Obama Rally Fills Pauley Pavilion

This story was written by Ravi Doshi, Daily Bruin
Gray skies shrouded Westwood on Sunday, but inside Pauley Pavilion, spirits were high as people from across the Los Angeles area came together at a rally to support the presidential ambitions of Sen. Barack Obama.

Michelle Obama, Caroline Kennedy -- the daughter of President John F. Kennedy -- and talk show personality Oprah Winfrey addressed the crowd at an event that was scheduled to only feature female speakers.

But musician Stevie Wonder made a surprise appearance to speak at the event, as did California's first lady Maria Shriver.

"I know you all just heard about (the rally) this morning, and I thank all of you who love football because I know what this means to be out here," Winfrey said.

But despite being held on Super Bowl Sunday with the possibility of rain, the Obama event had an attendance of approximately 8,000 people, according to campaign staff.

Los Angeles resident DeMille Halliburton was one of the many who decided to forgo the Super Bowl to attend the rally.

"I have never been to a political rally in my life. I just felt motivated that this was more important than the Super Bowl," he said.

Like Halliburton, many in the crowd were participating in their first political rally, saying that they were inspired by the senator's message of hope.

"We usually try to avoid politics," Kennedy said of her and Winfrey's involvement in Obama's campaign.

"But each of us knew that this year was different... that we needed to do everything we could to help Senator Obama become our next president."

Kennedy, who recently endorsed Obama, drew connections between the Illinois senator and her father, saying she believes both men had the ability to inspire people.

In recent weeks a number of other high-profile personalities have endorsed Obama, including Massachusetts Sens. John Kerry and Edward Kennedy.

At Pauley Pavilion on Sunday, Kennedy's cousin and first lady of California Maria Shriver joined the list, announcing her own support for Obama's campaign.

"(Obama) is not about himself, he's about us, and what we can do when we come together," Shriver said.

"Remember, so goes California, so goes the nation."

Such sentiments were echoed by event attendees, including Los Angeles resident Robert Carpenter.

Carpenter, who worked at the White House as a Republican staffer, said he is committed to supporting Obama.

"I thought everyone who was on that stage was really tapping into something... something that the pundits, the experts, and the conventional wisdom can't understand," he said.

For Carpenter, that something was the senator's inspirational ability, as well as his message of change and hope.

But not everyone at the rally had decided whom they would vote for on Tuesday.

"Being at UCLA and taking advantage of events like this is something every UCLA student should do," said Alisa Cordesius, a third-year international development studies student.

She said the rally would play a role in her decision of who to vote for, as would watching debates and doing her own research.

For her, the main draw to the event was Michelle Obama, who spoke of the divided state of the nation, and said she believes her husband is the only candidate with the ability to heal that divide.

"We are still a nation that is too guided by fear.... It cuts us off from each other, in our homes, in our communities, and it isolates us from one another," she said.

"I am here right now because I am married to the only person in this race who has a chance to heal our nation."

But the 46-year-old Sen. Obama has also been criticized for his age and perceived lack of political experience -- he is a first-term senator, and has held n other national office.

Michelle Obama worked to dispel those criticisms Sunday, arguing that her husband's time in the Illinois State Legislature as well as his judgment on issues such as the war in Iraq showed that he is ready to be president.

"The question in this race is not whether Barack Obama is ready. The question is, what are we ready for?" she said.
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