Thousands of UM students battled the sun and humidity this past April to be a part of history when Democratic Presidential Candidate John Kerry brought his campaign to campus.
UM pulled out all the stops, turning the Rock into a virtual arena, complete with Secret Service Agents, VIP area, and “Florida is Kerry Country” backdrop.
The crowd consisted mainly of students and faculty, but members of the Coral Gables community were present, in addition to numerous news crews. Kerry signs and buttons were displayed openly among the Kerry supporters who showed up at the rally.
President Shalala credited the College Democrats for bringing Kerry to campus.
“I just made sure that they were able to do it,” Shalala said.
“I’m a Democrat and I just wanted to come and support my candidate for President,” Paul Burkart, freshman, said. “I think that [the turnout] is great. I’ve never seen so many people on campus in one place before.”
Shalala was joined by Sen. Bill Nelson and Florida Congressman Kendrick Meek before Kerry came out on stage.
“We welcome you because you speak for those who have no voice and no job,” Shalala said as Kerry took the microphone, making his grand entrance to an eruption of cheers.
“There are 3,000 people out here, and that’s not a Katherine Harris count,” Kerry said, prompting applause 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.
Kerry accused the current President of lying about education and unemployment. He 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.
Kerry promised that, if elected, the U.S. would turn authority over to an international coalition to manage the situation in Iraq.
“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.
Those in opposition to Kerry made an appearance to express their dissenting opinions. President Bush supporters dotted the crowd with their signs and cheers.
“How can you lower taxes and give people tax cuts and raise taxes for healthcare and everything like that?” Brad Tadum, sophomore, said. “He’s a very good speaker, and it’s going to be a very close election – but I think he’s a hypocrite.”
Students learned that, regardless of their opinions, they would be able to have an impact on their future by participating in the elections.
“I think [Kerry] touched on a lot of good issues, especially issues that pertain to the majority of the crowd,” Dahra Ahned, senior, said. “I wasn’t aware of the issues before coming here, and now I think that I’m better informed on how I’m going to vote in November.” I
Christine Dominguez contributed to this article.