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On the Trail / THE GOLDEN RULE

Obama raps an adoring crowd's knuckles

February 29, 2008|Mark Z. Barabak

They came to cheer. They got a lecture. The crowd went wild.

During a Barack Obama town-hall meeting on the economy, the topic turned to education, which, the Illinois senator said, could not be remedied by spending alone. "It doesn't matter how much money we put in if parents don't parent," he scolded.

The line is one the Democrat delivers often, but on Thursday in Beaumont, Texas, he struck a remarkable chord with his mostly African American audience.

"It's not good enough for you to say to your child, 'Do good in school,' and then when that child comes home, you've got the TV set on," Obama lectured. "You've got the radio on. You don't check their homework. There's not a book in the house. You've got the video game playing."

Each line was punctuated by a roar, and Obama began to shout, falling into a preacher's rhythm. "Am I right?"

"So turn off the TV set. Put the video game away. Buy a little desk. Or put that child at the kitchen table. Watch them do their homework. If they don't know how to do it, give 'em help. If you don't know how to do it, call the teacher."

By now, the crowd of nearly 2,000 was lifted from the red velveteen seats of the Julie Rogers Theatre, hands raised to the gilded ceiling. "Make 'em go to bed at a reasonable time! Keep 'em off the streets! Give 'em some breakfast! Come on! Can I get an amen here?"

Whooooooooooooooooo, went the crowd. "You know I'm right," Obama laughed. "And, since I'm on a roll, if your child misbehaves in school, don't cuss out the teacher! You know I'm right about that! Don't cuss out the teacher! Do something with your child!"

Pandemonium.

"All right, all right," he finished, "settle down. We're having too much fun here. . . . I'm speaking the truth!"

-- Mark Z. Barabak

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