The Barack Obama campaign announced Thursday that the Illinois senator would visit Birmingham this weekend. By late Thursday afternoon, the campaign was distributing tickets on its website and at its campaign headquarters throughout the state. By Friday afternoon, the tickets were gone and campaign organizers wondered whether everyone would show.
More than 9,000 people crowded into Bartow Arena Sunday to hear Sen. Barack Obama stump there. Lines stretched for blocks and some were turned away after the facility reached its capacity.
Rep. Artur Davis told the crowd that it was “11,000 strong.” Bartow arena can hold about 9,000 in the stands, before adding more seats on the arena floor. Regardless, the event likely set a record crowd for the facility.
“Every kind of human being God put on this earth is present here today,” Davis said. “All of that together — your size and your diversity — tell me what South Carolina told the country last night: There is a new South.”
Obama came to Birmingham for his third Alabama appearance, this time following a decisive victory in the South Carolina primary. There on Satuday, he received more than twice the votes of his closest rival, Hillary Clinton, and all but put the native son, John Edwards, out of the running.
In Birmingham Sunday, Obama spoke for more than an hour. He admonished his party rivals for discouraging hope among voters, and he drew a sharp contrast between his goals and the last eight years of the Bush White House.
“I don’t want Scooter Libby justice for some folks and Jenna justice for other folks,” he said. “I want the same justice for all folks.
“I want an Environmental Protection Agency that believes in protecting the environment. I want a Federal Emergency Management Agency that actually knows something about federal emergency management. I want a Labor Department that believes in labor. I want an Education Department that believes in education. I want to make government work again.”
Obama promised to take Bush’s tax cuts away from the rich and give them, instead, to middle class Americans. He also promised more opportunities for youth, including service-learning scholarships. College students would be eligible for up to $4,000 a year toward tuition and fees. In exchange the students would give time to public service through programs such as the Peace Corps.
“We will invest in your future, and you will invest in America,” Obama said.
The senator promised to restore the country’s goodwill with the rest of the world, while continuing to hunt the terrorists that threaten America. If president, Obama said, he would withdraw troops from Iraq, end secretive detentions at Guantanamo Bay and restore due process.
“And when we do that, we can go before the world community and say, ‘America is back,’” Obama said. “I want to go before the United Nations and say, ‘We’re back. America is ready to lead.’”
— Photos by Jonathan Purvis