The event took place on February 21, in the Henderson Student Center of Clark Atlanta University, one of the prestigious institutions in the Atlanta University Center, which also includes Morehouse College, Spelman College and Morris Brown College. Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson was joined by entertainers such as Janelle Monae and Keshia Knight-Pulliam in an electrifying mobilization effort targeting students who were so instrumental to Obama’s historic 2008 win.
The language centered around conservative race-baiting and voter suppression laws being pushed all over the country by the Republican Party — which many people feel are specifically aimed at stifling the U.S. minority vote — and Professor Dyson did not shy away from the topic, casting GOP hopefuls Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum as hypocrites:
It’s funny that people call Black people lazy because we worked for free for 400 years. Gingrich called President Obama the ‘welfare president’. But George Bush put more people on welfare than Barack Hussein Obama ever did. The very people who were criticizing the safety net are benefiting off the safety net. On the front pages, there was a Republican politician who was getting his kids free lunches at the schools off that safety net.”
Knight-Pulliam, who has always been an outspoken supporter of President Obama, spoke movingly about shaking the apathy that clings to the African-American community and remembering that the right to vote that we take so lightly took “four hundred years” to get.
Janelle Monet piggy-backed on Knight-Pulliam’s sentiments:
Don’t forget about the people who gave their lives for you to have the right to exercise your vote.”
This endeavor could not have come at a better time for President Obama. Riding an upward swing in the polls following news that unemployment was on the decline and the economy was on the way up, Obama has turned his sights back to the interest groups who played an extremely influential role in his 2008 election — Black America and college students.
But is it too little too late?
In an New York Times article, former student Obama election coordinator, Emma Guerrero, voices her hesitation about leading her fellow classmates into action for 2012:
I don’t think I could do it anymore. That campaign was an amazing experience. But I don’t think I’m in the same mind-set anymore. He hasn’t really addressed the young people, and we helped him to get elected.”
Jolie Glaser, another staunch Obama supporter in 2008, says that it’s difficult to replicate that same energy:
It’s hard to be a passionate follower of him. It’s easier to be a thoughtful supporter.”
The Daily Mail reports that white students in particular have lost that loving feeling towards the president:
According to the National Journal’s Ronald Brownstein report, President Obama has dramatically lost support from young people – and particularly young white people – in America since 2008.
His approval rating among those aged 18 to 29 is currently at 56 per cent – a huge fall of ten points since the 2008 exit polls.
Still, that hesitant support did not dampen the spirit at the CAU Obama summit where there was not a hint of ambivalence in sight. Students enthusiastically chanted “Barack Hussein Obama” as they prepared to hit the ground running in support of this president once again.
Video Credit: Joshua Marable