FORT WORTH, Texas -- On the campaign trail, Democratic front-runner Sen. Barack Obama talks about how he would use the bully pulpit if president, and he offered a demonstration Thursday when he drew wild cheers as he told a mostly African-American crowd that parents need to shape up, turn off the TV, help their kids with their homework and stop letting them grow fat eating Popeyes chicken for breakfast.
"It's not good enough for you to say to your child, 'Do good in school,' and then when that child comes home, you got the TV set on, you got the radio on, you don't check their homework, there is not a book in the house, you've got the video game playing," said Obama while in Beaumont, in southeast Texas.
"So turn off the TV set, put the video game away. Buy a little desk or put that child by the kitchen table. Watch them do their homework. If they don't know how to do it, give them help. If you don't know how to do it, call the teacher. Make them go to bed at a reasonable time. Keep them off the streets. Give ' em some breakfast. Come on. ... You know I am right."
Can change happen with words? That's a core question being raised about the Obama candidacy.
"I've got to talk about us a little bit," said Obama. "We can't keep on feeding our children junk all day long, giving them no exercise. They are overweight by the time they are 4 or 5 years old, and then we are surprised when they get sick."
Obama -- who exercises and is careful about what he eats -- said obese children need to improve their nutrition habits, invoking the name of a chain that makes delicious fried chicken.
"I know how hard it is to get kids to eat properly," Obama said. "But I also know that if folks letting our children drink eight sodas a day, which some parents do, or, you know, eat a bag of potato chips for lunch, or Popeyes for breakfast.
"Y'all have Popeyes out in Beaumont? I know some of y'all you got that cold Popeyes out for breakfast. I know. That's why y'all laughing. ... You can't do that. Children have to have proper nutrition. That affects also how they study, how they learn in school."
Obama has delivered "tough love'' messages before about personal responsibility, but he seemed to revel in his "truth-telling" while campaigning in Beaumont, on a day that also took him to Austin and Fort Worth in advance of Tuesday's crucial primaries.
As Obama stumped in the Lone Star State to Texas-size crowds -- he packed in 13,000 people at the convention center here Thursday night -- his campaign was downplaying any presumption that he will emerge in a few days as the all-but-certain Democratic nominee.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton "is working tirelessly, as is Bill Clinton, in both Ohio and Texas; these races are extraordinarily tight," Obama said during a press conference on his plane en route to Beaumont. The Obama team was shocked to lose the New Hampshire primary in January, and since then, Obama has curbed the bravado that bubbled up in the Granite State.
Obama resisted an invitation by a reporter to write the Clinton campaign obituary. Said Obama, "Remember New Hampshire?"