Obama defends community organizers
LANCASTER, Pa. – The work of community organizers, who work for low salaries to help people in impoverished communities, is getting lots of attention this week as Republicans poke jabs at Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama‘s job experience.
The three years Obama spent as a community organizer “maybe … is the first problem on the resume,” said former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in his speech at the Republican convention on Wednesday.
Giuliani, who failed in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination and now runs a lucrative consulting firm, said community organizing sounded as though Obama had “immersed himself in Chicago machine politics.”
Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin also took a swipe in her speech, saying her experience as a small-town mayor in Alaska was similar to being a community organizer, “except that you have actual responsibilities.”
Obama was a community organizer after college in Chicago. He worked with a church-based group trying to improve conditions in poor neighborhoods and communities hurt when steel plants closed, according to his official campaign website.
He then went to Harvard Law School, became a civil rights lawyer, taught law and ran for the Ilinois State Senate. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004.
On the campaign trail on Thursday, Obama told a crowd in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, that the Republicans “really had fun talking about the work I did after college.”
“I don’t know if they understand what it means for a young person, at the age of 22 or 23, to pass up more lucrative options and work with people who are having a tough time and seeing that when people work together, we can do amazing things, rebuilding communities and setting up job training centers and setting up afterschool programs for kids.
“Maybe that’s not really interesting work for Rudy Giuliani, but for the people on the ground who are seeing a difference in their lives, that’s important stuff,” he said.
At another campaign stop in York, Pennsylvania, he said the remarks about community organizing showed Republicans were out of touch.
“Why would that kind of work be ridiculous?” he asked. “Do they think that the lives of those folks who are struggling each and every day, that working with them to try and improve their lives, is somehow not relevant to the presidency?
“I think maybe that’s the problem. That’s part of why they’re out of touch, and they don’t get it because they haven’t spent much time working on behalf of those folks,” he said.
Photo credit: Reuters/Matt Sullivan (Obama campaigning)