TF: Good morning, Senator Obama and thank you again for your time.
Senator Obama: You're welcome.
TF: We first met back in 1995 at the Million Man March in
Senator Obama: It is. The march was a formative moment for African-Africans everywhere and I think it reminded many of us that we did have the power to make a difference. Our lives didn't have to be guided by events and forces beyond our control. And here we are today.
TF: And the next year you were elected to the Illinois State Senate.
Senator Obama: Yes. I felt I had a responsibility to make a difference. I didn't just want to maintain an office but to improve lives. That's why I focused on legislation that would health
insurance for struggling people and worked to pass bills to increase funding for AIDS prevention and care programs.
TF: How important is Minister Farrakhan in your life today?Senator Obama: Very important. He's in Chicago so he can't be ignored. He's an important leader in the community, especially for African-Americans. I don't always agree with him but I respect him for his intelligence and he brings us a point a view that can be harsh at times, but he gets to the point and he's honest. Not many people could bring a million people together like he did.
TF: What has surprised you most about American politics during this race?
Senator Obama: That’s a hard question…there’s no one thing to specify because the American political world is so large and complex. I knew that going in but once you are actually part of it you discover it’s much bigger, more complex than you first expect. The key thing for me was these are just people we’re dealing with. As long as you keep that in mind you won’t forget that we’re here to serve the people. I'm more confident now that we really do need change.
TF: Senator Obama, I know your time is valuable and I would like to ask you about the current campaign. There's no question that you are the favorite to win in November. What concerns you most about this campaign as it will evolve in the coming months?
"I want to restore people's confidence in their government and not do anything to hurt their sense of hope".
Senator Obama: As President Roosevelt once said, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself and I think my opponents, not John McCain himself necessarily but the more Conservative elements in his party will try stir up fear to cloud the promise of change –
TF: They question your faith, allegiance –
Senator Obama: Yes. And these are mere distractions from the issues that matter to the people. It is silly that a flag pin would matter to anyone. It's just a flag, it doesn't really mean anything. I do not have to show that I love my country. What I have to do is make things better and get things done. People want change because the current administration has failed them. They want people to be scared of me when they're not. The Republicans are scared of me.
TF: We saw the devastation after Katrina. What will your administration do to tend to the needs of the victims and to make sure such a thing never happens again?
Senator Obama: We saw a complete failure on almost every level. People were not warned and people were not moved to safer locations. They were not given adequate shelter and care. We almost show a complete indifference to suffering from the federal government and I never want to see that again.
The reckless war in
TF: Do you feel a special destiny as the first American President of African heritage? For a long time many people have felt they have not been represented, their interests not respected and their voices denied. You represent a truly historic moment.
Senator Obama: It will be something. I can’t claim to know exactly what will happen but yes
Senator Obama: I want to restore people's confidence in their government and not do anything to hurt their sense of hope. That's very important to me because if I don't have the confidence of the American people and if they do not have hope we'll have a much more difficult time in getting things done.
As you know, we're in the process of selecting potential members of my administration and I'll be choosing a running mate to serve as vice president. Once that is done I want to start laying down a more specific agenda for 2009.
Part II of my interview with Senator Obama will be posted later