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Utah forums focus on Obama push for change

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The motivations for people to become actively involved in an issue are rarely ever the same, yet over this past weekend people gathered in homes, libraries and on campuses across the United States to discuss ways to achieve common goals.

In Salt Lake City on Saturday and Sunday, Murray resident Marc Buckley hosted three community forums at the Salt Lake City Main Library to provide people with an opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns. The forums were part of President-elect Barack Obama's "Change Is Coming" event, where hosts were encouraged to screen a video from Obama's transition team as a launching pad for discussion.

Cathy Larsen, South Jordan, braved the winter storm on Saturday to attend out of curiosity.

"I wanted to see what the intent of this forum was," Larsen said. "If it's to provide me with a space for any citizen to come and give their say, then I'm all for it."

The video showed segments of Obama's election-night acceptance speech and encouraged viewers to become active participants in electronic dialogues being hosted on the transition team's Web site at change.gov. For Buckley, the forums were more than just a victory celebration. He told the Deseret News that he wants people from all political backgrounds and beliefs to be active in sharing their voice with the new administration, simply because he believes they (Obama's people) are listening.

"(Obama) is giving us a voice everyday of this transition by remaining open so we have the information we need to make good choices," Buckley said. "In Utah we need to come together and see what parts we can play that will be meaningful to us."

Following the screening, Buckley began the dialogues by sharing issues he is passionate about and why. Buckley told a group of about 25 at the first session that he believes equality should be granted to people across the world and in Utah. He stressed the importance of maintaining a firm separation between church and state.

Buckley also shared his personal struggles with the health insurance system, drawing from his recent open-heart surgery.

Many at the forum also shared their reasons for attending and what changes they would like to see in the coming years.

Michael Blackburn, Salt Lake City, expressed frustration over the real estate industry in Utah, saying that Utah ranks fifth in the nation for mortgage fraud. He said he hopes to see affordable housing options for residents here.

"Affordable housing is non-existent, even for families with great credit" Blackburn said. "If we don't have basic food and shelter, then what do we have?"

Blackburn said he attended the event to meet socially active people who are focused on creating solutions so his community can begin to push forward.

"I think what Marc has done today is phenomenal," Blackburn said. "He's pushing for the change we need in every state on every level to get this country back on it's feet."


E-mail: cnorlen@desnews.com