On Monday morning, the College Democrats at U. Central Florida held a rally at Memory Mall during which President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton were expected to speak to the UCF community.
At around 7 a.m. news spread that Obama had canceled his appearance at the rally after hearing that Hurricane Sandy would be making landfall in the northeast that afternoon. The 7,600 spectators that remained seemed just as “fired up” about hearing the former president speak on campus.
“The president is doing what he needed to do, as the commander-in-chief he’s taking charge,” Gov. Charlie Crist said. “They’re [northern states] not too accustomed to hurricanes and when you add that to high tide and add that to cold weather and you add that to the loss of electricity that’s a major problem. He needed to go back to be the chief in the command center.”
Aubrey Marks, president of College Democrats, was first to the podium and the tone of her speech was one of enthusiasm and excitement. As she discussed all of the accomplishments of the past four years including repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the healthcare reform.
“There’s so much running on this election, so much at stake, we need a proven leader and this leader is President Barack Obama,” Marks said. “President Obama has done so much for his first term in office but there’s so much more to be done.”
Marks was followed by speeches from two volunteers from Organizing for America, Crist and Sen. Bill Nelson before Clinton was introduced.
Clinton’s 33-minute speech discussed topics relevant to the college-based audience – student loans and healthcare.
“The most important thing that President Obama has done that nobody knows about is he reformed the student loan program and launched an initiative to help universities and colleges cut the rate of inflation in half in college costs,” Clinton said.
He went on to describe the loan reform saying that student loans won’t be as burdensome to pay back because payments will be fixed rates based upon income. Sumayya Dalal, a senior biology major, came to the rally as an undecided voter.
“I especially liked when he [Clinton] talked about education and loans. It’s so stressful applying for graduate school and worrying about my loan debt and it’s comforting to hear that there’s a different plan,” Dalal said.
Clinton described Romney’s vision to repeal Obamacare and the detriment he said it would be to students and the community. Currently, Obama’s health care reform requires young adults up to the age of 26 to remain on their parents’ health insurance and bans health insurance companies from denying insurance to children because of pre-existing conditions.
Ken Bruder, a 17-year-old high school senior, attended the event in hopes of getting a clear vision for the president’s position on education. With plans to attend UCF to get a degree in secondary education, Bruder said he was interested in seeing what route the nation would take and how that would affect his future career.
“I have a deep concern for the future of this nation,” Bruder said. “I thought the speech was great. They approached it from a realistic perspective and made the future seem less scary for me. I feel secure for my future career.”
His sister, Michelle Bruder, was also in attendance.
“I already voted but I wanted to know what they had to say,” she said. “As a young adult being able to stay on my parent’s health insurance is a big deal. It is unrealistic to think we could do that all on our own.”
Although the crowd was made up mostly of students wearing “Knights for Obama” shirts and community members holding “Forward” signs representing the Obama campaign, there were many Republicans in the audience who had come to see what the opposition would be talking about.
A UCF alumna who requested not to be named said she could understand why people were so engaged in what was being said but it didn’t change her mind that Romney was the right candidate for her. She stated that this election is about how individuals believe the new president will support them and hopes people will focus on the facts more than the political party hype that surrounded the rally.
“This is not about the candidates; this is about you and your future. It’s about two very different approaches,” Clinton said. “Which one is going to build the 21st century dream?”
Beyond the obvious pro-Obama message, the speakers urged students to go out and take advantage of the early voting opportunities available to them.
The College Democrats at UCF are providing shuttles to the Alafaya Library, the UCF area early voting site. The early voting polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and registered voters must bring a photo ID with their signature in order to receive a ballot. If the ID is not signed, voters will be required to show proof of identification with a second source such as a student photo ID or a debit card with signature.
Early voting sites will remain open until Saturday and Election Day is Nov. 6.