More Ads
"American Stories: American Solutions"                             
Obama for America half-hour infomercial run Oct. 29, 2008 at 8 p.m. - CBS, NBC, FOX, Univision, BET, MSNBC and TV One.

Obama (voiceover): I'm Barack Obama and I approve this message.

[Music] Video: amber waves of grain; view of countryside out the window of a car driving down the road; CU of hands and flags waving at a rally.

Obama (voiceover): With each passing month our country's faced increasingly difficult times.  But everywhere I go, despite the economic crisis, and war and uncertainty about tomorrow, I still see optimism and hope and strength.

Obama (office setting, to camera): We've seen over the last eight years how decisions by a president can have a profound effect on the course of history, and on American lives.  But much that's wrong in our country goes back even farther than that.  We've been talking about the same problems for decades, and nothing is ever done to solve them.  This election's a defining moment.  A chance for our leaders to meet the demands of these challenging times and keep faith with our people.

For the past 20 months, I've traveled the length of this country, and Michelle and I have met so many Americans who are looking for real and lasting change that makes a difference in their lives.  Their stories are American stories, stories that reflect the state of our union.  I'd like to introduce you to some of those people tonight.

I'll also lay out in specific detail what I'll do as president to restore the long-term health of our economy and our middle class, and how I'll make the decisions to get us there.

What struck me most about the stories you’ll see tonight, is not just the challenges these Americans face, but also their resolve to change this country.

[Screen black]


[STORY 1: Rebecca Johnston of North Kansas City, MO]

Obama (voiceover): Rebecca Johnston is all about her family.

Johnston: Brian, me, Nathan, Marlie, Ethan, Gabriela, Tulula and Jake.

The thing I love about being a mom is just that how amazing it is that everything that you do shapes who they are.  That it's like molding putty in your hands and you just want to make sure you do the right thing every day and... [kids sound]

Obama: Ten years ago, she bought a house outside the city so she could send her children to good schools.  Now, with rising costs, it's getting tight.  Her husband Brian works at a tire retread plant and needs to stand all day.

Johnston: He has a torn ACL and miniscus that he walks around with every day.  He was going to have the surgery in June, but we couldn't really afford for him to get the disability pay.

Obama: And so they put off the operation, to take care of other things.

Johnston: This is where our snacks would go: Gabriela and then Nathan and then my husband and I, and my daughter, and Ethan, my son.  If they know that this is it for them for the whole week then they will make it last longer. 

I think everybody feels the same way that they'd like to see an end in sight to all the worry and the chaos of everyday living, trying to make ends meet.  OK, how much are we bringing in this week?  How much is the car payment.  When, roughly can we pay this bill.

Obama: All across the country, I’ve met families just like Rebecca's, getting their kids to school, meeting their mortgage payments, fighting for their families.

Johnston: It just keeps going up and up and up, and I can remember a time when I didn't have to worry about this stuff.

Obama (clip from Convention speech): We measure the strength of our economy not by the number of billionaires we have or the profits of the Fortune 500, or by whether someone with a good idea can take a risk and start a new business, or whether the waitress who lives on tips can take a day off and look after a sick kid without losing her job.  An economy that honors the dignity of work.

Obama (office setting, to camera): Earlier this year we already knew our economy was in trouble.  Home foreclosures, lost jobs, high gas prices.  We were running a record deficit, and our national debt had never been higher.  But then, a little over a month ago, the bottom fell out.

What happened in the financial markets was the final verdict on eight years of failed policies and we're now going through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.  A few weeks ago, we passed a financial rescue plan. It's a step in the right direction, and as president, I'll ensure that you, the taxpayers, are paid back first.

But we also need a rescue plan for the middle class, starting with what we can do right now, that will have an immediate effect. As president, here's what I’ll do.

* Cut taxes for every working family making less than $200,000 a year.
* Give businesses a tax credit for every new employee that they hire right here in the U.S. over the next two years and eliminate tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas.
* Help homeowners who are making a good faith effort to pay their mortgages by freezing foreclosures for 90 days.
* And just like after 9/11, we'll provide low-cost loans to help small businesses pay their workers and keep their doors open.

None of that grows government; it grows the economy and keeps people on the job.  This is what we can do right now, to restore fairness to the American economy and fulfill our commitments to the American people.

Man at town hall meeting
: The company I worked for went broke.  Before they went down they used $19 million of the retirement, and when they closed up, I should have gotten about $1,500 a month retirement.  I only ended up with $379 a month.

Obama (responding): You earned your pension. You earned it.  It wasn't a gift. You gave up wages so that money could be set aside for your retirement.  Time and time again what we're seeing is companies who owe their workers retirements, pensions, shedding those obligations.  When you make a commitment to workers at a company, those aren't idle promises.  Those are promises that should have the force of law.

Man: Thank you.

Obama (to camera and voiceover): Americans, they don't expect government to solve all their problems; they're not looking for a handout.  If they're able and willing to work, they should be able to find a job that pays a living wage.  They should be able to retire with some dignity and some respect.

Gov. Ted Strickland (D-OH): Think of this.  Barack Obama is going to be a Democrat in the presidency who actually cuts taxes.  But he's going to cut taxes for the people who really need a tax cut.  He's going to cut taxes for the struggling families, and he's going to that while holding accountable those companies that take advantage of tax breaks in order to send jobs offshore and to other countries.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS): I don't know if it's that common sense Midwestern way of getting things done, but Barack Obama has Kansas roots, and he really has a plan to put us back on track and help us move forward.

Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA): The challenges before us now are big.  What we need are big solutions and big thinking, and Barack Obama is a problem solver who thinks big.  It's a once in a generation kind of leadership, and that's what Barack is offering us.

[Screen black]


[STORY 2: Larry and Juanita Stewart of Sardinia, OH]

Obama (voiceover): After 30 years working on the B&O Railroad, Larry Stewart and his wife Juanita hoped to reap the rewards from their working years.  Six grown children, seven grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and a home that they own themselves.

Juanita: We've lived in this home for 10 years.

Larry: A lot of work on this house, I did it myself.  That floor down there, I put that floor in this house.

Juanita: We had our home paid for, so we just knew that retirement would be great.

Obama: But with her rheumatoid arthritis and other ailments, their medical bills have been rising.

Juanita: I take 12 different medications per day.  When Larry was working, all of that was covered. When he retired, I did not have medical insurance, and each year it just got worse, worse, worse.

Obama: To meet their payments, they've had to take a loan on their house, and they're losing equity.

Juanita: Larry is retired a total of 10 years, but five of those years, he had to go back to work.

Larry: Associate salesman.  In other words, I just sell stuff, that's all.

I'm 72 years old and things are changing.

Juanita: You just wonder, you know, where am I going from here?

Obama (office setting, to camera): I spoke earlier about some of the immediate actions I'll take to address the economic crisis.  But we also have to take a longer view.  We have to stop just talking about health care reform and lost jobs and energy independence and finally do something about it.

All across America, I've seen entrepreneurs and innovators who point the way to a better future, starting with energy independence.

Recently I visited the McKinstry Company in Seattle.  They're retrofitting schools and office buildings to make them energy efficient, creating jobs, saving their customers money, reducing carbon emissions, and helping end our dependence on Middle Eastern oil.

As president, I'll use companies like McKinstry as a model for the nation.  I'll invest $15 billion a year in energy and renewable sources of energy like wind, solar and biofuels, creating five million clean energy jobs over the next decade.  Jobs that pay well and can never be outsourced.  And I'll help our auto companies retool so that the fuel efficient cars of the future are built right here in America.  I'll also make it easier for you to afford these new cars with a tax credit so we can get as many on the road as possible.  And to further reduce our demand for foreign oil, I'll tap our natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and expand domestic production of oil.

But we know government can't do it all.  That's why I'll call on every American to join in conservation efforts.  I believe we need to usher in a new era of responsibility.  Across the country, families are tightening their belts and so should Washington.  That's why for my energy plan, my economic plan, and the other proposals you'll hear tonight, I've offered spending cuts above and beyond their cost.

I'll also go through the federal budget line by line, eliminating programs that don't work and making the ones we do need work better and cost less.

And one of the biggest savings we can make is to change our policy in Iraq.

Obama (clip from debate w/ McCain): We're currently spending $10 billion a month in Iraq, when they have a $79 billion surplus.  It seems to me that if we're going to be strong at home as well as strong abroad, that we've got to look at bringing that war to a close.

Obama (clip from town hall): We are actually spending more in Iraq now than we were spending when the war first started...  How many schools would that build?  How many hospitals?  How many people could get health care?  How many college scholarships could we give our youth?  It's time for us to invest some of that money right here in America.

Eric Schmidt, CEO - Google
: When I read his economic plan, and I saw the people endorsing it, and all the new ideas, Warren Buffett and others, I thought, this is the right plan for America.

Gov. Tim Kaine (D-VA): Barack has looked at the small business side of the American economy, and says look, that's where most innovation and entrepreneurship is, let's give them the rocket fuel to really accelerate, rather than giving tax cuts to you know the Exxon-Mobils or big oil companies that need not one ounce of help from government to be very, very successful.

Obama (clip from town hall): So I'm not worried about: not CEOs; I'm not worried about corporate lobbyists; I'm not worried about the drug companies or the oil companies or the insurance companies.  They'll be fine; they're going to look out for themselves.

I’m worried about the couple that's trying to figure out how they're going to retire.  I'm worried about the family that's trying to figure out how they can save for their child's college education.  I'm worried about the single mom that doesn't have health insurance.  I'm worried about the guy who's worked in a plant for 20 years and suddenly sees his job shipped overseas.  That's who I'm worried about.  And that's who I'm going to be fighting for and thinking about every single day that I'm in the White House.

[Screen black]


[STORY 3: Juliana Sanchez, Albuquerque, NM]


Obama (voiceover): Juliana Sanchez is a widow with two children and a mortgage.  Her parents, Richard and Francis, were both educators.  Like her family, Juliana's devoted her life to giving her daughter Jessica and son Adam a good education.

Every morning, she's up before the sun. 

Sanchez: I work in a school for at-risk kids.   

     ...Good morning how are you.

At lot of the families here go through extreme financial hardships.   

    ...It's about time we see you; are you going to stay?

Obama: At the end of the school day, her work is only half done.  

    Sanchez: ...Come on baby, jump in.

Obama: She works for a health care company, taking care of Shelley, a seven-year-old with special needs.

Sanchez: Most of us that are educators, we all have second jobs.

Trainer: The answer lies in your hands.  Effective teaching starts here.

Obama: And to advance herself and develop her skills she takes teacher training classes.

Sanchez: Financially the pressure is just to keep your head above water, so you don't feel like you are drowning all the time.  Health care, food, electric, gas --  it takes out so much out of my paycheck.  You go buy a gallon of milk, and you're like going, okay is it a gallon or a half gallon?  What can I afford?  You feel like you can't breathe even though you need to breathe.

Obama: Every parent in America wants the same thing: a good education for their child.

Obama (clip from speech): Responsibility for our children's success doesn't start in Washington, it starts in our homes.  No education policy can replace a parent who's involved in their child's education from day one [applause], who makes sure their children are in school on time, helps them with their homework, and attends those parent-teacher conferences.  No government program can turn off the TV set or put away the video games or read to your children [applause].

Obama (voiceover and to camera)
: My father, you know I only met him once, when I was ten.

I probably was shaped more by his absence than his presence.

My mother, she said to herself, you know, my son, he's an American and he needs to understand what that means.  And she was working full time so she'd wake me up at 4:30 in the morning.  We'd sit there and go through my lessons and I used to complain and grumble -- you can imagine an eight-year-old kid having to wake up at 4:30.  If I grumbled, she'd say "Well, this is no picnic for me either buster."

Obama (clip from Convention speech): [cheers] Now is not the time for small plans.  Now is the time to meet our moral obligation, to provide every child a world-class education.  I'll invest in early childhood education.  I’ll recruit an army of new teachers and pay them higher salaries and give them more support.  And in exchange I'll ask for higher standards and more accountability.

Obama (office setting, to camera)
: We can create schools that work because I've seen them.  Three years ago only half the high school seniors at the Mapleton School in Thornton, Colorado were accepted to college, but after a rigorous school reform program, this year all 44 were accepted.  And under my education plan, those students could get a tax credit to cover their tuition at public colleges and universities in exchange for serving their community or their country. 

Just as I believe every American should have access to an affordable college education, I also believe every American has a right to affordable health care.

In the last year I visited many hospitals that are computerizing records and implementing technology that improves patient care and dramatically reduces costs.  That's why my health care plan includes improving information technology, requires coverage for preventive care and pre-existing conditions, and lowers health care costs for the typical family by $2,500 a year.  And you can keep your same coverage and your same doctor.

Obama (voiceover and to camera): You know my mom passed away, it was one of the toughest moments of my life. For her to die of cancer so quickly was a shock, and it felt arbitrary and you know anybody who's gone through that kind of process knows how difficult it is and heartbreaking it is to see somebody you love go on that path, and it's a lonely path.  It was a reminder to me that, boy, life sure is short  and you better seize the moment.

Obama (clips from announcement speech): I stand before you today to announce my candidacy for president of the United States of America [cheers]...

...I'm in this race because I'm tired of talking about the outrage of 47 million people without health insurance, I want to start doing something about it.  My mother never saw her grandchildren.  That breaks my heart.  But you know what also broke my heart.  In the last months of her life she wasn't just thinking about trying to get well, she was spending time reading insurance forms because she had just gotten a new job and the insurance companies were saying maybe there's a pre-existing condition and we don't have to pay your medical bills.  So I know what it's like to see a loved one suffer not just because they're sick, but because of a broken health care system.  And it's wrong.

Michelle Obama (to camera and voice over): He's a lot like his mom.  His girls are the only thing that can break him down.  He tries to make it a point to have the thing that he does with each of them -- and for Malia it was reading through every single Harry Potter book, and they got through all of them.  And that is just so fun to watch and it's amazing that he doesn't forget anything, and he calls them every night and he talks for as long as they need to talk.  He just always has time for them.

[Obama family laughing]

Obama (clip from 2004 Convention speech)
: It is that fundamental belief.  I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper, that makes this country work [cheers].

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL): Starting at that speech at the Democratic Convention in Boston and ever since, people have noticed that there's a quality in Barack Obama they just don't see in other candidates.

Obama (clip from 2004 Convention speech): There is not a liberal America and a conservative America.  There is the United States of America [cheers].

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL): Here's a person who as a state legislator was a clear leader in Springfield on so many important issues that really made a difference, came to Washington, had an impact as soon as he arrived.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO): He's changed the rules in Washington.  Gone are the free gifts from lobbyists, gone are the fancy airplane rides for nothing.  He did that.  Now it wasn't easy.  He had to work across party lines; more importantly he had to fight senior members of the Senate who liked it just fine the way it was.

Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE): He came in, not only reached out, but reached across the aisle to Dick Lugar, one of the leading guys in America for the past 20 years on arms control, to keep loose nukes out of the hands of terrorists.  I was amazed.  I watched him incisively question the Secretary of State in the nomination process.  I remember literally turning to Chris Dodd saying, "Whoa, this guy's good."

Obama (clip): Joe Biden I think is one of the finest public servants in this country.  It's not just that he has some of the best foreign policy credentials of anybody, but it's also that his entire life he has never forgotten where he came from.  Coming from Scranton, fighting on behalf of working families, remembering what it's like to see his father loose his job and go through a downward spiral economically.  He shares my core values and my sense of where the country needs to go.

[Screen black]


[STORY 4: Mark and Melinda Dowell of Louisville, KY]

Mark (reading from book): Thanks for the moon and the stars up above, but most of all thanks for the family I love.

Look, that little girl's a ballerina.  That's what you want to do, ain't it?

(to camera): I work for Ford Motor Company at the Kentucky truck plant.  I'm a third generation Ford employee.

Obama (voiceover): When manufacturing spread to towns across America, it brought jobs and a way of life.  Working class families could buy their first home and a piece of the American Dream.

Mark Dowell and his wife Melinda have worked at the local plant for most of their adult lives.  Recently the plant cut back Mark's work to every other week.  Now they're struggling to make ends meet. 

His grandfather Harold and father Carl each worked over 30 years and received full retirement benefits.

Mark: It was a lot better time back then.  People felt like they had security in their jobs.

Obama: In July, Melinda was laid off after eight years on the job.

Mark: From the day I was born I have been tied to Ford.  So this is all I know. 

    ...hey Jay, this is Mark Dowell calling from the union hall.  How are you?

If the plant shut down in Louisville, it would just be devastating.  People would lose their homes.  Restaurants and retail stores would lose business because people wouldn't have the money to shop.

     ...thanks for your support.  Alright, bye-bye.

I feel like we're all in the same boat.  We all got to pull together, and if we don't, we're going to lose America as we once known it.

Obama (clip from speech): As challenging as these times are, we've seen harder times before.  My grandfather fought in Patton's army in Europe.  My grandmother stayed home working on a bomber assembly line even though she had a kid to look after.  Not only did they defeat facism, but they lifted themselves up out of a Great Depression.  That was their generation's moment.  And this is our moment.

Obama (office setting, to camera)
: I learned at an early age from my grandparents how vital it is to defend liberty, and as commander in chief, I will never hesitate to protect our country.

As president, I'll rebuild our military to meet 21st century challenges.  I'll renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression.  And I'll refocus our efforts on finishing the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

But I'll also never forget that when I send our armed forces into battle, I'm sending sons and daughters, and fathers and mothers.  I still remember a woman I met in Iowa.  Her son had shipped out to Iraq two weeks earlier, and I had a close friend who was on his way, too.

"I'll be praying for you."  "Thank you very much."  "I appreciate you."  "Thank you."

John Adams, Brig. Gen. U.S. Army (ret.): As a retired general officer from the U.S. Army, it makes a difference to me how a potential commander-in-chief thinks about war and peace.  That's what we're looking for in a president, somebody that understands the stakes and has the courage and the judgment to approach them, rationally and with a sense of duty to the Constitution and the people of the United States, and that's why I think he's going to be a great president.

Obama (clip from speech): Everybody here has got a story.  Somewhere you've got parents who said you know what, maybe I won't go to college, but I know if I work hard my child will go to college.

Everybody here has got a story of somebody who came from another country.  They said maybe my grandchild or my great-grandchild, they'll have an opportunity, they'll have freedom.  [applause]

Everybody here has got a story about a grandparent or a great grandparent who worked in a coal mine, who worked in a tough factory, maybe got injured somewhere, but they said you know what, I may not have a home, but if I work hard enough someday my child, my grandchild, they'll have a home they can call their own.  [cheers, applause]

That's the story of America.

Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM): This guy is special because I think he can bring people together, because I think he's a good, decent man that understands the world through his background, that he's a man that can heal this country, that he can bring bipartisanship, that there's very unusual, good, positive sides to this man that we need at this juncture in our history. 

Obama (clip from speech): I'm reminded every single day, that I am not a perfect man.  I will not be a perfect president.  But I can promise you this -- I will always tell you what I think and where I stand.  [applause]  I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face.  I will listen to you when we disagree.  And, most importantly, I will open the doors of government and ask you to be involved in your own democracy again.

Cut to Obama at rally at BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, FL...

America, the time for change has come.  And now, to all of those who've joined us from across this country, I say that in six days, we can choose an economy that rewards work and creates new jobs and fuels our prosperity, starting with the middle class.

In six days, we can choose to invest in health care for our families, and education for our kids, and renewable energy for our future.

In six days, we can choose hope over fear, unity over division, the promise of change over the power of the status quo.

In six days, we can come together as one nation, and one people, and once more choose our better history.

That's what's at stake.  That's what we're fighting for - for the small business owner in Denver to keep his doors open; for the hardworking couple in Cincinnati to retire in comfort; for the young student in Ft. Lauderdale to afford her tuition; for men and women in every city and town across this nation to achieve the American Dream.

And if in this last week, you will knock on some doors for me, and make some calls for me, and go to and find out where to vote; if you will stand with me, and fight by my side, and cast your ballot for me, then I promise you this - we will not just win Florida, we will not just win this election, but together, we will change this country and we will change the world.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless America.

# # #

This was the first such half-hour general election broadcast by a presidential campaign since Ross Perot's infomercials.  Veteran media consultant Mark Putnam wrote and produced the program which included footage shot by David Guggenheim.  In addition to the testimonials from officials that one might expect in such a program, a central element is the stories of four regular people (three of whom were from key states: MO, OH and NM).  According to Nielsen, "American Stories: American Solutions" garnered 33.5 million U.S. viewers.  The McCain campaign responded with a 30-second ad as well as a press release titled "Just Words" which stated, "Barack Obama's infomercial offered the American people a nicely packaged product of misleading information."