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ESPAÑOLA – Neither heat nor hunger from waiting up to seven hours in the sun seemed to dampen the spirits of nearly 10,000 people who flooded the Plaza de Española to see presidential candidate Barack Obama Thursday.
Hundreds more strained to hear Obama from outside the plaza perimeter.
Española Mayor Joseph Maestas expressed delight with the turnout joking, "You've all just temporarily doubled our population."
Maestas and Gov. Bill Richardson called on Hispanics and Native Americans to get out and work for Obama and vote for him in November. They told the cheering crowd that Obama will unite America.
“This country needs to heal ... this country needs Obama,” Richardson said.
Obama called Richardson one of the finest public servants of his generation.
Obama flew into Albuquerque Wednesday night from campaigning in Nevada.
He met with Pueblo leaders Thursday morning and said, “I met with Indian nations from across the country and talked about the importance of once again placing Indian issues on the agenda.”
He spoke to the struggles of the Native American and Hispanic people of New Mexico and asked for their help to get him elected to the White House where he can bring change to their lives.
“We can’t change direction with a new driver who wants to follow the same map,” said Obama referring to Republican opponent Sen. John McCain. “We are in the midst of the most serious financial crisis in a generation - perhaps since the Great Depression...we've just seen the largest drop on Wall Street since the day after 9/11.”
Obama has scheduled a meeting with his top economic advisers including former heads of the treasury, he said, to discuss the crisis.
His plan includes helping struggling families restructure mortgages, "in a way they can afford so they can stay in their homes."
He promised the crowd he will cut taxes for 95 percent of all working families, saying his tax rate will actually be less than under former President Ronald Reagen.
Obama also promised health care for all.
“A third of Hispanics don’t have health care insurance even though they are working,” he said. Under his plan, the premium for those who have insurance will be lower and those without will have access to the same insurance as members of Congress.
Regarding energy issues, Obama said he understands there are those speaking out against nuclear energy but that America must invest, “to see if we can store nuclear energy properly.”
If elected, Obama will spend $15 billion over the next 10 years developing energy alternatives, he said, adding that it could help northern New Mexico and Indian Country with economic development.
Obama advocates providing every child with a world class education. He will recruit, “an army of new teachers and pay them higher salaries, make them accountable and revamp No Child Left Behind so they don't just teach to the test.”
“This is the change we need – the kind of bottom up growth and innovation,” he said.
He plans to bring a “sensible” end to the war in Iraq and refocus America’s attention on Afghanistan and Iran.
He also wants to put an end to homeless veterans in America and called for them to be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.
Security for Obama’s visit was a collaboration of law enforcement agencies from neighboring communities.
Los Alamos Police officers helped security agents check people and equipment at the event.
Their emergency responce vehicle was parked a few yards away, alongside the Office of Emergency Management's Command Center vehicle.
The event appeared to go smoothly and the plaza was empty by about 4:30 p.m.