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Monday was a big day for hopeful supporters of Barack Obama at La Sierra University. Mike Tyler, Zulema Ibara, and Amanda O'Reilly-- all seniors at LSU-- had barely gotten the materials and resources by which to conduct a rally on their campus. With limited time, these students began the task of organizing an Obama rally to be held that evening at their school. They're advertising on facebook and myspace for a potential rally had begun the night before, after they had hastily assembled an outline of possibilities. However, they had recognized that until Monday morning nothing was final. Monday morning carried the weight of their success, because it was not until Monday morning that they would be able to clear school policies.
They knew that all odds were against them, as tradition had not precedented a rally endorsing one particular candidate at La Sierra, and they had not reserved a meeting place with time. It wasn't that they hadn't wanted to do something like this before, but with the materials that had just been donated to them by the Obama campaign in downtown Riverside, the dream to conduct the rally was more plausible than ever before. At the very least, they hoped that they could place brochures at the Student Center, detailing all candidates' stances on the main electoral issues. This was, after all, something they knew most students would appreciate.
The morning started out with punctured hopes, however, as they faced the reality of La Sierra's historical lack of even political awareness campaigns except for the fall quarter political assemblies every four years. Further, as a private, religious institution, La Sierra is very ssensitive of having its name mistaken for endorsing a single candidate. And so, La Sierra decided "no" on an Obama rally, but "maybe" on informational brochures for all candidates.
The students clung to a spark of hope, inspired by the support they had received from their internet advertising. As the word spread of opposition to the rally, pressure mounted, but finally around noon, the unbelievable broke through. The group of hopeful students were given a green light to conduct their rally in a classroom at La Sierra Hall (separate, of course, from university or club endorsement), as long as they mentioned positions by the other candidates. With classes in the middle, this meant less than five hours to finish preparing and advertising.
La Sierra is a small campus of less than 2,000 students. While the rally was conducted, however, despite the short notice and conflicts with other events, 20 people ended up attending. Mike Tyler, Erick Ramirez, Krista Gonzalez, and Zulema Ibarra all spoke on why they support Obama, discussing issues of poverty, minorities, environmentalism, stem cell research, and women's rights. These speeches brought together a diverse, however small, group and provided a sense of community amongst all attendees.
A couple of faculty also attended and showed much enthusiasm for the students' hard work. Afterwards, the enthused group left with a list of phone numbers to call in continued support of the Obama campaign. And that is how, this Monday, supporters of Barack Obama were heard at La Sierra University and provided their own small measure of change, setting a precedent for what is hoped to be further political awareness campaigns at La Sierra University.
A senior at La Sierra University, Zulema Ibarra is majoring in “Emerging Voices in Cross-cultural America” and also works as their Honors Student Advisor.