Obama Fills Ira Allen

Over 2,000 people came to the UVM campus to hear Senator Barack Obama (D-Ill) campaign for senatorial hopeful, Congressman Bernie Sanders. By 10:30 am Friday morning, there was a line stemming from Ira Allen Chapel to Williams and only one hour later it reached the bookstore. The nine hundred-person capacity of the chapel was pushed to its limit as enthused members of the UVM community and the Burlington area squeezed into the pews awaiting Obama’s arrival. Obama’s plane hadn’t even landed yet and the CC Theater was already seating the overflow from Ira Allen. Those who made it inside Ira Allen were met with an avalanche of campaign posters for both Sanders and state Senator Peter Welch, who is running to take Sanders’ place in the US House of Representatives. Volunteers from various campus organizations were working as event staff and ushers; the College Democrats, who played a substantial role in the event staffing, had a notable presence. Co-President of the College Dems, Freshman Elizabeth Nicholas, was very happy with the event, “We’re hoping to attract new members, and we’ve had Edwards and now Obama.” She wished that more students were showing interest because, “Vermont is so small that we really get to spend time with these politicians. We want to encourage more to help the organization grow.” On Friday, however, the interest was great, as Sophomore Kesha Ram began her introductions. There were students climbing the windows outside of the chapel, poking their faces in front of the panes, just to be able to see the event. Ram voiced her concerns that “more often than not students are [too] cynical about politics in the environment,” an attitude frequently seen on college campuses throughout the country. She went on to emphasize that, “restoring our government is not only the job of senators like Obama, but of college students and young people,” because “our future is too important that we can’t afford not to vote.” Next, former Burlington Mayor Peter Clavelle thanked everyone who voted in the Burlington Mayoral race and urged the people to vote for Welch, so “Vermont’s voice remains a Progressive voice, that voices against the war, against the fiscal policy and for long overdue universal healthcare.” Clavelle’s final message was that by voting citizens can and must “protect against politics for the interest of a few at the expense of the many.” Sanders projected a Howard Dean-like zeal as he worked the crowd, which was only coincidental to the fact that Dean was sitting in the first row. Sanders began by voicing his concern that our government is moving in the wrong direction, ” simply stated our country today is being run by one party, the Republican Party. Right-wing republicans control the House, the Senate and now the Supreme Court…bottom line right-wing republicans have controlled our government for the past five years. They have overstayed their welcome and it is time to go.” His words were met with a huge round of applause. In a very short period of time, Obama has risen in the Senate to become, as Sanders said, “one of the most outstanding leaders.” Obama was sworn in less than a year and half ago on January 4, 2005 and since then has served on the Environment and Public Works Committee, the Veteran’s Affairs Committee and will soon be joining the Foreign Relations Committee. Before reaching Capitol Hill, however, Obama spent seven years on the Illinois state Senate. Here, he strived to help working families have a chance with programs like Earned Income Tax Credit, which provided over 100 million dollars in tax cuts to families in Illinois. Obama has also proven to be a hardworking leader for childhood education. He opened his speech with the issue of children, speaking of how he gets “fired up” when a child can’t read, and whose mother can’t pay rent. This is Obama’s first trip to Vermont and his first impression was that Vermont is where, “folks don’t just talk the talk – they walk the walk. There’s a ‘say what you mean attitude’ and it’s a nice cool blast of the truth.” Obama commented on why he got into politics, because of the “sense in all of us that politics aren’t working the way they should,” and when we go to vote, “we hold our noses and select the lesser of two evils. We vote defensively against something instead of for something.” “An injustice anywhere is a threat to injustice everywhere,” is Obama’s token reason for why he entered politics. He is skeptical about the American mentality that say’s if “you weren’t born to the right parents near the right schools then too bad, pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” The rest of Obama’s time was spent outlining what needs to happen in Washington, and why Sanders presence is needed there. “People are ready for a call to action, they are ready to move forward. They want honest leadership, they want someone who’s going to fight for them; a government that reflects our values.” He called for an, “Administration and Congress that demands a foreign policy that is both tough and smart, we’ve got tough and DUMB.” Still, despite his concern for the current situation, Obama ended on an extremely positive note, “for all the disappointment we see and the challenges we face, I still have hope.” He concluded, “It reminds me of something Dr. Martin Luther King said on Bloody Sunday, ‘the arch of the universe is long but it always bends towards justice.'”