COLLEGE PARK, Md. – More than 18,000 students and area residents lined up in the bitter cold Monday morning in Maryland to hear Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama make his final push before the Potomac Primary.
Obama, an Illinois Democrat, garnered a youthful crowd at Maryland, who greeted him like a rock star as he entered Comcast Center. He later won the state’s primary, as well as the contests in the District and Virginia.
“I am prepared to lead this country in a new direction,” said Obama, raising his hand in the air. “Karl Rove politics will finally be over.”
Obama, who has centered much of his campaign on change, spoke about “writing a new chapter of American history.” He touched upon education reforms, affordable healthcare, environmental change, the economy and the war in Iraq.
Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler introduced the candidate, emphasizing the historic significance of someone who is a “uniter, not a divider.”
“Obama is a consensus builder,” he said, “This doesn’t happen but once in a generation.”
The senator told his screaming fans that he was not running for president because of an ambition he had to lead the country, but rather because of the necessity for change in America.
“I am running because of what Dr. King called ‘The Fierce Urgency of Now,'” he said.
Obama extended a special thanks to the surge of young voters who have injected excitement into his campaign.
“Young people are standing up. A new generation is saying it’s our time,” he said.
Answering his critics, Obama did not refrain from addressing those who consider him an ideological dreamer.
“Nothing in this country that has been worth fighting for hasn’t had hope,” Obama said. “There’s a moment in the life of every generation where the spirit of hope must shine through.”
Many of the students and residents who came to the rally, some arriving as early as 4:30 a.m., said they did so because of that spirit of hope.
Kristine Brooks, a junior at Maryland, volunteered to help with the preparation for the day’s events. She said the opportunity to help Obama’s campaign was incredible because of her respect for the senator.
“He doesn’t want to be the president just to be the president; he wants to be president to help people,” she said.
Some audience members said Obama represents more than a presidential candidate. David Jeffrey, a Maryland resident, said Obama shares Martin Luther King Jr.’s ability of bringing people together at a necessary time.
“I had the chance to go to the Martin Luther King rally on the (National Mall) and didn’t go,” he said. “I couldn’t give up the chance to see (Obama) today.”
Sam Mcmenammin, a theater major at Maryland, said he was impressed with Obama’s ability to relate to people throughout the country.
“It’s so rare to see someone who speaks English in politics,” he said.
The president of the College Democrats at Maryland, Jonathan Sachs, said he was pleased with the attendance at the speech and the energy put forth by the student body in coming out to the event.
“You don’t just hear it – you see it,” Sachs said. “The buzz around campus is incredible.”