EXETER — More than 150 residents gathered Monday morning to feel hope and change in the future of the country's politics through presidential candidate Barack Obama, D-Ill.
"We want new leadership," said Charles DeGrandpre of Stratham and he added to him Obama represents youth and ethics.
At the Exeter home of James and Juanita Spivey, Illinois' junior senator spoke on why he is the right candidate to lead the country through political change.
"The country is hungry for change," Obama said. "People recognize the problems we face have not been addressed."
The large interest in the election shows the change people are ready for, Obama said.
He outlined the country's educational system that, despite its slogan, has left hundreds of children behind, an economy that does well for some but leaves others struggling and the war in Iraq that has cost the country billions of dollars, thousands of lives and yet is leaving its citizens more unsafe.
Obama said he feels it's possible to pull troops out of Iraq within the next year. He also said, if elected, he would rather lead with values and ideas, not just military, which entails working alongside adversaries.
"We've tried the other way," he said. "We've tried not talking to Iran, that hasn't worked. If we are willing to be perceived around this country as willing to engage with our adversaries then we will get the kind of security we want."
Obama is confident in his ability to lead the country in that direction, he said, "or else I wouldn't run." But he is also confident he cannot do it alone. He told the audience if they feel the same sense of urgency and excitement he feels, then together the country can be transformed.
"I am always reminded that we've been through tough times in our country before and each time, and it may take time, we've always been able to move history in a better direction," he said. "There's no reason to think we can't do that now."
The Rev. Roberta Finkelstein, of Portsmouth's South Church, asked Obama, a self-proclaimed "hope monger," how he plans win an election against a "fear monger."
"I've done it before and I'm still here," he said. "We are in a strong place. We've put together a kind of ground organization that we haven't seen in the presidential position in quite some time."
Obama assured the audience that coming out of Chicago politics, when he is the presidential nominee, he will work forcefully and rapidly, but thoughtfully.
"I may be skinny, but I am strong," he said.
When speaking on why he decided to run at such a young age — he's 46 — which some worry may mean inexperience, Obama said it is because there is something he can do that no other candidate can.
"That's changing the political map in this election," he said.
And 46 may not be that young. William Jefferson Clinton, the last Democrat to capture the White House, was 46 when he took office — he third youngest person ever elected president.
Susan Kouguell, of Stratham, said while she likes where Obama stands on the issues, she also believes this is something he can do.
"He represents fresh blood to politics and that's very well needed," she said.