Actor Rallies UI Students to Support Obama

By Diane Heldt, Reporter

IOWA CITY, Iowa - President Barack Obama's re-election campaign in Iowa could come down to the 200 or so people who gathered Tuesday evening at a student summit to support the president, campaign officials told the young crowd.

"This year is going to be much tougher," Mitch Stewart, Obama for America Battleground States director, said. "What the president needs from you is to believe in the power of your action, believe in the power of your voice."

About 200 students, mainly from the UI, filled a ballroom at the Sheraton Hotel downtown for the Greater Together Student Summit. Students from campuses across Iowa, including Iowa State University, Luther College, Drake University and Loras College, joined the event via webcam.

Iowa is a swing state at the nexus of the needed electoral votes for Obama, Stewart said. The students were urged to spread their support via Facebook and Twitter, and to talk to friends about why they back the president. Stewart and other speakers stressed what they say is at stake for young voters in this election, pointing to Obama's health care reform and support for higher education funding.

Kal Penn, an actor known for his roles in "House" and the "Harold and Kumar" movies, told the crowd he saw the strength of Obama's character during his time working with the campaign and later as the White House associate director of public engagement. Obama fought for increases in student aid and health care reform, but there is still a lot of work to be done, Penn said.

"Do we really want to roll back all the progress or do we want to keep it going?" Penn said.

Students at the event said they support Obama's efforts to decrease student loan debt and his work on health care reform. Others pointed to the end of Don't Ask Don't Tell.

"I know Obama will support women's health care issues," UI senior Jenny Hand, a 22-year-old psychology major from Bensenville, Ill., said.

The event was "probably the largest of the semester for Obama supporters" and a chance to show unity, Bill Cook, a UI sophomore in political science, said. He likes Obama's work on health care, college affordability and support for the middle class, said Cook, 19, from Crystal Lake, Ill.
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