Obama, courting youth vote, returns to Orangeburg

Monday, January 21, 2008

Sen. Barack Obama is returning to Orangeburg Tuesday as he continues to court the youth vote in advance of the Jan. 26 Democratic primary.

Obama will make a campaign stop at South Carolina State University with Grammy Award-winning musician Usher and actress Kerry Washington, who has starred in films such as "Ray" and "The Fantastic Four."

The event is designed to get students excited and out to vote next Saturday, said Obama volunteer Diandra Hilliard. She handed out literature at Saturday's "Black Youth Vote" event at the university.

Hilliard, a junior at SCSU, said, "We're trying to get the word out to youth voters because I think S.C. State and Claflin will have a big impact on the primary."

Students weren't having a big impact on the Republican primary Saturday. Poll managers waited at SCSU's Fine Arts Center for voters who didn't come, with no voters showing up by about 1 p.m. The poll serves students at SCSU and Claflin University as well as people who live in the surrounding area.

Students instead showed up at Martin Luther King Jr. Auditorium for the "Black Youth Vote" event, where young voters surrounded the Obama table while the staffer at former Sen. John Edwards' table was left with little to do.

While the organizers weren't endorsing any candidates, many of the students who attended said they're supporting Obama.

Claflin junior Brian Colclough said Obama's his first choice, because "I believe he stands for change." He especially likes Obama's emphasis on early childhood education and health care reform.

Also, "I don't believe the country wants another Clinton in office," he said.

Voorhees junior Marcello Virgil Jr. said he also likes Obama's support for education, including historically black colleges and universities and private institutions.

"I believe he can make an effective change," Virgil said.

Casiana Shepard, an SCSU freshman, said she and her friends agree they're voting for Obama.

When asked why, she said, "I don't know yet, but I know I'm voting for him."

Then, after a little consideration, she said, "He would be the first black male president. It's different. It's a change."

Claflin junior Antoine Marshall says between now and Saturday, he'll be working Obama's phone banks, encouraging people to vote and offering rides to the polls.

Students are often ignored by politicians, Marshall said. "He's trying to tell us youth matter."

Obama visited Claflin in October 2004, when his was running for his Illinois Senate seat. He returned in February 2007 as a candidate for president, and that April for the Democratic debate at SCSU. His wife, Michelle, appeared at SCSU in November.