Mirroring Illinois Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, a panel discussing the “Obama Phenomenon” centered on the ideas of hope and change.
Just before Obama sparred with opponent New York Sen. Hillary Clinton at a debate in Los Angeles last night, about 75 students and faculty participated in a question and answer session with University professors about Obama’s campaign in the Michigan League.
The panel, moderated by History Prof. Kevin Gaines, the director of the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies, included Political Science Prof. Hanes Walton and Lori Brooks, a professor of American Culture and Afro-American and African Studies.
Panelists spoke briefly, but the event was mostly an opportunity for audience members to share their opinions on the senator.
LSA senior James Logan said that as a young black male, Obama gives him hope.
“We don’t see politicians on TV that look like us or that come from a similar place,” Logan said.
Logan said Obama will encourage black men to achieve their goals and give them a new source of inspiration that is different from the rappers and athletes they often look up to as role models.
Though many in the crowd support Obama, who’s vying to become the nation’s first black president, some also expressed concerns about the senator.
Some asked the panelists about their opinions on the fact that Obama hasn’t touched on race that often during his campaign.
In response, Walton said black candidates have to use a political strategy based on the concerns of constituents rather than racial issues.
LSA freshman James Stinson agreed with Walton.
“I don’t believe that he should be put on a pedestal just for being an African-American man,” he said. “As president, Obama needs to look out for all Americans, not just citizens of his own race.”
The panel seemed confident in senator’s ability to lead, but those in attendance were hesitant to presume a victory.
Walton suggested that black voters could potentially walk away from the Democratic Party if Obama loses the Democratic nomination.
Stinson said he was one such voter.
With 22 states up for grabs, next week’s Super Tuesday primary elections next week will be a key test for the Obama campaign.