Obama Addresses Question of Experience

The Associated Press
Saturday, April 21, 2007; 8:12 PM

NEW YORK -- Wooing black voters while tackling questions about his experience, Democrat Barack Obama said Saturday that his years as a community organizer and accomplishments in the Illinois state Senate have prepared him well for the presidency.

Addressing the National Action Network, a civil rights group founded by Rev. Al Sharpton, Obama touted his successes as an Illinois lawmaker in providing health insurance to children and reducing the price of prescription drugs for senior citizens.

He also told of passing legislation to monitor racial profiling and to require that police interrogations of suspects in capital cases be videotaped.

"I haven't just talked about these things, I've actually done them," he said, adding that he'd worked well with the Republicans who controlled the state Senate for most of his tenure there.

He met later in the day with leaders of the Iowa Citizen Action Network, a liberal group of community organizers, and touted his own experience as a community organizer.

"I can relate," said Obama as he opened a two-day visit to Iowa. "I, too, was a community organizer. Community organizers generally look at the world a little bit differently."

Obama's first job was working for a coalition of churches on Chicago's south side, seeking to help rescue a troubled neighborhood.

"It was that education that was seared into my brain," Obama said. "It was the best education I ever had, better than anything I got at Harvard Law School."

With just over two years in the U.S. Senate, Obama has faced questions over whether he has sufficient experience to be president.

On the campaign trail, front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton stresses her long career in public life and often warns voters that the next president will need to "hit the ground running."

Sharpton, who ran for the Democratic nomination in 2004, has also openly questioned Obama's credentials for the job. Obama, running to be the first black president, acknowledged those concerns. He also assured the largely black audience he did not believe he was automatically entitled to their support.

"I've said to Rev. Sharpton and I'll say it today, if there is somebody _ I don't care whether they are white or black or they are male or female _ if there is somebody who has been more on the forefront on behalf of the issues you care about and has more concrete accomplishments on behalf of the things you're concerned about, I'm happy to see you endorse them. But I am absolutely confident you will not find that," he said.

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