Alex Morris and Matthew Byers, senior editors
Senator Barack Obama, Democratic presidential candidate, made a campaign stop at Asheville High School last Sunday, Oct. 5 and spoke to an enthusiastic crowd about issues facing the economy and health care. Asheville Police estimated 22,000 supporters from all over the region crowded the bleachers and football field to hear Obama speak.
Jesse Hawkins, 19, and Amanda Andrejek, 20, from Murphy, North Carolina, arrived at 10:30 the night before and slept in an air mattress in the bed of a pick up truck.
High school sophomore Erin Jebsen camped out with her mother so they could be first in line. Although she is too young to vote, she has volunteered her time polling for the Obama campaign.
Lifelong Asheville resident Sharon Greene, who was decked out in an Obama hat and t-shirt, said that, as a black woman, she is excited to see an African American candidate, but that is not why she is supporting him.
“I want to see history being made,” Green said. “But I also support his policies. He’s thinking about the little man, the average person.”
People were still being let into the stadium when Obama took the stage to speak after 2:00 p.m. He was greeted with triumphant cheers and chanting.
Obama’s speech was serious in tone, and his speech focused on recent economic problems and health care.
“None of you need newspapers or the ads on TV to know what this election is all about, because you’re living it,” he told the crowd.
He criticized his opponent, Senator John McCain, for trying to ignore the economy and running a negative campaign.
Obama pointed out that 45 million United States citizens do not have health insurance. He said the health care crisis was personal and shared the story of his mother, who died of ovarian cancer at the age of 43, while her insurance company refused to pay treatment because her cancer was a “pre-existing condition.”
Obama promised that every American would have health care by the end of his first term.
He elaborated on his health care policy and attacked that of his opponent.
“John McCain wants to deregulate the health care industry just like he wanted to deregulate the banking industry,” Obama said.
He argued that John McCain is trying to “bamboozle” voters, by offering them “health credits,” to help pay for insurance but simultaneously taxing their health benefits. Obama’s plan is based on lowering drug prices and insurance premiums, focusing on prevention rather than treatment, and reducing waste by utilizing technology. Under his plan, Obama said, everyone will be able to buy government insurance, and no one will be turned away for having pre-existing conditions.
“We won’t stop fighting until we fix our health care system,” Obama said.
After the speech, the crowd cheered and Kanye West’s “Testify” blared from the sound system.
Christa Malone, 69, from Waynesville, North Carolina, said Obama’s policy on health care was long overdue. She was impressed by what the senator fit into his 35 minutes of speaking. Obama must have made an impact on the senior citizen, because this had been the first political rally she had ever attended.
Warren Wilson students and alumni were strongly represented in the crowd (including the Echo’s own Lawson Revan. Graduate Matt Tansey (’07) called Obama’s speech “powerful.”
“I almost cried,’ Tansey said. “I think he’s going to win it all.”