Go Upstate - Obama Rallies College Students, Urges More Involvement
COLUMBIA -- Senator Barack Obama kicked off the Democratic National Committee's gathering of college students Thursday in Columbia with an energetic rally, urging the young audience to get more involved.
The Democratic presidential candidate from Illinois spoke at the College Democrats National Convention, hosted by the University of South Carolina, to a crowd filled with hundreds of students and supporters all hungry for victory in the 2008 presidential election.
Obama said that he believes America is ready for a new generation in leadership in Washington and said that President Bush has failed to lead the country, in part because he has not been able to unite Americans.
"He has put what is right for his friends and supporters ahead of what's right for America," Obama said. "That's why the experience we need in the next President is the ability to bring this country together; to find the common ground so we can meet common challenges."
The Illinois senator reminded the crowd that he had opposed the Iraq war when he was running for the Senate in 2002. He urged the crowd to help end the war by pressuring lawmakers who have refused to vote against troop withdrawal.
"Some of these senators are already changing their mind," Obama said. "So I need you to call them up, and write them, and tell them that if they don't switch their votes on Iraq, you'll be switching your votes come next November."
Obama also touted his health care plan, promising to cover every American and to cut the cost of a typical family's premiums by $2,500 a year. He said that as a part of his plan, young adults can remain on their parent's health insurance until the age of 25 if they can't find a job that provides health care benefits after graduation.
Columbia resident Demereo Daniels said that Obama seemed sincere in his ideas of changing America.
"He enticed me to want to get involved and want to vote for him because I think that he will make a change," Daniels said.
Obama supporter and Columbia resident Rev. Odell Hinson said he felt that Obama was the best qualified of the candidates running for the White House.
"This is what he was born for - to lead this country at this time," Hinson said with emphasis.
Obama's visit begins a three-day national convention held for college students by the Democratic National Convention. The event invites students in college Democratic organizations from across the country to meet Party leaders and to foster leadership and organizational skills within their college groups.
Kevin Griffis, Obama's South Carolina spokesperson, said that he's never seen any other candidate connect with as many different groups of people in his all the campaigns that he has worked with.
"This campaign is about involving Americans of all ages," Griffis said. "And I think what Barack Obama does is empower young people to think that their vote really can make a difference."
The convention continues through Saturday with Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean and Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards on Friday, and Sen. Hillary Clinton, former Sen. Mike Gravel and Rep. Dennis Kucinich on Saturday.
Obama asked the audience to pour their energy into helping the Democrats reach the White House in 2008.
"College Democrats of America, we need you right now, we need you to get involved (and) we need to register voters," Obama said. "And if all of you do that, we're not just gonna win an election, we are going to transform a country."