Obama in Ames
Sen. Barack Obama speaking at the National Summit on Agriculture and Rural Life.
Photo: Tim Marema

The airport in Philadelphia is a virtual shopping mall. So much so that it almost seems that arrivals and departures are afterthoughts. Deep in the air terminal, sandwiched between electronics and clothes, lies an unbelievable treasure: a chocolate shop.

In the Philly airport chocolate shop they have everything: Dark, semisweet, milk, clusters, bricks, curls, chocolate dipped bugs, chocolate covered nuts, imported and domestic. I walked through the chocolate shop three times, looking at all there was, and found the decision difficult verging on impossible. Which of my heart’s desires would I pick?

So it was in Ames, Iowa, last Saturday, where I found an exotic assortment of my heart�s desires � three Democratic presidential candidates, each with a strong domestic agenda. The rivalry was so tasty that it was almost impossible to make a choice. Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and Barack Obama stood united in their support of rural America, jobs, open markets, education, health care, and Country of Origin labeling for farm products. I could find little daylight between them on those important agendas in rural America.

(For another report on the forum, see this story from the Brownfield Network.)

First to address the group in Schenk Auditorium on the campus of Iowa State University was Senator Clinton, speaking from New York. She outlined her plans for a Clinton Administration. She talked about the economic greening of America, most especially of urban areas blighted by neglect and time. She spoke of her experience in the White House. She spanned the topics with broad statements. She called for coalitions and cooperation. Her speech was seamless, moving from one topic to the next in a fluid, unbroken, context. It was impossible to tell whether she read her remarks to the assembly via teleprompter, or whether she spoke from memory. She was that smooth.

edwards at ames

Senator Edwards arrived in person, a few minutes late. I learned later that his time was cut short by ten minutes, giving him 25 minutes to the 35 offered the other two Democratic candidates.

Former Sen. John Edwards answered questions from the audience. Behind the candidate is moderator Jeneane Beck, Des Moines Bureau Chief of KUNI Public Radio.
Photo: Tim Marema

Edwards spoke to the group without notes, outlining his stand in what a colleague calls �the round toned southeastern drawl� of his boyhood home. Edwards was notable in his call for a moratorium on CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), a $9.50 an hour minimum wage, and a specific healthcare plan for all Americans. Edwards exited the auditorium, walking through the audience, taking time to shake hands and greet well-wishers, and then made his way to a press briefing room where he answered questions for about another fifteen minutes before departing.

Senator Obama arrived a few minutes later, and read his address to the crowd from a lectern. Like the other two candidates before him, he spoke of things important to the nation as a whole, and to Democrats in particular. He mentioned a potential tax credit for farmers who sell out to beginning farmers. He spoke of a need to support small farms and limit the hold of big agribusiness on agriculture in general. He suggested incentives to bring more teachers to rural America.

His words came smoothly, each one separated cleanly from the one before, but in a Midwestern/Chicago accented diction that changed the ending �ing� sound to one that sounded more like �in.� After walking to a railing that separates the speaking floor from the auditorium seating, he shook hands and signed autographs for a few minutes, and then exited the hall through the rear along with his Secret Service detail.

In Philadelphia, after three trips through the chocolates shop, I left unable to decide on which confection I preferred. I purchased a fruit slush instead. But last Saturday in Ames, I made my choice.

Some things are just too good to pass up.

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