Rally brings ‘rising star’ to Milwaukee

Illinois U.S. Senate candidate and current Democratic Party darling Barack Obama was the keynote speaker at a Saturday morning event at Washington Park's Blatz band shell.

Attendees clutching Alterra take-out cups or thermal mugs and waving blue Kerry/Edwards signs turned out to see Obama, 4th District State Sen. and U.S. House candidate Gwen Moore and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) speak.

Feingold ended up not attending because he was scheduled to vote in the Senate, according to Feingold intern and College of Arts & Sciences sophomore Alison Griffith. Feingold addressed the crowd via telephone and spent the majority of his short speech praising Moore and Obama.

"It's hard to get things done when you don't have enough people to help the people, but you've got Moore and Obama coming to Washington, and that's going to change the face of things," he said. "They're the ones who are going to fight the job loss that has hurt Wisconsin and Milwaukee. All of us — Kerry, Edwards, Moore, Obama — are going to fight for universal healthcare coverage."

Following Feingold's address was a performance by Milwaukee R & B artist Cincere, who interjected his songs with political messages.

"A lot of young people feel like this isn't a big responsibility, but this is an even bigger responsibility than we understand," he said.

Following Cincere's performance, Moore took the stage to resounding chants of "We Love Gwen."

"Thank you so much for nominating me to stand up for you and get rid of weapons of mass destruction, like job loss in our community, lack of healthcare and divestment in education," Moore said.

Moore spent most of her speech exhorting people to vote.

"Some of us slept four years ago," she said. "About 25 million got too busy last year picking up the kids, stopping off at the grocery store. We're not going to let that happen this year, are we?"

"There are a whole lot of people of color who didn't vote last election," she continued. "They thought it didn't matter. Well, you saw what happened in Florida. Let's not let that happen again."

Obama, whom political pundits have called a "rising star" within the Democratic Party ever since his speech at the party's convention this summer, was last to speak.

"We're all connected as people," Obama said. "I don't have to just worry about my child, I have to worry about the other child who can't read. I don't just have to worry about my grandparents, I have to worry about all grandparents who can't afford drugs and have to choose between prescription drugs and other things. And I don't just have to worry about my family, I have to worry about the Arab-American family (U.S. Attorney General) John Ashcroft is rounding up because I might be next."

Like Feingold, Obama spent much of his speech praising other Democratic politicians.

"Anyone who's been watching the debates knows that George W. Bush is not making any sense," he said. "No one's better prepared than John Kerry to serve in the Oval Office."

"Wisconsin has the most courageous senator in the country — Russ Feingold," Obama continued. "Forty-five days after 9/11, when anthrax arrived in Capitol Hill, in the U.S. Senate there was one guy who, one man, who stood up to say 'Hold on, I'm against terrorism, but I'm not going to abandon our civil liberties.' I can't think of a better model than a political server."

The event concluded with the three speakers being joined onstage by a host of Wisconsin politicians, including Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager and former acting Mayor Marvin Pratt, as the Black Eyed Peas' "Let's Get It Started" played in the background.