Campus & Community

Thousands gather on campus for Obama speech

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama stressed America’s need for change and new leadership to a crowd of 14,000 that gathered at DU Jan. 30. The oversized crowd filled Magness Arena and Hamilton Gym and overflowed onto playing fields outside of the Ritchie Center.

The Illinois senator struck a conciliatory tone as he spoke of fellow Democratic candidates, and he praised John Edwards, who announced earlier in the day he was ending his bid for the Democratic nomination.

“His campaign has ended, but his message lives on for all of us who believe in one America,” he told the cheering crowd. Obama’s 48-minute speech began shortly after 11 a.m. although the crowd began to convene hours earlier. 

Obama said the country must surge ahead, and that Americans need a candidate who will “end the disastrous policies made by the Bush administration.”

“In America, a future is not what someone else tells us … it’s what we decide what it’s going to be,” Obama said.

He urged Coloradans to think about “how we will transform our country for decades to come” when voting in the state’s Feb. 5 caucuses. The Democratic Convention will be held in Denver in August.

“If you put your trust in me, I will stand up at that convention and say our divisions are behind us, our hope for the future and our time to change has come,” he said. ““I believe we just don’t need small change, we need fundamental change.” 

One of those major changes would be pulling troops from Iraq as soon as he is in office. Unlike other Democratic candidates, Obama said, he has opposed the Iraq war from day one.

The senator also pledged to increase the country’s commitment to Afghanistan and to finish the fight against al-Qaida. 

“Strong presidents and strong countries talk to their adversaries,” he said. But, he will not hesitate to “strike against those who bring us harm.”

He said he will put workers first, not banks and big businesses. He also plans to cut taxes for working people, increase salaries for teachers and make healthcare and early education affordable.

Obama suggested a $4,000 tuition credit for college students in exchange for service work.

Caroline Kennedy, daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy, introduced Obama as the candidate who will “restore our commitment to civil rights and equality.” Obama referenced JFK repeatedly in his speech.

Colorado Senate president Peter Groff, former Sen. Gary Hart, former Denver mayor Federico Peña and Denver Broncos player Rod Smith were also there in support of Obama.

The crowd included thousands of DU students, many of whom waited hours outside before getting into the event. 

“It was such a great opportunity,” said Stefanie Bednar, a junior public relations major from Nebraska who missed class to attend the rally. 

“He hit on a couple of really big issues for me including environment and education,” she said. “He has the charisma to reach people and the ideas behind that.”

Plus, sophomore business student Molly McMahon added, “He’s so cute. You just want to hug him.”

They said they got to the Ritchie Center just after 6 a.m. Both also plan to attend former President Bill Clinton’s stump for his wife, Hillary, at 9 p.m. on Jan. 30 in the Ritchie Center.

Republican candidate Mitt Romney spoke at DU’s Sturm College of Law in October.

Chase Squires and Chelsey Baker-Hauck contributed to this article.

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