Biden speech draws big crowd

Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Joseph Biden urged North Carolinians to register and turn out in large numbers for the 2008 election during a speech Oct. 23 at Wake Forest University.

“Our goal is to have the biggest voter turnout in the history of North Carolina,” Biden said, describing the election as the most important since 1932.

He called the possibility that a Democratic presidential contender could win the traditionally “red” state evidence that voters want a change in policies.

The outdoor event, organized by the Obama/Biden campaign, drew an estimated 5,000 people to Hearn Plaza, where Biden spoke for about 35 minutes on a stage erected in front of Reynolda Hall.

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Under a sunny sky, with the temperature in the mid-50s, spectators began lining up about 11:30 a.m. at a security checkpoint on the center sidewalk of Hearn Plaza.  By 12:45 p.m., when people were allowed to begin entering the secured area surrounding the stage, the line stretched around the entire northern half of the brick sidewalk.

Biden sounded many familiar campaign themes during the speech, and grouped them under two broad goals as he wrapped up his remarks:  restoring the middle class and reclaiming America’s respect in the world.

He promised an Obama/Biden administration will end the war in Iraq responsibly, cut taxes for the middle class, support development of alternative energy sources, invest in infrastructure and ensure that trade policies are fair.

The crowd, which included many young people, responded enthusiastically to his proposal to offer $4,000 tuition tax credits in exchange for volunteer service.

“We want to broaden the definition of national service beyond serving in the military,” Biden said.

Biden used a reference from the popular sport of NASCAR racing to describe the tough campaign rhetoric being employed as Election Day nears.

“We’ve been trading a little paint with McCain/Palin ticket lately,” he said.

Biden charged his opponents with using tactics that divide the country by geography and religious background and pledged that he and Obama will work to unite the country.

“We are one nation, under God,” he said.  “We are indivisible. We are all patriotic Americans no matter where we live.”

After the speech, Biden stepped down from the stage to greet supporters before leaving for his next stop at Meredith College in Raleigh.

Wake Forest President Nathan O. Hatch extended an invitation last year to all Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain spoke at Wake Forest last spring.

Statement from Wake Forest University: As an educational institution, Wake Forest is committed to promoting the free exchange of ideas, which includes providing a forum for speakers who express a wide variety of political views. The university’s tax-exempt status, however, requires that it not engage in any political campaign activity, which means the university is prohibited from endorsing or opposing any candidate for political office. Wake Forest takes its obligation in this regard very seriously. This event does not represent an endorsement by Wake Forest of any candidate for public office.

Categories: Events, National