An estimated 20,000 to 35,000 people gathered in Midway Plaisance in Hyde Park Saturday to hear President Barack Obama speak at the Moving America Forward Rally, put on by the Democratic National Committee. Other speakers included Senator Dick Durbin, Governor Pat Quinn, Mayor Richard Daley, and Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias. Hip hop artist Common performed, as well as local Chicago band Dot Dot Dot.
The rally was geared toward getting out the Democratic vote on Nov. 2, railing against the Republican opposition and debunking the idea that the election has already been lost by the Democrats.
“We’re getting tired of people condemning President Obama,” Mayor Daley said, a sentiment that was echoed throughout the event. The president was a central focus of the rally despite not being up for re-election.
Medill freshman Carlos Martinez Jr. initially went to the rally to catch a glimpse of President Obama in person. “I felt like it would be a good opportunity to see what he has to say about our country,” he said. But after hearing the rally speeches, he said he wanted to become more invested in the political arena.
“I was really inspired to vote because everybody had really great things to say,” he said. “I feel more encouraged to be more aware of what’s going on.”
The event served as an outlet for local Democrats frustrated by what they see as Republican obstructionism.
“All the Republicans try to do is stop our President every time,” said Giannoulias, who is running for Obama’s former Senate seat. Obama came to Chicago just a few weeks ago to attend a campaign fundraiser for Giannoulias.
As thousands cheered and waved signs bearing messages like “Vote This Tuesday” and “Moving America Forward,” the Democratic candidates seemed hopeful. During a break in the rally, everyone in the crowd was encouraged to make phone calls urging people to vote.
“There’s ten minutes left in this game, and we’re going to win it,” Durbin said. “In 2008 we changed the guard, now we need to guard the change.”
Obama tried to recapture the fervor of his 2008 campaign, encouraging the crowd to chant “Yes we can” and to reclaim the American dream. Despite references to the “other side,” he also stressed what Americans have in common.
“Although we are proud to be Democrats, we are prouder to be Americans,” said Obama, who also emphasized that change is never easy.
“I want everybody here to understand, don’t let anybody tell you that this fight hasn’t been worth it,” Obama said. “Don’t let them tell you that you haven’t already made a difference.”
Additional reporting by Zoe Fox.