Obama addresses packed Fieldhouse
Published: Thursday, February 15, 2007
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
Sen. Barack Obama spoke before a sold out crowd of nearly 3,000 cheering supporters in the Field House on Monday, just two days after formally announcing his intention to run for president.
The crowd rose up and cheered enthusiastically as Obama entered to "Times Like These" by the Foo Fighters playing over the sound system. He began his speech by saying, "I don't know what you guys did this weekend, but I announced I'm running for the presidency of the United States."
He spoke from a podium set up in the center of the gym, surrounded by UNH students and members of the community. Some members of the audience held signs that spelled out "UNH <3 BARACK OBAMA," while others waved blue signs that read "Obama '08." The circular rug below his feet also read "New Hampshire Obama '08," and the Senator joked about the cost of the rug.
"The reason that I am here is because throughout my career… I have always had this firm belief that ordinary people can do extraordinary things if they are given the chance, if they are given the opportunity to influence and impact lives. That is the founding premise of our fathers."
This idea that everyone can make a difference was an ongoing theme throughout his speech. He identified the need for a political system working for individual citizens instead of against them.
The enthusiasm of the crowd continued through the speech, as Sen. Obama outlined the key points of his political strategy.
First, he emphasized the current problems with the health-care system, citing flaws in insurance and welfare programs. He told the crowd that if the system that is currently in place continues, not only will many people be unable to afford health-care, but also the federal government will be unable to intervene in the future.
Obama then covered the issues of education, energy, national security, and, most importantly, the war in Iraq.
"I think most of us also recognize that we are now in the midst of a war that should never have been authorized," said Obama, as the crowd rose to its feet and erupted in applause. "We must bring that war to a close, or we cannot tackle all of the other issues I have discussed. Not only has it resulted in the tragic loss of our extraordinarily brave soldiers, it's also meant that we've been spending $400 billion on a rebuilding process in Iraq that should be spent to rebuild communities here."
After his formal speech, he opened up the floor to questions, in a town hall meeting style. This allowed Obama to further address and elaborate on his proposed policies. He closed with a standing ovation from the audience.
Sen. Obama is one of eight candidates who are attempting to gain the Democratic Party's presidential nomination for the 2008 election. Though some critics believe it is too early to start the campaign for the presidency, many UNH students disagree.
"I didn't know much about him, so I was really impressed about what he said," said freshman Jackie Ruhl. "I think that since a lot of people don't know much about him, as opposed to someone like Hillary Clinton, it is good that he is getting out there to campaign. I didn't think it was too early at all."
Sophomore Kelly Eagles agreed with Ruhl. "He's definitely trying to get his name out. I wasn't sure who he was before he came to UNH. He's up against some big names, so he is definitely working to become better known. It is never too early to start campaigning when you need to become more recognizable."
Another common sentiment expressed by students was their impression of Obama as a charismatic individual.
"I think it's such a cool thing that there is a candidate who I get really excited about," said sophomore Allison Fricke. "He's a refreshing person in Washington because of his ethnicity and background and his overall demeanor."
"I felt like he was really laid-back and made an effort to relate to the crowd. I think he touched upon most of the important issues I was concerned about," said Ruhl. "He knew that change was needed, but he had plans to implement the change."
The College Democrats had a key part in bringing Obama to campus. They helped to organize the event. Vice President Nick Christiansen was in disbelief when he found out that Obama would be speaking at UNH.
"When I got the phone call that he would be coming here, I walked around in shock for the entire day. I think this is the biggest event politically that we could have here at this time," said Christiansen. "It was great working with his campaign. They were organized and on top of things."
Obama is the son of a Kenyan father and a mother from Kansas. He was born in Hawaii in 1961. He has spent the past six years as a senator in Illinois. Many believe that his inexperience in Washington may actually work to his advantage because he hasn't had time to lose his own views.
"Personally, I thought he did a great job of being open and honest. It wasn't pre-planned and seemed like his real feelings were coming through. A lot of students appreciated his candor and his honesty," said Christiansen.