Eight local bands and 1,100 people traversed icy roads last Friday to attend “Rock for Barack,” a rally and concert held by Ithaca for Obama at the historic State Theatre in downtown Ithaca. College students, native Ithacans, staunch Obama supporters, undecided voters and Hillary advocates alike came out to the event.
“The atmosphere was electric … I didn’t think that many people would make it but there were over a thousand, listening to over an hour of political speeches … and then we had great music. There were people who had mentioned they had never gone to anything political before … and left being energized,” said Brian Hunt, field coordinator in the 22nd Congressional District.
Several speakers shared their reasons for supporting Obama, including former state assemblyperson Marty Luster and former member of Ithaca’s Common Council Michelle Berry ’92.
“I wanted people to know the importance of finding out about the issues and the candidates for themselves … The message is not to push people but to tell them about Obama and let them decide who the best candidate is … and I think they will end up saying that person is Obama,” Berry said after the event.
Andrew Brenner grad, who leads canvassing efforts for Ithaca for Obama, focused his speech on why Obama has become so attractive to him and his generation.
VIDEO: Click to view video of the event!
“He’s just such a fresh face … the kind of person who comes along only once in a lifetime,” Brenner said. “I think my generation has gravitated towards him partly because of his position on the war and also because of the things he says relating to students, about student loans and the banks that are making money off them, a system that puts students further and further into debt.”
Hunt, who also spoke at the event, said that “it is important whoever is the next president is able to galvanize the country behind him or her and get a political consensus.”
According to Hunt, Obama “is able to build these coalitions and has the conviction and moral clarity to be trusted not only by his own party, but also by Republicans and Independents.”
The broad spectrum of Obama supporters was reflected in the diverse attendance at “Rock for Barack.” Not everyone backed Obama — there were people wearing Hillary buttons and a great number of undecided voters, according to Berry.
“I talked to people who said they totally changed their minds after hearing the speeches,” Berry said.
William Senton, a student at Ithaca College, agreed. “I must have talked to at least a couple of people who just decided to vote for Obama,” Senton said.
Following the speeches, local artists including the Sim Redmond Band, Jeb Puryear, Richie Stearns, Hank Roberts, Kevin Kinsella, Uniit, Crow Greenspun and Samite performed, along with Berry, who also sang at the event. Like the speakers and other workers at the event, the artists volunteered their time and art for “Rock for Barack.”
“The rally was a great chance to bring out supporters and students … who may or may not know our local musicians,” Berry said.
Ithaca for Obama opened its office in the Commons on Jan. 21 as a place for people to come for further information about the campaign as well as volunteer to canvass the area. According to Hunt, many have come to ask questions, but even more have come, “rolling up their sleeves and asking how they can help with the effort.”
As of Saturday, it has reached 8,000 people in the area through phone calling and knocking on doors, and will continue its efforts until Super Tuesday.