Slideshow: A look back at the Moving America Forward rally on Friday.
“We need all of you to fight on. We need all of you fired up.”
President Barack Obama’s words echoed across Alumni Park on Friday, where more than 37,500 students, faculty and visitors gathered to hear the president and prominent state politicians speak at a rally.
The president called on students to recreate the enthusiasm and voter turnout present during his 2008 election, as part of an effort to drum up support for California Democrats facing tough races this November. Gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown and Sen. Barbara Boxer served as the focal points of Friday’s “Moving America Forward” event, a rally organized by the Democratic National Committee and hosted by USC’s Political Student Assembly.
“The only way to fight it is all of you, all of these voices. All of you being committed to finishing what we started in 2008,” Obama said.
Lines for the event snaked past the boundaries of campus as students and visitors from across Southern California arrived at USC as early as 3:30 a.m. to ensure a spot in Obama’s audience.
Energy was high throughout the event, which started around 12:25 p.m. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa addressed the crowd, along with celebrities Kal Penn and Jamie Foxx. Several California politicians also spoke, including Assembly Speaker John Pérez and U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, before the stars of the show took the stage.
Brown gave a succinct speech in which he stressed his commitment to the state’s future.
“California has a place for all of us, not just some, not just the ones at the top who have most of the resources,” he said. “The country works when we share.”
Boxer, a third-term incumbent who is locked in a tight race with former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, also spoke about the shared responsibility of voters — something she said Republicans failed to recognize.
“The other side is trying to depress voter turnout. They are hoping that you don’t vote in this election,” Boxer said. “They are hoping that you don’t see the choice in this election. They even sent around an ad telling the Latino voters to stay home.”
And then, with audience anticipation visibly mounting, Boxer introduced the president, who had to wait for applause and chants of “Yes we can” to die down before he spoke.
During his address, Obama emphasized what he said was the choice between past policies and future progress.
“You need to remember that this election is a choice between the policies that got us into this mess and the policies that are leading out of this mess,” he said. “Don’t let anybody tell you that our fight hasn’t been working. Don’t let them tell you that we’re not making a difference.”
Obama described the political atmosphere in Washington, D.C. as a car driven into a ditch by the Republicans during former President George W. Bush’s administration.
“It was a really deep ditch, and somehow they were able to walk away from the accident — but they didn’t get the car out of the ditch,” Obama said. “[Democrats] are pushing to get the car out of the ditch. And even though Barbara Boxer’s small, she’s pushing too.”
The important thing, he said, is to make sure Democrats maintain control of Washington.
“We’ve got to tell them, ‘You can’t have the keys back. You don’t know how to drive,’” Obama said. “‘You can ride with us, but you’ve got to be in the backseat.’”
The way to ensure this, Obama said, is for students to simply show up and vote on Nov. 2.
“If you knock on some doors and make some phone calls and keep marching and keep organizing,” Obama said. “We won’t just win this election. We are going to restore the American dream.”