Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius visited the College of William and Mary Tuesday to campaign on behalf of Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama.
Her visit to the Sadler Center drew a crowd of approximately 200 students and Williamsburg residents, many sporting Obama pins and hats.
During the event, sponsored by William and Mary Students for Barack Obama, Sebelius noted the important role of Virginia in the election this fall.
“Virginia is an absolutely key state,” she said. “The road to the White House comes right through the Commonwealth.”
Sebelius complemented her local approach by leading a discussion with four Williamsburg women. After each woman’s vignette, Sebelius offered her insight on key political issues.
The first, Johnette Weaver, decried the rising gas prices that make the “struggle to choose whether or not I want to fill up the [gas] tank or the refrigerator” a daily event. Sebelius then described Obama’s plans for a “second stimulus package” and a $1,000 energy dividend that she argued would lower the costs of groceries and gas for families.
Anne Chalkey, a single mother working two jobs, lamented the cost of medication, even with insurance co-pays. Sebelius discussed Obama’s plan to extend children’s insurance coverage to the age of 25, which he says will decrease the number of children put in custody of the state on account of rising medical costs.
The next speakers, Cynthia Williams and Della Robbins, described their respective struggles as a servicewoman and a recently laid-off employee.
Shifting the discussion to the war in Iraq, Sebelius acknowledged Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain’s military service.
“We should be proud of that service,” Sebelius said. “That doesn’t mean we need to elect him president because of that service.”
Before fielding questions from the audience, the governor discussed the national job crisis. She noted that 600,000 Americans have lost their jobs so far in 2008. Although Virginia is still faring better than the national average, Sebelius advocated “invest[ing] in strategies that put people back to work here at home.”
“We have a chance to change directions in this country … or we will continue in the same direction, the same failed policies,” she said.
After the event, Sebelius elaborated on the increased role and visibility of students in this election.
“Children and young adults are saying, ‘Vote for me this time .… it’s my generation,’” she said.
She encouraged students to register in Virginia, or spend time “knocking on doors, making phone calls” to make a difference in the national election.
Ultimately, however, Sebelius expressed the need for bipartisanship.
“We are not red states or blue states,” she said. “We are Americans, and we need to face our challenges as Americans.”