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Credit: Son Nguyen

Former President Barack Obama traveled to Philadelphia for his first in-person campaign event of this election season on Wednesday evening, where he rallied for Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden in efforts to galvanize the blue vote.

At a roundtable discussion with Black community leaders in Philadelphia, Obama expressed his confidence in Biden, who was a former Penn professor, and Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris to restore the nation from 1968 Wharton graduate and current President Donald Trump's failure to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.

The former president ended the day with a ticketed “drive-in rally” outside Citizens Bank Park in South Philadelphia, during which he particularly urged Black men, progressives, and other voters to participate in the election in efforts to oust Trump. In the 2016 election, America's Black voter turnout rate declined for the first time in 20 years in a presidential election, with turnout dropping to 59.6% after reaching a record-high of 66.6% in 2012.

Five undergraduate leaders of Penn Democrats and Penn for Biden attended the rally, describing it as an experience with palpable energy and great excitement from the attendees.

"I'm heartened that Obama and the Biden-Harris campaign are investing so heavily in Pennsylvania, because we need to win here if we’re going to win in November," Penn Dems Political Director Michael Nevett said. "Turnout in Philadelphia will make or break this election. Every Penn student inspired by Obama needs to make a plan to vote in this election, and volunteer to help elect Democrats up and down the ballot."

The visit illuminates the electoral importance of Pennsylvania — a key swing state in the 2020 election that Biden himself has visited the most this campaign cycle. Biden currently leads Trump by more than 6 percentage points among likely voters in Pennsylvania, Politico reported. Trump won the state by about one percentage point in 2016.  

“The energy that has moved and bettered America has always come from young voters, whether it was the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee organizing in the 1960s, all the activism that has driven the country that has come from young people,” State Sen. Sharif Street (D-Pa.), Vice-Chair of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party and 1999 Penn Law School graduate, told The Daily Pennsylvanian outside the evening roundtable event.

“The social activism that caused people to get out to the streets and protest about better healthcare, women’s rights, criminal justice reform, take all that energy and translate it into voting in this election,” Street said, urging the current generation of college students to participate in the electoral process and help build progressive seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate. “This is a seminal moment where we get to reset the chess board.” 

College sophomore and Street's political coordinator Gianni Hill attended the drive-in rally and asked Obama what he thinks will motivate young voters in the Penn community. 

"You will," Obama told Hill, encouraging him to vote. "Get to work!"

Wednesday marks Obama’s second visit to Philadelphia in the past few months. In August, he delivered an address for the Democratic National Convention from the city's Museum of the American Revolution. 

Photo Editor Sukhmani Kaur contributed reporting. 

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