Cincinnati’s Fountain Square was the site of an enthusiastic public several thousand strong wide screen viewing of Democratic hopeful Barack Obama’s speech before the 99th annual conference of the NAACP Monday night. The Cincinnati’s Inquirer’s Jeff Peale wrote this morning that: “At Fountain Square, where a sizable crowd watched on the big-screen TV, applause and cheers erupted when Obama appeared. When Obama spoke of social and economic justice, the crowd roared. When he asked each citizen to take more individual responsibility, heads nodded and fists pumped in the air. And when he brought up family values and education, those listening threw their hands together, applauding loudly.”

NAACP chairman interpreted the response as swelling of patriotic pride: ‘I think all Americans are excited just by the idea that a black man is on the verge of winning the presidency,’ he said. Senator Obama’s speech before the NAACP crowd focused on the themes of social and economic justice and seemed designed to address the many Ohioans listening across the state. Ohio remains hard hit economically with over one-third of one its northeast counties, Trumbull, receiving some form of public assistance according to a recent story in the Youngstown Vindicator.

Obama’s uplifting speech focused on corporate and government responsibility in moving away from policies that emphasize the profit bottom line. “It’s about responsibilities of corporations that starts with ending a culture on Wall Street that says what’s good for me is good enough, that puts their bottom line ahead of what’s right for America” he said. The Washington Post’s Perry Bacon put it this way; “The bulk of Obama’s speech focused on the responsibility of government to help black families more and of corporate America to provide more support for reducing the pay gap between executives and employees.” The presumptive nominee’s address did touch on theme of personal responsibility, but in a much more balanced way than in previous addresses, presumably in response pointed critiques.

Obama drew sharp contrasts with his Republican challenger, particularly on the issue of public education. The Columbus Dispatch wrote that “Obama told the audience he was ‘glad to hear’ that McCain would speak about education, ‘but the fact is what he’s offering amounts to little more than the same tired rhetoric about vouchers.’ The Republican response displayed a classic ruling class contrast. Writes the Dispatch “McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds responded: ‘Barack Obama has never led bipartisan change for schools and he’s shown he can’t stand up to the big labor unions that support him and oppose the meaningful reforms we need in public education.’

To a cheering audience Mr. Obama invoked the twin ideological legacy of Martin Luther King: ”..the NAACP understood social justice is not enough. Dr. King said the inseparable twin of racial justice is economic justice. That’s why Dr. King went to Memphis in his final days to stand with striking sanitation workers. That’s why the March on Washington led by Roy Wilkins wasn’t just for freedom, but was for jobs and freedom.’

Obama who according to recent polls is running neck and neck with McCain in the important state of Virginia will address the country on his Iraq policy on Tuesday.