by Rahul K. Gairola -
Special to the SGN
On October 21 the University of Washington hosted perhaps its most distinguished speaker as President Barack Obama joined incumbent Senator Patty Murray, Washington state Governor Christine Gregoire, and other Democrat allies to galvanize support for Murray's beleaguered bid to return to the U.S. Senate. Comprised of 10,000 people inside the pavilion and an overflow audience of 3,000 in the Husky Stadium next door, the afternoon event brought together the heaviest-hitting Democrats in state and national politics while stressing the themes of job growth, community, and social services in the upcoming midterm elections.
After words from King County Executive Dow Constantine, 8th Congressional District candidate Suzan DelBene, U.S. House Representative Jay Inslee, and Congressman Norm Dicks, Governor Christine Gregoire took the stage. She kept her remarks brief and concise: 'America has forgotten where we were two years ago. We have avoided a depression, and we are putting America back to work!'
President Obama and Senator Murray mounted the stage together to thunderous applause. As the president took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves, and stood by the podium, Murray opened with some spirited rabble rousing. 'To those who say we have an enthusiasm gap, I have four words to say: Come to Washington state!'
Murray delivered an impassioned speech that began with an anecdote about growing up as a teen with a father with multiple sclerosis. This upbringing influenced her to run for the U.S. Senate. 'I did it so we can spend less time talking about Washington, D.C., and more time talking about Washington state,' she said. After urging everyone to get out the vote, Murray introduced President Obama as someone who works harder for 'young people in this state' than anyone else.
President Obama's much-anticipated turn at the podium was greeted with deafening fanfare. He began by saying, 'Hello, Huskies!' and when a student yelled out 'I love you!' the president responded with 'I love you back!'
Establishing a personal tone with the audience, he said, 'We need to be fired up because in just a few days we face a critical election. & There are a lot of folks out there in Washington, D.C., saying that it can't be done. But we have heard that before. We have heard, -We can't elect a black guy with a funny name like Obama!' and you all showed them that -Oh yes, we can!'
Before launching into a pointed appeal to the audience to support Senator Murray, the president reminded everyone of the stakes involved in next week's midterm election. 'The Republicans are always telling us what we cannot do,' he said. 'Jobs are disappearing overseas as college and health care costs are skyrocketing in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Almost one million American jobs were lost before my economic policies were in place.' He reminded the audience that Republicans want to cut higher education funding by 20% while advocating a tax break of $700 billion that only the wealthiest 2% of the U.S. population will qualify for. He went on to say that Rossi 'has the distinction of being the first candidate in the country to call for the repeal of Wall Street reform. Folks, it is up to you to say we are not buying what you are selling.' Citing his attempts to reach bipartisan consensus to get the economy back on track, he said, 'Although we are proud to be Democrats, we are prouder to be Americans.'
In a clear reference to the country's assailed automotive industry, the president likened Republican control of the U.S. in the last decade to an abandoned car. 'The biggest mistake we can make is to go back to the policies that caused all this hurt in the first place. The Republicans took America's car and drove it down into a ditch - a really deep ditch. Patty and I show up, and the Republicans get out of the car and abandon it in the ditch,' he said.
Obama described himself and Murray as makeshift mechanics who, after much hard work, have managed to push the vehicle out of the ditch and back onto the road. 'Then there is a tap on my shoulder, and I turn around. It's the Republicans saying, -We want the keys to the car back.' And I say, -You can't have the keys back; you can't drive!'
'When you drive a car,' he said, 'you put it in D for drive, or Democrat. When you want to go backwards, you put the gear in R, for Republican.'
The president made historical references to fortify his speech. 'In the words of the first Republican president, Lincoln, we also believe that 'the government should do for the people what the people cannot do individually for themselves.' He also noted government's necessity to ensure clean air, energy, water, and education. He questioned the current trend of big corporations to donate to the Republican Party without disclosing their identities, saying 'This is not just a threat to government, but a threat to democracy.'
Addressing many Democrats' frustration with slow change and negative advertising, the president said, 'I understand that some of you might think back to election night, inauguration night - Beyoncé was singing - and ask, 'What happened?' You see another foreclosure sign, and it doesn't help when you see another negative ad. But you can't let it get to you. You can never let anyone tell you that this fight is not worth fighting, Seattle.'
In closing, the president combined his election night theme of hope with another historical interlude. The audience was urged to believe in change, stay positive, and do its part by going to vote 'not tomorrow, not the next day, but today.' The president went on to observe that the country was once 13 colonies that sparked a revolution 'based on the simple proposition that all men are created equal.' He went on to link the colonists' independence from the British Empire, the demise of chattel slavery, and the women's suffrage movement to later social movements for worker and civil rights.
Before concluding with 'God bless you,' embracing Senator Murray, and then shaking hands with members of the audience, the president offered some final advice: 'Don't let anyone tell you change isn't possible,' he said. 'Don't let them get you down.'
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