Online Networking Site Garners Student Backing for Obama

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:32 PM EDT


(CNSNews.com) - Hundreds of college students on Friday gathered at George Mason University (GMU) near Washington, D.C., to rally for Sen. Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat who is exploring a bid for his party's 2008 presidential nomination.

The rally was organized by Students for Barack Obama, a grassroots group using a popular social networking website to build support for the first-term senator.

Pro-Obama groups are among some of the fastest growing on Facebook.com, a networking site used primarily by college and high school students. One such group called "One Million Strong for Barack" has attracted 200,000 members in less than one month.

Students from across the Washington metropolitan area gathered on the Fairfax, Va., campus to hear from the candidate, who delivered a speech about the theme of the "audacity of hope," also the title of a book he wrote.

"Everywhere you go politics is a business and not a mission," Obama said, adding that "nobody's more cynical about politics and the government than young people."

But he challenged the students to move beyond cynicism. "The easiest thing to do in life is to be cynical," he said. "What's truly audacious, what requires risk and boldness and courage, is hope."

He said that by working together, the students could spark change in the government's handling of the war in Iraq, providing healthcare to the poor and developing energy policy to address climate change.

Pete Gibson, an 18-year-old senior at nearby Robinson Secondary School, skipped class to attend the rally. "I want to find out more about what he's about, and what better way than to be 20-feet from him," he said. "It's not everyday that somebody this important comes right outside your house."

Gibson's classmate, 17-year-old Joe Wiener, said Obama inspires young people because "he's something new. From what I've watched of him, he doesn't have the same sort of politician attitude as a lot of other candidates have. He's more frank and personable."

Anthony Direnzo, a 19-year-old student from the University of Mary Washington, showed up at GMU at 7 a.m. to attend the rally, which didn't start until after noon.

Direnzo told Cybercast News Service young people want to support Obama because he's the most liberal prospective candidate.

"Young people, especially being progressively more and more liberal, are going to notice that [Sen. Hillary Clinton] is slipping into her conservative past, and they're going to notice that Barack Obama is more progressive than she is," he said.

But not everyone at the rally was impressed. One GMU College Republican, who declined to give his name, said he showed up to get extra credit for his government class.

"I really don't like it," he said of the assignment. As for Obama's speech, the student said "there was not a lot of substance there at all," calling the senator "very vague on points, very vague on ideas. I mean, 'the audacity of hope,' could you explain that a little more?"

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