The buzzwords were health care, education, and Iraq, and the 9,500-person crowd swarming the Boston Common was all ears at last Tuesday evening’s rally with Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick for Barack H. Obama’s Democratic presidential campaign.
Obama worked the rally, emphasizing his truthfulness as a candidate: “I will not be a perfect president, but I will always tell you what I think,” he said. “I am a White Sox fan,” he said, momentarily stunning the Boston crowd. “You don’t want somebody who pretends to be a [Red] Sox fan. You want a principled sports fan.”
The crowd members, many sporting Red Sox hats and t-shirts, applauded that sentiment and waved their “Obama ’08” signs in response. Not only did the throng fill the fenced-in area around the Common pavilion, but additional listeners lined the area around the fences. The gathering was primarily of college students, but plenty of older adults and some families attended as well.
Patrick alluded to the Red Sox as well in giving his endorsement to Obama: “Around here, we know how to come from behind and win. And that’s what we’re doing here tonight.”
New York Senator and former First Lady Hillary Clinton, who has repeatedly led Obama in national polls, had also asked the governor for his endorsement, but Patrick settled on Obama on Oct. 17. Right afterwards, Patrick workers started planning the Oct. 23 rally.
Governor Patrick’s introductory speech focused enumerated reasons why his constituents should support Obama. He equated Obama’s position in the Democratic presidential race to his own position in the gubernatorial race last year. “See, this election is not just about who we want. It’s about who we are,” he said. “For once I want a campaign that’s not about the candidate, but about us.”
Following Patrick’s endorsement speech, Obama promised reforms on issues ranging from health care and education to energy and Iraq, assuring the crowd that he would bring the spirit of change to Washington. “We need somebody to put an end to the game-playing and get serious about the challenges we face in America,” Obama said.
Obama guaranteed that one of his first acts in office would be bringing troops home from Iraq. He pledged that if elected, America would focus on encouraging diplomacy and humanitarianism instead of fear, perhaps alluding to President Theodore Roosevelt’s policy of speaking softly, but carrying a big stick.
Of particular interest to the young crowd was Obama’s promise to make “college affordable and accessible to every young person in America.” He pledged to provide students with the “opportunity to serve” the nation in different ways, saying that higher education would be free for those training to be nurses, social workers, members of the Peace Corps, or teachers in inner-city schools.
Obama’s campaign team encouraged crowd members to sign up to solicit votes in New Hampshire, offering transportation for all interested parties.
On the subject of health care, Obama elicited loud cheers by promising universal health insurance. In addition, he made a point of denouncing President George W. Bush’s veto of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, a low-cost plan for families who cannot afford private health insurance. “I will make sure that every single one of you has decent, affordable health care” by the end of his first term, he said.
Obama showed off a funny bone too, glibly referring to Vice President Richard B. Cheney as a family member while discussing energy and Iraq. “It doesn’t help when my cousin, Dick Cheney, is put in charge of energy policy,” he said, prompting laughter. “Everybody’s got a black sheep in the family,” he added with a grin.