The Blue & Gold

Barack Obama in Atlanta, Urges Students and All to Vote

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Barack Obama in Atlanta, Urges Students and All to Vote

Democratic Nominee for GA Governor Stacey Abrams stands in solidarity with former POTUS Barack Obama among others.

Democratic Nominee for GA Governor Stacey Abrams stands in solidarity with former POTUS Barack Obama among others.

Photo courtesy of Stacey Abrams. (@staceyabrams on Instagram)

Democratic Nominee for GA Governor Stacey Abrams stands in solidarity with former POTUS Barack Obama among others.

Photo courtesy of Stacey Abrams. (@staceyabrams on Instagram)

Photo courtesy of Stacey Abrams. (@staceyabrams on Instagram)

Democratic Nominee for GA Governor Stacey Abrams stands in solidarity with former POTUS Barack Obama among others.

Kieran Ferguson, Staff writer

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It was seven hours until the event. Outside the Morehouse College gym, a line of about 300 people had already begun to build up. This anticipation wasn’t for a musical performance or sports event; Georgia was welcoming back former president Barack Obama.

Tickets were limited and were handed out at each Democratic Party of Georgia office. People waited in line for up to eight hours to get tickets. Demand was so high that several fights broke out at the Eastlake location. Junior Frances Adams was one of the luckier ones.

“My mom waited six hours for our tickets,” said Adams.

The event began with an energetic speech from the Chairman of the Georgia Democratic Party, Dubose Porter. Notably, he led the energized crowd to do the wave, which symbolized the forecasted “blue wave” that many pundits were predicting.

“Everyone was excited to be there,”  said Adams. “I really enjoyed it when the crowd did the wave.”

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms received a loud round of applause from the audience upon her entry. In encouraging the audience to vote, Bottoms spoke of her tight victory over Mary Norwood in 2017, which was only decided by a couple hundred votes. After listing her accomplishments so far in her tenure, she gave all credit to the people who went out and voted. To end her speech, she recalled the first time she met Obama.

“The first time I met President Obama,” she said, “I proudly extended my hand and I told him I was a member of the Atlanta City Council. And he gave me a really big smile—you know the one we all miss seeing every day? And he patted me on my back, and he said ‘Good for you.’ So in my head, when I see President Obama today, I am going to extend my hand and I’m going to say, ‘Allow me to reintroduce myself.’ I’m gonna say, ‘Atlanta has a mayor named Keisha!’”

Other speakers included Lieutenant Governor candidate Sarah Riggs Amico, Congressional candidates Carolyn Bourdeaux and Lucy McBath, former Attorney General Eric Holder, and Ebenezer Baptist Church senior preacher Raphael G. Warnock, with introductions by student leaders from local colleges Clark Atlanta, Spelman, and Morehouse.

Civil rights icon and current Congressman John Lewis followed, met with a warm reception from the crowd. Remembering all of the sacrifices made during the civil rights movement for the right to vote, Lewis passionately pleaded for the crowd to vote.

“I gave a little bit of blood on that bridge in Selma, 53 years ago” recalled Lewis. “I almost died. Some of my friends and colleagues were murdered in Mississippi and other places. I’m not asking any of you to give any blood; I’m just asking that you go out and vote.”

Lewis’s inspiring speech was a call to supporters for action.

“I was really inspired by John Lewis. He’s a hero of mine,” said former CCHS student body President Jacob Busch. “I’ve had the opportunity to meet him a few times and talk with him, so seeing him always inspires me and brings out a passion in me for making things better for other people.”

Then, gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams took the stage. Offering a vision for hope and change, Abrams described her record of bipartisanship and extended her hand to voters across the aisle.

“I’m running for governor because Georgia deserves a proven leader who has delivered results, not just when everyone agrees,” said Abrams. “I’ve worked across the aisle, when my friends didn’t like it, and when my opponents weren’t sure if they could trust it. But it’s in those moments that we came together and did what was best for Georgia, and I intend to do that as the next governor of our state.”

After outlining her plan as governor ‒‒ expanding Medicaid, reforming the criminal justice system, and gun reform ‒‒ Abrams called on her supporters to get as many people out to vote as possible, even if in unconventional ways.

“I need you to call folks you don’t like that much,” she said. “I need you to call folks you broke up with. I need you to call the people you owe money to.”

Abrams ended her speech with a short introduction to former President Barack Obama to the stage. The crowd erupted.

“He has defied conventional wisdom, with an unconventional grace, and a vision that has lifted us all,” Abrams said. “Because when others dared say no, he’s told us all ‘Yes, we can.’”

Obama took the stage, sporting a black suit. After the cheers died down, he began his speech bluntly.

“I love Georgia, but I’m here for one simple reason,” said Obama, “I’m here to ask you to vote.”

He was dead serious about this election. You could hear it in his partly-gone voice, pleading, on the verge of cracking.

“The consequences of staying home really are profound,” he said. “America is at a crossroads . . . the character of our nation is on the ballot.”

Obama has taken a more aggressive approach to these midterms. Unlike the usual message of poetic unity he used in his 2002 and 2012 campaigns, he has not held back in criticizing the Republican Party in these midterms.

“A lot of people are either sitting by and not standing up to him or are endorsing a government of bigotry racism and white supremacy,” said Busch. “Obama needed to have an edge to really capture what Trump has done in his administration.”

Although most of Abrams’ events have been centered around policy, Obama took the opportunity to criticize what he called “divisive rhetoric and political string-pulling,” without explicitly naming President Donald Trump or Republican Congressional leadership.

“[The Republican leadership is] trying to scare you with all sorts of bogeymen, trying to scare you with all kinds of divisive issues,” Obama said. “. . . The biggest threat to America? The biggest threat is some impoverished refugees a thousand miles away?” he continued, referring to the migrant caravan in Mexico.

Obama also criticized the Republican adoption of the pre-existing conditions policy, which was a key part of his signature healthcare bill, the Affordable Care Act, after all the GOP’s efforts to block and repeal the bill.  

“You know how many [Republican lawmakers] voted for [Obamacare]?” said Obama. “None.”

Without naming any names, Obama took a few jabs at Kemp, criticizing his alleged voter suppression through his purging of voter rolls and use of voter ID laws.

“If you are aspiring to the highest office in the state, in which you pledge to look out for the people in your state, then how can you actively try to prevent the citizens in your state from exercising their most basic right?” he asked.

Ending on a hopeful tone, Obama called on supporters to actively participate in the coming elections.

“Change will happen. Hope starts blossoming. With each new step we take in the direction of fairness and justice and equality and opportunity, hope starts to spread. That’s what John Lewis taught us,” he said. “Make history here in Georgia. Make things better here in Georgia. Get to work here in Georgia. Let’s go vote!”

About the Writer
Kieran Ferguson, Staff writer

Kieran Ferguson is a junior staff writer. He enjoys playing soccer and hopes to become Mr. Avett one day. This is his first year on the staff.

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