Gary and Lafayette - Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama made his third trip to Indiana Thursday, with stops in Gary and Lafayette.
Sen. Obama arrived to deafening cheers, hand clapping and foot stomping in the bleachers at Gary's Roosevelt High School.
"I'm the closest I've been home in five days," he told the crowd.
For Obama, it was a homecoming of sorts. He cut his teeth on politics 30 miles away on the south side of Chicago. For Gary, it was a kiss of nostalgia. It was there residents elected the nation's first African-American mayor of a major metropolitan city: Richard Hatcher.
"Remembering the days, remembering the events we would go to the national convention and the only way we could get the word in was to pass notes to the podium," he said. "This time around it's just almost unbelievable."
Obama focused on a broken economy and a city abandoned by the steel mills that once attracted residents to jobs and housing.
"When CEOs are the ones getting the tax breaks and the workers are getting nothing, when CEOs get million-dollar bonuses and the companies are going bankrupt, and the workers are losing their pensions, something is wrong, something's gotta change, that's why I'm running for president of the United States of America," he said.
But amid the boisterous crowd was a soft eight-year-old voice: "What can kids like me do to make the world better?" was the question.
"Here's the most important thing you can do - is work hard in school. That's the most important thing you can do," was his reply.
He also called on parents. "If you don't parent, we can't improve our schools."
The Illinois senator then headed to Lafayette, where supporters stood in long lines in the rain to get into the event. Obama's promise of change was also a hit there.
"We've got to have a new foreign policy in this country," he told the crowd at Lafayette Jefferson High School. "You can count on me ending the war in 2009. It's time."
He talked about changing health care and making insurance more affordable and changing education from early childhood to college, with tuition payments of $4,000 a year in exchange for community service.
Obama repeatedly brought the crowd to their feet. After offering his answers to America's problems, he answered the questions of the audience.
Numerous government mandated standardized tests were an issue for one nine-year-old. Obama said he would stop some testing.
A high school senior worried about the environment. "Will you support the Kyoto agreement and put Al Gore in your cabinet?" he asked.
"I will invite Al Gore to be part of the administration," said Obama.
In the highly contentious race for his party's nomination Barack Obama made no apologies for preaching hope, as he hopes voters weary of war, a failing economy and rising costs remember his message on Election Day.
Clinton in Indiana Saturday
Meanwhile, former President Bill Clinton campaigned in Boonville for his wife Thursday. He also makes an appearance in Vincennes. Bill Clinton has already visited several Indiana towns in recent weeks.
Hillary Clinton returns to Indiana on Saturday, with events in Indianapolis and Mishawaka (invitation only), and also in Valparaiso at Washington Township School. That event is free and open to the public.
Clinton's campaign said she will focus on economic issues.
This story compiled from reports by Sandra Chapman and Rich Van Wyk.
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