Presidential candidate and Illinois Senator Barack Obama spoke Monday to a crowd of nearly 4,000 -- more than half of whom were University of Wisconsin students -- at the Monona Terrace and emphasized achieving change and hope if elected president in 2008. Obama urged the crowd, from the moment he started his speech, to get involved and take an active interest in the government. He claimed the Bush Administration has failed the country miserably during its tenure and said the whole governmental system needs to be changed.
"Change doesn't happen from the top down," Obama explained. "Change happens from the bottom up."
Since announcing his bid for presidency in February, Obama said he has tried to create a platform based on character and values. He said currently in Washington, D.C., one of the knocks against him is a lack of experience in politics.
Obama outlined his more than 20 years of experience in public service, time as a United States Senator, as well as a brief stint in congressional law.
"Some want me to season and simmer in Washington," he said. "A long resume [in politics] doesn't guarantee good justice." Obama pointed to the political histories of Vice President Dick Cheney and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
And while the crowd responded in a thunderous roar, the Illinois Senator called attention to the war in Iraq, saying he was against it from the start. He and Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., put forth legislation earlier this year calling for a complete troop withdrawal from Iraq in March 2008, only to have it vetoed by President Bush, who, Obama said, responded by sending 30,000 more troops overseas.
"There is no military solution to be had in Iraq," Obama said. "It's time we put this war to an end."
Meanwhile, anti-war advocates stood outside of the rally, distributing literature on what they called Obama's pro-war stance.
Other issues Obama brought attention to included healthcare, environmental degradation and failing school systems. He said America can achieve world-class education by closing the achievement gap and paying teachers better salaries. He also said college needs to be affordable and accessible, which he said can be done through more proficient loans, grants and debt relief programs.
Still, the road to the presidency for Obama leads to Iowa, where the January caucus will decide the fate of the Senator. In most current national polls, he falls second behind New York Senator Hillary Clinton.
His national field director Temo Figueroa told the crowd UW-Madison has one of the top five Students for Barack Obama groups in the country. Even though Wisconsin's primary is not until February, he stressed the need for a win in Iowa for the campaign's future success.
Gov. Jim Doyle's son, Gus Doyle, also briefed the crowd before the main event and urged everyone to recruit friends, relatives and neighbors to get out and vote for Obama, who he called a "true champion of humanity."
Vice Chair of UW-Madison's chapter of SFBO Ami ElShareif called the event a success. She said prior to the event nearly 80 percent of tickets were student tickets.
"He definitely spoke about issues relevant to students," she said of Obama. "I think everyone left with a lot of hope and optimism. The Senator brought inspiration to the city."
Obama was the first presidential candidate to grace Madison since August 2006 when New Mexico governor and presidential hopeful Bill Richardson made the trip. However, it was not Obama's first trip to the Badger State; he spoke at an April fundraiser in Milwaukee.
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© 2007 The Daily Cardinal via U-WIRE