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ISSUE 121 VOL 10 PUBLISHED 12/7/2007

Obama invigorates

By Hannah Hayes
Staff Writer

Friday, December 7, 2007

It may be heating up in Iowa, but the presidential race on is no contest. According to Newsvine Election Center, one of the most widely used applications employed to support candidates, Barack Obama has 24 percent of the 277,870 votes (as of December 2). Doesn't sound impressive? Compared to the 8 percent for Giuliani and another 8 percent for Clinton, it's obvious that Obama's relationship with American youth is getting serious.

So what makes the youngest cohort of voters, infamous for their low turnouts, so enamored with Obama? Maybe it's that he isn't trying too hard. Mike Huckabee recently came out with an advertisement that Chuck Norris approved. Seriously. Maybe Obama just knows what's up. A Celine Dion track for a campaign theme song? You know better than that, Hillary. Even Soccer Moms are over her junk.

I believe, however, that it's the way Obama approaches the voters, especially the newest ones. Obama's website doesn't immediately ask you to throw money his way or directly lead you to an advertisement. Rather, he asks for your e-mail address. For the college student who doesn't want political involvement to be tied to financial commitment or the 20-something-year-old voter who has heard tax cut so many times she doesn't know what it means anymore, Obama makes it easy to join a movement. He has two entire websites devoted to students and young people: Students for Obama, which originated from a Facebook petition, and Generation Obama. It's obvious that the student-Obama relationship is mutual. No matter the audience, Obama always mentions the GI Bill and its importance in his parents' (and in turn, his own) education. It would feel petty or outrageous to speak up about rising tuition costs to any other candidate when "for Chrissake there's a war going on!"

While baby boomers criticize our generation for sitting behind our computers instead of marching to the White House, Students for Barack Obama chapters across the country use the Internet to organize voters in 2008 and take action. Students at Illinois State University go door to door in dorms, registering classmates to vote. Students at Grinnell College are running bus systems from their school to the caucus. Even here at St. Olaf, Oles for Obama went to canvas in Iowa for change.

To so many young Americans, Obama has become an inspiration and the way for change. In photo after photo students surround him as if he was Johnny Depp. There are even images of guys with "Obama" painted across their chests. In the words of Rolling Stone, "nobody is jiggling for Giuliani."

At the end of every invitation sent to friends about visiting Students for Obama, it says, "There's a place in [the campaign] for all of us." It may sound corny, but the slogan highlights Obama's people-centered campaign that gives everyone from Pacific Islanders to veterans, first generation Americans to GLBT persons a role in deciding America's future. The man even has a theme song in Spanish.

Students feel Obama's inclusiveness, but these same students need to do their part to spread that feeling, especially to those who have lost faith.

So while we have our "One million strong for Obama" Facebook groups and our corresponding campus events, what about the rest of America? Students alone can't win this election for Obama. Sure, Oprah Winfrey's endorsement has huge potential and mayors across the country are pledging their support, but I think our relationship with Obama is definitely going somewhere; it's time to introduce him to the folks.

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