Today at 6pm, the Democratic Party made its first official appearance at Villanova in the form of Michelle Obama, wife to presidential hopeful, Barack Obama and potential first lady.
Mrs. Obama made three stops in Pennsylvania on Thursday: St. George's Church in Ardmore and Abington High School in Abington before her last stop at the Jake Nevin Fieldhouse. She delivered an hour-long speech to the 2500-member audience, which was composed of both Villanova students and area residents.
Dozens of volunteers swarmed the site, offering to register people to vote before they entered the gymnasium.
In her speech, Mrs. Obama, a Princeton graduate, spoke a lot about her personal upbringing as well as her husband's, highlighting the fact that they both come from working-class families. "I am the product of a blue collar family from the Southside of Chicago. I am a product of public education. I am the product of hard-working people and parents who care."
Among her most notable points in her speech were universal healthcare, student debt, and the war in Iraq.
She also related the difficulties that her husband faced obtaining his Senate seat to the opposition that he is receiving now in the presidential race and the qualities that he will bring to the office. "Just close your eyes and imagine a president who can respect other cultures and traditions without fear. We haven't seen that in a leader in a long time."
The turnout was much higher than anticipated by both the Obama campaign as well as Villanova administration. The student reaction inside the building to Mrs. Obama's appearance was also overwhelmingly positive.
"The rally was a wonderful experience. I can relate to Michelle Obama's background, so she really spoke to my situation. I think she represented her husband and his campaign very well," said sophomore Richard Riley after the rally.
"I was glad that she addressed No Child Left Behind, a specific policy issue," said senior Madeline Dorger. "I was happy to hear her mention student loans and the way that they affect the career decisions of recent gradates," said senior Amy Knop-Narbutis.
There was, however, some opposition to the Obama campaign before the rally. A few protesters, including Christians against Obama, made their presence known outside the Fieldhouse by voicing their displeasure with Barack and Michelle Obama's abortion stance as students were filing in.
Villanova Students for Barack Obama, a recently formed chapter of the national campaign, only had this week to plan the rally. Student members, Oscar Abello and Cait Taylor introduced Mrs. Obama before her speech.
The three presidential nominees have been campaigning heavily in Pennsylvania recently in anticipation for the April 22 Pennsylvania primary, which will award 158 delegates to its winner. As Mrs. Obama noted in her speech, "The only thing that really counts now is this state." On Thursday, John McCain was also in Philadelphia fundraising.
As Mrs. Obama noted, the first step is registration. If you haven't yet voted in your home state's primary, students can vote in Pennsylvania, however you must to register with the Democratic Party in order to do so. Students will be on campus for the next few weeks registering voters.
© 2008 The Villanovan via U-WIRE