all western media is seen as equal to American. Fadaam also notes that he believes eventually, Iraq will be completely anti-American.

Western media, according to Fadaam, is similarly distrustful of Iraqis. He says Iraqi sources are looked at as exaggerating and trying to spread propaganda.
Fadaam says that in order for Iraqi relations with Americans to become stable, communication needs to be established between the two groups.

“You have children who open their eyes to their country under fire,” Fadaam said. “They need to know that there is a difference between the American people and the American administration.”

Fadaam believes information and understanding of the other culture is key in the conflict.

“You should be informed in what’s going on in details,” Fadaam said. “Know more about Iraqis. If you feel the pain, you can talk about the wound.”