Obama draws crowd in Burlington

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(Host) Illinois Senator Barack Obama drew a full house in Burlington yesterday with hundreds of would-be spectators being turned away.

Obama urged Vermonters to get directly involved in politics to change the direction of the country.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) There was enormous interest in senator Obama’s visit to the UVM campus. More than 1,000 people crammed into Ira Allen Chapel an hour before he was scheduled to speak and another 500 lingered outside – often peering through the chapel’s windows for a glimpse of Obama.

The event was held as a rally for Independent U.S. Senate candidate Bernie Sanders and Democratic congressional candidate Peter Welch.

As soon as Obama entered the chapel the crowd erupted in thunderous applause.

(Sound of audience)

(Kinzel) In short speeches, Welch and Sanders both strongly criticized the policies of the Bush Administration and the Republican leadership in Congress.

Obama took a different approach. He urged the crowd to help restore dignity to the political system by bringing a sense of optimism to their involvement.

(Obama) “America is more than the sum of its parts. At its heart is this pulsing sense that together we can do some remarkable things, but we all have to be involved. We all have to be engaged. That’s what got me into politics and that’s what brought you all here today. And that is what this election is all about.”

(Kinzel) Obama said he believed that a majority of Americans are disappointed with the current state of the country and are seeking change:

(Obama) “They want somebody who’s going to fight for them, somebody who’s going to say, ‘You know what? Let’s have a prescription drug plan that’s written on behalf of the people of America instead of behalf of the prescription drug companies. Why don’t we try something like that?'”

(Kinzel) In closing, Obama asked the audience to remember a quote from the late Dr. Martin Luther King. Dr. King said – “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice:”

(Obama) “It bends towards justice. But it doesn’t bend on it own. It bends because each of us put our hand on that arc and we bend it in the direction of justice. Each of us have a responsibility to move it towards justice. And if each of us in this chapel and outside and all through Burlington and all through Vermont put their hand on that arc and do what it takes, then I guarantee you we are going to turn this country around. Thank you very much Vermont. I appreciate you!”

(Kinzel) Following the rally, Obama attended fundraising events for both Sanders and Welch in downtown Burlington.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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