Overflowing with life and energy, the crowd at the BankUnited Center danced and cheered to favorites like “Shout” and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours” while waiting for the arrival of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.
Then, as Bruce Springsteen’s lyrics “Come on, rise up” blasted from the speakers, the black curtains to the arena parted, bringing the crowd to a roaring cheer as Senator Barack Obama walked onto center stage.
Obama’s rally for South Florida focused on the theme “Women’s Rally for the Change We Need.”
As Obama supporters entered the arena after waiting in the intense sun for the doors to open, they were handed posters proclaiming “Moms for Obama” and “Change We Can Believe In,” along with a pamphlet outlining Obama’s plan to support working women and families. Julie Denaro, a junior at UM who stood in line for an hour to be admitted to the rally, exclaimed she was a huge Obama supporter. “I was thrilled when I heard he was coming to speak and I knew I would definitely go,” Denaro said.
Denaro, one of 3,000 UM students at the rally, reserved her ticket immediately after she received the e-mail announcing the rally. Although the ticket did not guarantee entrance, Denaro arrived early enough to ensure she would have a seat to hear Obama speak.
The BankUnited Center almost filled to capacity by 11 a.m.
After various speakers, including President Donna E. Shalala, local politicians, and other influential women, Obama took the stage around 12:20 p.m. Minutes of applause and cheering welcomed Obama before he began his speech by explaining how personal women’s issues are to him, especially after seeing his own grandmother and mother struggle to raise their families.
“Women who work hard should be able to pay their bills,” Obama said. “Women should be paid fairly and given the same opportunities as everyone else. It should be easier for parents to raise their children.”
He went on to say that women have been hit so hard by the economy and, when jobs don’t offer a family leave, it also affects fathers. And when there’s no affordable childcare, it hurts the child.
Obama addressed other issues too, such as reversing the economic financial crisis, helping working class families, enforcing the woman’s right to choose in terms of abortion, enforcing paid sick days for working women with children, creating renewable energy and making college more affordable. While concentrating on these issues, Obama stressed the idea of perseverance when he said, “Each of us has the chance to make it if we try.”
He emphasized that the United States needs a president who will solve the economic problems, and that is the kind of president he will be.
“This isn’t a time for fear and panic, but rather leadership and resolution,” Obama said. “We have always risen to the challenge, but we can’t get out of the crisis we’re in if we follow the same path. We can’t have drivers that will drive us into a ditch.”
His speech heavily weighted the value of working class families.
“We need to make sure that we don’t just have a plan for Wall Street, but for Main Street as well,” Obama said.
The audience, a mixture of UM students and South Florida residents, responded loudly and powerfully with their approval of Obama’s plans if elected to the presidency.
One longtime fan of Obama, first-year law student Jessica Yates, said, “I had to come to his rally because seriously, he’s Barack Obama.”
Like Yates, the support for Obama was obvious throughout the crowd despite a few unruly protesters, who identified themselves as “Blacks Against Obama.” According to their signs, they are affiliated with Michael Warns, an author who claims on his Web site that Obama and talk show host Oprah Winfrey are working for the “destruction of the black race and the rest of the world.”
Obama acknowledged their presence, saying that they could show their signs but that they shouldn’t intefere with the event. As the crowd cheered, the group were escorted out of the arena, leading Obama to say “see ya.”
To see the interruption from the protestors, click here.
Concluding his speech with the call for volunteers and the public’s efforts to help him win this election, Obama stressed his one-word motto, “Change.”
“I hope you’ll join me, walk with me, and together we will not just win Florida, but we’ll win the election,” Obama said.
The crowd once again sprang to applause and supportive cheers after his conclusion and continued to cheer while Obama met and shook hands with those supporters around him.
“I thought it was awesome, just awesome about everything he said!” said Yates.