Senator Barack Obama began his campaign for the March 4 Texas primary Feb. 19 at 2:00 p.m. with an appearance at Guadalupe Plaza in San Antonio.
Unlike other rallies, such as the “kick ass” rally held in Austin last year which drew around 20,000, this rally had a smaller, more intimate feeling with only 3,250 people allowed into the Plaza.
People of all ages and from all over San Antonio came to the rally to show their support for Obama.
Shouts of “I love Obama” and “President Obama” could be heard throughout the rally. Other shouts were not as supportive. Near the entrance to Guadalupe Plaza protestors shouted¬- “Abortion is murder,” and that if anyone supports Obama, Hillary Clinton or John McCain that they would be supporting murder.
Junior English major Catrina Cook was excited about seeing Obama.
“This is a moment in history. It’s incredible. I got my teacher’s permission to miss class today,” she said. “He has a message for my generation. He has a message of hope and that what we think matters. So many people in my generation think it’s hopeless that politics is corrupt and that it’s never going to change.”
Political science graduate student Jennifer Evans agreed. “He believes that we- young people- can change the way our country is,” she said.
Congressman Charles Gonzalez opened the rally with a call for supporters to vote in the primary “No one is as necessary as you; everyone is important, everyone is necessary,” he said.
Gonzalez said that in America we have the freedom to select our leaders, but with that freedom comes an obligation. “It (the system) will not prevail unless we make it,” he said.
Campaign officials then gave instructions in English and Spanish on how to vote in the primary election and the caucus.
Early voting began today, Feb. 19, and will continue through Feb. 29, with Election Day March 4. According to campaign officials it is necessary to vote in both the primary election and the caucus. After voting in the primary election, voters need to return to their precinct voting station at 7:15 p.m., and sign in for the caucus.
After speaking briefly to the 2,500 people outside of Guadalupe Plaza who did not make it into the rally, Obama entered the plaza
Obama opened his rally with the reason he is running for President of the United States. He said he is running because of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s idea of the “fierce urgency of now.” The American people cannot wait any longer, he explained. They must take action now for change.
“When people join together, ordinary people can do extraordinary things,” Obama said.
According to Obama, with the support of the people anything is possible. “If all of us could come together there would be no problem we couldn’t solve, no destiny that couldn’t be fulfilled,” he said.
He then outlined several of his key platform points.
“If you’re ready for change then we can stop thinking about the outrage of 47 million without insurance and start doing something about it,” Obama said.
He believes it is time America implement a universal health care system, but unlike Clinton’s plan, Obama’s plan does not require a mandate.
“If you’re ready for change we can make sure that children have the best education available for them from birth until they graduate from college,” Obama said.
If Obama is elected President, he plans on ensuring that all children are prepared before they begin school. Also, he plans to provide $4,000 a year tuition credit for college students committed to community service.
“If you’re ready for change we can make our economy work for all, not for some,” Obama said.
According to Obama, the tax system favors the rich. Under his new policy tax breaks will not just benefit the wealthy. He also plans to adjust the minimum wage annually instead of every ten years to keep up with inflation..
“If you’re ready for change then we can have a new energy policy that makes sense,” Obama said.
According to Obama we need to stop relying on foreign oil products and begin to look into solar, wind and biodiesel energy.
“If you’re ready for change we can change our foreign policy,” Obama said.
Obama wants troops out of Iraq by 2009. He plans to remove troops slowly over the year so that the Iraqi people can adjust to governing and supporting themselves.
“I don’t want to just end the war, (but also to) end the mindset that got us into the war,” Obama said.
He plans to restore the right of habeas corpus and shut down Guantanamo Bay.
Obama ended his speech with- “Together you and I will change the world.”
Audience members were invited to ask questions. A UTSA student took the microphone and asked how Obama felt about bilingual education.
“First of all, I want everyone to be bilingual,” Obama said. “I want every child to learn a second language, not just Spanish, but French, Chinese, (etc.).”
For children learning English as a second language, it is important to Obama that they not be left behind. “I don’t want that child falling two, three, four grades behind,; they’ll need to get the education they need,” Obama said.
Health Education Coordinator Howaida Wenfelli felt that Obama has grown as a speaker over this last year.
“I was in Austin last year and so I saw a difference. He’s a lot more confident in the issues. He’s more solid in the things he said, more detailed,” she said.
According to junior real estate/finance and development business major Colt Ables, president of UTSA for Obama, Obama plans to return to San Antonio before the March 4 election.
“It is said that he will be coming back and we (UTSA for Obama) will be involved in every aspect. After today the people that did make it, and for those who didn’t, they see that Barack Obama is serious about Texas,” Ables said.
Since Obama may speak at UTSA, the group has already prepared for his arrival.
“We’ve gone through the process and everything’s basically organized,” Ables said. “It’s all on the advance teams; they look at places and they know now that UTSA is already organized, so that they know that all it takes is one phone call and we can be set up.”
For more information on Obama’s campaign visit www.barackobama.com.