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Yes, He Can Mesmerize Thousands

An estimated 10,000 people filled the Lee E. Williams Athletics and Assembly Center and a second overflow room in the Rose E. McCoy Auditorium at Jackson State University on March 10 to hear presidential hopeful Barack Obama speak about his platform of change.

The next day, Obama won the Mississippi Democratic primary by a sizeable margin.

Raymond Carson
Sen. Barack Obama addresses more than 10,000 at JSU

The diverse crowd included students and others from various ethnic groups, ages and socio-economic backgrounds. Many stood in line for more than three hours. Others carried signs supporting Obama and wore t-shirts with his face stating, "Yes I can."

Marilyn Reed, a Jackson resident, said she stood in line for two hours with her sister and cousin to hear Obama. Her cousin was a first time voter and it was important for them to share in this historic moment.

"I was excited to be in the midst of history. The energy in the room was something that I have never felt and really cannot describe," the education specialist said. "The crowd was unbelievable. It is nice to see black people to get excited about something other than sports, music and shopping. I was very impressed with the number of students and other young people in the crowd."

Reed added: "If change is going to happen in this country, it will be up to you."

Shameka Hamilton, a resident from Brandon, Miss., said, "It's great he is campaigning in Mississippi. We as African-Americans need to stand behind and support."

The rally began with the question, "Are you ready?" with the crowd responding with a unanimous "Yes!" Former Mississippi governor Ronnie Musgrove introduced Obama and his platform to the audience.

Musgrove asked, "Are you ready for change, change you can believe in?" The center erupted with another roar of applause and chants. This time the alma mater song of JSU was changed to, "I'm so glad, I'm voting for Barack!"

As Obama entered, the AAC went wild with chants and screams for the candidate. Obama's speech explained his stance on healthcare issues, affordable and quality education, the U.S. economic condition and the Iraq war.

Obama stated that more than 47 million Americans are without health care. "If you are ready for change, we can quit talking about it and do it," said the Democratic candidate.

He said he will lower premiums, emphasize prevention and get his healthcare plan implemented by the end of his first term.

When discussing education, Obama said, "Every child is our child, and every child deserves a decent chance at life." He wants to give more support to education and raise teachers' salaries.

Through his education platform, he would give every college student a $4,000 tuition credit each year. "If I give you this credit, you are going to have to work for it, itís not free," emphasized Obama. In return for the credit, students would have to complete some sort of community service or Peace Corps activities.

Between topics, members of the crowd chimed in, "I love you," and Obama responded with "I love you back" that sent the crowd into another uproar.

Obama also addressed Hilary Clinton's negative campaigning style against him during her visit to Mississippi. According to Obama, Clinton said he always discusses hope in his speeches and would make a good vice president.

"The kind of change she [Clinton] is offering is just a change of party. She has been to Mississippi saying I would make a good vice president for her. I'm not running for vice president but president of the United States," Obama said.

"Odds of me standing me here are slim," he added. "I was born to a teenage mother and my father left when I was four," Obama said. "I know I talk about hope a lot, but they gave me love and hope. And I know you know about hope right here in Mississippi."

"Yes, we can" took over the entire assembly center after he ended his speech.

Among the supporters at the rally was Kimberly Morgan, the 2007-2008 Miss Mississippi. "I think it is important to see all possible candidates for presidency in general," Morgan said. "It boils down to tonight and what he says that will determine my vote tomorrow."

Ashley L. Smith, a junior mass communications major from Chula, Miss., believes the rally was "magnificent and something this state needed."

"Hopefully it will make everyone come out to vote. We need change and the time is."

Bernard Washington, a senior at Mississippi College School of Law has volunteered in both Jackson and South Carolina for Obama's presidential campaign. "I deeply believe in Obama and what he represents," said Washington. "I know he can fundamentally change this country like no another candidate can."

Ashlei Spivey writes for the Blue and White Flash, the Jackson State University student newspaper.

Posted March 12, 2008

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