***This article appeared in the Sunday, Nov. 4 edition of The Spartanburg Herald-Journal***
Energy crackled through the crowd as Illinois Sen. Barack Obama took his presidential campaign to Converse College November 3rd. From the onset, the event was more reminiscent of a pep rally or rock concert – with Obama fans lining up hours before the event to ensure admission. Strains of John Mayer’s radio hit “Waiting on the World to Change” greeted people as they took their seats, tying neatly into Obama’s mantra of “Change We Can Believe In.”
“One year from now, you will have the chance to walk into a voting booth, pull back the curtain and choose the next president of the United States,” Obama said. “Here’s the good news: For the first time in a long time, the name George Bush will not appear on the ballot. The name Dick Cheney, my cousin, will not appear on the ballot. We’ve been trying to hide that cousin thing for a long time. Everyone has a black sheep in the family, or a crazy uncle in the attic.”
The audience broke into cheers and someone screamed “fire it up,” drawing a laugh from Obama. Then he channeled his dynamic opening into a more serious realm.
“The question you will have to ask yourselves when you pick up your ballot a year from today is ‘What next?’ ” Obama said. “How do we repair the enormous damage of these dismal years and recapture that sense of common purpose that has seen America through our toughest times?”
Obama said he was running for president because he believed America needs leadership as it finds itself on the precipice of great challenge and great promise. The audience buzzed as Obama promised to deal with challenges such as health care, education, dependency on foreign oil, international policies and climate change if elected.
“When it comes to issues like war and diplomacy, energy and health care, I don’t believe we can bring about real change if all we do is change our positions based on what’s popular or politically convenient,” Obama said. “If we are going to seize this moment of challenge and promise, the American people deserve more when they head to the voting booth in 2008.”
Obama said these issues were relevant to all political parties. It isn’t only Democrats finding credence in his platform. “When I’m in crowds after I speak, I have people whisper to me, ‘I’m a Republican, but I support you,’ ” Obama said. “I whisper back, ‘Thank you and why are we whispering?’ ”
Obama’s critique of the war and promise to bring troops home within 16 months and close down Guantanamo Bay also impassioned his audience.
“I am not running for this office to fulfill any long-held plans or because I believe it is somehow owed to me,” Obama said.