“IF YOU VOTE, YOU CAN COMPLAIN”-MHS GRAD COVERS FIRST LADY’S VISIT TO CSU

Writer’s Note: The author of this article does not encourage skipping class, bashing others for any reason (even political), or causing liability issues for those poor souls who get stuck guarding journalists at high-security events – she only encourages voting!

By Claire Clemens

FORT COLLINS-The crowd filled out, rock music played over the loudspeakers, and those lucky enough to be at the front of the line crammed as close to the stage as they could, chatting excitedly. People snapped pictures of themselves and each other with as much of the American flag backdrop as security and the growing number of attendees would allow.

It was Oct. 23rd, and I was inside the Lory Student Center Grand Ballroom at Colorado State University. Hours earlier I had been panicking about typical college student stuff, but now all of that seemed irrelevant. Here I was sitting in the press pen at a Mark Udall campaign event, watching people flow into the ballroom and waiting to hear the first lady of the United States speak. I had skipped my political science class to be here, and it was totally worth it.

Eventually, enough people had filed into the ballroom to justify turning on the Udall campaign videos. These were filled with endorsements from several big names, and received cheers from the crowd as they mentioned key issues. The videos also included some Cory Gardner slams (because would this be real politics otherwise?), which the crowd consistently booed.

There was even more cheering as the speakers took the stage. Several Colorado Democrats spoke, including Betsy Markey, Jared Polis, Michael Bennet, John Hickenlooper, and Mark Udall himself. Each of the candidates hit several of the same key points about raising minimum wage, promoting renewable energy, a woman’s right to choose, equal wages, affordable education, health care, etc. Many of the candidates threw in more Gardner slams.

Regardless of whether the tactics used to amp up the crowd were positive or negative, they worked. The noise level grew with each candidate. Chants increasingly filled the room, with everything from, “VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!” to the favorite CSU chant, “I’M PROUD TO BE A CSU RAM!”

By the time Udall took the stage, the chants were all about him. He began his speech by emphasizing everything he loved about Colorado, and how high the stakes were in this particular election. He credited several people with the hard work put into the campaign all over the state, and stated the issues he wanted to work for in the next term. The greatest emphasis in his speech spoke to the importance of actually voting, though. “If you vote, you can complain,” he said. Regardless of any individual’s political views, there’s no arguing with that.

Despite the fact that this was Udall’s own campaign, the main event was yet to come. Even the bored fashion reporter beside me perked up when Michelle Obama took the stage. Suddenly, all reporters in the press pen were scrambling for photo ops. Armed with my smart phone’s camera, I found myself leading a group of us in standing on chairs to get pictures of the first lady. We got in trouble for this, of course; the people supervising the press pen thought it was too much of a liability issue. I kept it up when they weren’t looking anyway. I’m a rebel at heart, and besides, I have ObamaCare.

Obama started out her speech by endorsing Udall and Colorado’s record of improvement under his and Hickenlooper’s leadership. She touched on many of the same topics as those who spoke previously, and threw in her own personal touch. She reminded the audience of the challenge given to the president at the start of his term, and how far the country has come since that time. She spoke to the room full of mostly college students, saying that the young demographic made the difference in electing President Obama, and that young people can continue to make a difference in elections by continuing to cast their votes. She emphasized that even five votes per precinct can change an entire election’s outcome.

This was the biggest message in Michelle Obama’s speech. It struck a nerve with the audience, and Obama closed her speech to wild screams from the crowd.

“I appreciate the first lady encouraging students to think of themselves as important,” said CSU student and Delta High School Graduate Iris Hentze after the speech. “I totally understand being pessimistic [toward politics], and it is important to know that individuals can make a difference.”

The first lady’s message applies to more than just college students, Democrats, or even Coloradoans. It is important to remember that our country fought so that every citizen can have the right to vote, and this right is just as important now as it was then. The difference of five votes per precinct is not much, and it is not too late to register and exercise your voting rights if you haven’t already! Whether you are for Udall or Gardner, whether you like the Obamas or want to impeach the president, or whether you hate all popular candidates and want to elect a conspiracy theorist, now is the time to express your opinion. Make some noise, Mirror readers! Head out today and VOTE!