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Obama Highlights Service and Responsibility on Continuing Patriotism Tour

Updated 3:57 p.m.
By Jonathan Weisman
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Expanding on his themes of values, faith and patriotism, presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama exhorted Americans today "to step into the strong currents of history" and volunteer for service to country, pledging to dramatically expand opportunities for service to those accepting his challenge.

On a campaign swing that took him from a university setting to military bases, Obama emphasized his own love of country, defining it in ways that are at once patriotic and demanding.

"That's the bet our founding fathers were making all of those years ago -- that our individual destinies could be tied together in the common destiny of democracy; that government depends not just on the consent of the governed, but on the service of citizens," he told an audience at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs. "That's what history calls us to do, because loving your country shouldn't just mean watching fireworks on the 4th of July. Loving your country must mean accepting your responsibility to do your part to change it. If you do, your life will be richer, and our country will be stronger."

All week, Obama has been striving to win over voters in Republican swathes of the country, defending his patriotism in Independence, Mo., Monday, pledging to expand federal assistance to religious social service groups in Appalachian Ohio yesterday and preaching service in conservative central Colorado today. On Thursday, he will be in Fargo, N.D., then will highlight the theme of family on Friday as he celebrates Independence Day in Butte, Mont., with his wife and two daughters. His older daughter, Malia, turns 10 that day.

Obama emphasized what he called "the enormity of the American accomplishment," touring Peterson Air Force Base here, viewing the ultra-secretive North American Aerospace Defense Command, U.S. Northern Command headquarters and the Air Force Academy. Colorado gave President Bush 52 percent of its vote in 2004, compared to 47 percent for Democratic Sen. John Kerry, but Colorado Springs' El Paso County was a far more lopsided 67 percent to 37 percent.

Yet Obama did not shy from partisan controversy as he spoke of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the readiness of Americans to serve in their wake, according to the speech.

"We were ready to step into the strong current of history, and to answer a new call for our country, but the call never came," he said. "Instead of a call to service, we were asked to go shopping. Instead of a call for shared sacrifice, we gave tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans in a time of war for the very first time in our history. Instead of leadership that called us to come together, we got patriotism defined as the property of one party, and used as a political wedge to take us into a war that should have never been authorized and never been waged."

At $3.5 billion a year, his service plan, laid out months ago and expanded only slightly today, has been derided by conservatives as Big Government, and its appeal is unclear. He would grow the AmeriCorps program established by President Bill Clinton by 250,000 slots, double the size of the Peace Corps by 2011, expand the Foreign Service and create an Energy Corps to conduct renewable energy and environmental cleanup projects. Veterans would be enlisted to help other veterans find jobs and support and a new Social Investment Fund Network would support the non-profit sector.

An American Opportunity Tax Credit would offer $4,000 to college students who perform 100 hours of public service. An already planned expansion of the Army and Marines by 92,000 would be fostered with pay increases, more family-friendly policies and an end to recruiting impediments such as "stop loss" decrees that prevent service members from leaving after their tours have ended.

To that he added a new component to allow veterans to use expanded education benefits under the newly passed GI Bill to seek training for renewable energy jobs.

Obama stressed his own experience, working after college as a community organizer for $12,000 a year, and his wife Michelle's role with AmeriCorps in Chicago.

"Through service, I found a community that embraced me, citizenship that was meaningful, the direction I'd been seeking," he counsels. "Through service, I discovered how my own improbable story fit into the larger story of America."

The appeal may have an audience on university campuses and military bases full of young voters who have already taken up the service call.

"I think he's got a shot," said an Air Force officer at the speech, who requested anonymity so he was not seen as speaking for the service. "I think he's got real appeal with young people, all young people."

But Obama has a steep climb in the west. Colorado -- with a Democratic governor, one Democratic senator and an open Senate seat this November that leans toward a Democratic takeover, may be his most fertile opportunity here.

Democratic hopes around Colorado Springs have been dashed before. When Republican Rep. Joel Hefley retired in 2006, Democrats thought they had a shot at his Colorado Springs seat, given the anti-Republican tide and GOP candidate Doug Lamborn's ardently conservative campaign. Lamborn won with 59 percent of the vote.

Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.), who won his seat the same year Kerry lost his state, said Obama was "exactly right" to campaign here, not to win it, but to win as much as he can.

"The ideal is to win; however, having been a veteran of three statewide races in six yrs, I know the reality of places like El Paso County," Salazar said.

Republicans here savaged Obama in a conference call, raising his past support for gun control and his private fundraiser tonight at the ritzy Broadmoor hotel, which they say is closed to avoid questions about former general Wesley Clark.

"He's come to an area with one of the largest military and veteran populations in the country," said State Rep. Bob Gardner of Colorado Springs. "He's chosen to have private meetings because he knows the backlash he would experience here because of the actions of his surrogates."

North Dakota, where he will be campaigning Thursday, gave Bush 63 percent in 2004. Fargo's Cass County was only slightly closer, with a 59 percent-39 percent split. Montana was similarly deep red in 2004, although Silver Bow County, where Obama will be campaigning, is a union Democratic stronghold. Kerry won 57 percent of the vote there.

But Salazar said Obama is wisely taking on the velues issue head on.

"People want to know the values of the person they're voting for. I think it's a mistake for Democrats to run away from that values-based discussion," he said.

And in the issue of service, the Obama campaign believes the candidate has found a way to meld his calls for a more active government with an appeal to military-oriented voters and his own efforts to dispel stubborn notions that he lacks patriotism.

"There is a lesson to be learned from generations who have served -- from soldiers and sailors, airmen and Marines, suffragists and freedom riders, teachers and doctors, cops and firefighters," his speech concludes. "It's the lesson that in America, each of us is free to seek our own dreams, but we must also serve a common purpose, a higher purpose. When you choose to serve -- whether it's your nation, your community, or simply your neighbor -- you are connected to that fundamental American ideal that we want life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness not just for ourselves, but for all Americans."

By Web Politics Editor  |  July 2, 2008; 12:14 PM ET
Categories:  Barack Obama  
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Obama is a risk that this country cannot afford to take. He has so many connections to so many other global groups of people, like Africa, Muslims, communists, black activists and others. He has said he has two homes (America and Kenya). He has devided allegiance and the bulk of his family are citizens of another country. Wake up America and realize the risk in putting someone like Obama at the helm. Look past the silver tongue and do a little research.

Posted by: DM | July 13, 2008 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Sounds great! At least compassion is being shown for servicepeople and their families. If nothing else was said, at least the senator should be applauded for that. Senator McCain is a fine man, but I certainly do not envision him being the president. It is time for the Bush croonies to talk a walk.

Posted by: beautiful 11 | July 2, 2008 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Old Joe said:
" Now he's mr. patriotism. well maybe he should put his hand over his heart instead of groping his balls during the pledge of allegiance. "

Amazing he has followers. But then half the people are below average intelligence.

Posted by: Billw | July 2, 2008 5:07 PM | Report abuse

Mr Obama has been going around this country. Telling people what he wants them to know, believe, he keeps telling them the same thing over and over so they will believe him.

He Thinks Americans are so dumb that they will believe everything his says, just because he says it.

He may have be able to get some to fall for it but not all.

When his speeches turn into repetitive ramblings. The same stories, the same catch Phrases, same old promises. Many Have gotten bored with it.

Is he trying to convince the people or himself?

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.

I think Mr Obama always had a dream of becoming president. I also believe He had someone pushing him to hard and to fast when he was not ready yet.

Mr Obama can not comes to terms with what he wants and what those pushing him want. Which is probably why he is not stable, keeps changing his mind and seems confused.

I do not think he can handle the presidency at this time of turmoil and should revert to his original plans of waiting a few years. It would also be best for the country and the people.

Posted by: seah | July 2, 2008 3:45 PM | Report abuse

lets make it simple

McCain = what can i do for my country

obama = what can my country do for me

the choice is clear -- McCain 08

Posted by: americafirst | July 2, 2008 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Didn't BUSH issue a call for service during one of his campaigns?

Not that I disagree with serving one's country (there are countless ways to do so)

But why does the desire to serve, depend on what some politician says?

You should serve because you love your country, your other fellow citizens not because Obama tells us to.

Posted by: None of the Above 08 | July 2, 2008 3:36 PM | Report abuse

I understand the primary just ended and Barack needs to introduce himself to the voters, but we need to get back to the issues.

I have no questions about his patriotism nor his love of this country. It's time to begin contrasting policies and putting real plans on the table so people can make informed decisions.

PUMAs, meet the Chicago Bear.

Posted by: Susan | July 2, 2008 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Things that Obama has been doing in the past weeks: flip-flopping, pandering, moving to the center and, worst of all, trying to get elected. Obama's got no true position. He's been adopting someone else's position all along. Just yesterday, he's adopted Bush's position.

Posted by: Jeffrey | July 2, 2008 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Obama's call for service reminds me of the call Kennedy put out. Thousands answered that call. I appreciate and laud his speaking out on service because he did it himself. I hope that many more will answer Obama's call. You can serve in so many ways -- simply volunteer time if you have time to do what you can in your community. I am doing that in my own way. If you don't have the time or the health to do so, go as green as possible, conserve energy, etc. Anything. We need to come together for the sake of our country. I firmly believe that Obama is the best choice for our country.

Posted by: abby0802 | July 2, 2008 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Beware of websites linked in this comment section.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 2, 2008 1:32 PM | Report abuse

oh now he's mr. patriotism. well maybe he should put his hand over his heart instead of groping his balls during the pledge of allegiance. Hillary is not finished. she will assume the nomination in denver. PUMA growl ggrrrr

Posted by: old joe | July 2, 2008 1:27 PM | Report abuse

I obviously have no idea what responsibility is. I have not struggled through college, let alone one of the best in the country. So I can't posibly understand the responsiblity of having alot of work to do, and only a little time to do it.

I also don't understand what "service" means. I am assuming that it means flying around in a plane bombing people. Service can't possibly mean that Obama took his education and gave it and his time in service to the people in an american neighborhood.

Posted by: Tra la la | July 2, 2008 1:21 PM | Report abuse


When Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama branded the name "Obamacans" in a speech earlier in his campaign, many in the media and others were confused or amused. "Who are these 'Obamacans' and what do they want?" exclaimed one pundit. The lexicon of punditry was blindsided again by the new political paradigm. Answers were in plain sight for over 3 years.

Obamacans are simply disaffected and disillusioned Republicans who have been embarrassed and bamboozled by the political parasites that have infested the Grand Old Party for over 20 years. These true GOP believers are more progressive and pragmatic, rather than conservative and ideological. They generally believe in governance and fiscal policies that emanate from the center, not the right or left. Their demographic crosses ethnic groups, socioeconomic levels, religious beliefs, and core ages from 30 to 60-plus. Moreover, they're tired of being called Republicans as if it were a curse word.

Many have become so estranged from current day Republican politics and politricks, rather than convert to the Democratic Party, many have joined the ever-expanding Independent movement. As such, they have created a de facto political alliance composed of equally angry Democrats and dyed-in-the-wool believers who prefer being independent from the two major parties, or any party. They have congealed a belief that the two-party system is generally dysfunctional, corrupt, procrastinating and outmoded for today's socioeconomic and global challenges.

Basically, they are part of a multigenerational group of voters and taxpayers that want things done, and done right. It's also their belief that doing the right thing should not be inspired by political benefit. The most interesting part about Obamacans is that they are insulted by the moronic logic and schoolyard rhetoric of the Republican elites, spokespersons, pundits, operatives and cheerleaders. The insult is emphasized when the sound bite bunnies of TV news rarely ask incisive questions beyond the current GOP's self-serving talking points.

Their eyes can't roll far enough back anymore upon hearing another load of convoluted rationales from "tongue-wagging twits" about the state of America, the status of the Iraq war, and our ballooning global debt. In various ways, their basic lives have been negatively affected by their party's tax and splurge policies. They are effectively past the tipping point, and have experienced the exponential crippling of the American way of life for nearly a decade.

Like many other Americans, Obamacans are also tired of being scared as a motivational tool with lapel pin loyalty, faith, and pretentious patriotism as passports. Unfortunately, for them and many more, this has become the deceit decade. They, too, want change and a president to believe in.

Dennis Moore, Chairperson
District of Columbia Independents for Citizen Control Party
CUIP Member (Committee for a Unified Independent Party)

Posted by: Dennis Moore, Washington, DC | July 2, 2008 1:18 PM | Report abuse

I spit venom. Nothing in my comments should be taken into consideration. It is complete hate and nonsense.

Posted by: PL | July 2, 2008 1:10 PM | Report abuse

do you know the name of the first president born west of the mississippi?

Posted by: tomabrahams | July 2, 2008 1:06 PM | Report abuse

BHO's "Energy Corps" sounds suspiciously like my plan:

Will the "Energy Corps" have green neckties, or will they be red?

Posted by: LonewackoDotCom | July 2, 2008 12:54 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: JJ | July 2, 2008 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Isn't is telling that Obama must embark in a "tour" to convince voters he's "patriotic"? Pathetic.

The Obamarama has been a media driven illusion. Obama is fraud.

Obama is neither qualified or electable.

Obama touts his "experience" as a "community organizer" in the south side of Chicago where he had little if any success. Hardly a qualification for the Presidency or the U.S. Senate. Obama's pals are creepy criminals and gay pastors. Obama is flip flopping on EVERY major issue, FISA, NAFTA, public campaign finance, faith based initiatives, etc. The DEmocrats must do better than this inferior candidate. This is supposed to be OUR year.

The Dems are really blowing 2008. It's not too late to rectify this unfortuate situation. The actual nomination takes place in late August at the DNC convention in Denver. The Dems should nominate the most incredible candidate they have ever had, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Hillary won the popular vote, winning MORE votes than ANY candidate of ANY party in history. Hillary rocks!

Let the long overdue vetting of Barack Hussein Obama finally begin. A day is an eternity in politics, anything can and likely will happen. Let's hope for the complete political implosion of Obama BEFORE the Dems get a chance to foolishly nominate him in late August!

Posted by: PL | July 2, 2008 12:52 PM | Report abuse

How much does a "patriotism tour" really help Obama?

Posted by: matt | July 2, 2008 12:44 PM | Report abuse

"Barack Obama
Obama to Highlight Service and Responsibility "

how is possible for Obama to highlight two things he's nevered done... service and being responsible?

Posted by: Tra la la | July 2, 2008 12:40 PM | Report abuse

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