In what could have been mistaken for the first event of homecoming, John Edwards, the democratic vice presidential candidate, visited Florida A&M University’s campus Sunday.
The rally had everything from the “Marching 100” to Scott Maddox, “the world’s greatest hype man,” as one member of the crowd put it.
Maddox compared Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry’s reported victories in the three presidential debates to being a Rattler in that he “decided he would strike, strike and strike again!”
Maddox, chairman of the Florida Democratic Party, even co-opted a speech from Chris Rock’s “Head of State,” charging that the president was wrong for knowingly misleading the country.
“George Bush told us that Iraq was behind 9/11 and it wasn’t. He said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and he didn’t. He said the mission was accomplished and it wasn’t. He didn’t tell us the truth, and that ain’t right,” Maddox said.
In an atmosphere made electric by one of the closest campaign seasons in modern history, students in attendance did not miss the importance of the days leading up to the election, which was a little more than two weeks away at the time of the rally.
“I stand here with great anticipation of what the next two weeks has in store for the students of FAMU and the citizens of these United States,” said SGA President Virgil Miller, speaking to the crowd of nearly 10,000 people before Sen. Edwards arrived.
Edwards pressed for votes in what he admitted is a key battleground state.
“Here in Florida, we are at ground zero for who the next president of the United States is going to be,” said the senator from North Carolina.
Each of the speakers that addressed the crowd, all affiliated with the Democratic Party in one way or another, urged the audience to go down to the Leon County Courthouse and vote early. “The key to early voting is to get those folks who might otherwise procrastinate or not vote at all, out to the polls,” said Andrew Gillum, a former SGA president and Tallahassee City Commissioner.
Early voting began Monday and will continue through Nov. 1, the day before Election Day.
Edwards also pointed out what his ticket would do to assist college students.
“We’re going to give direct help to states who will keep their college tuition down,” Edwards said.
In addition to promising a tax credit of up to $4,000 for tuition payments, Edwards also said a Kerry/Edwards administration would promote a plan to encourage recent college graduates to give back to the government.
“You give us two years of public services to your community, your state or your country; we give you four years of college tuition in return.”
Students at the rally seemed to be pleased with the proposed plan.
“To see that they have a focus on those agenda items brings optimism to my heart,” said SGA Senate President Ramon Alexander.
Sen. Edwards also addressed the issue of minimum wage in a post-rally interview.
“This is again a big difference between George Bush and Dick Cheney, and John Kerry and myself. We are for raising the minimum wage. They have not been.”
Kerry has called for the minimum wage to be increased to $7 an hour nationwide.
At the last presidential debate in Tempe, Ariz., Bush said he supported “Mitch McConnell’s” bill to raise the minimum wage, without explanation. McConnell is a Republican senator from Kentucky. As a candidate four years ago, Bush said he favored raising a minimum wage so long as individual states were permitted to exclude workers within their borders.
In closing his speech, Edwards attempted to make clear to the crowd the importance of their vote.
“We can be out there 16, 18 hours a day-working, campaigning, reaching out to people-but at the end of the day, it’s you that can change this country. You can change America.”
Contact Garrison Vereen II at firstname.lastname@example.org.