Chants and cheers filled American University's Bender Arena Monday as Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama took the stage at a campaign rally to call for change and receive support from a key political family.
During the rally, Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., announced he was endorsing Obama. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., and Caroline Kennedy, daughter of former President John F. Kennedy, joined Sen. Kennedy at the event.
The Illinois senator has the inspirational power and capacity to change America, Sen. Kennedy said, echoing the recurring theme of the Obama campaign.
"In Barack Obama, I see not just the audacity, but the possibility of hope for the America that is yet to be," he said.
Obama spoke about the Kennedy family's legacy.
"I know the cherished place the Kennedy family holds in the hearts of the American people," Obama said. "And that is as it should be, because the Kennedy family, more than any other, has always stood for what is best about the Democratic Party and what is best about America."
Approximately 3,500 people poured into the arena for the rally. Bender Arena normally has a capacity of 5,000, but the campaign did not set up all available bleachers for the rally, according to The Washington Post.
Approximately 500 people who could not get into Bender were able to attend a special second rally with Obama and Sen. Kennedy in the Woods-Brown Amphitheater after the event, The Post reported.
Zach Hurwitz, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said he believes Obama's message of change and is ready for a new administration.
"I'm sick of the old leadership and I want something new," he said. "Instead of bringing each other down, Barack is going to help us work together."
John Winters, a freshman in the Kogod School of Business, said after the rally that he was still undecided about which candidate to support but that Sen. Kennedy's endorsement makes Obama a more attractive candidate.
"It was awesome to hear [Obama] get support from Ted Kennedy," Winters said. "Obama seems to be bringing back Kennedy-era themes of young politicians making real change."
Rebecca Sliwa, a student in AU's Washington Semester program, said Obama's energy and delivery mesmerized her.
"Seeing [Obama] in person was just great," she said. "There is no other way to put it. His charisma really shines through in person."
During his speech, Sen. Kennedy revived the passing-of-the-torch theme of President Kennedy's 1961 inaugural address by using images of darkness and light to describe Obama's ability to transform the nation.
"I love this country," Sen. Kennedy said. "I believe in the bright light of hope and possibility. I always have, even in the darkest hours. I know what America can achieve. I've seen it. I've lived it -- and with Barack Obama, we can do it again."
Obama spoke at length about the Kennedy-era "dream," which he said never died.
"[The dream] lives on in those Americans -- young and old, rich and poor, black and white, Latino and Asian -- who are tired of a politics that divides us, and concluding that 'This is the dream we hold in our hearts,'" he said.
Obama said his vision of change would help write another "great chapter" in history.
"I stand before you today, inspired by America's past, filled with hope for America's future and determined to do my part in writing our next great chapter," he said.
The campaign rented out Bender for the rally and provided most logistical support for the event. Neither AU nor the Kennedy Political Union sponsored or endorsed the event because section 501(c)3 of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code prohibits non-profit organiztions from conducting political campaign activities.
© 2008 The Eagle via U-WIRE