warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Obama Takes The Stage At USC Rally

Callie Schweitzer, Paresh Dave, Andrew Khouri, Alexandra Tilsley |
October 22, 2010 | 11:39 a.m. PDT

Editor-in-Chief, Executive Producer, Staff Reporter, Senior News Editor

Photo by Benjamin Gottlieb.
Photo by Benjamin Gottlieb.

President Barack Obama took the stage at USC at 2:05 p.m. to enormous applause from a crowd of thousands. 

"This is a Trojan kind of welcome," he said. "Fight on!" 

The crowd was thick with camera phones and digital cameras held above people's heads snapping shots of the president as he spoke. 

"We need all of you to fight on, we need all of you fired up," he said. 

He encouraged young voters to do exactly what they did in 2008--get out and vote. 

"This is going to be a difficult election," Obama said.

"Their whole campaign strategy is amnesia," he said of the Republicans. "This election is a choice between moving forward and going backward, and I don't know about you, Trojans, but I wanna go forward." 

Obama arrived at USC via motorcade in the late morning and fired up donors at Sen. Barbara Boxer's campaign at a private fundraiser.

About 250 feet from that event, a crowd slowly reaching the low thousands is awaiting the president's first public appearance in L.A. in 19 months.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa opened the rally at 12:25 p.m. Nearly an hour and a half later than the program was scheduled to begin. 

Villaraigosa evoked cheers from the crowd and used the same words as a week ago at UCLA alongside Bill Clinton, saying the pundits are wrong--the Democrats will prevail on Nov. 2.

"All eyes are on California, this is our chance to show the world that we can put Californians back to work, we can fix our broken budget process, we can cap our fees for students at universities," he said to screams and cheers.

Villaraigosa's speech was openly partisan--bashing Republicans and praising Democrats.

"We want a California that's back on track," he said. "I'm excited to be here today because we're going to show those pundits. We're going to come out on Election Day led by the young people.

"Those pundits say young people don't vote, but you know what, you show them wrong," Villaraigosa said before leading the crowd in a chant of "Yes we can."

Villaraigosa then introduced his long-time pal John Perez, Speaker of the California Assembly. 

"Our opponents this year have more money than God, but all their money can't buy the strength of Democratic grassroots activism," he said. "When Democrats win, the country wins." 

There appears to be fewer people on the USC campus than one week ago when C.L. Max Nikias was inducted as USC's 11th president. 

"We have better ideas, we have better candidates and in Barack Obama, we have a better president," Perez said.

Actor Kal Penn spoke about the importance of voting. He praised Obama and the work he's done so far, but said the country still has a long way to go on issues like immigration and Don't Ask Don't Tell. 

Penn was followed by the USC Trojan Marching Band. 

Kamala Harris, candidate for attorney general, also spoke, urging students to vote. 

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown then took the stage, to chants from the crowd.

"The country works when we share," Brown said. "We have enough for our need but not enough for our greed. We're going to win this for the least powerful because we can empower them to become the power of the future."

Sen. Barbara Boxer followed Brown, tearing into the Republicans and accusing them of trying to repress voter turnout. She highlighted the Republicans' wealth and called the GOP an "army."

"But we have our own army," Boxer said. "The army of the students and the people and the families and our diversity and our president."

Boxer told students they must vote.

"We know that our future is at stake," she said.

Though temperatures were in the mid-60s, at least two people fainted and were carried out of Alumni Park. People were packed in so tightly that there was pushing and shoving. 

"Born in the USA" roared from speakers as people poured into the rally site and gathered around the steps of Doheny Library to await President Obama. 

"Everybody's out here active," said Aubrey Relf, a 32-year-old doctoral student at USC. "I think it's a good thing, young people civically engaged."

Obama is on a speaking tour of the country's universities to energize the youth vote that helped sweep him into office in 2008.

Relf, who didn't attend candidate Obama's rallies two years ago, said the turnout was impressive.

"(The crowd) seems pretty thick. People came here at 5 o'clock in the morning" to wait in line, Relf said, standing in the midst of a festive atmosphere complete with signs and music.

The first entrants of a Democratic Party rally at USC will stand for three more hours, awaiting a speech from President Barack Obama.

Several hundred people have already entered Alumni Park in the middle of the university's campus and dozens more are filling into a crowd now twenty feet deep on opposite corners of the steps Obama will speak from.

The skies remain gray and sobering, leaving the crowd quiet as music plays over their heads.

The president, who has been making his way down the West Coast, has high hopes of picking up Democratic voters along the way. Despite the rain, a few hundred people lined up as early as 6 a.m. to get a prime spot at Friday's rally. 

Scott Andereck, a teacher at Manual Arts Senior High School, brought his AP government class to see President Barack Obama, hoping the event would inform his students on politics and government.

"They are all very interested," Andereck said. "It's a living classroom. You can't pass it up."
 Andereck said the president has done an excellent job considering the tough road laid out for him since his election.

Kevin Caballero, a 17- year-old student in Andereck's class, said he hopes to hear the plans Obama has to turn around a troubled economy and an explanation as to why people are still struggling.

"Maybe it's going to be a few years for us to finally see a change," said Caballero, an Obama supporter.

Rosalind Montgomery, a 49-year old Riverside County resident, drove to USC Thursday, slept in her car and lined up at 6:30 am to catch a glimpse of the president and hear him speak.

"This time I was set on it, I'm going to see him," said Montgomery, who missed a chance to see Obama several years ago in Orange County due to massive crowds.

"I think all the Democrats need to get out and come together. We can not let the tea party and the republicans take over," said Montgomery, who sported a button displaying a picture of Obama and the words "victory: November 4, 2008."

Montgomery said she doesn't want the republicans and tea party elected because they hold radical views that would hurt African Americans such as herself.

"They want to repeal the civil rights act they want to repeal minimum wage, and interfere with medicare. They don't understand the constitution," she said.

University officials are expecting as many as 30,000 at USC’s Alumni Park on Friday. The President will speak at approximately 1:55 p.m. The President’s arrival is wreaking havoc with traffic patterns. The presidential motorcade will be heading to Glendale after the rally, and freeway closures are likely.

The rally at USC is just one of a number of appeals the President has made to reinvigorate younger voters, who carried him to victory in 2008. Obama recently hosted a town hall discussion on MTV and he has traveled to a number of universities, including Ohio State University.

He spoke to a large crowd at the University of Washington on Thursday and urged students to vote for Sen. Patty Murray.

Obama began his speech by thanking young voters and said that the 2008 election was a reminder that the American dream is still alive.  He said little about the issues, but focused on imploring students to vote.

“If you have not voted yet, you’ve got to get that ballot and put it in the mail,” the President said. “Don't delay.  Do it right after this rally. You’ve got to then talk to your friends.  You’ve got to talk to your neighbors.  You’ve got to make phone calls.  You’ve got to knock on doors.  You have to make sure that you are as fired up and as excited now as you were two years ago - because the work is not yet done.”

Obama may be right to try to focus on younger voters. Polls show that the President is losing support among those who once voted for him, and young people in particular are lacking enthusiasm

For California Democrats, Obama’s message – that people need to vote – is especially important. The Democrats have very narrow leads in the latest polls in both the Senate and gubernatorial races, but experts say the races could swing Republican depending on who goes to the polls.

Obama should be well received in California, experts say. His job ratings in the state are higher than most anywhere else

For details of Friday's rally, including parking, entrance and staging locations on an interactive map, click here.

Sign up for Neon Tommy's weekly e-mail newsletter.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.