9:55 a.m. MDT: We’re about an hour away from Obama taking the stage
The small Lions Den Gym on the University of Colorado Campus in Colorado Springs is beginning to fill with invited guests of Sen. Barack Obama and a horde of national and local media. Obama is expected to take the stage at 11 a.m. to deliver a speech on national service.
The gym, usually used for basketball games, has a capacity of only 400 people when the built-in risers are set up, according to the university public relations office. Today, the risers are folded up against the wall and folding chairs have been deployed on the b-ball court.
10:27 a.m. MDT: It’s a new era, baby!
Colorado Springs Democrat Rep. Mike Merrifield, HD-18, was overheard earlier this morning saying high profile Democratic events, like Obama campaigning in James Dobson land, is symbolic of a changing political landscape in El Paso County.
"We have more registered Democrats in El Paso County now than there is in Boulder County," Merrifield said. "It’s a new era, baby!"
10:38 a.m. MDT: Obama to visit Colorado Springs military installations today
Obama’s press honcho in Colorado, Matt Chandler, just announced to gathered media that Obama will visit Peterson Air Force Base, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs later today.
The visits will be completed in his capacity as a United States senator and will not be part of Obama’s campaign schedule. The visits will not be open to media.
10:54 a.m. MDT: Limited seating leaves local press fighting for elbow room
Probably due more to the extraordinarily small size of the Lions Den Gym rather than bad campaign planning, the space for local media, not to be confused with the traveling press corps, is squeezed. No desk space is being given to local reporters for laptops and recording gear. Two rows of chairs, tucked away behind the TV risers offering less leg room than airlines, have been set up for the local yokals.
"I can’t see anything from here," one reporter annoyingly said to which a TV reporter quipped back "You’re a print reporter, what do you have to be able to see for anyway?"
11:18 a.m. MST: Obama takes stage, talks about higher purpose
Obama took the stage shortly after 11 a.m. after being introduced by a Colorado State University graduate who recently moved back to Colorado Springs to be with her fiance who serves in the military. Obama’s speech on national service is being heard by a quiet crowd when compared to his rock concert style campaign events. His speech is slowly beginning to be interrupted by applause.
"In America each of us is free to seek our own dreams but we must also serve a common purpose, a higher purpose," Obama said about giving back to the American Dream.
11:27 a.m. MST: Obama calls for more AmeriCorps
Obama called for an expansion of the AmeriCorps program by 250,000 people, including people who want to serve as teachers and people who want to serve in a new "energy corps" that would work on renewable energy progress across the country.
"Americans have shown they want to step up but we’re not leveraging that,” Obama said. "People of all ages, stations and skills will be asked to serve because when it comes to the challenges we face the American people are not the problem they are the answer."
11:33 a.m. MST: Obama calls for more civic education and student service
Quoting statistics that show students who serve their communities are more likely to go to college, Obama said he wants public education students to serve their communities as required curriculum. Obama also said he would make federal financial assistance to school districts dependent upon the service curriculum.
"We need to teach our children what makes America great and not take for granted how this county has been built but rather get them to understand and respect how it was formed and why we hold it dear," Obama said. "I will set a goal for all American middle and high school students to perform 50 hours of service a year and for all college students to serve 100 years of service a year."
11:46 a.m. MST: Obama finished speech, working rope line
Obama finished his speech on national service and is now working the rope line.