Over 3,000 people – from gray-haired, sagacious senior citizens to politically active UM students and faculty – began forming a line at 11 a.m. for Presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry’s 2 p.m. rally on the Rock last weekend.
UM pulled out all the stops, turning the Rock into a virtual arena, complete with heavy security, VIP area and “Florida is Kerry Country” backdrop.
President Shalala credited the College Democrats for bringing Kerry to campus.
“I just made sure that they were able to do it,” Shalala said.
She added the event would have “more students understanding that this is about their future.”
Shalala also stated before the event, for the record, that contrary to rumors, she is not in contention to be Kerry’s running mate.
Shalala was joined by Sen. Bill Nelson and Florida Congressman Kendrick Meek, accompanied by their wives, before Kerry came out on stage.
“We are about to elect the next President of the United States, and his name will be John Kerry,” Kendrick Meek, Florida Congressman, said.
“I smell change in the air,” Nelson said. “There needs to be the politics of reconstruction instead of the politics of division…that’s what we need in a leader, and that’s what John Kerry will do as our President.”
“We welcome you because you speak for those who have no voice and no job,” Shalala said as Kerry took the microphone.
After he thanked Shalala and the organizers of the event, Kerry played up to the crowd.
“I pledge to you if you will trust me with the Presidency, within weeks of inauguration… we will turn over a proud new chapter in America’s relations with the world.”- SEN. JOHN F. KERRY, Presidential candidate
Yes, you are the best lookin’ group of people I ever saw,” Kerry said, adding to a comment made by Shalala earlier.
He complimented UM for their sports teams.
“There are 3,000 people out here, and that’s not a Katherine Harris count,” Kerry said, prompting cheers and laughter from the audience.
Kerry again roused the crowd when he asked how President Bush would fare on Donald Trump’s popular reality show The Apprentice.
“You’re fired,” screamed the crowd on cue.
“I came here so you could utter those words on Nov. 2,” Kerry said.
The audience again chimed in with calls against Bush when Kerry accused the current President of lying about education and unemployment.
Kerry stressed that all of his platforms were paid for in his budget. He outlined his plans on major issues, including college tuition, tax cuts, new sources of energy, healthcare, unemployment and the war in Iraq.
According to Kerry, rising tuition costs have forced many students to make the decision to not attend college. He outlined his plan to raise grants and add a $4,000 per student tuition tax credit, as well as a reward plan for students who give back to their community through mentoring after high school.
Kerry promised that, if elected, the United States would turn authority over to an international coalition to manage the situation in Iraq.
“It’s a matter of common sense – no American would agree to single-handedly occupy a country in the Mid East,” Kerry said. “We don’t go for war because we want to. We go to war because we have to.”
“I pledge to you if you will trust me with the Presidency, within weeks of inauguration…we will turn over a proud new chapter in America’s relations with the world,” Kerry said.
Cue audience applause.
Megha Garg can be contacted at email@example.com.