By 9 a.m. on Friday, local Philadelphians and die-hard Democrats were lining up outside the Dell Music Center, armed with picnic blankets, Obama paraphernalia, and buckets of snacks. Those first to arrive come from diverse backgrounds, although the prevalence of high school and college students throughout the crowd is hard to miss.
Young and old, enthusiasts outside are awaiting a 2:30 p.m. rally for the reelection of United States Senator Bob Casey and Governor Tom Wolf, both of whom are Democrats. Yet, above all, people are here for former President Barack Obama.
Obama is the headliner at the rally, slated to speak later this afternoon. He is stopping in Philadelphia as part of his nationwide campaigning effort, which has sparked excitement among Democrats across the country who have long grumbled at Obama's reluctance to speak publicly about partisan issues, especially about current President Donald Trump.
At the front of the line are Noah Vinogradov, 15 and Nathan Russek, 17, who secured tickets through an internship for Sara Johnson, who is running for state representative of the 151st legislative district in Pennsylvania.
While their fellow interns planned to arrive later because they didn’t think people would be here five hours beforehand, Vinogradov and Russek said they were glad they arrived early. Both of the interns echoed the sentiments that spread through the crowds: they want a good view and are looking to be inspired.
“I’m looking forward to hearing about Obama’s hope for the country. So many people are really depressed with what’s been going on in the country and aren’t looking forward," Vinogra said, although he noted that he was frustrated he wouldn't be able to vote for three more years.
"Obama always has very high hopes for the future of the country so I’m really looking forward to hearing that being inspired by that," he added.
"Right now more than ever our country needs a voice of reason," Russek said. “an adult in the room to sit here and say that some of the things that are currently happening are not right, and we need to fix it. And the way to fix it is with a vote.”
For most, the big issue this election is voter turnout. Democrats have historically voted in mass numbers for midterm elections, but for Democrats to take back the House this fall, voter turnout is essential. Many say Obama is the way to do that.
Philadelphia locals Susan Silver and Neil Lader were two volunteers already at the scene. They arrived early because they’re being trained for their duties in “line management” later in the day. Both volunteers held their volunteer badges up in pride.
“I think you have to keep it in the forefront, and I think his speaking inspires people. Like he says, 'Vote.' The only way we’re going to send our message is to get out there and show that we’re there, don’t stay home go to the polls” Silver said.
A group of students from Penn Democrats plan to arrive closer to opening time, but some Penn students have already showed up on their own. College junior Alexys Ogorek is working on the Tom Wolf campaign for reelection. This is her third political campaign she's worked on, but she's still very excited to see the inner workings.
“I was able to see [Obama] at the Obama Clinton rally the night before the election in 2016, but I think actually being able to work an event is a lot cooler you get to see the backsides of it," she said. "Seeing all the prep that goes into seeing a president speak is really cool.”
Disappointed that they arrived early and still didn’t make it to the very front of the line were Temple students Anna Shumaker, who is missing class for the rally, and Ciara Mcparland and Ebenezer Getahun, all of whom are first-year students.
“We do have school, but class is not as important as Obama!” Shumaker said.
“It would be just a dream come true to meet him, my hero," McParland added. "Even to hear him speak, be in his presence."
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