Sen. Barack Obama visited the Eastern Campus of Cuyahoga Community College Mon., Feb. 26 for his last stop in a series of appearances across the country.
The atmosphere was very anxious and enthusiastic as people waited in an extremely long line to pack the gym. There were huge signs plastered on the walls and hundreds of volunteers, including some students from John Carroll University, walking around and asking people if they were registered to vote.
Employees from Aramark Dining Services were pushing giant coolers filled with ice and beverages to help ease the strain of standing for so long. Anyone from elderly women to elementary school children were all waiting in hopes of hearing Obama speak.
Several entertainment groups were on hand to help hype up the crowd. Shaw High School’s marching band provided loud brass and energetic dancing. The United Drumline also dazzled the audience with its infectious drum beats.
A capacity crowd of 2,000, with more in overflow rooms, were chanting “O-bama!” every chance they could get. Event promoters were passing around red, white and blue signs with the slogan “Obama ‘08.” People were frantically waving these signs when he walked onto the stage. They continued to wave them throughout his speech.
“I’m here to tell you – people of Ohio – that I can’t do it alone,” Obama said. He urged supporters to accept a new vision of universal health care, a greater reliance on renewable energy and, of course, a withdrawal from Iraq.
“It’s not enough to just reject what has been done. We have to embrace a vision for the future. We have to create a new America,” he said to cheers and exclamations.
Obama, arguably the most charismatic face in the race right now, is enjoying unprecedented attention from voters and media alike. Not only does he have an extensive resume, but he is in competition with fellow big name Hilary Clinton.
Obama is also campaigning in states without primaries, like Iowa and New Hampshire. His rally in Austin, Texas drew 20,000 people, forcing them to change the venue at the last minute, according to The Plain Dealer.
Obama has also made appearances in Cincinnati and Columbus, and organizers hope to raise about $600,000. The trip isn’t all about money, though, said a spokeswoman.
“One of the biggest challenges for us is harnessing the amount of energy and excitement around his candidacy, and holding these rallies helps us do that in states where he has not been able to visit,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki said before Monday’s event, according to The Plain Dealer.
Obama’s visit was the first by a major presidential candidate of either party in Ohio. People have been drawn to Obama’s personal history, as the son of a black father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas. He graduated from Harvard Law School and practiced civil rights law.
He served eight years in the Illinois State Senate and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004. He has won support for his opposition to the Iraq war, a point he met with the loudest applause at the rally Monday night.
“We know we are in the midst of a war that should have never been authorized,” he said. “I’m proud of the fact that in 2002, I said the war was a bad idea.”
Obama’s campaign sought help from people like Ken Dowell, a local grass-roots organizer who is especially well-connected to Cleveland’s black leaders. Dowell also worked on Gov. Ted Strickland’s campaign, according to The Plain Dealer.
Although Cleveland welcomed Obama enthusiastically, Clinton is still the favorite among Ohio Democrats, according to a recent survey of Ohio voters by Quinnipiac University.
Obama was introduced by Ladonna Norris, a mentor and tutor to Cleveland school children, rather than a local Democratic politician. This was meant to highlight his work as a community activist.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, however, showed support by attending Obama’s major Cleveland fund-raiser at the Club at Key Tower.
Before that event, prominent Democratic Cleveland lawyer John Climaco hosted a smaller fund-raiser at his law office.