Obama visits campus in final leg of campaign

Carol Matteucci

Carol Matteucci

By Caroline Kim

A crowd of about 1,000 sweating, excited students and community members filled the McKinley Foundation, 809 S. Fifth St., Champaign, and the overflow room for the second-to-last rally in Illinois Democratic senatorial candidate Barack Obama’s campaign.

Obama said it had been a long time since he had seen so many young people at a rally.

“I think it’s so important to have young people here who can get motivated, get engaged,” Obama said. “Ultimately, this election is not about me. It’s not about John Kerry. It’s about the willingness of our citizens to get engaged and get involved, and to see a crowd like this of folks who are motivated and inspired and who will carry with them for the next 10, 20, 30, 40 years – I think just goes well for the country.”

Blue and white Obama signs filled the room, with one that called for Obama as the 2012 presidential candidate.

Dr. David Gill and Naomi Jakobsson signs also joined the Obama ones as they were waved in the air to the sounds of the applause and chants. Some of the signs were even used to fan the heat and sweat off of people’s heads from the overcrowded room.

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Obama told the crowd to imagine the enormous potential each person in the crowd had, describing the thought as electrifying. He said it made him feel his work was all worth it.

Obama urged the audience to talk to people about voting.

“Think about what could happen if you convinced two people to vote,” Obama said. “Think about what difference that would make locally and think about what that would mean nationally.”

He left the crowd with the story of a 104-year-old woman who wanted to meet him because she had already voted for him in her absentee ballot.

“Think about everything she’s seen,” Obama said. “If she’s not too tired, then I’m not too tired. If I’m not too tired, then you’re not too tired.”

He said sacrifices expected of people in this generation are so small compared to those of the past.

“We stand on the shoulders of all the people who came before us,” Obama said. “We don’t have any excuses not to do what we have to do over the next 24 hours.”

“The thing that encourages me the most is seeing the young people who have been activated and motivated to re-engage in this process,” Obama said.

Obama said when he began his campaign, he was the underdog.

“What I was banking on when I first started this race was the fundamental decency of the American people … the innate instinct to do what’s right,” he said.

Matt Simmons, junior in LAS, said all of the speakers were exciting and that he was amazed at the turnout.

“I just like when he talks about … we’re all Americans and we all share the American dream,” Simmons said.

Obama said that, despite party differences, Americans are all united under common values.

“Common values that all of us share – doesn’t matter what race we are, what religion we are, what region we come from – is a belief that … everybody should be able to go to college even if they are not wealthy,” Obama said.

Many students who attended the rally left with enthusiasm about the event.

“It was really amazing to hear him and his message of hope,” said Kelly Tourdot, sophomore in LAS.

Sky Andrecheck, the vice president of College Democrats and a first-year graduate student, said the College Democrats were thrilled to have Obama at the University along with other local candidates.

“His ideas make a lot of sense and really connect to young voters,” Andrecheck said. “The energy was unbelievable … we really feel like this is going to be our year.”

Vaishali Joshi, senior in LAS, said she was excited about the turnout and liked that students were excited about the rally.

“There’s so much Barack-mania,” Joshi said. “He’s pretty much locked for this position.”

With 25 hours left to the closing of the election, Obama said his team thinks they will do well tomorrow.

“No doubt about it,” Obama said.