Three years ago today, Barack Obama spoke at McEachern High School about a month after receiving the Democratic nomination for president, saying he wanted a victory in the general election to “restore balance and fairness to our economy.”
He said at the school on July 8, 2008: “I’ve often said that I’m running for president to put the American dream within reach of every American, and that means making sure that if you work hard, you’ll be able to build a better life not just for yourself, but for your children and your grandchildren, and that after a lifetime of work, you’ll be able to retire with some dignity and some respect. But folks here in Powder Springs know all too well that that dream feels like it’s slipping out of reach for too many Americans.”
Joan Evans, co-owner of Tea at Seven Springs and the Powder Springs Coffee and Bake Shoppe, remembers when a long line was standing in front of Los Portales on the town square, where tickets to the speech were being distributed.
“For a long time, we were wondering, ‘What are those people lined up the sidewalk for?’” she said.
Ra Barr, a city councilman when the president visited, said that since McEachern is north of the city limits, Powder Springs wasn’t involved in anyway as far as the setup. And “from what I recall, it was kind of a last-minute thing,” he said.
During his speech, Obama talked about Americans losing jobs while the prices of products, tuition and health care were rising. The typical household, he said, has more than $9,600 in debt.
“While John McCain is an honorable man, and I respect and admire his service to our country, the fact is that when it comes to strengthening … hardworking families, John McCain’s been part of the problem, not part of the solution.”
Obama mentioned creating protections from “unscrupulous” lending practices and siding with families over big banks. He said he wanted to reform bankruptcy laws “to give Americans who find themselves trapped in dept a second chance."
Americans need the option of a health care plan that “works for every American,” he said, adding he would crack down on insurance claim payouts.
Seniors benefits were a major topic, with Obama saying that bankruptcy rates among them rose 150 percent over the previous 15 years. That demographic, he said, doesn’t have future earnings to help them climb out of debt. Their homeownership could be jeopardized, he added.
“And for older couples, that’s the most valuable thing that they have,” he said.
Obama said he wanted to invest $15 billion a year in green technologies to create up to 5 million jobs. Another investment theme: infrastructure projects.
“If we can spend $10 billion in Iraq, we can spend $10 billion right here in Georgia,” he said, followed by a “Yes we can” chant from the crowd.
“And you and I together will change this country and change the world,” Obama concluded. “Thank you much everybody, thank you.”
Matt Smith, a 2004 McEachern graduate, was attending Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA in 2008 and wasn't able to see Obama when he came to Powder Springs.
When the president spoke at a local high school in Lynchburg, he said he was within about 10 people of making it in when the school reached capacity.
But he and about 50 people were pulled aside and told they could meet with him around back.
“It was very quick,” he said, “but he made it a point to come out and shake each one of our hands.”