The Fort Worth Star-Telegram - 'This is our moment,' Obama Tells Packed Arena in Dallas
Chalonda Marcus woke up about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, knowing it would be a one-of-a-kind day.
She got ready and showed up at the Reunion Arena about 4 a.m., becoming the first of about 17,000 people to arrive for a rally for Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama.
"I wanted to be here early to hear him," said Marcus, 36. "I feel he has motivated the country in a way we haven't seen before.
"This is his time, which means it's our time -- the people's time," she said. "We need the change Obama is offering."
Obama was greeted by thunderous applause after being introduced by former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk and former Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith.
In the crowd, some smiled; others took photos.
Still more wiped away tears.
"I'm not running because I think it's somehow owed to me," Obama told the Texans who filled the arena. "I'm running because of what Dr. King called the fierce urgency of now.
"I believe there's such a thing as being too late," he said. "That hour is almost upon us."
Obama's appearance -- his first rally in North Texas -- drew thousands long before the doors were to open.
Even after his speech began around 1 p.m., hundreds stood in a line that stretched to the top level of a nearby parking lot. Among those there were Danny Cobb, the owner of a plumbing business in Flower Mound.
Cobb, 29, said a Bush or a Clinton has been president or vice president for all but two years of his life.
"We're ready for something that's not a Clinton or a Bush," he said, standing with his wife and two young children.
Realizing that they probably would not be able to see Obama after two hours in line, Cobb said, "We still feel like we're at least a little part of history. We came. We tried."
Obama volunteers, including Gail Price of Rowlett, seemed overwhelmed. "This is way more than anyone expected," said Price, as she directed people toward the arena. "They just keep coming."
At the end of the line, still more than a block from the main entrance, Tamara Wren said she is glad she came. "It will be enough just to say we were here," said Wren, 28, an ad saleswoman from Dallas.
Ready for change?
To a chanting audience, Obama laid out his issues, including rolling back tax cuts for the wealthy, taking tax breaks away from companies that ship jobs overseas, boosting education, raising the minimum wage, improving educational opportunities and providing health care for all Americans.
Obama said the United States needs to be a clear leader, from ending genocide in Darfur to closing Guantanamo Bay and restoring civil liberties.
"I am prepared to help us chart a new course," Obama said. "I am confident in my ability to lead this great nation. But I can't do it by myself. No president can."
At one point, the crowd began chanting, "Yes we can, yes we can."
Obama smiled. "Yes we can," he said. "Si, se puede."
"All these things are possible if you believe, if you are ready for change," he said.
No matter who wins the nomination, Obama said one thing is certain come November.
"Whatever else happens, the name George W. Bush won't be on the ballot," he said to great cheers by the audience.
"We're sending Bush back to Texas," he said.
Obama said that Dick Cheney also won't be on the ballot.
He grinned when he spoke of how a genealogical survey found that he and Cheney are distant relations.
"When they do a genealogical survey, you hope to be related to someone cool like Emmitt Smith," Obama said. "Dick Cheney, that's a letdown."