Former President Barack Obama urged students and local residents to enact change and vote for Democrats in the upcoming November elections at a campaign rally in Philadelphia.
“On November 6, you have a chance to restore some sanity to our politics,” Obama told the crowd on Friday evening.
Students and local Philadelphians flooded the Dell Music Center to hear Obama rally Democrats to vote for the reelection of United States Senator Bob Casey and Governor Tom Wolf, as well as other Democratic candidates running for office this November.
Obama joked that he shouldn’t have to deliver the message, but said this year's midterm elections were especially important for shaping America's future.
“This election is more important than any other in my lifetime. But this time it really is different — this time the stakes really are higher," Obama said. "The consequences of any of us sitting on the sidelines are far more dangerous."
Receiving multiple standing ovations, the former president also spoke about the impacts of voting and how it could lead to changing gun laws or lowering the cost of college.
Casey and Wolf both spoke at the rally, but many attendees said they came to hear from Obama and were looking to be inspired. Twenty minutes before the doors were scheduled to open, the line of students from Penn Democrats, local Philadelphia residents, and eager Obama fans curved around the building overflowing into the parking lot.
Penn Dems President and Wharton junior Dylan Milligan attended the rally with a group of 126 student members who received tickets after volunteering to canvas for Democrats.
"Hearing [Obama] speak just gets people fired up and ready to go," Milligan said.
As people were waiting in line to enter the building, Penn Dems and other volunteers at the rally encouraged attendees to register to vote and to canvas for Democrats in anticipation for the midterm elections this coming November. The deadline to register online to vote in Pennsylvania is Oct. 9.
Waiting in line were two Philadelphia residents and friends Edquardo Joel Chinnell and Yvonne Parmley. Chinnell, who was born and raised in Philadelphia, said he will be voting for the first time this November. He added that he was eager to vote for the first time because a Republican, Donald Trump, is currently in office.
"When he's in office, I'm going to vote to get him out," Chinnell said. "That's why I'm here."
Parmley, who was born on a farm in North Carolina and moved to Philadelphia in 1967, said she votes every year.
"I'm a voter because that's my job," she said. Parmley added that the pair love Obama.
"People listen to him because his word is like the Bible," she said.
Parmley worked as a registered nurse for the past 40 years before retiring in May. She said she retired because she was dissatisfied with the way the health care industry treats patients. However, she is hopeful this year’s midterms could spark positive change in the field.
As the crowd trickled into the outdoor arena at 2:30 p.m., a series of speakers, event organizers, and various senators took turns speaking at the podium addressing the audience.
“Right here, right now, we’re going to take back the senate! Every vote counts in every election!” State Senator for Pennsylvania Vincent Hughes said. The audience’s ecstatic applauses followed him even after he left the stage.
The speakers have varied backgrounds, but the general message was the same: campaign, vote, and make Pennsylvania blue.
Obama ended his speech asking the crowd, “Pennsylvania, are you going to vote?”
An entire amphitheater of people answered back: “Yes.”
After Obama left the stage, Jo Walker, a local Philadelphia citizen, said his speech was "phenomenal."
While Friday marked Walker’s first time at a political rally, it was not the first time she has been actively involved in politics. For Obama’s 2008 and 2012 presidential election campaigns, Walker volunteered at phone banks, distributed pamphlets, and worked at a local polling station on election day.
Now, 10 years after the 2008 election, Walker said she thinks Obama still has his optimism, even though his “frustration is obvious." Although Walker believes the current administration is "discrediting everything [Obama has] done,” she still thinks his legacy will remain.
“There is no doubt in my mind he will go down as the greatest president ever,” Walker said.