This story was written by Mary Daly, The Maneater
The Carnahan Quadrangle looked more like a rock concert Thursday night when Barack Obama spoke atthe University of Missourijust days before the election.
"Mizzou, I just have two words for you tonight: five days," Obama said. "After decades of broken politics in Washington and eight years of failed policies of George Bush and 21 months of a campaign that's taken us from the rocky coast of Maine to the sunshine of California, we are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America."
Obama supporters lined up for the event starting at noon on Thursday. At one point before the gates opened, the line stretched for more than one mile, snaking east on University Avenue and south on Hitt Street.
Before the event, the campaign estimated the crowd would be roughly 40,000. Police declined to provide an estimate, though the crowd was packed from Jesse Hall to Rollins Street, with a significant group watching on Stankowski Field.
Freshman Maegan York said she had been waiting in line since 12:30 p.m.
"I wanted to get a really good spot," York said. "Because it's so close to the election, I knew his speech would be worth it to see close up."
York said she skipped one class to wait in line. To pass the time, she said people listened to iPods and played cards and board games.
Freshman Laura Burkett, York's friend, waited in line with her. Burkett said she was excited to see Obama because she really appreciates his message of change.
MU College Democrats President Caitlin Ellis helped introduce Obama, speaking about the importance of young voters in this election.
"This Nov. 4 our generation says to the world 'America's youth will rise to the challenges we face, America's youth will seize this opportunity for change and America's youth will turn out and vote together to elect Barack Obama,'" Ellis said.
State Auditor Susan Montee, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, 9th Congressional District Democratic candidate Judy Baker and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Nixon also spoke prior to Obama.
"Folks, there is a secret weapon in this campaign," Carnahan said. "It's young people. It's you. If you all go vote this year, change will come."
Carnahan said new voters should research the candidates, take an ID to the polling place and make sure they plan enough time to vote.
Baker spoke after Carnahan and told the young people in attendance they are the reason why she, Obama and Biden are all running.
"It's not us," Baker said. "It's you. It is you that is the change we need."
MU classical studies professor David Schenker, who was in attendance, said young people are an important part of the election.
"It's really exciting to see how many students are involved," Schenker said. "I've never seen this kind of excitement on campus before."
Obama frequently addressed the young people in the crowd in his speech.
"In this American story, each of us has a role to play," Obama said. "I look at all these young people here tonight. You all have a responsibility to work hard and look after yourselves and eventually your families. But each of you also has a responsibility to your country and a duty to your common citizens."
Nate Kennedy, Young Democrats of Missouri College Federation chairman, said Obama's speech appealed to the young audience. He also said the youth vote would be an important factor in the election.
"If the size and energy of this crowd is an indicator of anything, I think young people will come through for Obama on Election Day," Kennedy said.