ABC News’ Sunlen Miller Reports: In his first public campaign event since the end of the primary season, Sen. Barack Obama referred to himself twice as the Democratic nominee at a town hall in Bristol, Virginia.
Calling the Democratic Party as "my party", Obama referenced the DNC’s decision not to take contributions from federal lobbyists and PACs, saying he "sent a strong signal" by refusing contributions from those entities.
"We will not take a dime from Washington lobbyists or special interest PACS – we’re going to change how Washington works. They will not fund my party, they will not run our White House, and they will not drown out the voice of the American people when I am president of the United States of America," Obama said.
Obama commemorated the end of the primary season with a nod to his Democratic rival Senator Hillary Clinton, who he described as "outstanding".
"Obviously we’ve had a pretty exciting 48 hours here. This is on the heels of a 16 month, 54 primary and caucus campaign–a historic campaign that involved outstanding candidates, none more outstanding than Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton," Obama said. "I congratulate her on her great achievement, and I know I’m a better candidate because I ran against her. She’s tough."
Obama then declared that his pride, calling his historic candidacy "a sign of enormous growth" for the nation.
"I stand before you as the Democratic nominee for president of the United States of America….I’m very proud of that, and I’m proud of America for giving me this opportunity because obviously we all know that it’s a sign of enormous growth in this country. But we’ve still got work to do. Just winning the nomination is not the endpoint. The end point isn’t even winning the general election. The endpoint is making your lives better."
Obama’s remarks focused on healthcare, and he took multiple swipes at Senator McCain’s health care plan calling it the "John McCain-Bush lite healthcare system” and saying it would only benefit the "healthy and the wealthy."
During the Question and Answer session, Obama met a 95-year-old African American man, whose daughter told Obama that he had waited his whole life for this moment.
The man wobbled slowly to the stage and presented Obama with a maple wood walking stick as a gift.
The presumptive democratic nominee, clearly feeling his oats, took the stick and said, "If members of congress don’t pass my health care bill – I’ll whoop ‘em, I’ll whoop ‘em. That’s right, you better not mess with me, and I’ll have that stick."