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Feb. 11, 2008

Obama rally at University of Maryland draws more than 16,000

by Jon Kesten, Online Foreign Desk Editor
Senator Barack Obama's campaign for the presidency held a rally from 11:30 – 2 p.m. today at the University of Maryland College Park (UMCP) Comcast Center, one day before the "Potomac Primary," featuring Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. According to "Students for Obama" member and UMCP junior Chris Wilhelm, the event attracted a crowd of upwards of 16,000 people, including many Blair students.

Speakers at the rally included College Park Students for Barack Obama coordinator Sterling Grimes, HBO's "The Wire" actor Antwan Glover, Attorney General of Maryland Doug Gansler and Wilhelm, who is also a 2005 Blair graduate and introduced Obama.

Obama took the stage at about 1 p.m. During his hour-long speech, the presidential candidate reiterated his campaign message of "hope and change." Major focuses of his speech included the Iraq war, universal health care, education and cross-party unity. Obama also extensively spoke on the current presidency and focused on the changes he planned to make in the administration. "No Bush, No Cheney," he reiterated in reference to the voting ballot. "Scooter Libby politics are over."

Obama spoke of the large turnout of young people at the rally by addressing concerns that he himself is too young to be President and that he should wait a few years to run for office. "We cannot wait to fix this country," exclaimed Obama in response. He also commented about the age of candidates such as Clinton and McCain. "I appreciate John McCain's half a century of service to this country," Obama said.

Obama brought up lowering the cost of college multiple times to cater to the great number of University of Maryland students at his rally. Molly Brune
Obama brought up lowering the cost of college multiple times to cater to the great number of University of Maryland students at his rally.
Obama also spoke about many student concerns such as college tuition, which he noted has recently seen a sharp rise. The candidate guaranteed that students will receive financial credit toward college in return for community service. "I know how hard change is, but I also know this Terrapins – that nothing in this country that is worth while has ever happened unless somebody somewhere has been willing to hope," Obama said.

Before the rally began, a long line formed outside of the Comcast Center. Some waited many hours in 20 degree temperatures before being granted admission at 10:30 a.m., according to Wilhelm.

Wilhelm, also a member of the Maryland for Obama Steering Campaign, remarked on his part in the Obama campaign and how he was chosen to introduce the presidential candidate. "Besides a lot of luck, I've been working really hard over the last couple of weeks to get students to volunteer in the area…there's so many people involved…but they picked me," Wilhelm said. "I'd like to say as a life-long MD resident, I'd say that the Blair connection is that I'm still a young voter; there is a candidate that me and a lot of young people truly believe in."

Wilhelm also mentioned the large attendance at the event. "Any time you turnout that many people at a college campus for a political event, I think that's pretty impressive." According to Wilhelm, Gansler said it was "by far the biggest crowd I've ever spoken in front of."

Wilhelm also noticed the high number of MCPS students in attendance. "I saw a bunch of Montgomery County high school students there," he said.

Blair graduate and UMCP student Chris Wilhelm, who organized the rally, had the honor of introducing Obama. Molly Brune
Blair graduate and UMCP student Chris Wilhelm, who organized the rally, had the honor of introducing Obama.
For Blair students in attendance, the rally provided insight to their voting decision and political impact. "Since I am still undecided, it gave me a good idea of how Obama stands on issues," said SGA President senior Molly Martinez, who attended with a group of Blazers. "It gave me the realization that there are a lot of problems that are bigger than Blair…it put everything in perspective, now that I'm a voter."

Foreign exchange student and junior Gabi Vettiger experienced her first taste of the American political process at the rally. "Although I can't vote, I really like Obama – he's so eloquent," she said. "Now that I've lived in America, I've really seen things like problems with education, health care, poverty and racism – something I'm not used to in Switzerland. My views have changed so much, because it's not just 'the Iraq war,' I experience these issues."

Junior Peter Lansworth, who came with about a dozen friends, was also enlightened by the rally. "I think I learned more from his speech than some days at school," he said. "It gave me insight into the political world and solidified in my mind that he's the best candidate for presidency," he said. Obama later made an appearance at the Mayorga Coffee House in Silver Spring, according to Lansworth.



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  • bff on February 12, 2008 at 1:09 PM
    ace reporting mr kesten!
  • liberal on February 12, 2008 at 3:00 PM
    VOTE OBAMA
  • ;) on February 12, 2008 at 11:00 PM
    I got a crush on obama!
  • Sam on February 13, 2008 at 2:51 PM
    Good story Jon, i wish i could have been there!

    P.S.: These security codes are terrible
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