The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Candidate Obama visits Texas

Barack Obama, Democratic presidential hopeful, stopped in Austin on Friday to share his vision for the nation’s future with an estimated 22,000 people.

Obama, a senator from Illinois, addressed the nation’s obvious need for change, especially in areas of health care, energy, education and foreign policy. Obama did not hesitate to declare the war in Iraq a mistake and confidently told the audience he knew the steps needed to end it.

“What are we doing here today?” Obama asked. “People have gathered here because they understand the nation is at a crossroads.”

The rally, which was held at Auditorium Shores, an outdoor venue, closed down parts of downtown and crowded the area with traffic. Riverside Drive was lined with vendors selling souvenir buttons and t-shirts to the throngs of people who approached the entrance gate with tickets in hand.

Despite the light rain that continued throughout the afternoon, thousands of people piled onto patches of muddy grass and huddled beneath their campaign placards for the chance to hear Obama speak.

Elizabeth Rabinovitsi, an Austin resident, brought her young daughter, son and his friend to the rally to see someone whom she considers a very important person in Washington. Rabinovitsi believes in Obama’s vision and is not at all concerned about his limited experience.

“He has not become just a part of a huge political machine, and I find that really attractive,” Rabinovitsi said. “I think he is an inspirational politician.”

The rally was co-sponsored by the University Democrats of Austin and the African American Culture Committee of the University of Texas. The University Democrats organization has about 400 student members but is not affiliated with UT.

Obama’s campaign planning committee was encouraged to make Austin a part of the campaign trail by several University Democrat members who traveled to Washington as a part of the “Texas Young Democrats in Washington” program.

Obama’s appearance was confirmed with the University Democrats only two weeks in advance. The organization advertised via Facebook, e-mails and through a table set up on campus in the West Mall, an area with high student traffic. University Democrats member and UT student Emily Shelton attributes the significant turnout to word of mouth and people’s fascination with Obama himself.

Although the rally was free, the Obama campaign asked people to RSVP via BarackObama.com to be issued electronic tickets so a head count of expected guests could be kept.

The rally was going to be held in Gregory Gym on the UT campus, which has a maximum occupancy of about 5,000, but the high number of responses (tens of thousands, according to the Web site) forced the location to change to Auditorium Shores on the south bank of Town Lake.

Auditorium Shores is a venue most commonly used for concerts, which surprisingly made the location very appropriate for the Obama rally.

The audience waved homemade posters with slogans like “Barack the Vote” while Obama, dressed in a black coat, white button-down dress shirt and no tie, delivered his speech on a stage set in the middle of the action.

At one point an audience member yelled out “I love you, Barack” and Obama answered with a smile and an “I love you back.”

He was comfortable with the microphone and fed off the audience members’ reactions. The audience cheered when Obama referred to Texas as “longhorn country” and his casual humor earned him some laughs as he made jokes about the bad weather.

“There’s just a little bit of rain. I hope people don’t mind,” Obama said.

Obama also appealed to the younger vote with a call to action, telling all young people to turn off the TV and stop playing Gameboy because there is work to be done.

Some students supported Obama by wearing a burnt orange t-shirt that read “Students for Obama 2008” and featured a sketch of him giving a thumbs-up with the slogan “Let’s Get Busy.”

Many young voters are intrigued by Obama and his fresh approach to politics.

Katy Burk, a student at UT and member of the University Democrats, is one of the many who are drawn to Obama’s charisma.

“He’s a very intelligent person,” Burk said. “The things he says make sense, and that’s very comforting.”

Megan Brown, a student at UT, recognizes Obama’s overall importance to the political scene.

“I don’t support his run for presidency now because I think he lacks the right experience, but I’m still really interested in him and his campaign,” Brown said. “He is going to be huge in our lifetime. There is no doubt he will be a big national player.”

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