Members of the Kennedy family announced their endorsement of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama at a packed rally Monday afternoon.
The rally, held at American’s Bender Arena, drew an overflowing crowd of supporters to the school. Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) and Caroline Kennedy told supporters that Obama reminds them of the late President John F. Kennedy.
“I feel change in the air!” Sen. Kennedy shouted to excited onlookers. “It’s time again for a new generation of leadership, it is time now for Barack Obama.”
Sen. Kennedy is expected to start stumping for Obama on the campaign trail, while Caroline Kennedy will appear in a television advertisement for the Illinois Democrat. Until now, Sen. Kennedy has remained silent on which of the three main Democratic candidates he supported, and many believed he was leaning toward Sen. Hilary Clinton (D-N.Y.).
“When some others were silent, or simply went along, from the beginning he opposed the war in Iraq,” Sen. Kennedy said, referencing Clinton’s initial support for the war. Showing his confidence in Obama’s skill, he declared “I know that he’s ready to be president on day one.”
Obama was humble as he accepted the endorsements.
“I thank all the Kennedys, for your support and for the service you’ve rendered to this country,” he said.
Due to the limited capacity of the arena, many hopeful onlookers were turned away at the door. Junior Kyla Ellis arrived at 9:30 a.m., hoping to see Obama. Event organizers told her she could not enter, even after she waited in line for three hours.
“I would’ve loved to be in the theater,” she said. “But its better than sitting at home and watching it on CNN on your couch because at least you’re out there in the democratic process and showing people how loved (Obama) really is.”
She said when she arrived, the line was “at least eight blocks long.”
“We stood in line for three hours with thousands of people who were just hoping to be in his presence,” she said.
“He makes people excited about getting into politics again and that’s something we haven’t seen in a long time,” American professor Brian Schaffner said at the rally.
Like past Democratic candidates Al Gore and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Obama has received a lot of support from younger voters.
“So far we’ve seen that he has been able to bring young people in; unlike years past where young people supported particular candidates but didn’t turn out,” Schaffner said.
He added, “I think Obama has more potential to bring people into the electorate and into the party that haven’t been interested in years.”
Dedicated fans of Obama got a surprise when the senator spoke along with Sen. Kennedy to the overflow crowd who did not get into the main rally. About 500 people had gathered in the outdoor amphitheater when the main venue reached capacity.
“We’re going to win this election!” Obama exclaimed amid cheers from the crowd.
“This is our moment, this is our time,” Obama said as Kennedy looked on. “If you will stand with me the way Ted Kennedy has stood with me, I guarantee we will not just win this election, we will transform this country. We will transform the world!”