Obamas help needy, surprise students

November 26, 2008 3:20:00 PM PST
The day before Thanksgiving, President-Elect Barack Obama gave some children on the South Side something to be thankful for. He and his family were giving a hand at a local church when he spotted the students and decided to go say hi. Students at the Saint Columbanus Parish School on East 71st Street in Chicago were surprised when Obama stopped by to wish them a happy Thanksgiving.

The church is also part of the Greater Chicago Food Depository's distribution network. On Wednesday, the entire Obama family joined the volunteers who hand out groceries once a week to those in need, including one man who was overcome by power of the moment.

"It makes me feel very special, very special," said Daryel Namdar, neighborhood resident.

The number of people who have been showing up there and at 200 other food distribution points in Cook County is up 35 percent from last year because of the economic crisis. So there's a deep appreciation that Obama is taking time to put the issue on the front burner.

"More than 30 million Americans struggle to have access to enough food. All it takes is for us to remain aware that this is an issue and making a commitment to fight it. The fact that he spent part of his morning doing that gives me great hope," said Kate Maehr, Greater Chicago Food Depository.

Obama is keenly aware of the pain this economy is causing millions of Americans and the hope they are vesting in his new administration.

On Wednesday, Obama held his third news conference on the economy in three days to introduce the leaders of his newly-created private sector advisory council -- former Fed Chief Paul Volcker and University of Chicago economist Austin Goolsbee. Their task is to help him dig out of this enormous economic mess.

"People should understand that help is on the way, and we are going to be able to get through these difficult times, but we're just going to have to make some good choices," said Obama.

Some of those good choices are expected to come from the private sector advisory council, which will eventually include some heavy hitters famous for thinking outside the box or breaking through what Obama calls "group think" in Washington.

The president-elect is also defending his decision to hire a lot of people from the Clinton administration even though he ran on a platform of change. Obama says that Bill Clinton ran the only Democratic administration in the last 28 years so his former advisors are also the only Democrats with any experience in Washington.


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