Obama strikes a chord with teachers

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama was the headliner at Rancho High School on Thursday night, but it was his wife, Michelle, who received a special greeting.

Thursday was Michelle Obama's birthday, and as she took the stage to introduce her husband, a few hundred people sang "Happy Birthday."

"You know what I want for my birthday. I only want one thing," she said. "I want Barack Obama to take the Nevada caucus on Saturday."

The state's Democratic presidential caucuses are Saturday at 11 a.m.

With the race still up in the air after Obama's win in Iowa and Sen. Hillary Clinton's victory in New Hampshire, Nevada could end up being profoundly influential.

Obama struck a chord on education issues, counting teachers among the people he's heard from "who have worked hard and done everything right, and yet find themselves on the brink of financial disaster."

"I've talked to teachers who've had to moonlight," he said.

"That's right!" yelled a woman in the audience.

The crowd cheered Obama's promises to improve teacher salaries, provide resources so that teachers don't have to buy supplies for their students, emphasize early childhood education and offer better access to a college education.

He didn't get into specifics, but the audience was enthusiastic when Obama mentioned two things near and dear to every educator's heart: compensation and freedom in the classroom.

"I won't just talk about how great teachers are. I will reward them for their greatness by giving them higher salaries," he said.

"I don't want our teachers teaching to the test, because I want our students to learn art and music and literature."

And, as he always does, the Illinois senator wrapped up by urging people to stay engaged in the political process and hold elected officials to their promises.

"I am reminded every day, either by events or by my wife, that I am not a perfect man. I will not be a perfect president," Obama said. "I can promise you this ..."

"Be better than Bush!" a man in the audience yelled, and the crowd cheered.

"That's easy," Obama responded. "So would you."

He promised to be open about his positions and "listen to you, even when we disagree," and then he closed with a reminder that he needs support in Saturday's caucuses to continue his presidential bid.

"You will have someone in the White House who is thinking of you," Obama said, "who will fight for you, who will stand up for you -- if you will stand up for me."

Contact reporter Alan Choate at achoate@reviewjournal.com or (702) 229-6435.