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The Arizona Republic - Obama Rally Draws 13,000 to Coliseum

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The Arizona Republic - Obama Rally Draws 13,000 to Coliseum

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama challenged Arizona to seize the moment and said the time for change is now during a rally on Wednesday in Phoenix.

"I believe change in America does not happen from the top down. It happens from the bottom up," the Illinois senator said to a crowd of more than 13,000 at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Obama covered health care, education, immigration and foreign relations during his nearly 50-minute speech.

Obama evoked images of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. when he said he was running for president because of what King called the "fierce urgency of now."

The United States is at a defining moment of history, Obama said, and the dream that so many people fought for is slowly slipping away.

On immigration, Obama said it was time for an intelligent, humane and effective policy, and he was tired of the topic being treated as a political football.

His speech sought to counter criticism that he is too new to Washington, D.C, and therefore too inexperienced.

His opponent, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, has often emphasized that she is ready to lead on "Day 1."

"We don't just need someone who is ready on Day 1," Obama told the crowd. "We need someone who is right on Day 1."

The rally comes less than a week before Super Tuesday, when more than 20 states will hold presidential primaries or caucuses.

His appearance follows one last week by Hillary Clinton, and today, President Clinton will appear and speak at Arizona State University's Gammage Auditorium. Obama and Clinton are in a tight race to clinch the Democratic nomination for president. Clinton leads Obama in delegates, although Obama got a big boost by winning South Carolina over the weekend.

Obama was introduced by Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, daughter of the late President Kennedy, and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano.

Napolitano told the audience they were part of history by being there in the coliseum.

The rally drew a mix of people from young families to teens and retirees.

Fred and Eileen Filthaut, both 61, showed up because they were interested in what Obama had to say. They are retirees from Canada and cannot vote on Tuesday, but they still decided to attend and hear Obama's views.

"As a matter of fact, I canceled a golf game to come here," Fred Filthaut said.

For Chris and Dana Castoro of Ahwatukee, the rally was an opportunity to expose their daughters, ages 8 and 9, to the political process.

"It will only be two more elections before she can vote," said Chris Castoro, pointing to his older daughter.

Behind them in the snaking line to get into the Coliseum, Monica Mariscal and April Fischer, both 16, came straight from classes at Notre Dame Preparatory High School in Scottsdale.

Still dressed in their Catholic school uniforms, they shared their future goals.

Both teens want to go into politics. Obama's was the second political event they had attended within two weeks.

They saw Hillary Clinton last week at a town-hall meeting.

They both plan to go to law school, become senators and run for president.

"We have the same plans," Fischer said. "Whoever doesn't get nominated (for president) will be the running mate."

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