Mercer student, Bibb officials give views on Obama address

The Telegraph asked a handful of people what they thought about President Obama’s speech. How did his message, “It is time for America to lead again,” resonate with viewers, young and old?

Kelly Blount, a first-year MBA student at Mercer, said Obama’s speech clarified a few things for her.

“I didn’t really know what the stimulus bill was,” she said. “His address was actually really informative in terms of hearing what the government’s specific actions are going to be now and down the road.”

Blount, a 23-year-old Augusta native who works as a graduate assistant in Mercer’s athletics department, said Obama’s remarks made her less skeptical about the government’s ability to help lift the nation out of its tough economic times.

“He talked about skeptics. I am a little skeptical,” she said. “I think it comes from the past, when you saw a lot of talk but not a lot of action.

“But he reassured Americans that if they’re working hard, they’re not going to be forgotten.”

Jon Smith, a junior political science and international affairs major at Mercer University, said by the speech’s halfway point he was enjoying Obama’s message and delivery.

“I think he’s doing really well. He seems to be very confident, which is what we need right now,” Smith, a Columbus native, said. “As far as substantive things go, I’m not exactly sure where he’s going with that. Before the speech, a lot of correspondents said Americans wanted him to be more thematic. That’s not really what I was looking for.”

Smith, who last semester participated in a national security class at Mercer, said he’s studied many of the plans Obama presented for easing the nation’s financial woes.

“A lot of things he’s proposing are some of the things I proposed in a brief in the class, where I served as the economic adviser,” he said. “A lot of the things he’s advising, like becoming far more responsible with our credit than we have been and energy independence, are things I find very important.”

Smith, 20, is optimistic Obama will help the country resolve issues that matter to him, such as paying for his final year of college.

“He’s mentioning a lot about making promises to young people, making reform in terms of education. I guess these things will come with time,” Smith said. “It’s directly affecting me through my mom and my father. Both of their retirements have somewhat been dipped into by their respective companies. That’s going to have an effect on me as a student since they are paying for anything my scholarships aren’t covering.”

More than anything, Smith said, Americans need to follow Obama’s call to be more personally responsible as leaders work to improve the recession.

“I feel like if anybody’s going to be able to do it, it’s the current administration,” he said. “But I don’t think you can really place too much faith in the government. I think there’s got to be a lot more responsibility on our part.”

Bibb County Commissioner Joe Allen said he thought Obama handled the prime-time speech well.

“He is our president, and we have to support him and give him 100 percent of our faith to see if he can help us through this (financial crisis),” he said. “We’re in a bad situation right now.”

Allen said he believes the economy is going to get better, although it will take time.

Some of Obama’s initiatives, such as the one that would assist homeowners in refinancing their mortgage, may not go far enough, Allen said, but it’s a start.

“We’ve got to give him credit for trying, and we’ve got to stick with it,” he said.

Telegraph staff writers Ashley Tusan Joyner and Jennifer Burk contributed to this report.