Sen. Barack Obama spoke to the Fort Collins community, discussing the importance of a renewable energy future and commending CSU for its plans to going green, underneath vibrantly golden leaves on the Oval Sunday.
Roaring with approval and breaking into raucous chants of “O-ba-ma” and “Yes We Can,” the crowd stood on tiptoes and gaped upwards, enraptured, as Obama discussed his plans for renewable energy as well as the economy, education and healthcare.
Obama said he plans spend $15 billion on renewable energy sources if elected president, which he said would create more than five million green jobs that “pay well and can’t be outsourced.”
The jobs would range from construction on new wind and solar fields to biofuel farming and the improvement of America’s energy grid to include new power sources.
“Governor Ritter is doing it. Colorado is doing it,” Obama said.
He said that, while the energy issue is critical to the future of the U.S., educating of the young people is also of primary importance.
He said students deserve a world-class education and need to be given the skills and knowledge to compete with workers in any country, and said early childhood education, new teachers and higher salaries are part of the solution.
Speaking to the crowd, which was largely comprised of students, Obama said he wants to make sure that anyone who serves their country in the military or volunteer service is able to afford college with “no ifs, ands or buts.”
“I don’t think the young people of America are a special interest group; I think they’re our future,” Obama said drawing thunderous shouts of approval.
Obama also urged the crowd to vote early if they hope to “change” these issues.
“You’ll feel morally superior having already cast your ballot, while those lazy procrastinators are waiting until Nov. 4,” Obama said, drawing laughter from the crowd.
“I especially want you to vote early if you’re voting for me,” he said and encouraged McCain supporters to wait until Nov. 5 to vote.
As the enthusiastic crowd streamed out onto the Lory Student Center Plaza, students Muhammad al-Ali and his friend Majtaba al-Hashim discussed the speech.
“He was good,” al-Hashim said.
“He was the best,” al-Ali corrected.
Freshman students Lindsey Wheelock and Jake Thaler were also impressed with the rally.
“Oh we loved it.” Wheelock said.
She said she “loved” Obama’s idea that we should not be divided as Americans, but rather unified.
“It’s good, not being separated into Democrats and Republicans,” Thaler added.
However despite the zeal of many spectators, not all exchanges were pleasant.
A group of McCain supporters dressed in togas, a squirrel costume and as a baby, held signs that questioned Obama’s experience and heckled the miles-long line of prospective speech attendees.
We’re just out here to have some fun and spread the truth,” said Abby Smeltzer, a Fort Collins High School student and protestor.
Most of the line attempted to drown out the McCain protesters with boos and chants, but some more heated exchanges took place.
“If you want a socialist country, go to one!” Alanzi shouted at the line, “Don’t change ours!”
“Better socialism than totalitarianism!” Beryl Schaefer, a nurse and CSU grad student shouted back.
Still other attacks were even nastier.
“McCain sucks and you suck!” one man in line yelled.
“You’re a socialist then!” another in the crowd replied.
“I think they like Bush and want to see the country go under,” said Chataignier McCaffery, a Fort Collins High School student.
In spite of some passionate exchanges, most disagreements were peaceful and supporters of both candidates expressed gratitude at their ability to assemble and speak their mind.
“That’s what is so wonderful about our country,” Alanzi said. “It’s a free country.”
“There are no real and fake parts of this country,” Obama said as his speech came to a close, “We all love this country.”
Senior Reporter Jim Sojourner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.